President Donald Trump's frantic effort in the courts to delegitimize an election he lost has come no closer in a month to reversing any results. Lawyers for Trump and his allies have asked judges in several states to take the drastic and unprecedented step of setting aside President-elect Joe Biden’s wins. They have filed new cases and vowed to press on with appeals. But the quantity of affidavits, lawsuits and claims made by Trump belies that they are spurious or often repetitive of arguments already rejected by judges and elections officials, some of them Republicans. Here is a look at where the legal action stands in several key states: ARIZONA A judge on Friday threw out a Republican bid to undo Biden’s victory in Arizona, concluding the state’s GOP chief failed to prove fraud or misconduct in her challenge of election results in metro Phoenix. The judge also noted the evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s loss in the state. Judge Randall Warner dismissed Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s challenge of ballots in metro Phoenix that were duplicated because voters’ earlier ballots were damaged or could not be run through tabulators. Poll observers called to testify by Ward said they witnessed problems in the processing of duplicated ballots, but the judge said those problems were pointed out to election workers, who then fixed the mistakes. Warner wrote “there is no evidence that the inaccuracies were intentional or part of a fraudulent scheme. They were mistakes. And given both the small number of duplicate ballots and the low error rate, the evidence does not show any impact on the outcome.” Courts there had already dismissed four other cases. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, certified Arizona's results Monday. In a touch of symbolism, he declined a phone call from Trump while signing the certification papers. Lawyer Sidney Powell, who was recently kicked off Trump's legal team and has been pushing wild conspiracy theories about the election, has also filed a lawsuit there. PENNSYLVANIA Trump has lost repeatedly in Pennsylvania, collecting a series of stinging rebukes from Republican-appointed judges. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld a district judge's dismissal of a key lawsuit argued in an error-filled performance by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. “Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” wrote Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, nominated by Trump. The district judge, Matthew Brann, wrote of the complaint, “One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption." Brann, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, noted that the campaign did not provide that evidence. Trump's lawyers have vowed to ask for review from the U.S. Supreme Court anyway. MICHIGAN Six cases brought by Trump and Republican allies in Michigan have either been rejected or dropped. On Wednesday, Giuliani appeared at a public meeting with lawmakers and urged activists to pressure, even threaten, the GOP-controlled Legislature to “step up” and award the state’s 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Biden’s 154,000-vote victory. A Michigan appeals court turned down an appeal Friday from Trump’s campaign in a challenge to how absentee ballots were handled in Detroit and other issues. WISCONSIN The state’s Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear Trump's lawsuit seeking to overturn his loss in the battleground state. In a divided decision, the court didn’t rule on the merits of the claims but said the case must first wind its way through lower courts. Trump wants to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. In urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, Trump’s lawyers said they didn’t have enough time to start in a lower court. Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.” Trump's campaign filed a similar lawsuit in federal court Wednesday. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also declined Friday to hear a lawsuit brought by a conservative group over Trump’s loss. ____ Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix; and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report. Nomaan Merchant And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Alberta is offering more of its Rocky Mountain landscapes to coal mining after rescinding a decades-old policy that protected them. In documents released earlier this week, Alberta Energy is giving miners until Dec. 15 to bid on nearly 2,000 hectares on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.Surface mining on those lands would have been prohibited under the former coal policy rescinded in May, said Ian Urquhart of the Alberta Wilderness Association."Unfortunately, it isn't surprising."The leases will add to the land already leased for coal, which stretches in an almost unbroken swath for nearly 60 kilometres north from the Crowsnest Pass in the province's southwest corner. "There isn't much left there," he said. Alberta Energy spokesman Kavi Bal said any mine proposal is subject to review."A coal lease does not mean that a coal project has been approved or exploration has been permitted." If the proposal is large enough, it is subject to a federal review as well. The United Conservative government has said it seeks to encourage increased export coal production. The province and the federal government are currently considering a proposal for a mountaintop removal coal mine in the Crowsnest Pass area. More proposals are expected. Most Alberta coal is used for steelmaking, not power generation.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
South Korean authorities urged vigilance on Saturday as small coronavirus clusters emerged in a third wave, centred in the Seoul area, with infections near nine-month highs. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 583 new coronavirus infections, down from the 629 reported on Friday, which was the highest since the first wave peaked in February and early March. This wave of infections is different from the first two, which were driven by large-scale transmission, said KDCA official Lim Sook-young.
The City of Vancouver now owns the Regent and Balmoral hotels, Downtown Eastside buildings the city had been trying to expropriate after years of neglect and decay, The Tyee has learned. Land title records list the city as the current owner of 159 E. Hastings — the Balmoral — and 160 E. Hastings — the Regent. The city confirmed to The Tyee that a settlement with the owners, the Sahota family, had been reached. But the city says the terms of the agreement prevent it from revealing how much was paid to purchase the properties, which have been assessed at a value of $1 each because of their extreme disrepair. Sam Dharmapala worked in the buildings as an employee of the former owners, the Sahota family. For a decade, Dharmapala said, he worked alongside tenants and advocates to raise the alarm about the dangerous living conditions at the hotels. “This is a very good fight in the history of the Downtown Eastside,” Dharmapala said. “We want to see [the hotels] go back to the residents of the Downtown Eastside, who have lived in those buildings.” Dharmapala said the city needs to ensure all the units in the two hotels are rented at the welfare shelter rate — $375 for a single person — to provide homes for Vancouver’s poorest residents. The hotels had provided more than 300 units. The records show the transfer happened Nov. 13, one year after Vancouver city council voted unanimously to expropriate the hotels in a groundbreaking decision. Council voted to expropriate after decades of repeated building code and bylaw violations and after taking the owners, the Sahota family, to court numerous times. It was the first time the city had ever attempted to expropriate residential buildings because of extreme neglect. The city started the court action with the intention of renovating or redeveloping the properties for low-income housing. Before the expropriation vote, council heard from dozens of tenants and former tenants who described living with no heat or hot water, constant bedbug, rat and cockroach infestations and the fear of what would happen if there were a fire. Tenants had lived in squalor in the two buildings for decades. City building inspectors ordered the Balmoral to be emptied in the summer of 2017 because it was in such poor condition. One year later, the Regent was also condemned. Tenants of both buildings were moved into other buildings by the City of Vancouver and BC Housing. Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside resident who now works for the city as a drug policy advisor, said city building inspectors initially closed just the bathrooms of the Balmoral in June 2017 because they feared bathtubs could plunge through the rotten floors. Ward worked at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users at the time. “People were coming to me daily to say they were terrified to go into their own home,” Ward said. Ward called for the buildings to be torn down and for modular housing to be quickly built in their place. “We can build a six- to eight-story building and house 100 people by April,” Ward said. “It’s a desperate situation out here and we don’t need to do things the old way — we can use modular housing to build housing that decreases the chance of death for drug users. We can do this.” Overdose deaths have soared throughout 2020 and homelessness has increased as COVID-19 restrictions have made the drug supply more toxic and reduced the number of places people can go to find shelter. Vancouver’s mayor, Kennedy Stewart, said the city plans to work with BC Housing to turn the buildings into low-income housing. “Bringing the Regent and Balmoral into public ownership marks a hopeful new beginning for residents of the Downtown Eastside and something all residents should be proud of,” Stewart was quoted as saying in a press release. “Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community.” B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, David Eby, also weighed in, saying: “For too long, people had to live in sub-standard living conditions in these buildings. The acquisition of these properties is welcome news.” The next steps will be to start community consultation sessions with the Downtown Eastside community, and city staff will report back to council on next steps and a timeline for renovating or redeveloping the properties in early 2021, according to the City of Vancouver. On Nov. 3, city communications staff told The Tyee court expropriation proceedings were paused while the city worked with “representatives of the owners of the Regent and the Balmoral to resolve the expropriation of the hotels.” The Tyee has reached out to the city for comment. In a statement emailed to The Tyee by lawyer Evan Cooke, the Sahota family confirmed they had come to an agreement with the city. “We have determined that the public sector is better equipped to respond to the acute needs of the area’s residents at this time; including their urgent need for housing, mental health and substance abuse support, and other critical programs.” The statement said the details of the transfer are confidential.Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
A 35-year-old Dawson Creek man was killed Saturday, November 28 when he was caught in an avalanche while out snowmobiling north of Mackenzie. Police and rescue personnel were called to the scene in the Powder King-Bijoux Falls area beginning shortly before 2 p.m. They said two snowmobilers were in the area at the time and one was buried in the snow. The victim's name was not provided. "The BC Coroners Service has conduct of this incident and is currently investigating to determine the facts surrounding this death. No further details are available at this time," RCMP said in a statement. On the previous Friday, Avalanche Canada had issued its first forecast of the season and had put the danger rating for the North Rockies at high for treeline and above and considerable for below treeline. "There was a pretty big storm that pass through the area, almost a week long storm," Avalanche Canada warning service manager Karl Klassen said Monday. "And that storm just started breaking up on Saturday, there was a fair amount of wind and quite a bit of new snow. Temperatures were quite warm and then they cooled off and those are kind of classic conditions for pretty significant avalanche danger. "We rated the danger as high, we told people to expect large avalanches on all aspects and all elevations given the amount of wind and snow and the temperatures that were occurring at the time." The high rating is one level below extreme and is used when conditions are deemed to be very dangerous. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended when the rating is in place although Klassen said it can be done with proper training and experience. "Even when the avalanche danger is high or even extreme, there are places in the mountains where avalanches just don't occur so as long as you can recognize that terrain and stay on that terrain, you'd be fine," Klassen said. "But again, just to stress, it's not something you (should do) without getting some training, getting some experience and gaining some knowledge and making a good trip plan before they leave." Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said avalanche courses remain available. Theory is being learned online or in smaller class sizes and with greater physical distancing and masks once outside for the practical part. To find a class, go to avalanche.ca and click on the learn tab. Thanks to an influx of federal funding, a three-person field team has been working in the region during the winter months since December 2019. Klassen said forecasts for the region will be issued four times a week this season, up from three times a week last winter.Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has appointed two close allies of President Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, to a defence advisory board, continuing a post-election purge in the final weeks of the administration. The acting secretary of defence, Christopher Miller, who was installed by Trump on Nov. 9 after he fired then-Defence Secretary Mark Esper, said in a written statement Friday that nine members of the Defence Business Board had been replaced with the appointment of 11 new members. Lewandowski and Bossie are among Trump's most vocal supporters. The nine other appointees are Henry Dreifus, Robert McMahon, Cory Mills, Bill Bruner, Christopher Shank, Joseph Schmidt, Keary Miller, Alan Weh and Earl Matthews. “These individuals have a proven record of achievement within their respective fields and have demonstrated leadership that will serve our department and our nation well,” Miller said. The Miller statement initially said the nine individuals removed from the board had been serving in ”expired positions," implying they were overdue to leave. But later the Pentagon amended the statement to say some board members had been “terminated.” It gave no reason for the firings. The board's charter says members are appointed for terms ranging from one to four years, with annual renewals. The board's charter says members must possess “a proven track record of sound judgment and business acumen in leading or governing large, complex private sector corporations or organizations and a wealth of top-level, global business experience in the areas of executive management, corporate governance, audit and finance, human resources, economics, technology, or healthcare.” The role of the Defence Business Board, which was established in 2002, is to provide the secretary of defence and deputy secretary of defence with independent advice and recommendations on overall Defence Department management, business processes and governance from a private-sector perspective. Lewandowski was Trump’s first of three campaign managers in 2016, and both he and Bossie were regulars on the campaign trail with Trump this year. Bossie was brought on as part of a 2016 campaign team shakeup to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. He briefly fell out of favour with Trump aides over his involvement with political groups that sought to fundraise off Trump’s name but did not benefit his reelection campaign. He found his way back into Trump’s orbit earlier this year thanks to his vigorous advocacy of the president. — Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. Robert Burns, The Associated Press
Talk about Canadian, eh? Some Southwestern Ontario golf courses have done such brisk business through the pandemic, they’re opening through the winter, even in the snow. White Squirrel Golf Club, located outside Zurich, north of Grand Bend, is teeing off on winter golf for the first time to give house-bound and pandemic-weary folks a safe, outdoor activity. “It’s more about getting outside and swinging a golf club than taking your score seriously,” said Brittany Nigh, White Squirrel’s manager of golf operations. “It’s a bit more fun.” The fundamentals of the summer sport stay the same on frozen ground. Snowy golfers will still find the fairway in play, but there are no tee blocks and the green isn't used for putting. Instead, temporary greens have been crafted to protect the course. Nigh said COVID-19 pandemic safety restrictions have spurred creativity and the desire to keep the course open year-round. “We do try to always think outside the box and do things a little differently,” she said. “Let’s not focus on what we can’t do, let’s see what we can do within the restrictions and can do safely.” But what about tracking down a white ball in swaths of fluffy snow? Nigh recommends playing a fluorescent or coloured golf ball and still keeping the weather forecast in mind. “You can do it in some snow, but obviously if the entire course is covered in two feet of snow, it’s going to be pretty difficult to find a patch to hit the golf ball from,” she said. She also recommends wearing gloves and waterproof shoes, dressing in layers that still let you swing your arms, and packing a thermos. The club also has transformed its front nine holes into a hiking trail, free for the public to use, and is keeping its restaurant open year-round. Nigh said locals have warmed to winter golf. “It’s offered our community a nice outlet,” she said. Another course, the Fox Golf Club, just north of London near Granton, also is open for the winter, with similar snowy weather adjustments. The Fox is run by Waterloo-based company GolfNorth, which has set up eight of its Southwestern Ontario courses for winter play, including ones in Forest, Petersburg and Baden. “We thought golf was safe and fun and people felt comfortable doing it all summer, and in the winter this year, people need something to do,” said Doug Breen, GolfNorth’s vice-president. “It’s just a way to get outside, get some exercise, do something fun with your buddies.” He said any day that would be appropriate for skiing would be good for winter golf. If the pandemic brainchild of winter golf is popular, GolfNorth plans to keep running it in future years. And so far, the frosty conditions haven’t deterred any golfers. Breen said earlier this week, groups played their courses even after Tuesday’s storm, with snow up to their shins. “It’s absolutely a quintessentially Canadian thing to do to embrace the cold,” he said. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/MaxatLFPressMax Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Alberta’s top doctor is reminding Albertans that the COVID-19 virus is spreading across the whole province, not just in large urban centres. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said COVID-19 cases are rising and spreading in rural communities. The warning came on the same day the province broke another daily case record with 1,854 new cases found in the past 24 hours. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or an Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within a global problem,” Hinshaw said. Hinshaw said in the spring rural communities were less impacted than urban areas by the virus' spread, but right now, cases are growing in the north, central and south zones, with one third of all active cases outside of the province's two major cities. COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live or what your postal code is, Hinshaw said, and she reminded residents it just takes one case in a community to cause an outbreak. On top of spread, Hinshaw said it may be more difficult to access services for serious outcomes in rural areas, including being further away from health care and intensive care beds. On Thursday, the province saw 1,854 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day case climb yet. “Anyone who contracts the virus needs our support,” Hinshaw said, reminding residents to not stigmatize those who have come down with COVID-19. In the last 24 hours, the province has conducted 19,600 tests, with 9.5 per cent coming back positive. There are currently 17,743 active cases of the virus in Alberta, with 511 people in the hospital and 97 in intensive care. “These numbers are very concerning and I know that AHS is watching them closely,” Hinshaw said. In the past 24 hours, 14 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported. “Sharing the number of lives lost is a little more difficult each day because I know the pain and sadness their deaths cause for their families and friends left behind,” Hinshaw said. On Nov. 24, the province announced new restrictions to help curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the province, with most of the restrictions kicking in on Friday and Monday. Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
THUNDER BAY — A 62-year-old man who falsely claimed to be COVID-19 positive while under arrest for violating court orders was sentenced on Friday for one count of conveying false information, failing to provide a breath sample and failure to comply with conditions of an undertaking. Arnett Langfried appeared in a Thunder Bay Zoom courtroom on Friday, Dec. 4 where he was sentenced by Judge Peter Bishop to 50 days of pre-sentence custody, which was enhanced to 75 days for all three charges. During his sentencing hearing, Langfried told the court he had not been tested for the virus despite telling police during his arrest on Oct. 15 he had received a positive test result for COVID-19 days before. Langfried came to police attention after the vehicle he was driving was reported to police for erratic and aggressive driving, Crown Attorney Stella Vallelunga said Friday, Dec. 4. Police conducted a traffic stop on Highway 11/17 near Shabaqua where they informed the driver of the reason for the stop and requested his driver's licence. The driver provided an expired out-of-province licence which alerted police the motorist was under court orders to not be driving. Police also observed the vehicle had two different licence plates on it. Officers advised Langfried he was under arrest for breaching his recognizance and placed him in the back of a police cruiser. Officers then spoke with a woman who was seated in the front passenger side of the vehicle who was reluctant to give police her name. Court heard police were making efforts to arrange for an alternate ride for the woman but she insisted on staying with Langfried. Once she provided her name and date of birth, police were notified her name came back as a missing person from the Peel Region area. Officers notified police in Peel. The woman became extremely uncooperative with the police and began screaming at officers she wanted to stay with her husband, court heard. While Langfried was in the back of the vehicle, he told police he had tested positive for COVID-19 in Newmarket days prior. At one point, Langfried and the woman began to verbally abuse the police by using profanities, court heard. Langfriend also pulled his mask down while speaking with police and officers observed an odour of alcohol from his breath. While police were searching his vehicle they found a full can of beer. Police asked Langfried for a breath sample to which he refused. He was also on court-orders to have zero milligrams of alcohol inside his body outside of his residence. Langfried’s lawyer, Sharon Scharfe, informed the court her client's poor behaviour that day was partly be attributed to his concern for his girlfriend. The couple also had a cat inside the vehicle who had gotten out on the highway and both individuals were distracted and upset about what had happened, the lawyer said. Court also heard a background of Langfried's criminal history including a conviction of an attempt to commit murder using a firearm in 2011 for which he received four years and eight months at a Saskatchewan penitentiary. He was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and received a one-year driving prohibition for failing to provide a breath sample. Langfried apologized for his actions in court.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
There was a death reported in the South Zone from COVID-19 reported on Friday. This marked the second consecutive day with a death reported in that zone and the third consecutive day in which at least one death was reported. The individual was in the 80-years-old and over age group. The number of deaths in the province is now 55. The province also reported another 283 cases on Friday. The current seven-day average is 262, or 21. 7 cases per 100,000 population. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported 47 new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 189 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 214 active cases and North Central 3 has 40 active cases. The North Central zone is third in the Active Case Breakdown with 403 active cases. Of the 9,527 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 4,116 are considered active. Of the 126 people in hospital in the province, 101 are receiving in patient care including 12 in the North Central. Of the 25 in intensive care four are in the North Central. The recovered number now sits at 5,356 after 183 more recoveries were reported. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 9,527of those 1,927 cases are from the north area (692 north west, 916 north central and 319 north east) Yesterday 3,504 COVID-19 tests were processed in Saskatchewan. As of today there have been 357,142 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan. In other zones there were 83 cases reported Friday in Regina, 50 in Saskatoon, 12 each in the North West and South West, 11 in the Far North East, nine each in the South East, South Central and Far North West and seven in the North East. There are 18 cases with pending residence information. Two cases, one from Nov. 15 and one from Nov. 22, with pending residence information have been assigned to the North West Of the 126 people in hospital elsewhere in the province; 36 are in Saskatoon, 21 in the South East, 20 are in Regina, seven in the North West, three in the South West and one in the North East are receiving in patient care. Elsewhere in the province in intensive care there are 11 in Saskatoon, nine in Regina and one person in the North West. The Saskatoon zone leads the Active Case breakdown with 1,324 cases. In second place is Regina with 974 active cases. Over 90 active cases of COVID-19 in youth in North Central On Thursday the province released the updated numbers on cases in youth. The total active cases in youth provincially in all locations are 834, six have no known location and 828 have a location reported. Provincially there is an 8.5 per cent test positivity rate in youth. Data on positive tests in youth is updated every Thursday. Currently in the North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, there are 96 active cases in youth. Last week there were 316 tests performed across the North Central zone. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 47 active cases in youth. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 45 active cases and North Central 3 has four active cases. Cumulative tests performed since Sept. 7 in the North Central zone is 2,933. There were 4,119 tests performed in total in the province in the last week. The cumulative number of tests performed since Sept. 7 is 44,261. Case of COVID-19 connected to Wesmor Public High School On Thursday evening the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division notified the public that a case of COVID-19 had been identified in an individual at Wesmor Public High School in Prince Albert. “The division is hoping the recovery is quick and thorough and we extend our get-well wishes to this member of our school community and offer our support to the surrounding family. We also extend our support to the staff and students in our schools affected by the isolation,” the release stated. As has been the case in the past, this case was not school-acquired. The learning program will continue remotely for those students affected. Wesmor will remain open for in-person classes for students who are not required to self-isolate. Due to privacy concerns, further details of the case will not be shared.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The Trump administration on Friday suspended all federal student loan payments through the end of January and kept interest rates at 0%, extending a moratorium that started early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of this month.By extending payments by one month, the administration is effectively leaving it to the Biden administration or Congress to decide whether to provide longer-term relief to millions of student borrowers. The measure was included in a March relief package and the White House extended it in August, but its fate was in doubt amid stalemate over a new relief bill.In announcing the extension, DeVos rebuked Congress for failing to act. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate," DeVos said in a statement. "The Congress, not the Executive Branch, is in charge of student loan policy.”Under the measure, students will not be required to make payments, their loans will not accrue interest and all collection activity will halt until the end of January.DeVos won praise for using her authority to pause federal student loan payments in March. Congress later cemented the measure in legislation and Trump extended it through December, but the looming deadline stoked fears that millions of borrowers would be forced to resume payments even as unemployment rates soared.Last month, the American Council on Education and dozens of other higher education associations urged DeVos to extend the relief, saying the recent surge in COVID-19 cases would likely lead to even more economic turmoil.“Bringing millions of Americans back into repayment in the thick of this crisis will cause additional financial hardship and force borrowers to make difficult decisions about their limited resources,” the groups wrote in a letter to DeVos.Even DeVos' own agency warned of looming trouble if the moratorium lapsed. In its annual report last month, Federal Student Aid, the office that oversees student loans, said that without an extension it would face a “heavy burden" in moving millions of borrowers to active repayment at the same time.President-elect Joe Biden has not directly addressed the moratorium but on Tuesday called for immediate relief including "relief from rent and student loans.” He has also supported proposals to erase up to $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers as part of a future virus relief package.In Friday's announcement, DeVos said her agency is working to notify the loan servicing companies that the Education Department contracts with to manage collections. A federal lawsuit filed against DeVos in April alleged that thousands of overdue borrowers were still getting pay withheld despite the mortarium. The department blamed the error on its servicers.DeVos' Friday release says that any defaulted borrowers who continue to have wages withheld will receive refunds.Collin Binkley, The Associated Press
A Fort St. James man has been fined $1,000 for flying a drone while out on a hunting expedition. Paul James Hesse was issued the penalty on November 9 in Fort St. James Provincial Court. He was also prohibited from hunting for one year and assessed a $150 victim surcharge. The outcome stems from a complaint conservation officers received on Sept. 22, 2018. The next day, officers attended a cabin on Marie Lake, southwest of Fort St. James, where they seized the drone along with a harvested bull moose. After securing a search warrant, they gathered photos and videos from the machine and forwarded the matter to Crown prosecution. Conservation officer Richard Keenan-Toop, who was the lead investigating officer on the file, said it was the first conviction for the offence in British Columbia. The Wildlife Act was amended in July 2016 to make the use of drones while hunting illegal. "It was definitely a different one and definitely a learning experience for the Conservation Officer Service for sure," Keenan-Toop said. "But it's not something we see very often, thankfully, because hunting with a drone completely defeats fair chase for wildlife." However, Connie Morrisey, a native court worker in Fort St. James who helped Hesse put together a defence against the charges said he never actually used the drone for actual hunting. Instead, she said he was using it to get images of the cabin and a route planned for a trail from big Marie Lake to little Marie Lake, but because he was at the cabin as part of a hunting trip, he was charged. "The minute you leave your house to go hunting to the minute you get back to your house, that's considered a hunting expedition," Morrisey said. "He did not use it to hunt but he flew it when he was at the cabin." She said Hesse uses the drone for work purposes and had it with him in camp. When he came back to Fort St. James, his father picked him up and went to the cabin. "He said 'I know you can't use it for hunting but if I had known you can't even have it one you, I would've went home, dropped the drone off and went out," Morrisey said. As part of the prohibition against hunting for a year, Hesse is also prohibited from accompanying other hunters and the drone was forfeited to the Crown. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
Employees at the LNG Canada work site in Kitimat, B.C., complained multiple times about unsafe working conditions just months before the facility experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, according to WorkSafe BC inspection reports obtained by The Narwhal. The outbreak at LNG Canada started on Nov. 19 and there are now 54 cases. In the months leading up to the outbreak, workers raised concerns about COVID-19 cleaning procedures in common areas, rooms and work spaces, prompting inspections by WorkSafe BC on Aug. 28 and Oct. 19. The documents also reveal that a WorkSafe BC inspection of the Site C work camp’s sewage treatment facility in northeast B.C. on March 19 found the facility did not have a plan to sufficiently protect workers from pathogens, body fluids, human waste, mould and COVID-19. WorkSafe BC didn’t say if or how the issues flagged during the inspection were resolved. The first case of COVID-19 at Site C was in July and there have been 17 cases to date. On Dec. 4, BC Hydro reported five active cases and 18 people in self-isolation. The revelations come as calls grow for B.C. to shut down work camps or risk further community spread with northern hospitals already stretched thin. More than 180 frontline health workers have signed an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that started circulating on Thursday, calling on her to immediately shut down industrial work camps on Indigenous territories. “To put the interests of economy and industry ahead of Indigenous lives is not public health,” the letter says. “To put Indigenous Elders and youth at further risk in the midst of a pandemic is to say quite clearly that Indigenous lives still do not matter in B.C.” On Thursday, the Unist’ot’en Camp said Coastal GasLink confirmed five new cases at its camp 9A on Unist’ot’en territory. Sley’do Molly Wickham, Gidimt’en Camp spokesperson, said at least one Wet’suwet’en worker in a Coastal GasLink work camp recently contracted the virus and is now hospitalized in an induced coma. David Bowering, former chief medical officer for Northern Health, said the time has come for the province to shift gears and take a harder look at what it deems essential. “Is it industry first, or the health and safety of the population in the north first? They need to rethink the essential designation and say it’s not that essential, certainly not at this price.” Coastal GasLink, BC Hydro and the Ministry of Health did not respond to interview requests prior to publication. LNG Canada declined an interview request. Bowering told The Narwhal he’s surprised it took this long for an outbreak in the work camps to occur. In the early days of the pandemic, he wrote an open letter to Henry urging her to shut down the work camps, calling them “land locked cruise ships” and warning that cases related to these industrial sites were inevitable. He knows what he’s talking about — his first job as a doctor was at a mining camp. He called the safety plans prepared by LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink “deluxe” documents but says the best plans in the world don’t mean anything if people aren’t following the rules. “They have luxury-class health and safety plans and luxury-class consultants compared to what the public sector can afford,” he said. “The virus doesn’t respect paper protocols. There’s just too much human nature involved.” Wickham said she has frequently seen workers flouting the rules. “We know that they’re not following even the basic protocols like wearing masks when they’re in vehicles together or when they’re close working closely with one another,” she said. “And they’re certainly not wearing masks when they’re interacting with our people on the territory.” Bowering is concerned that capacity at Northern Health hospitals is already stretched thin. In a statement released yesterday, the health authority said it is “experiencing an increase in COVID-19 activity and hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients requiring critical care.” There 235 active cases in the region including 33 people in hospital. Patients have already been transferred to hospitals outside the region to deal with the increase. “I think we’re in for a rough ride,” Bowering said. “The worry about our local hospitals and our local staff being overwhelmed, burned out and having difficulty coping, that’s becoming a pretty clear reality. Our communities need help.” Bowering isn’t alone in his calls to shut down work camps. The open letter from frontline health workers calls for Henry to take “immediate action” and shut down work camps. “As health professionals, we have a responsibility to uphold the current and future health of these communities, which are now under threat from the continuing of Coastal GasLink (LNG) work and man camps,” the letter says. The frontline health workers’ letter is in support of concerns raised by more than 20 Wet’suwet’en matriarchs, or Ts’ako ze’, in an open letter to Henry dated Nov. 30. In that letter, the matriarchs asked the public health officer to reconsider the essential designation given to the oil and gas industry and close work camps, which have also been shown to increase violence against Indigenous women and children and bring a host of social ills. “Not only have we witnessed an increase in drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence in our communities, we are now faced with a disease that could kill any one of us,” the matriarchs wrote. “In addition to the risk man camps have on our Indigenous women and girls, we are now facing the loss of some of our most sacred elders and chiefs.” At the time of publication, the Ts’ako ze’ said they had not received a response from the public health officer. The calls to shut down work camps come in the wake of a damning independent review that found widespread racism and discrimination against Ingienous people in B.C. health care. The 224-page report released on Nov. 30 found that racism and discrimination negatively affect the treatment and health outcomes of Indigenous people, who are already at higher risk of health issues due to a number of factors realted to systemic racism, such a poverty and intergenerational trauma. “Many Indigenous people have underlying health conditions because of all of the impacts of colonization,” Wickham said. “We have higher rates of diabetes and higher rates of heart disease. Our people are at greater risk of dying.” Wickham said a particularly alarming aspect to the increase in cases in work camps is the potential impact on Indigenous communities. Most industrial operations have a mandate to hire local and Indigenous workers and those people mix with transient workers and, on their days off, with members of their own communities. Bowering said the continued presence of industrial activity is contradictory to the goals of the public health office. “I drive by First Nations [communities] and see the barriers and the closed signs — these people are trying remarkably hard to stay safe,” he said. “But at the same time, there are buses coming and going to many of them, up to the mines and back.” The BC Centre for Disease Control noted in its guidance document for industrial sites that Indigenous people are at higher risk of COVID-19 and recommended that employers limit its workers’ interactions in surrounding towns. But Bowering and Wickham said the presence of out of town workers in the region is both common and on the rise. “We have been concerned about not just the man camps, but the fact that a lot of the workers are living in our communities and hotels,” Wickham said. “They’re going back and forth every day.” Bowering said the B.C. public health office can easily put the brakes on what could quickly become a serious and escalating crisis in high-risk communities. “They have to decide whether having everybody else not travelling, but allowing these workers to travel is a reasonable public health decision? Is it even ethically reasonable?” Meanwhile, activity on Wet’suwet’en territory is increasing. “The whole territory is just crawling with workers,” Wickham said. She lives with her partner and three children in a cabin near the Coastal GasLink work zone. “They have helicopters flying overhead at least two or three times a day, both surveillance helicopters and industry helicopters slinging materials in and out of the territory. It’s a warzone out there.”Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Woodcliff United Church in southwest Calgary is known for its life-size, interactive advent calendar during the holiday season. Usually, it's in the form of drawers containing gifts, or doors that can be opened. This year, however, the committee had to get COVID-creative."Well, 2020 forced all of the pivoting in our church community — of course we can't meet in the sanctuary," said Sheri Bolitho, Woodcliff's faith formation minister, on the Calgary Eyeopener. "And it didn't make sense to us to have 100 or 200 people touching each drawer each day — we don't have enough sanitizing elves for that at all. "So we've had to make it a lot different. So this year, we've created a calendar that allows for social distancing."Bolitho said each of the stations or "days" is between six feet and 12 feet apart. The entire calendar is built as a labyrinth that runs across the front lawn of the property.The first few days of December have already been unveiled. The rest of the days are all laid out by climbing rope, linked together in a maze."Each day has a sign and activity, and they're individually wrapped like gifts, though we have special, wonderful elves who come out early in the morning and unwrap gifts for you," Bolitho said.Bolitho said the long-running tradition started as a way to connect with the community outside the walls of the church."We just really wanted to be able to spread the meaning of Christmas to us, which is the four elements — faith, joy, hope and love — into the community," she said."And our church loves to be outside of the building. This is the perfect opportunity to let everyone know where we are and what Christmas is all about and the season of gifting and how we connect all of the wonderful things back to those elements."The advent calendar is full of tactile elements, crafts, projects and things people can do with their hands. And it is always full of surprises.Yesterday was a Christmas star, for example. The day before that was a heart craft made out of a hanger and yarn. "We know people have a lot more time at home," Bolitho said. "They can take the activity and go home and make it as a family, and then they can maybe gift it, or they can use it as an ornament on their tree."Bolitho said there are elements of the Christmas story to be found along the way, such as the star, symbolizing the star that the shepherds followed to the stable in Bethlehem.But the calendar has many non-religious references as well."There's also a whole bunch of more secular elements, so there's the candy cane, and then there's the story of the candy cane, how it's really shaped like a shepherd's crook," Bolitho said. Charity outreachSince COVID hit, the church has been offering virtual services and online recordings of sermons.Meanwhile, the church has an outreach committee that is focused on ways to give back to the community, and the advent calendar is always a big highlight. This year, the church is collecting for both the food bank and the Calgary Drop-In Centre.The food bank collection week starts today and goes until Dec. 10, at which point the focus shifts over to the Drop-In Centre for the longest night of the year, Dec. 21. The church is collecting donations of mittens, hats, underwear and socks for the Drop-In Centre.There are some crafts that Bolitho said she's particularly looking forward to on the advent calendar."I have a couple of wonderful ones. The first one is the word 'joy.' It's a beautiful paper craft," she said. "Our wonderful elves that made all of these have taken strips of coloured paper and rolled them up into the word 'joy' and it's gorgeous. You have to come see."And then another one of my favourites is the Santa gnome — he's a little Christmas ornament covered in yarn. And he's got a beautiful felt hat. He's wonderful."Woodcliff United Church is located at 5010 Spruce Drive S.W. For more information go to Woodcliff United Church.With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.
The Free Store in Summerside is booked solid with shopping appointments and asking clients to cancel their slots if they can't make it. Due to COVID-19 spacing restrictions, anyone wishing to shop at the store must make a 15-minute appointment in advance. The problem comes, said owner-operator Belinda Woods, when someone doesn't show up for their appointment. Then the time is wasted instead of another client being able to use it. "If you're coming, great," said Woods. "If not, please let other people come."My worry is that people aren't going to get the things that they need."> It's a little trickier now because we can't let as many people into the store. — Belinda Woods, The Free Store The Free Store allows people to shop free of charge for new and used goods such as winter clothes, bedding, furniture and household items. The store is always popular this time of year, said Woods, but before the pandemic, Islanders in need could line up outside and she let about 25 people into the store at once. Now, only one to five people are allowed inside at one time. "It's a little trickier now because we can't let as many people into the store," said Woods. "Please, please, either keep your appointment, or cancel it or let me know and I'll be able to fill it with somebody else." The store is open for shopping every Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. Appointments are all filled, but you can still get on a waiting list in case people cancel.Special children's shopping event Woods also just began taking appointments for her special annual children's shopping event on Saturday, Dec. 12. "That's where the children can come and shop for their parents," she said. She anticipates those spots will fill up fast as well, and she might extend the event to two Saturdays. More from CBC P.E.I.
Yukon reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Friday afternoon, bringing the territory's total to 54 cases since the start of the pandemic.All three new cases are in Whitehorse, according to a territorial government update. One case is linked to a previous case, one is linked to travel outside Yukon, and one is "under active investigation," according to a news release.Yukon currently has 12 active cases.The government also released the following exposure notices in Whitehorse: * Thursday, Nov. 26, between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. at Real Canadian Superstore, Wykes' Your Independent Grocer and the Whitehorse Liquor Store. * Friday, Nov. 27 at the Black Sabbath and Deep Purple Tribute concert at The Local Bar on 206 Jarvis Street from 8:30 p.m. to closing.Exposure notices were also released for the following flights on Nov. 27: * AC 25 Calgary to Vancouver, 11:50 a.m. MST to 12:15 p.m. PST * AC 8887 Vancouver to Whitehorse 1:35 p.m. PST to 4:50 MSTAnyone in Whitehorse who was at these locations and is experiencing symptoms should call the COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre at 967-393-3083 to set up testing.People can also get tested at the drive-thru testing centre at Centennial Motors on the Alaska Highway from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. People in communities with symptoms should contact their local health centre.The government says people who do not have symptoms and have not been contacted by public health about a potential contact with someone with COVID-19 may go about their regular activities.
Ahead of a looming year-end deadline, only 1,785 out of about 20,000 short-term rentals in Toronto have registered with the municipality. With fines beginning at $1,000 for both property owners and host platforms, the race is on to come into compliance. Matthew Bingley reports.
OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says that as soon as she knows when the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada, she will share that information with Canadians.But Anand told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the original contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines had to be vague about delivery dates because nobody knew at the time if the vaccines would be successful.It's only in the last few weeks, when the leading candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported such positive results from their large clinical trials, that the way forward became clear enough for Anand's department to start asking the companies to be more specific about when they can make good on their contracts with Canada."We put these contracts in place in order to place Canadians in the best stead possible, of any country in the world, recognizing that we would need to negotiate additional terms such as precise delivery dates, once a vaccine was discovered, and regulatory approval was obtained," she said. "And that is what's happening now."As Canadians face a pandemic-plagued holiday season and dream that 2021 will not be the anxiety-laden and often tragic disaster that 2020 has proven to be, there is one gleaming hope dangling still just out of reach: a vaccine for COVID-19.Still, the federal government has yet to answer one big question: When will it get here?It is not that she doesn't want to tell Canadians when, said Anand. But the complexities of figuring out a specific date are linked to when Health Canada approves the vaccine, and when the vaccine makers can see that Canada is ready to receive and safely distribute the precious doses, some of which have to be stored at temperatures below -70 C.Those pieces are starting to converge now.Health Canada officials are days, maybe even hours, away from approving the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in Canada.Canadians got some more information on the logistics from a briefing of federal officials this week, including that Pfizer will ship its vaccine directly to 14 identified receiving sites in provinces. FedEx and Innomar Strategies were contracted Friday to oversee the delivery of other vaccines from a national receiving site to provinces.The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued refined guidance Friday for who should get the vaccine first, including long-term care residents and workers, and people over the age of 80. The materials like syringes, gauze pads and bandages needed to vaccinate millions of people are in place. Ultralow temperature freezers have been purchased and nine new ones have already arrived. Provincial governments are lining up their own task forces."We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible," Anand said.Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has been decrying the lack of clarity from the Liberals about the vaccine plan. A week ago he accused the Liberals of only starting to buy vaccines in a panic this summer after a collaboration with China on a vaccine fell apart.The partnership between the National Research Council and China's CanSino Biologics was announced in May to great fanfare. But the doses to be used in a Canadian clinical trial failed to arrive, when the Chinese government — in the midst of political tensions with Canada — refused to issue an export permit for them.“I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said Nov. 29, adding the timeline shows it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Canada "started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options."Anand said that is not the case.She said the CanSino deal fell within Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies.Her marching orders to negotiate deals with other vaccine makers came weeks earlier. A team of procurement officials in her department was assigned to the file in March, at the same time as those negotiating contracts for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and rapid tests.In June, the COVID-19 vaccine task force provided a list of vaccines for Canada to pursue. Anand said talks with manufacturers began in early July. The first deal, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna, was struck July 24. Canada was first to sign with Moderna. It signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech a week later, on Aug. 1. It was the fourth country to do so, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. News of trouble on the CanSino deal first appeared in early July when the doses still hadn't been approved for export by China. Canada walked away from the deal at the end of August when it became clear it would not happen.By then, Canada had deals with four other vaccine companies, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and NovaVax. It added deals with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in September and then with Canada's own Medicago the next month.Anand said Canada approached every contract with a similar goal — to get 20 million doses guaranteed, and options to potentially buy more later on. In all, Canada is paying more than $1 billion to the seven vaccine makers for 194 million doses, even if those vaccines never get beyond the experimental stage.Another 220 million doses are available if Canada asks for them, a decision that will be made for the vaccines that are proving to be the best. Anand announced Friday another 20 million doses will come to Canada in 2021 from Moderna, for a total of 40 million.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020.Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor and the health minister are urging the public to slow the spread of COVID-19 this weekend by limiting any festive gatherings to immediate households. Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix say 711 new infections have been recorded in the province and 11 more people have died, for a total of 492 fatalities. They say in a joint statement that B.C. is continuing to see a significant surge in community transmission so all public health orders must be followed as more than 36,000 people have tested positive for the virus. Henry has said it's important to remain vigilant in containing the virus for the next few months and that everyone in the province who wants to be vaccinated could be immunized by September. Nearly 11,000 people who have been identified as being exposed to the virus are being monitored and 25,658 people who tested positive have recovered. The latest public health orders have meant the cancellation of adult indoor and outdoor team sports, though children can continue participating in local games without spectators. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
About 100 businesses in Windsor-Essex will be visited by provincial offences officers as part of a COVID-19 enforcement blitz this weekend. In partnership with the local health unit and city bylaw department, 16 officers from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will be visiting the region on Saturday and Sunday to ensure that big box stores, retail stores, bars and restaurants are abiding by provincial COVID-19 rules. Ontario's Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton told CBC News on Friday that the event is mostly to educate businesses in the region, though they will hand out charges if necessary. "This isn't about the government carrying a big stick, it's actually about working with businesses to keep people safe," McNaughton said. "I come from a small business background in southwestern Ontario — our family had a home hardware store — I know the challenges that businesses are facing. It's unprecedented times. This is about protecting the health and wellbeing of the people." During these visits, he said that officers will educate businesses and make sure the Occupational Health and Safety Act is being followed. "Ultimately the goal is to protect workers, but also to keep businesses open," McNaughton said. "It really is to reinforce that Businesses need to have a health and safety plan to prevent COVID-19 from coming into the workplace, ensuring that social distancing is happening and that masks are being worn." Fines to be handed out, if necessaryWhile he said this is to help businesses, McNaughton said they will also use discretion. "There are some bad actors out there and we will issue orders and fines if necessary," he said, adding that he understands Windsor-Essex has jumped from the province's 'green-prevent' category to the 'red-control' category in only a matter of weeks. The businesses being visited are ones that have been listed by local public health officials and the city, McNaughton said. Since the Thanksgiving weekend, McNaughton said more than 200 officers have attended different regions in the province. Of these, he said they have found that 86 per cent of businesses are in compliance with COVID-19 rules. The officers have handed out orders and charges, though McNaughton said he didn't know the exact number.