Vaccine for meat plant workers and 'a crime, not a party': In The News for April 29

·8 min read

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 29 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Workers at two of Canada's largest beef packing plants are scheduled to be offered COVID-19 vaccinations today.

Both the Cargill plant, near High River south of Calgary, and the JBS Canada facility in Brooks, Alta., were hit hard by outbreaks last year.

Thomas Hesse, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said the "overwhelming majority" of the union's members at the two plants want early access to vaccines.

Plans for a vaccination clinic at Cargill's beef slaughterhouse were put off last week.

Nearly half of its 2,200 workers tested positive last year for the novel coronavirus. The JBS plant operated with just a single shift each day for a full month last spring and reported 650 cases among the 2,500 workers at the facility.

The two plants together normally process about 70 per cent of Canada's beef.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced earlier this week that the vaccinations would happen for all meat-packing employees across the province. It will be offered to more than 15,000 workers at 136 federal and provincial plants.

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Also this ...

OTTAWA — The House of Commons has approved legislation to put an end to a strike that has shut down one of Canada's busiest ports.

Conservatives joined forces with the minority Liberal government early Thursday morning to pass Bill C-29 by a vote of 255-61. Three Liberals, as well as Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Green MPs, voted against it.

The bill is aimed at quickly reopening the Port of Montreal, where the flow of millions of tonnes of goods came to halt after 1,150 dockworkers began a strike Monday morning.

It must still be passed by the Senate, which is scheduled to deal with the bill Friday.

During late-night debate on the bill Wednesday, Labour Minister Filomena Tassi said if the strike is allowed to drag on it would cost the economy $40 million to $100 million per week, directly threatening 19,000 jobs and indirectly affecting hundreds of thousands of other jobs across the country.

And she said it's a matter of life and death because the strike has left essential medical supplies and pharmaceuticals sitting in shipping containers as the COVID-19 pandemic rages.

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

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden declared that “America is rising anew” as he called for an expansion of federal programs to drive the economy past the pandemic and broadly extend the social safety net on a scale not seen in decades.

Biden's televised address to Congress, his first, raised the stakes for his ability to sell his plans to voters of both parties, even if Republican lawmakers prove resistant. The president is following Wednesday night's speech by pushing his plans in person, beginning in Georgia today and then on to Pennsylvania and Virginia in the days ahead.

In the address, Biden pointed optimistically to the nation's emergence from the COVID-19 scourge as a moment for the U.S. to prove that its democracy can still work and maintain primacy in the world.

Speaking in highly personal terms while demanding massive structural changes, the president marked his first 100 days in office by proposing a $1.8-trillion investment in children, families and education to help rebuild an economy devastated by the virus and compete with rising global competitors.

His speech represented both an audacious vision and a considerable gamble. He is governing with the most slender of majorities in Congress, and even some in his own party have blanched at the price tag of his proposals.

At the same time, the speech highlighted Biden's fundamental belief in the power of government as a force for good, even at a time when it is so often the object of scorn.

“I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” he said. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”

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

NEW DELHI — India set another global record in new virus cases today, as millions of people in one state cast votes despite rising infections and the country geared up to open its vaccination rollout to all adults amid snags.

With 379,257 new infections, India now has reported more than 18.3 million cases, second only to the United States. The Health Ministry also reported 3,645 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 204,832. Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.

India has set a daily global record for seven of the past eight days, with a seven-day moving average of nearly 350,000 infections. Daily deaths have nearly tripled in the past three weeks, reflecting the intensity of the latest surge. And the country's already teetering health system is under immense strain, prompting multiple allies to send help.

A country of nearly 1.4 billion people, India had thought the worst was over when cases ebbed in September. But mass public gatherings such as political rallies and religious events that were allowed to continue, and relaxed attitudes on the risks fed by leaders touting victory over the virus led to what now has become a major humanitarian crisis, health experts say.

New COVID-19 variants have also partly led the surge. Amid the crisis, voting for the eighth and final phase of the West Bengal state elections began today, even as the devastating surge of infections continues to barrel across the country with a ferocious speed, filling crematoriums and graveyards.

More than eight million people are expected to vote in at least 11,860 polling stations across the state. Election Commission has said social distancing measures would be in place.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have faced criticism over the last few weeks for holding huge election rallies in the state, which health experts suggest might have driven the surge there too. Other political parties also participated in rallies.

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On this day in 1867 ...

Queen Victoria gave royal assent to the British North America Act. Canada became the first Dominion of the British Empire the following July 1st. In 1947, the British government amended the act to allow Canada to draft its own constitution, but it was not patriated until 1982.

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In entertainment ...

What started out as a plan by Shawn Bath for a 30-second commercial about his efforts to clean up the harbours of Newfoundland and Labrador has ended up as a full-length documentary.

Bath said he approached filmmaker Cody Westman in 2019, telling him how he had removed more than 6,800 kilograms of garbage from the water.

After that, the pair embarked on a much larger project.

Bath, 49, from Twillingate, N.L., is the main character in the new documentary, "Hell or Clean Water," directed by Westman and set to premiere virtually today at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

The film describes Bath's struggle to get funding and manpower to clean up the mounds of garbage sitting at the bottom of nearly every harbour on the province’s coastline.

The documentary features Bath one year after he started his one-man cleanup operation in 2018, using his skills as a former sea urchin diver to collect trash from the ocean floor.

“It's kind of a David and Goliath story, in a way,” Westman said in a recent interview.

Bath said he sees himself as a first "domino" that could go on to topple another.

"If we can get everybody doing a little, everybody contributing a little, then we could make a major change to our oceans," he said.

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ICYMI ...

A British Columbia provincial court judge told a man who broke COVID-19 rules that an event in his condo was "a crime, not a party" in sentencing him on Wednesday.

Mohammad Movassaghi was handed one day in jail, a $5,000 fine and 18 months' probation after previously pleading guilty to disobeying a court order, failing to comply with a health officer's order and unlawfully purchasing grain alcohol.

"If someone who had been at your party was infected and died, as far as I'm concerned, you're guilty of manslaughter," said Judge Ellen Gordon. "If someone who had been at your party was infected and passed it on to grandma, as far as I'm concerned, you're guilty of manslaughter,"

Vancouver police used a search warrant in January to enter the penthouse condominium, later describing what they found as a makeshift nightclub. More than $17,000 in fines were issued against Movassaghi and guests in the home.

Gordon noted his one-day jail sentence has already been served, but he'll also have to complete 50 hours of community service.

Movassaghi apologized to the judge and to the public for his "grievous error of judgment."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2021.

The Canadian Press