Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
ROME — Qatar's foreign minister said Friday that his country remains committed to the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem, and that progress on that front would need to be “at the core” of any agreement to normalize relations with Israel.“Right now, I don't see that the normalization of Qatar and Israel is going to to add value to the Palestinian people,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said at Italy’s annual Mediterranean Dialogue.There was speculation that Qatar — which already co-operates with Israel in providing aid to the Gaza Strip — might be the next Arab country to normalize relations after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan established diplomatic ties with Israel earlier this year.But the foreign minister said Qatar remains committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which Arab countries would recognize Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 war and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.The foreign minister noted that his country has a “working relationship” with Israel to provide aid to Gaza, where the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.“But for the full normalization, I believe that the (Palestinian issue) needs to be at the core of any agreement of normalization between Qatar and Israel,” he said.The wealthy Gulf country's aid to Gaza has provided a lifeline to the territory, which has been under a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power. It has also been a key element in a shaky, informal truce that has prevented any major outbreaks of fighting in recent years. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars — the most recent in 2014 — as well as countless smaller skirmishes.The normalization agreements with Israel, brokered by the United States, were widely seen as a breakthrough in Mideast diplomacy. But the Palestinians condemned the agreements as a betrayal because they marked a major erosion in Arab support for their cause, a key source of leverage in any future peace talks.The Associated Press
TORONTO — Ontario's police watchdog is investigating after police shot and injured a man in the west end of Toronto. The Special Investigations Unit says the shooting happened Thursday afternoon after 4 p.m. A news release says witnesses had reported a screaming man holding a sharp object in Etobicoke. Toronto police officers arrived at the scene and the agency says one of them shot the man. The 30-year-old was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. Four investigators and two forensic investigators are assigned to the case and the watchdog has identified one subject officer and one witness officer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
Three years after the death of a child in Bonavista prompted calls for change, it is still legal for children as young as 12 to drive side-by-sides without helmets or seatbelts in Newfoundland and Labrador.The RCMP launched a new enforcement and education campaign on Monday, which served as a reminder that despite assurances from various ministers past and present, the provincial government has still not updated its ATV and snowmobile legislation.The ability to hop on a snowmobile or a side-by-side — also known as a utility terrain vehicle, or UTV — without a helmet, as well as the fines for breaking the act remain too low for advocates to accept.Sherrie Dunn lost her 13-year-old daughter, Heidi, in that Bonavista crash. Heidi Dunn wasn't wearing a helmet when the side-by-side she was driving tipped over. In the years since, her mother has turned her grief into advocacy, and has been disappointed so far."What is it going to take to get them to change those rules?" Sherrie Dunn said on Thursday. "It makes me mad and sad, because like I said, I know what those parents feel like and it can be prevented."The Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Act was first introduced in 1996 and has undergone several changes since then. None of them include adaptations for side-by-side vehicles, which have risen in popularity in recent years.The act defines an ATV as a vehicle that a rider sits astride, with one leg on either side. Since that doesn't include side-by-sides, where the driver sits behind a steering wheel akin to a car, they fall under a different set of rules than ATVs.While a driver must be 16 to operate a full-sized ATV, the minimum age for a side-by-side is 12 as long as the driver is supervised by someone 16 or older.In Heidi Dunn's case, she did not have the supervision of a 16-year-old, a fact that earned the owner of the side-by-side a $200 fine — the maximum amount for a first-time offence under the current legislation, including cases that result in death.After Dunn died, the province's Child Death Review Committee issued a set of recommendations calling on the province to close loopholes for side-by-sides, make helmets mandatory, and increase the maximum amount for fines.The committee issued the same recommendations after another child died last winter.The provincial government has said on several occasions that changes to legislation are coming — including an assertion by Digital Government and Service NL Minister Sarah Stoodley that changes were coming this fall — but it has yet to be tabled in the House of Assembly.Stoodley declined an interview for this story. In an emailed statement, the department said a review of the legislation is finished, and several potential changes are on the table."These included training requirements for off-road vehicles; age of operation for vehicles such as side-by-sides; operation of vehicles on municipal roadways; and body size requirements for safe operation," the statement said."Recommendations to enhance safety are being developed for consideration by government in the near future."Don't 'hide behind the law,' says safety advocateATV safety advocate Rick Noseworthy, head of the Newfoundland T'Railway Council, has also been calling for changes for several years. In the absence of change, he doesn't understand why more people aren't taking their safety seriously."Just because it's not the law on a side-by-side doesn't mean you shouldn't wear [a helmet]," he said. "I don't want to make light of it, but it's not against the law to put a cape on and get up on the roof of your house and jump off to see if you can fly. But people don't do it because it's common sense."To hide behind the law and not wear a helmet on a side-by-side because it's not the law, that's no excuse ... [there is] no reason in the world why these helmets shouldn't be worn."According to the RCMP, 15 people died on recreational vehicles so far in 2020.Of those deaths, a 24-year-old woman was killed when the side-by-side she was driving rolled over. She wasn't wearing a helmet.Three people were killed on snowmobiles. Two of them were not wearing helmets, while the other is believed to have been wearing one unbuckled.None of those people were legally required to wear helmets.Sherrie Dunn follows the news and takes note of recreational vehicle deaths. She shudders when she sees people driving on roads, or without helmets. Three years after her daughter died, Dunn still has the same message to the provincial government."Please, take this much more seriously. Sit down and put yourself [in my position]. Call me. I can tell you what I go through every day."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
LONDON — Britain’s announcement that it has become the first Western country to authorize the use of a COVID-19 vaccine has sparked debate about whether officials emphasized speed over safety.The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency gave temporary authorization for people to receive a vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech. The agency made the decision under rules allowing regulators to sign off on medicines more quickly during public health emergencies.The move made the United Kingdom the world's first country to OK a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine. The British public is now seeking more information about the vaccine and the immunization timetable as authorities try to find an equitable way to distribute the limited number of doses that initially will be available.WHO WILL GET THE VACCINE FIRST - AND WHEN?Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said vaccinations would begin “within days.” The exact date the shots start will depend on how fast regulators can complete safety checks that must be done on each batch.A panel of independent experts that advises the British government, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, has set out priorities for vaccinating the most vulnerable people first. The highest priority goes to older people living in nursing homes and their caregivers, but logistical difficulties in shipping smaller quantities of vaccine to reach a limited demographic group might cause a delay to this group.People over age 80 and healthcare workers have the second-highest priority. From there, priority access is based roughly in order of age until a vaccine has been offered to everyone over the age of 50, which is almost 40% of the U.K. population. Younger people with health conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 also will take precedence.DID BREXIT HELP THE UK AUTHORIZE A VACCINE FIRST?Health secretary Hancock sparked controversy when he said Wednesday morning that British authorities couldn’t have moved so quickly if the U.K. were still a member of the European Union. That drew a rebuke from the EU, which pointed out that Britain is still governed by the bloc’s rules.While the U.K. formally left the EU on Jan. 31, it remains bound by European Union regulations until a transition period designed to cushion the shock of Brexit ends on Dec. 31. EU rules permit individual member countries to give temporary authorization for the national use of medicines during a public health emergency.But U.K. regulators may have been able to move faster than the 27-nation EU because they are no longer assessing products intended for the entire bloc, Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said.“Consequently, the U.K. has almost undoubtedly had greater capacity to respond to a new application for authorization of a vaccine than any other country,” Evans said.However, any speed advantage the U.K. might have had is likely to disappear starting Jan. 1, when British regulators will become responsible for reviewing all applications for new drugs and vaccines to be authorized in the U.K."It will have to do work that previously would have been shared among all the other ... member states,” Evans said.DID UK REGULATORS MOVE TOO FAST?Dr. June Raine, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency's, said people should be absolutely confident that “no corners have been cut.” British experts reviewed more than 1,000 pages of information, including raw data, on safety, quality and effectiveness before deciding to give temporary authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine's use, she said.But that doesn't mean regulators take the same approach everywhere.American immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told Fox News that British regulators didn’t review the data as carefully as their counterparts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, potentially fueling concerns of individuals who are hesitant about getting the vaccine.“We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA,'' Fauci said. “The U.K. did not do it as carefully. They got a couple of days ahead. I don’t think that makes much difference. We’ll be there very soon.''Evans said there is only one major difference between the approach taken by British regulators and those in the U.S. The FDA often reanalyzes raw data to verify the findings of drugmakers. Virtually no other regulatory entity regularly does this, said Evans, who has worked with EU and U.K. regulators.“The processes carried out by the FDA and the MHRA are basically very similar,” he said. “We may well see differences in interpretation of the data between a regulator and a company, but this type of difference is regularly seen by all regulators, whether they reanalyze the data or not.”WHAT DOES THE EU SAY?The European Medicines Agency has said it expects to make a decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by Dec. 29.The regulator said it is taking more time because it is considering granting the vaccine a different type of green light, known as a conditional marketing authorization. The process requires more data, but will result in the vaccine being authorized for use in all 27 EU member nations, rather than a single country.The agency said its procedure is “the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for use in the current pandemic emergency.''The debate comes at a particularly sensitive moment as Britain and the EU reach the final phase of talks over their post-Brexit relationship. More than four years after people in the U.K. voted to leave the bloc, negotiators have just days to reach a trade deal before the end of the transition period.One of Britain’s goals has always been to wrest control of its rules and regulations from EU bureaucrats.WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN DELIVERING THE VACCINE?First, the Pfizer/BioNTeach vaccine must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit) until a few hours before it is administered. Storage and shipment therefore requires specialized equipment that can maintain such ultra-cold temperatures.Also, the U.K.'s emergency use authorization sets out strict conditions to ensure vaccine supplies aren’t damaged or wasted. The vaccine is shipped in packages containing 975 doses.“You can't, at this point, distribute it to every individual GP surgery, as we normally would for many of the other vaccines available on the NHS,'' National Health Service CEO Simon Stevens said.More broadly, vaccinating a large percentage of the country’s population in a few months is an unprecedented challenge. Because of this, most vaccinations will take place at a relatively small number of sites that can handle large numbers of people.WHERE WILL THE VACCINATIONS TAKE PLACE?Vaccinations will start at 50 hospital hubs, which will offer vaccines to care home residents and people over 80. Those who are going to receive the vaccine will be notified by the hospital, so there is no need to schedule an appointment.As the National Health Service receives additional supplies of the vaccine, the shots will also be offered at about 1,000 community vaccination centres. Local GPs will invite their patients to be vaccinated in order of priority.___Follow AP's coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
Acclaimed director Spike Lee launched his Amazon movie "Chi-Raq," starring Wesley Snipes and John Cusack. (Dec. 4)
For the second time in the past five days, Niagara Region Public Health has advised District School Board of Niagara that one individual at Port Colborne High School has tested positive for COVID-19. The first case was confirmed on Nov. 29. As a result of the two COVID-19 cases, three classrooms have been closed. Local school boards will not identify the individual who tested positive. However, the provincial online database that tracks school-related COVID-19 cases does identify the Nov. 29 case as staff member. Today’s case will not be immediately known as the provincial database lags behind school boards in its reporting. In a media release, DSBN said, “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual have been contacted and told by NRPH to stay home and self-isolate.” Provincial guidelines indicate “an outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection.” Public health has not indicated if it will declare an outbreak at Port High. Preventative COVID-19 practices that Port Colborne High School has been following since classes started, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue, DSBN said. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.comSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
THE LATEST: * Health officials announced 711 new cases Friday, as well as 11 more deaths. * There are now 9,050 active cases of COVID-19 across B.C. * 338 patients are in hospital, with 76 in intensive care. * 492 people in B.C. have died of the disease since the pandemic began. * There are two new health-care facility outbreaks.As British Columbians head into a weekend that would typically see the beginning of holiday parties, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging everyone to "stay small and stay local" to slow the spread of COVID-19."We can still be festive, we can still have fun, but let's ensure it is only with our immediate household," Henry said.On Friday, she announced 711 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths. There are 338 patients in hospital with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, 76 of whom are in intensive care.Two new health-care facility outbreaks were announced, one at Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in White Rock, the other at Richmond Hospital. The outbreak at Youville Residence is over.Snowboarder finedOn Friday, a snowboarder who broke Canada's quarantine rules early to try to go to Whistler, B.C., was fined $1,150 under the Quarantine Act , according to police.West Vancouver police said the man was caught driving north on the Sea-to-Sky Highway Monday. An officer on patrol noticed his Audi had California plates with expired tags. The officer called public health officials and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and confirmed the man still had two days left on his 14-day quarantine.Party hosts ticketedMeanwhile, five different Burnaby, B.C., party hosts were slapped with tickets for violating the COVID-19 Related Measures Act during the month of November, according to police, including one with 58 people in their apartment and another who was ticketed for a second time.And new data released Friday shows families with children and adults aged 18-29 reported being hardest hit by the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.While seniors aged 70 and older experienced the most severe health effects, younger adults and parents of young children reported the pandemic taking a higher economic, mental and emotional toll, according to the provincewide COVID-19 Survey on Population, Experience, Action and Knowledge conducted in the spring and funded by the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health.Adults aged 18-29 were nearly twice as likely to be out of work due to the pandemic, with 27 per cent of respondents of this age group affected, compared to16 per cent for the province overall.READ MORE:What's happening elsewhere in CanadaAs of 3 p.m. on Friday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 401,859, with 70,008 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,485.Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, also warned Friday that daily new cases could top 10,000 by January. Alberta announced Friday its positivity rate for COVID-19 is now 10.5 per cent, which the province's chief medical health officer called a "grim milestone."Meanwhile, federal officials are making plans for how to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.Eventually, there will be 205 "points of issue" locations across the country where health-care professionals can administer it.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness. * Shortness of breath. * Loss of taste or smell. * Headache.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep your distance from people who are sick. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years.Buried amidst the ongoing COVID confusion and controversy this week in Alberta came a bit of unusual news: the UCP government and NDP opposition agreed on something.It wasn't exactly a Kumbaya moment but the two battling political parties that have turned the legislature's daily question period into a form of trench warfare finally see eye-to-eye on an issue.They're both unhappy with the announcement on Monday from federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland involving much-anticipated changes to the fiscal stabilization program that provides money to provinces experiencing a significant drop in revenue year-over-year.Alberta, of course, has been experiencing chronic revenue drops year-over-year-over-year. Because of a series of bad years topped off by a COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta's revenue ride is less like a roller coaster and more like the Drop of Doom.The fiscal stabilization program wasn't designed for that kind of multi-billion-dollar collapse in revenues.In 2016, for example, the Alberta government under the NDP complained that it lost $6.5 billion in revenue because of low oil prices but only received $250 million from the stabilization program that was capped at $60 per provincial resident.After forming government in 2019, the United Conservative Party took up the fight and this year demanded $4 billion instead of the $266 million offered. Not only that, the UCP wanted the higher stabilization payments to be retroactive to 2015.On Monday, Freeland announced the cap is being hiked to $170 per capita, meaning the province is now entitled to receive $750 million this year. But the payments will not be retroactive."[I am] very disappointed that the caps weren't lifted entirely," said Finance Minister Travis Toews. "It really doesn't go far enough."For her part, NDP Leader Rachel Notley sounded like a clone of Toews: "I would continue to advocate for the removal of the cap and I would also suggest that this should be retroactive to when Alberta deserved a fair fiscal stabilization formula in the first place."But the fight to remove the cap completely has gone from difficult to impossible because of the pandemic.WATCH | Alberta politicians unhappy with federal stabilization changesThis year, every province will probably be applying for aid under the stabilization program. Ottawa, already neck-deep in pandemic debt, would be swamped with billions of new claims under a sky's-the-limit fiscal stabilization program.And, besides, premiers who had been supporting Jason Kenney's call for a capless program will likely be happy enough to receive almost triple the amount of money than was available under the old formula.Change of heartBut Kenney's disappointment with Ottawa on Monday shifted to satisfaction on Wednesday.He performed such a sudden change in direction he might need a neck brace for whiplash. But that's the kind loopy politics you get during a pandemic.On Monday, the issue was money.On Wednesday, it was a COVID-19 vaccine."We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year," said Kenney, putting the kind of faith in the federal government apparently not shared by federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole.Setting a firm timeline for a vaccine rollout is not particularly risky for Kenney. If the plan works, great. Albertans might be happy enough that Kenney sees his approval ratings start to rise after a year of steady decline. If the vaccines don't arrive on time, Kenney can blame Ottawa yet again for Alberta's problems.Of course, a third scenario is Ottawa delivers the vaccine as promised but Alberta has trouble with the logistics of getting Albertans vaccinated.To that end, Kenney has called in the military — sort of. He has appointed Paul Wynnyk, the deputy minister of municipal affairs and a former general in the Canadian Forces, to lead the province's vaccine task force.In the meantime, as Alberta continues to lead the country in COVID cases, playing in the background is a plan to call on the federal government and Red Cross to set up emergency hospitals should the virus overwhelm our health-care system.Kenney is still trying to spin a positive tale out of the distressing pandemic reality, still trusting that Albertans will take personal responsibility to flatten the curve, still insisting there is "light at the end of the tunnel."But that light might just be a Red Cross truck coming with a field hospital to house Alberta's ever growing number of pandemic patients.
MADRID — Spain's Supreme Court has revoked a less restrictive prison status awarded to nine Catalan political figures previously sentenced to jail for their part in a secession attempt in Catalonia. The status would have allowed them almost daily release. The court said Friday that such a measure was “premature” given that none of the nine had served half their sentence and most not even a quarter of it. The sentences ranged between nine and 13 years. The nine were convicted in 2019 of sedition and misuse of public funds following the failed independence bid two years earlier. After they were transferred to prisons in the northeastern region, the pro-independence Catalan regional government granted them third-grade status last July. meaning they could leave prison during the day to carry out certain activities. The July measure was quickly suspended following appeals by prosecutors. The new court ruling comes as the leftist Spanish government is considering possible pardons and a reform of the sedition law that would favour the nine. The nine include the former vice-president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, and five ex-regional cabinet members. Former regional president Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium and is still sought by Spanish authorities. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the secession push in Catalonia was Spain’s most serious crisis in decades. Polls have long shown the wealthy region’s 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence. Spain’s constitution says the country is indivisible. The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Laurentian Bank Financial Group beat expectations even as it reported its fourth-quarter profit slipped to $36.8 million compared with $41.3 million a year earlier.The Montreal-based bank says its profit amounted to 79 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Oct. 31, down 90 cents per diluted share in the same quarter last year.Revenue for the quarter totalled $243.5 million, up from $241.6 million a year earlier.Provisions for credit losses amounted to $24.2 million for the quarter, up from $12.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2019.On an adjusted basis, Laurentian says it earned 91 cents per diluted share in its latest quarter, down from $1.05 per diluted share a year ago.Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of 73 cents per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:LB)The Canadian Press
OAKVILLE, Ont. — A driver has been charged in the death of a woman who was struck while walking her dog in Oakville, Ont. Halton Regional Police say the fatal collision happened Thursday afternoon. The 51-year-old and her dog were pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators determined the victim was walking her dog on a path when they were hit by the vehicle that had left the roadway. After hitting the pedestrian and her pet, police say the driver struck a stone post before the vehicle came to rest in the road. The driver, a man in his 50s from Oakville, has been arrested for impaired operation and dangerous driving causing death. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president says he would get vaccinated against the coronavirus to set an example for his country's citizens. “There is no problem for me to get vaccinated,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after Friday prayers in Istanbul. “It is necessary to take this step as an example for our citizens.” The Turkish government plans to buy multiple vaccines, Erdogan said. Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of Chinese company Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac, and the first shipment is due to arrive Dec. 11. The government also is talking with Russia about securing the vaccine developed there. Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told the official Anadolu news agency that he would work to convince people to get immunized by getting the Chinese shot himself as soon as Turkish authorities approve its use. Turkey also has ordered 1 million doses of the vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech. Erdogan said he spoke with BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin, who is of Turkish descent. Turkey is experiencing a surge in infections with confirmed cases hovering above 30,000 per day on a 7-day average. The country's death toll since March has reached 14,316. A weekend lockdown, the first since the end of May, is set to begin Friday evening. The Associated Press
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison has confirmed that all COVID-19 test results have come back negative for the close contacts of a positive case at Charlottetown Rural High School. The number of men in jobs on P.E.I. in November was virtually the same as it was in January, but working women have made no progress in returning to pre-pandemic levels since the summer.An annual free Christmas dinner in Souris has received the green light from public health to do a takeout version Dec. 25. Island comedian Sandy Gillis shared how keeping people laughing has been keeping up his own spirits during the pandemic. P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.Several P.E.I. appliance stores are dealing with a shortage of products to sell because COVID-19 is affecting the manufacturers of fridges, stoves, washers and dryers.One additional COVID-19 case was confirmed in P.E.I. Thursday, a man in his 20s who is a rotational worker and recently travelled to the Island from outside the Atlantic region. P.E.I. currently has five active cases, and there have been 73 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Nova Scotia reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 Friday. The province currently has 117 active cases. New Brunswick reported eight new cases Friday and is dealing with 111 active cases.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president, stopping just short of the nationwide mandate he's pushed before to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The move marks a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to a politicization of the issue. That's made many people reticent to embrace a practice that public health experts say is one of the easiest ways to manage the pandemic, which has killed more than 275,000 Americans. The president-elect has frequently emphasized mask-wearing as a “patriotic duty" and during the campaign floated the idea of instituting a nationwide mask mandate, which he later acknowledged would be beyond the ability of the president to enforce. Speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper, Biden said he would make the request of Americans on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. “On the first day I'm inaugurated, I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction” in the virus, Biden said. The president-elect reiterated his call for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a coronavirus aid bill and expressed support for a $900 billion compromise bill that a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced this week. “That would be a good start. It's not enough,” he said, adding, “I'm going to need to ask for more help.” Biden has said his transition team is working on its own coronavirus relief package, and his aides have signalled they plan for that to be their first legislative push. The president-elect also said he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay on in his administration, “in the exact same role he's had for the past several presidents,” as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the nation's top infectious-disease expert. He said he's asked Fauci to be a “chief medical adviser” as well as part of his COVID-19 advisory team. Fauci told NBC's “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot.” Regarding a coronavirus vaccine, Biden offered begrudging credit for the work Trump's administration has done in expediting the development of a vaccine but said that planning the distribution properly will be “critically important.” “It’s a really difficult but doable project, but it has to be well planned, " he said. Part of the challenge the Biden administration will face in distributing the vaccine will be instilling public confidence in it. Biden said he'd be “happy” to get inoculated in public to assuage any concerns about its efficacy and safety. Three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have said they'd also get vaccinated publicly to show that it's safe. “People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work,” Biden said, adding that “it matters what a president and the vice-president do.” In the same interview, Biden also weighed in on reports that Trump is considering pardons of himself and his allies. “It concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks at us as a nation of laws and justice," Biden said. Biden committed that his Justice Department will “operate independently” and that whoever he chooses to lead the department will have the “independent capacity to decide who gets investigated.” “You're not going to see in our administration that kind of approach to pardons, nor are you going to see in our administration the approach to making policy by tweets," he said. In addition to considering preemptive pardons, Trump has spent much of his time post-election trying to raise questions about an election he lost by millions of votes while his lawyers pursue baseless lawsuits alleging voter fraud in multiple states. Republicans on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, have largely given the president cover, with many defending the lawsuits and few publicly congratulating Biden on his win. But Biden said Thursday that he’s received private calls of congratulations from “more than several sitting Republican senators" and that he has confidence in his ability to cut bipartisan deals with Republicans despite the rancour that’s characterized the last four years on Capitol Hill. Trump aides have expressed skepticism that the president, who continues to falsely claim victory and spread baseless claims of fraud, would attend Biden’s inauguration. Biden said Thursday night that he believes it's “important” that Trump attend, largely to demonstrate the nation’s commitment to peaceful transfer of power between political rivals. “It is totally his decision," Biden said of Trump, adding, “It is of no personal consequence to me, but I think it is to the country.” Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
Ontario’s justice system will continue to push forward and modernize beyond the rapid transformations forced by the pandemic, Attorney General Doug Downey told the Empire Club of Canada on Thursday. During the lunchtime virtual meeting, Downey talked about some of the advancements made in the province's justice system since emergency measures were enforced in March to ensure it could operate safely. “It wasn’t long before capacity was expanded to conduct 100 per cent of proceedings involving a person in custody” and advancing to remote hearings, said Downey, who is also the local MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte. “Behind the scenes, we were making targeted investments to update technology in a sector where fax machines were still an acceptable way of doing business.” The initiatives included remote court access, the new use of digital signatures and service by email, all of which are now becoming permanent staples of the system. As a result, he said, the system has become stronger by becoming more accessible and more resilient. “We really did rely on fax machines, millions of pages of paper, and technology that was just slightly better than Morse code to share information,” he said, adding that just two days ago the word 'telegram' was replaced by 'email' in a civil rule. Within months, the old paper-based system has been modernized to allow for online filing of more than 450 different documents. As a result, 95 per cent of civil proceedings are filed online and more than 70 per cent of family matters. Information about court cases are now available online, meaning people don’t have to line up at the courthouse to gain access. And a platform to power online and in-person hearings was also adopted. Last June, the changes allowed 20,000 people to log into an online Superior Court hearing to witness a judge deliver a sentence in a high-profile case. In September, the Superior Court reported 50,000 hearings had been conducted virtually. The lesson, Downey said, was to not just address yesterday’s issues, but to look at solutions for tomorrow’s sustainability and resilience and to not be afraid of change. He also suggested adopting a design for a courthouse implementing some of the customer service elements available in an airport. Or creating an app that allows the user to schedule a court appearance from a cellphone. “The pandemic showed us, in stark terms, how far behind Ontario’s justice system had fallen,” he said. “Now we know better, and we’ll do better. In this new approach, justice accelerated means justice delivered.” During a question period, he pointed to Ontario’s tribunals, which were largely shut down after the COVID-19 crisis and prevented normal interaction. Downey said he’s struck a deal with British Columbia’s attorney general to adopt its four-year-old online tribunal system for $1, provided Ontario takes care of the updates.Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
Community advocates in Toronto say they fear hundreds of people will lose their homes due to an onslaught of evictions that has left residents, who are often essential workers, with little relief.They say many who are facing eviction or have already been pushed out of their homes have struggled to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic due to reduced hours, layoffs or having to stay home with no paid sick days after falling ill. Advocacy groups are urging the Ontario government to impose a moratorium on evictions as the city is in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19 that has seen the highest case counts Toronto has ever reported.They are also asking for landlords and tenants to come to agreements they deem as more fair, that won't cause tenants earning minimum wage to plunge into more debt due to owed rent, even as the pandemic subsides. Front-line workers facing eviction: advocate"Everyday we're contacted by someone in our community who's worried about losing their home," said Chiara Padovani, a member of an organization called the York South-Weston tenant union. In March, Premier Doug Ford announced at a press conference that the province will "make sure no one gets evicted." But that moratorium on evictions was lifted at the end of August.By that point, Padovani says an ongoing housing crisis due to COVID-19 had already manifested.York South-Weston saw 170 eviction hearings in the month of November. This fall, the city said the riding accounted for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases compared to other areas in Toronto.That's because many tenants are front-line workers who are facing higher rates of exposure to the virus and receive lower wages than more affluent parts of the city, said Padovani."They're the same people who have been celebrated as front-line workers, as heroes during this pandemic, but aren't given the respect or the rights that they deserve," she said. WATCH | Why advocates say evictions need to be banned during COVID-19:Kicking people out of their homes will see them either be forced to live on the streets or crowd in with family members, which are both health risks due to COVID-19, she added. Low-income tenants have trouble accessing hearings: legal clinicThe Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) has scheduled thousands of evictions hearings between November and January, said Kenneth Hale, the legal director at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.The centre provides legal help to low-income tenants and resources to those facing eviction. Hale said that once the eviction ban was lifted, the board began ramping up evictions and slotted in "dozens and dozens" of hearings per day, all done by video conference.There's been no support for those who don't have proper access to technology — a frequent issue for low-income tenants, he said. "We've heard of people having to conduct hearings from payphones, and sitting out in their car in the parking lot and wondering whether their minutes were going to run out before they get a chance to present their side of the story," said Hale. Suze Morrison, NDP MPP for Toronto Centre, says she's heard similar experiences around eviction hearings for tenants in the last few weeks."We're hearing of tenants who've been evicted who didn't even know they had a hearing date because the board sent their notice to the wrong email address, or got caught up in spam filters," she said. Many have had to drive to access free Wi-Fi from their cars, as they do not have internet at home, she added.Morrison said the Ontario government seems focused on fast-tracking a backlog of evictions, rather than ensuring those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 remain housed. Community organizing to support neighbours facing evictionIn a statement to CBC Toronto, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said that Toronto has received $158 million from the Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF) launched by the province in response to COVID-19.That flexible funding allows the city to "expand local rent and utility banks, and create long-term housing solutions," the ministry said. The ministry also said they have partnered with the federal government to launch the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit that has provided direct rental assistance to 5,200 families so far.Additional legislation was also passed to required the LTB to consider whether landlords attempted to negotiate repayment plans with tenants, before resorting to eviction, the ministry added.But some of those payment plans are "unbearable" and remain impossible to keep up with for many tenants, said Bryan Doherty, a member of the advocacy group Parkdale Organize. On Tuesday, Parkdale tenants organized as "solidarity strikers" to withhold their rent until a settlement is reached to ensure their neighbours facing eviction can keep their homes, according to a news release from the group.Tenants of MetCap, a property company with several buildings across the country, also gave a letter with 400 signatures to management requesting to negotiate a "reasonable settlement." That settlement would include no evictions, no rent increases and rent forgiveness for tenants who are struggling the most. The hope is to determine a long-term solution, rather than waiting on the government, said Doherty. Residents need the relief as soon as possible, he said. "They are still reporting for whatever shifts they have available, in long-term care, as personal support workers, as child-care workers," he said. "They have been running on fumes and running out of money for 9 months now ... a reality that should be dealt with now."
A new tenants rights group in the province hopes to help renters navigate the rules and regulations of renting, and work to change those rules."New Brunswick is far behind as compared to other provinces in terms of what kinds of protections are afforded to tenants," said one of the group's organizers, Aditya Rao. The New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights was formed by a group of renters. "Tenants in New Brunswick have far fewer rights than almost anywhere else in the country. We've seen this to be quite clear over the last several weeks with stories about rent increases and evictions," said Rao. The coalition is currently calling for a moratorium on all evictions during the pandemic.In Thursday's news conference, Premier Blaine Higgs was asked about the number of evictions renters have faced this year. "They're currently lower than in previous years," he said.While Service New Brunswick has received 1,525 eviction requests in the first 10 months of this year (2,518 in 2019 and 1,688 in 2018), it doesn't track lease terminations, which are used in many cases to remove a tenant, for reasons such as renovations. Rao said it's a practice he's been hearing is used often. The group wants to institute regulations that would ensure inspections are done regularly at rental properties. "So that they cannot get to the point that they're so dilapidated that tenants need to be unhoused in order for the apartment to be fixed," he said.Higgs said his government is in talks with landlords in an effort to understand the rental situation in the province. Low housing availability has become a big problem in the province's three major cities, with Fredericton's vacancy rate at about 1.4 per cent. "We know that there are new buildings going up," said Higgs. "We know that renovations are going on in apartments. But we're being told by the landlords that … the rental rate increases are low. We will pursue to understand that before we act on a policy that may have been necessary somewhere else, and may, or may not be necessary here."Rao said the coalition will be launching policy proposals over the next few weeks. "We're calling on the government to significantly overhaul the Residential Tenancies Act with a view to protecting tenants rights, including by instituting rent control, of course, but also by creating an eviction prevention program, among other things." On its website, the group is asking people to write their MLA's to add some of these reforms to the Act.
The European Union has not yet won over countries seeking more cash and conditions in exchange for committing to sharper emissions cuts, as it tries to strike a deal on on its new climate target by the end of the year. The EU has promised to make a tougher emissions-cutting target this year under the Paris climate accord, a move U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said is "essential" to global efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change. Poland and Hungary are threatening to veto the bloc's next budget, which could freeze the cash they and other countries say they need to curb their emissions.
NEW DELHI — A chilly breeze whirls through New Delhi in the mornings and the sun is partly obscured by toxic haze, a marker of another winter in the Indian capital. But along the city's borders, this year is visibly and viscerally different. The perpetually busy arterial highways that connect most northern Indian towns to this city of 29 million people now pulse to the cries of “Inquilab Zindabad” — “Long live the revolution.” Tens and thousands of farmers with distinctive, colorful turbans and long, flowing beards have descended upon the city's borders, choking highways in giant demonstrations against new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. For more than a week, they’ve marched toward the capital on their tractors and trucks like an army, pushing aside concrete police barricades while braving tear gas, batons and water cannons. Now, on the outskirts of New Delhi, they are hunkered down with food and fuel supplies that can last weeks and threatening to besiege the capital if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government doesn't meet their demands to abolish the laws. “Modi wants to sell our lands to corporates,” said one of them, Kaljeet Singh, 31, who travelled from Ludhiana city in Punjab, some 310 kilometres (190 miles) north of New Delhi. “He can’t decide for millions of those who for generations have given their blood and sweat to the land they regard as more precious than their lives.” At night, the farmers sleep in trailers and under trucks, curling themselves in blankets to brave the winter chill. During the day, they sit huddled in groups in their vehicles, surrounded by mounds of rice, lentils and vegetables that are prepared into meals at hundreds of makeshift soup kitchens, in enormous pots stirred with wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles. Anmol Singh, 33, who supports his family of six by farming, said the new laws were part of a larger plan to hand over the farmers' land to big corporations and make them landless. “Modi wants the poor farmer to die of hunger so that he can fill the stomachs of his rich friends,” he said. “We are here to fight his brutal decrees peacefully.” He paused, then reconsidered: “Actually, let him and his ministers take us on. We will give them a bloody nose.” Many of the protesting farmers hail from northern Punjab and Haryana, two of the largest agricultural states in India. An overwhelming majority of them are Sikhs. They fear the laws passed in September will lead the government to stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations who will push down prices. Many activists and farming experts support their demand for a minimum guaranteed price for their crops. The new rules will also eliminate agents who act as middlemen between the farmers and the government-regulated wholesale markets. Farmers say agents are a vital cog of the farm economy and their main line of credit, providing quick funds for fuel, fertilizers and even loans in case of family emergencies. The laws have compounded existing resentment from farmers, who often complain of being ignored by the government in their push for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells. The government has argued the laws bring about necessary reform that will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment. But farmers say they were never consulted. With nearly 60% of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, the growing farmer rebellion has rattled Modi’s administration and allies. His leaders have scrambled to contain the protests, which are fast resembling last year’s scenes when a contentious new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims led to demonstrations that culminated in violence. Those demonstrations were much bigger in scale, but the farmers' rumblings are growing fast and gaining widespread support of ordinary citizens who have started joining them in large numbers. Modi and his allies have tried to allay farmers’ fears about the new laws while dismissing their concerns. Some of his party leaders have called the farmers “misguided” and “anti-national,” a label often given to those who criticize Modi or his policies. The government is holding talks with the farmers to persuade them to end their protests, but they have dug in their heels. On Friday, a group of 35 leaders of the farmers called for a nationwide shutdown on Tuesday and said the protests would continue until the laws are revoked. Farmer Kulwant Singh, 72, said that when he left his home in Haryana for the protests, he gave his wife a garland of flowers for two possible scenarios. “Either I return victorious and she places it around my neck in celebration, or I die here revolting and the same garland is put on my body when it reaches home,” Singh said. Such passions run deep among the protesters who have found social, economic and generational barriers tumbling during the demonstrations. Singh isn't the only one from his family who travelled to New Delhi for what he called “Qilah Fatehi," an Urdu term that translates to “laying a siege.” His son and grandson also accompanied him. “It's a fight for my generation too,” said Amrinder Singh, 16. As demonstrations grow, the protesters have also started to drive a political message home. Not satisfied with Modi's federal policies, many of which have attracted widescale resentment from his critics and minorities, protesting farmers say it's time he stops what they call his “dictatorial behaviour.” “India is in a recession. There are hardly any jobs and our country's secular fabric is in tatters,” said Gurpreet Singh, 26, a biotechnology student who comes from a farming family. “At a time when India needs a healing touch, Modi is coming up with divisive, controversial laws. This is unacceptable and defies our constitutional values.” Modi's second term in power since May 2019 has been marked by several convulsions. The economy has tanked, social strife widened, protests have erupted against discriminatory laws and his government has been questioned over its response to the pandemic. The farmer protests present a new challenge for the government. The protesters' desire to stand up to Modi and his policies extends to a sexagenarian farmer couple who drove 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Chandigarh city in a hatchback Sunday to participate in the demonstrations. Dharam Singh Sandhu, 67, and Vimaljeet Kaur, 66, are spending nights in their car parked near the protest site. In the morning, they share breakfast at a makeshift soup kitchen. The latter part of the day is spent taking part in the demonstrations. “Our land is our mother. If we can’t protect it then we have no right to live," Sandhu said about the protests. His wife spoke passionately of a larger purpose as she made her way to the protest site through a stream of vehicles honking incessantly to get past congested traffic. “Our country is like a bunch of flowers, but Modi wants it to be of the same colour. He has no right to do that. I am here to protest against that mindset," Kaur said. As Kaur walked hand in hand with her husband, a great cry emerged from one of the vehicles: “Inquilab Zindabad.” The crowd turned and followed their gaze toward a young man with a black beard who held up his fist through the car's window. The protesters, including Kaur, roared back: “Inquilab Zindabad!" Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press