RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, and Vinegar Strokes reveal what it was like entering the iconic competition, and how keeping their confidence up was essential.
RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, and Vinegar Strokes reveal what it was like entering the iconic competition, and how keeping their confidence up was essential.
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Quebec's labour minister is threatening to impose more restrictions on the province's construction and manufacturing sectors for allegedly flouting health orders. Jean Boulet said today in a statement he's received many reports of non-compliance connected to the two sectors since the government imposed new restrictions Jan. 9. The new measures — in effect until at least Feb. 8 — require the two industries to limit operations to essential activities and to reduce the number of workers in factories and on construction sites. Quebec's new health orders also include a provincewide curfew from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 transmission and reduce the strain on the health system from rising hospitalizations. Boulet does not enumerate the violations, but says it's zero tolerance for those who don't follow the rules and is warning the government could impose additional restrictions. The Canadian Press recently contacted three construction industry associations, who all said they hadn't reduced operations since the new health order was imposed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
Three Innu men from Quebec were fined on Jan. 7 after being found guilty of illegally hunting caribou in Labrador in 2015. The three men, Roger Mark, Jacques Mark and Jean-Phillipe Vollant, were found guilty of violating the Wildlife Act and fined $1,000 each. Vollant was also found guilty of obstructing a wildlife officer and fined $200. Prosecutor Jim Clarke had asked Judge Kari Ann Pike to impose penalties on the lower end of the range because the three men co-operated with the wildlife officers. “It was non-confrontational is what I’d suggest and that is why the Crown is leaning towards the lower end of those scales and recommending the court impose minimum fines,” he told the court at the sentencing hearing. The incident that lead to the charges happened on Oct. 25, 2015. The Fish and Wildlife enforcement division in Happy Valley-Goose Bay received a complaint that three men were illegally hunting caribou in the Birchy Lake area. Four officers were sent out to do a helicopter patrol of the area and saw a tent set up near the edge of Birchy Lake. They landed, went to the campsite and found the Mark brothers there, with Vollant offshore in a canoe. When asked to come ashore by the officers, he initially refused before complying. That refusal is what led to his obstruction charge. The officers seized hunting gear, a rifle, a shotgun, and meat and animal parts at the campsite. The meat was sent to Trent University to be identified and it was verified to be caribou. A report entered into evidence verified that the camp location and hunt was within the range of the Mealy Mountain population, which are listed as endangered. During the sentencing, defence lawyer Francois Levesque said the men, who have hunted caribou since they were children, had acted respectfully to the caribou, which the Innu have traditionally hunted for generations. “It was a very respectful manner of doing the infraction, if I may put it that way,” Levesque said. “It’s not the worst case we’ve seen of poaching, if I can put it like that. Of course, the remaining fact is that caribou is endangered. Whether it is Red Wine caribou, George River caribou, it was endangered.” Pike said it was an aggravating factor that the men had planned the trip knowing they were not allowed to hunt caribou in the area, but there were also a number of mitigating factors. There was no indication the hunt was for anything but subsistence, she said, and on land the Innu have traditionally used for that purpose for a long time.Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Calling Métis an "interest group," as Premier Brian Pallister did Wednesday after touring the Brandon vaccination site, does not sit well with Manitoba Metis Federation David Chartrand. "It’s insulting," said Chartrand. When The Brandon Sun asked Pallister to explain the lack of a COVID-19 data sharing agreement with the federation, including the lack of a partnership to ensure Métis are prioritized for vaccines as First Nations have been, he was quick to bristle. But instead of answering the question, the premier spoke about Indigenous people generally, First Nations and reconciliation. "Well, Métis representatives have been at the table and have been part of this. But, of course, Métis people live integrated, for the most part, with the rest of us in the province, as opposed to a lot of the Northern Indigenous communities that do not. And, so, the considerations are not identical, as you would recognize," he said, when pressed. When pressed again, he said, "There are significant efforts being made to work with our interest groups in our province, in particular with the Indigenous and Métis people to make sure that we’re doing what’s culturally appropriate, what works well for their population, what’s acceptable, agreeable, sensitive to their needs. That work is ongoing." But Chartrand objects to Pallister’s statements. He said the only committee the federation – a self-governing political representative for Manitoba Métis – has been asked to sit on is about how best to communicate about vaccines, which has nothing to do with the roll-out. To begin with, Chartrand explained, in some villages, the clear majority will be First Nation and Métis, with very few non-Indigenous people living in them. Chartrand offers Camperville, on the western shore of Lake Winnipegosis, St. Laurent, established as Fond du Lac in 1824 by Métis, and St. Eustache as examples of predominantly Métis villages. "Those are Métis villages. The vast majority (of people) are Métis. These are historical Métis villages which existed even before Canada existed, before the Province of Manitoba," Chartrand said. "Excuse me, but I can tell you where every Métis person lives. I can tell you their chronic illnesses. I can tell you their education level. I can tell you what universities they’re going to. I can tell you what colleges they’re going to." Further, Chartrand said Pallister has a responsibility to establish a distinct process with Métis, and that he’s making excuses not to engage with Métis as a rights-holding Indigenous population. NDP leader Wab Kinew weighed in, after Pallister’s appearance in Brandon. "Unfortunately, Mr. Pallister has politicized his relationship with the Métis people in Manitoba. And I think, in this instance, it’s getting in the way of public health," he said. He said due to the strong work of First Nations health leaders, the benefits of data sharing and strategizing can be seen, and that the Métis community being able to participate in the same kind of arrangement would probably benefit all Manitobans. "If there is one group in society that – whether it’s a cultural group, a geographic region, a socio-economic group – that gets left behind, and that becomes the opening by which the virus can spread, then that affects all of us," Kinew said. "Then we all have to live with the virus or the public health restrictions that are attempting to combat it." He thinks the Métis are raising an important issue and Pallister would do well to dramatically improve his working relationship with them. Jerry Daniels, the Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), concurs. "SCO supports our Métis relatives in their efforts to have allotments of COVID-19 vaccines that they can distribute to their own people," stated Daniels by email. "COVID-19 has impacted the Métis population in Manitoba and there needs to be accountability for this. There also needs to be a facts-based approach to vaccine distribution, to ensure they receive a fair amount of vaccines and can keep their most vulnerable people safe. So far, the province has been unwilling to collaborate with the Metis Nation." Meanwhile, in a follow-up email from a Pallister spokesperson, Chartrand’s previous statements on this matter were denigrated. "Contrary to the inaccurate and inflammatory comments made by the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the Government of Manitoba appreciates the willingness of the MMF to assist in Manitoba’s COVID-19 response," stated the spokesperson later Wednesday afternoon. "We have invited them to work with us, in partnership, to discuss how Métis communities can be supported to enhance their ability to access Manitoba’s three COVID-19 vaccination super sites. We have yet to receive a response to this invitation, but remain optimistic about the prospect of working together on this pivotal aspect of the vaccination strategy." But that’s not what Chartrand wants. He wants an allocation of vaccine, and he would partner with pharmacies to deliver them to vulnerable Métis, likely much the same way the science has dictated priority groups so far. "We’d pay them (pharmacies) to give the vaccines. We’d put up the resources to make sure it’s there. We know where our people live, we know their ages, we know their locations, we know the communities. We can quickly put an action team together and a plan – overnight," Chartrand said. When asked about a possible "plan B" if the Province of Manitoba continues to exclude the federation from meaningful participation in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in the province, to ensure the most vulnerable Métis are adequately protected, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) stated the federal government places great importance on including Indigenous voices in the priority-setting for early vaccination. "ISC is working collaboratively with all provinces and territories to encourage inclusion of Indigenous perspectives to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to support the administration and planning process of the COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous peoples," stated a spokesperson by email. "The logistics of a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out require coordination amongst partners and provinces and territories; an efficient and effective roll-out requires co-planning and is dependent on full collaboration."Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
The Township of Seguin and the other six municipalities that make up west Parry Sound have signed off on a letter, dated Dec. 1, to Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks. The letter states that they would like the ministry to reconsider the transition of the blue box from 2025 to 2024. What exactly is the blue box transition program? The Blue Box Transition program is being legislated by the Province of Ontario and means the responsibility of collecting and processing recyclable products will be on the manufacturers who make the items. What that means is the duty of recycling is being shifted to the manufacturers who produce the material rather than society. Will this effect how I put out my recycling? The government says there shouldn’t be any change of service. You may have to go to a different location to drop off your recycling, if rural, or you may have a new company that picks up your curbside blue box materials. When is this supposed to come into effect? For the municipalities that make up west Parry Sound — Parry Sound, Archipelago, Seguin, McKellar, McDougall, Carling and Whitestone — the change is supposed to come into effect in 2025; however, all seven municipalities have signed a letter to Minister Jeff Yurek requesting the transition take place in 2024. Why? The District of Muskoka is transitioning in 2024 and, currently, the west Parry Sound municipalities process blue box materials in Bracebridge. They are concerned about issues that may happen if the transition happens at a different time than Muskoka. Another concern is the fact the Greater Toronto Area is transitioning in 2023 and the expanded list of recyclables there will differ from what is offered in west Parry Sound for a time. Residents who migrate north for the summer may expect to recycle the same list of items, which may cause contamination in waste systems. Will this transition raise my taxes? Once the producers and manufacturers take over the recycling process, it’s going to save the taxpayers; however, prices for products may go up to pay for the manufacturers’ cost of processing the recycling. The Township of Seguin said at its Jan. 11 council meeting that the mayors from the seven municipalities would follow up on the letter once a response was received. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.3% in December led by a the biggest jump in energy costs since June. The Labor Department reported Friday that the gain in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach consumers, followed a modest 0.1% gain in November and matched the 0.3% rise in October. The December increase reflected a 5.5% surge in energy costs, the biggest gain since a 9.6% jump in June. That offset a 0.1% drop in food costs, the first decline since August. Over the past 12 months, inflation at the wholesale level has risen a modest 1.5%. The government reported Wednesday that consumer inflation was also well-behaved last year, rising just 1.4% over the past 12 months. These low inflation reading are giving the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels in an effort to help lift the economy out of a pandemic-induced recession. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
SILVER SPRING, Md. — U.S. industrial production rose 1.6% in December, a third straight monthly gain, but remains below its pre-pandemic level. The December gain in industrial output followed a 0.5% increase in November and a 1% increase in October, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. Even with those gains, industrial output is still about 3.3% below its level in February before the pandemic hit. Manufacturing increased 0.9% while mining production rose 1.6%. Utilities' output rose 6.2% as a rebound in December demand followed unseasonably warm weather in November. U.S. industry operated at 74.5% of capacity in December, still below the pre-pandemic rate of 76.9% in February. Matt Ott, The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A partnership with the Trump administration has reduced disparities in Alaska Native access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and protective equipment, tribal health care leaders said. The administration’s coronavirus initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments, Alaska Public Media reported Thursday. Operation Warp Speed, as the initiative is known, designated vaccine doses for tribes in the same manner as for the Department of Defence, Veterans Health Administration and Bureau of Prisons. The federal government distributed more than 35,000 doses to Alaska tribes, in addition to 78,000 doses to Alaska’s state government. More than 250,000 doses were dedicated to tribes nationwide through the Indian Health Service. “It’s something to celebrate,” Alaska Native Health Board CEO Verné Boerner. “When you embrace tribes and tribal sovereignty, you can bring so much more to the state.” Tribal shipments have afforded broad vaccine access for rural and Indigenous Alaskans and expanded availability of doses beyond older people. Providers acknowledge part of their ability to offer expanded access is because about a third of health care workers and older residents have declined to immediately take vaccines. While tribal providers are vaccinating Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, state and Native leaders said there is a legal basis for separate shipments because of longstanding recognition of tribes as sovereign governments. Officials said the decision also is appropriate from a scientific and medical standpoint because of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Alaska Native people and the dynamics in many rural communities that make the virus difficult to control. Factors include crowded, multi-generational homes, lack of running water and sewer and distance from advanced medical care. “It’s never been about equal distribution of the vaccine. It’s about equitable distribution,” said Dr. Ellen Hodges, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. chief of staff. “The congregate living settings that exist in most of our villages are a setup for the virus to just spread like wildfire, and there’s no defence against that.” For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
The Magnetawan First Nation, north of Parry Sound, was recently declared COVID-free, but the territory’s chief said he really wants to see the vaccine given to his community members as soon as possible. Chief William Diabo said that the Magnetawan First Nation was declared free of the coronavirus on New Year’s Eve. Nine members had been diagnosed with COVID-19 during December and all recovered, the last one being declared free of the virus and out of isolation on Dec. 31. That number represents almost 10 per cent of the community’s population of about 115 residents. Diabo had imposed a voluntary lockdown and a state of emergency when the virus first hit the territory in December. He said those orders have been lifted; however, he added that the territory is now covered by the Ontario-wide, province-imposed state of emergency and the restrictions that come with it, including a stay-at-home order. Diabo said that he is expecting a COVID vaccine rollout in the territory in the coming weeks. But he added that he understands they will have to wait their turn as front-line health-care workers, and residents of seniors’ residences, are vaccinated first. He added that he is still frustrated by some community members who are refusing the follow the COVID protocols. “I have a couple of people on my First Nation who are still not complying. One of them posted the damn thing on social media during the lockdown that they were having a gathering with people from four other households who were coming for breakfast over the holidays,” Diabo said. “That’s the worst thing, when you are a small community of 50 homes. You are best to stay in your own home. Don’t go to someone else’s — don’t let them come to yours.” Diabo said he is also frustrated by what he thinks is a lack of will by some police services to enforce the lockdown on First Nations territories. He said there are jurisdictional issues whereby he feels OPP and RCMP are reluctant to come onto the territory to issue tickets. The chief added that even if a person gets a ticket for having too many people in their home, there are no measures in place to keep them from repeating the infraction. As far as the vaccine rollout is concerned, Diabo believes Indigenous communities should follow seniors’ homes on the priority list. “That’s what I’ve been told. It’s a matter of getting the vaccine distributed. It’ll happen — I hope no later than the end of February but I hope sooner than that,” Diabo said. He added that the pace at which the vaccine is being rolled out is a concern, but he said that only when, and if, it appears the territory is not being given the priority it was promised will he begin to kick up dust and complain to officials. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in December that Indigenous communities would be given priority for vaccination after front-line health-care workers and other vulnerable people, including seniors. In an email, Parry Sound Muskoka MPP Norm Miller said he can understand the concerns of Indigenous leaders like Diabo. “Adults in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations where infections can have disproportionate consequences, including those living in remote or isolated areas, will be among the first to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks,” Miller stated. “Given the previous case numbers in certain First Nation communities within the riding, I agree actions need to be taken as quickly as possible, and I have shared these concerns with the ministry. It is an unfortunate reality that the vaccine is now a finite resource which is why it is important to prioritize high risk areas first. I will continue to advocate on behalf of all high-risk populations in Parry Sound-Muskoka as we move forward.” John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
JUNEAU, Alaska — A proposal to split the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services into two organizations has been criticized by health care workers, social service organizations and tribal governments. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the reorganization plan Dec. 22, saying the department had become too large and its administration too burdensome to operate as a single entity, The Juneau Empire reported Thursday. Dunleavy issued an executive order to establish the Department of Health and the Department of Family and Community Services. The order will be submitted in the legislative session that starts Jan. 19. The order must be approved by a majority vote in a joint session of the Legislature to go into effect. Richard Chalyee Eesh Peterson, president of Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, expressed concern the reorganization would complicate providing services for child welfare programs, particularly because the majority of children under state care are Alaska Native. During testimony Wednesday to the state House Health and Social Services Committee, Peterson said Tlingit and Haida traditionally partnered with the state in social services administration. “It is hard to discuss the bifurcation of DHSS without talking about negative impacts,” Peterson said. The state and certain tribal governments reached a 2017 agreement to work together toward better child welfare programs, but Peterson said there was no outreach from the state to Tlingit and Haida, which represents about 32,000 tribal citizens. Health department spokesperson Clinton Bennett said in an email Wednesday that the reorganization plan fulfills the conditions of the 2017 agreement. “There is no substantive change or impact to the compact with the departmental split," Bennett said. "Other than changing the name of DHSS to the correct corresponding new Department names, all rights and responsibilities as outlined in the Compact remain unchanged.” The department consulted stakeholder groups and will continue to do so, Bennett said. Tanana Chiefs Conference Chairman P.J. Simon said the organization was willing to work with the administration on an alternative to reduce bureaucracy, but the current proposal would negatively affect social services. The proposed split would produce “worse outcomes than the status quo," Simon said. Lynn Biggs of Casey Family Foundation, who also testified Wednesday, said several states tried reorganizing departments as a way of producing better social service outcomes. But research showed every model of providing social services comes with pros and cons, and better outcomes are more often produced by greater levels of collaboration, Biggs said. The Associated Press
Most hockey players are used to the occasional heartbreak over a lost game, but it really hurts when they can't even step on the ice. That's the situation for more than 150 minor hockey players in New Sarepta, a hamlet about 50 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. On Wednesday, the plant that provides ice for the rink at the community's Agriplex was turned off for the season because revenues have dried up due to COVID-19 restrictions. Officials say that means no more hockey at the arena until at least next fall. "We're looking at now 10 weeks without any revenue coming into the building (and) there's no guarantee that (on) Jan. 21 we can even look to get users back in," said Taylor Knopp, president of the New Sarepta & District Agricultural Society. That coupled with closure of the fitness facility and the inability to run other regular programs and events, including fundraisers, means finances are tight. "We have, I believe, seven caretakers on this year … we've had to lay off six of them," Knopp said. "We've just decided to take a step back, lick our wounds and work on doing some maintenance now so that next year we come back even stronger." Corey Nordin, president of the New Sarepta Minor Hockey Association, said parents and players will be disappointed. His sons, aged 11 and 13, have already had to give up baseball and jujitsu. "I know they're not happy about it, but they're numb to it I guess," he said. Nordin said hockey is a huge part of life in smaller communities. "If anything's important besides the economy and keeping the wheels rolling, it's kids' sports in my opinion," he said. "I think it's a very big, important thing for kids in their development." At the community's arena in the village of Irma, the ice making machine is still running but the rink hasn't been open since early December and revenues are dwindling. "We're getting to the point where if we're not able to open it right away, we're going to have to start refunding some user groups their money," said Mitch MacKay, chair of the arena board and coach for his daughter's team. MacKay, whose other two children also play minor hockey, said that would result in a pretty big deficit. "It's going to make opening up next year pretty questionable," he said. Arena is social hub MacKay said about 90 kids are involved in minor hockey in the community and the arena is a big part of the social fabric. "That's definitely the place to be on a Saturday morning, there's no doubt about it," he said. "Especially in the winter, that's one of the only ways the elderly people get out. They get out to watch the grandkids and great-grandkids, kind of the social hub of Irma." MacKay worries the closures of small businesses could also impact finances. "It's not as easy to go ask your small companies for donations and funding and volunteer work when a lot of them haven't been working themselves," he said. The situation prompted MacKay to write a letter to Premier Jason Kenney. "It was a little bit out of frustration, just watching the news and seeing all these other places that are busy and full and active right now, like ski hills," he said. "I was kind of just trying to get an answer, more than anything, of what the difference is between these facilities, and what makes what we're trying to do running an arena unsafe." He said he hopes the province will allow arenas to reopen before it's too late. "I do think that we've proven that we can safely operate with just the practices and the small cohort groups, and at least get that facility used." The province's current COVID-19 restrictions are in place until at least Jan. 21.
A coroner's inquest has been scheduled to examine the events that led Bathurst police to fatally shoot Michel Vienneau six years ago. Chief Coroner Jérôme Ouellette will preside over the inquest scheduled from April 27 to May 7 at a venue in Beresford, near Bathurst, according to a news release issued Friday. A jury will hear the evidence, presented publicly during the formal court proceeding, about what led to the 51-year-old Tracadie businessman's death on Jan. 12, 2015. The jury can issue recommendations meant to prevent similar deaths in the future. An inquest doesn't make findings regarding legal responsibility. Vienneau was killed at the Bathurst train station after returning from a weekend trip to Montreal to watch a hockey game with his fiancée, Annick Basque. The couple had stepped off the train and Vienneau had started to drive away from the station when officers surveilling him attempted to intercept him. Two anonymous tips submitted through Crime Stoppers had said Vienneau was trafficking drugs on the train, and indicated his car was parked at the train station. Constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger were among six undercover officers who rushed to the station based on anonymous Crime Stoppers tips. Vdeo recreation of the shooting based on witness testimony When Vienneau began to drive away from the station, Boudreau and Bulger moved to stop him. They got out of an unmarked police car in plainclothes and drew their pistols. Evidence heard at a discipline hearing for the officers held in 2019 indicated that Vienneau drove his Chevrolet Cruze into the police car and kept driving toward Bulger. Bulger testified he was hit by Vienneau's car and pinned against a snowbank. Boudreau, who testified he feared for his partner's life, then fired four times at Vienneau. Vienneau died of a gunshot wound to the left side of his chest. An RCMP investigation into the shooting determined the tips were false and there was no evidence Vienneau was trafficking drugs. Documents obtained by CBC News showed Nova Scotia RCMP, which investigated the officers' actions, considered a probe of the false tips. However, RCMP last year confirmed that they don't know the identity of the person who submitted the tips. Criminal charges against the officers were dropped after a preliminary inquiry. A separate investigation under the New Brunswick Police Act alleged the officers: didn't properly use and carry a firearm, abused their authority by using unnecessary force, failed to follow police policies and procedures and acted in a discreditable manner. An arbitrator ruled in late 2019 that Boudreau and Bulger did not violate the code of conduct and could keep their jobs. The decision followed testimony from 13 witnesses over 11 days in Bathurst in fall 2019. The New Brunswick government had previously said an inquest would be held, though it had to take place after the criminal and discipline proceedings. However, while the appeal period ended a year ago, it was followed by the COVID-19 pandemic that the province said affected scheduling the inquest. The inquest will take place at Danny's Events Centre in Beresford "to ensure compliance with physical distancing requirements due to COVID-19," a news release says.
Chinese technology firm Huawei plans to establish a flagship store in Riyadh, the largest such store outside China, the Saudi government said on Friday. Huawei has signed a leasing contract with Saudi Arabia's Kaden Investment for the store that will allow the Chinese company to have direct access to consumers amid rising demand for digital products and services in the kingdom, the statement said, without giving a date for the opening. Saudi Arabia expects internet usage in the kingdom to increase from covering 82.6% of the population in 2022 from 73.2% in 2017, the Ministry of Investment statement said.
Rio Tinto, division Fer et Titane, de Sorel, commencera la production d’oxyde de scandium de haute qualité qui pourra entrer dans la production d’alliages d’aluminium à ses alumineries du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, et ce, à la suite de travaux de recherche et développement réalisés au Centre de recherche et développement d’Arvida. La société a fait l’annonce de la construction d’une nouvelle usine de démonstration au coût de 7,5 M$ ayant une capacité annuelle de 3 tonnes à Sorel. En conférence de presse virtuelle, M. Stéphane Leblanc, directeur exécutif de Rio Tinto Fer et Titane, a expliqué que l’oxyde de scandium sera tiré des résidus provenant de sa mine d’ilménite de Havre Saint-Pierre pour être transformé à Sorel dans le cadre du projet sous la marque commerciale Element North 21. L’oxyde de scandium est un minerai métallique entrant dans la production de batteries, d’équipements médicaux au laser, mais aussi dans la production d’alliages d’aluminium. L’utilisation de seulement 0.1 % à 0.2 % d’oxyde de scandium suffit pour modifier considérablement les propriétés mécaniques de l’aluminium. Présentement, les Chinois sont les principaux producteurs mondiaux d’oxyde de scandium avec un volume annuel de 15 tonnes. L’oxyde de scandium est aussi utilisé pour améliorer les performances des piles à combustible à oxyde solide, lesquelles sont utilisées comme source d’énergie pour les centres de données et les hôpitaux, ainsi que dans des produits de niche tels que les lasers et l’éclairage des stades ou des studios. Il est également utilisé pour produire des alliages mères aluminium-scandium à haute performance pour l’industrie aérospatiale, la défense et l’impression 3D. M. Leblanc a souligné le travail de collaboration qui a été réalisé entre les centres de recherche et développement de Sorel et d’Arvida, ayant conduit à la mise au point des procédés de transformation pour ce matériel hautement spécialisé. Selon les projections, la demande pour l’oxyde de scandium est appelée à croître de façon importante, d’ici 2028, pour atteindre plusieurs centaines de tonnes, en raison de l’expansion dans les secteurs des télécommunications, du transport et la production de batteries, ce qui permettrait l’ajout de modules de production supplémentaires. Le projet d’usine-pilote a reçu le soutien financier de 750 000 $ provenant pour une part de 500 000 $ du ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles et 350 000 $ du programme Essor. Pour le ministre de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles Jonatan Julien, le projet de valorisation de l’oxyde de scandium de Rio Tinto Fer et Titane est un exemple concret de valorisation de nos résidus miniers. « Il témoigne de notre capacité d’innover et de saisir des occasions d’affaires dans un marché en croissance et dans un contexte visant à renforcer la sécurité de nos approvisionnements. Cette entreprise a le potentiel de devenir un important fournisseur hors Chine dans le domaine du scandium », a-t-il déclaré. S elon le ministre de l’Économie et de l’Innovation du Québec, Pierre Fitzgibbon, l’étape qui vient d’être franchie aujourd’hui par Rio Tinto Fer et Titane a le potentiel de positionner le Québec comme leader mondial de l’extraction de scandium et de sa commercialisation. Il ouvre la porte aux applications scandium-aluminium pour d’autres organisations membres du Réseau de transformation métallique du Québec.Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
In a blog post published on Friday, the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed now needed to live up to the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 2019 by doing all it takes to end the conflict in Tigray. "We are ready to help, but unless there is access for humanitarian aid operators, the EU cannot disburse the planned budget support to the Ethiopian government," Borrell said.
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to turn the tide on the pandemic, speeding up the vaccine rollout and providing financial help to individuals, governments and businesses.
National home sales set an all-time record in December, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Friday. Sales were up 47.2 per cent compared to December 2019, the largest year-over-year increase in monthly sales in 11 years. The spike in sales from November to December, 7.2 per cent, was driven by gains of more than 20 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Greater Vancouver. It was a new record for the month of December by a margin of more than 12,000 transactions. For the sixth straight month, sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019. It was also a record for the entire year. Average home price up 17% Almost 552,000 homes traded hands over Canadian MLS systems — a new annual record. It was an increase of 12.6 per cent from 2019 and 2.3 per cent more than the previous record year, 2016. The actual national average home price was a record $607,280 in December, up 17.1 per cent from the final month of 2019. The CREA said that excluding Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, two of the most active and expensive markets, lowers the national average price by almost $130,000. Many of the areas with the biggest price gains last month were in Ontario, including Belleville, Simcoe, Ingersoll, Woodstock and the Lakelands region, where prices were up more than 30 per cent from December 2019. Areas with more modest price growth included Calgary and Edmonton, where prices rose 1.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively. TD expects sales and prices to cool "What a fitting end to a surprisingly strong year," TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said in a note to clients. "Relative strength in high-wage employment, record low mortgage rates, rising supply of homes available for purchase and solid demand for larger units all supported exceptional sales and price growth last year. "Looking ahead, we're expecting sales and prices to cool somewhat from their robust pace in the first quarter. However, December's surprisingly strong performance makes hitting our forecast a tougher proposition." Shaun Cathcart, CREA's senior economist, said in a statement that Canada faces a "major supply problem" in 2021. "On New Year's Day there were fewer than 100,000 residential listings on all Canadian MLS systems, the lowest ever based on records going back three decades," he said. "Compare that to five years ago, when there was a quarter of a million listings available for sale. So we have record-high demand and record-low supply to start the year. How that plays out in the sales and price data will depend on how many homes become available to buy in the months ahead."
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have signed star running back Andrew Harris to a one-year contract extension. The Winnipeg native returns to the Blue Bombers for a fifth season. The 33-year-old Harris has led the CFL in rushing the past three years. He was named the game MVP and most valuable Canadian in Winnipeg's Grey Cup win over Hamilton in 2019. During the 2019 season, Harris passed Ben Cahoon to become the CFL's career leader in yards from scrimmage by a Canadian. He also moved past Normie Kwong as the Canadian career rushing leader. A five-time CFL all-star, Harris also was named the league's most outstanding Canadian in 2017. REDBLACKS SIGN FOUR The Ottawa Redblacks have signed Canadian linebacker Brad Cowan and defensive back Dagogo Maxwell and American defensive backs Brandin Dandridge and Marcus Roberson. Cowan was Ottawa's sixth-round pick in the CFL draft. He played university football at Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo, Ont. Maxwell was Calgary's fifth-round pick in 2018 out of UBC. He had six special-teams tackles with Calgary in 2019 before signing with Ottawa. Dandridge had 12 defensive tackles and four pass breakups in four games in 2019 with Ottawa. Roberson had 20 defensive tackles in 11 games for Toronto in 2018, his last action in the CFL. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
Quebec's workplace safety board says it has issued fines to nine Dollarama locations in the province for failing to respect sanitary guidelines. The Commission des normes, de l'equite, de la sante et de la securite du travail visited 68 Dollarama locations since March 2020 and issued 11 fines to the nine locations, the agency said Thursday. In its release, the agency did not specify the nature of the violations. The agency's announcement comes after Dollarama workers held protests last year decrying a lack of sanitary measures at the company's facilities. The nine Dollarama locations are in the regions of Gaspesie, Valleyfield, Saint-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu, Saguenay, Quebec City and Yamaska, the agency says. Dollarama says it cannot comment on the nature of the notices, adding that it has not received all of them and the ones it has received do not "clearly indicate what the infractions are." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:DOL) The Canadian Press