WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Toronto police say they have charged a man with the attempted murder of an officer who was hit by a car last month. Police allege the man was driving a car that struck the officer and dragged him for more than 50 metres. Supt. Ron Taverner says the officer was taken to hospital with serious injuries but has since been released. Taverner says the incident took place on Nov. 21, after the officer heard sounds of gunshots while on patrol. He says the officer saw a car fleeing the area, caught up to the vehicle and had signaled for the driver to stop when he was hit. Police say Terry Baksh, 39, faces several charges that include attempted murder, assault with a weapon, flight from police and dangerous operation of a vehicle. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly said the incident took place on Saturday. In fact, it took place on Nov. 21.
Multiple B.C. First Nations continue to demand the provincial government release the location of COVID-19 cases near their communities. The Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tsilhqot’in National Government said despite being engaged in government-to-government negotiations, there has been no result. Public health emergencies, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, “do not impact all populations in the same way” noted a recent report by Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, which discovered widespread systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in B.C’s health-care system. “First Nations people are significantly more likely to experience an overdose event or death, and more likely to contract COVID-19, than non-Indigenous people in B.C.,” the report stated in one of its 11 key findings. Specific challenges reported to the review included lack of access to data, lack of resourcing for prevention and security, and lack of integration of First Nations in the supply chain for personal protective equipment and other necessary emergency supplies, the report added. The First Nations leaders said while they feel vindicated by Turpel Lafond’s report, the report’s recommendations must be immediately implemented and address COVID-19 information sharing. They have been requesting the location of coronavirus cases near their communities, if the case involves a person who has travelled to their territories within the last 14 days and the name of positive members to be used for culturally-safe contact tracing since May. Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Judith Sayers said the health ministry’s ongoing refusal to share the information is based on stereotypes of First Nations governments that receive and work with confidential information every day. “It’s insulting to suggest that we can’t be trusted with this information,” she said in a Dec. 1 release. A complaint by the First Nations was filed in September 2020 with the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner, which has opened a file into the matter.Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune
ROME — Pope Francis is supporting demands for racial justice in the wake of the U.S. police killing of George Floyd and is blasting COVID-19 skeptics and media organizations that spread their conspiracies in a new book penned during the Vatican’s coronavirus lockdown.In “Let Us Dream,” published Tuesday, Francis also criticizes populist politicians who whip up rallies in ways reminiscent of the 1930s, and the hypocrisy of “rigid” conservative Catholics who support them. But he also criticizes the forceful downing of historic statues during protests for racial equality this year as a misguided attempt to “purify the past.”The 150-page book was written in collaboration with Francis’ English-language biographer, Austen Ivereigh, who said Monday he hopes a more colloquial English-speaking pope will resonate with English-speaking readers and believers.At its core, “Let Us Dream” aims to outline Francis’ vision of a more economically and environmentally just post-coronavirus world where the poor, the elderly and weak aren’t left on the margins and the wealthy aren’t consumed only with profits.But it also offers new personal insights into the 83-year-old Argentine pope and his sense of humour.At one point, Francis reveals that after he offered in 2012 to retire as archbishop of Buenos Aires when he turned 75, he planned to finally finish the thesis he never completed on the 20th-century German intellectual, Romano Guardini.“But in March 2013, I was transferred to another diocese,” he deadpans. Francis was elected pope, and bishop of Rome, on March 13, 2013.The publisher said the book was the first written by a pope during a major world crisis and Ivereigh said it was done as a response to the coronavirus and the lockdown. For Francis, the pandemic offers an unprecedented opportunity to imagine and plan for a more socially just world.At times, it seems he is directing that message squarely at the United States, as Donald Trump's administration winds down four years of “America first” policies that excluded migrants from Muslim countries and diminished U.S. reliance on multilateral diplomacy. Without identifying the U.S. or Trump by name, Francis singles out Christian-majority countries where nationalist-populist leaders seek to defend Christianity from perceived enemies.“Today, listening to some of the populist leaders we now have, I am reminded of the 1930s, when some democracies collapsed into dictatorships seemingly overnight,” Francis wrote. “We see it happening again now in rallies where populist leaders excite and harangue crowds, channeling their resentments and hatreds against imagined enemies to distract from the real problems.”People fall prey to such rhetoric out of fear, not true religious conviction, he wrote. Such “superficially religious people vote for populists to protect their religious identity, unconcerned that fear and hatred of the other cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.”Francis addressed the killing of Floyd, a Black man whose death at the knee of a white policeman set off protests this year across the United States. Referring to Floyd by name, Francis said: “Abuse is a gross violation of human dignity that we cannot allow and which we must continue to struggle against.”But he warned that protests can be manipulated and decried the attempt to erase history by downing statues of U.S. Confederate leaders. A better way, he said, is to debate the past through dialogue.“Amputating history can make us lose our memory, which is one of the few remedies we have against repeating the mistakes of the past,” he wrote.Turning to the pandemic, Francis blasted people who protested anti-virus restrictions “as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!”He accused some in the church and Catholic media of being part of the problem.“You’ll never find such people protesting the death of George Floyd, or joining a demonstration because there are shantytowns where children lack water or education,” he wrote. “They turned into a cultural battle what was in truth an effort to ensure the protection of life.”He praised journalists who reported on how the pandemic was affecting the poorest. But he took a broad swipe at unnamed media organizations that “used this crisis to persuade people that foreigners are to blame, that the coronavirus is little more than a little bout of flu, and that restrictions necessary for people's protection amount to an unjust demand of an interfering state."“There are politicians who peddle these narratives for their own gain," he writes. “But they could not succeed without some media creating and spreading them."In urging the world to use the pandemic as an opportunity for a reset, Francis offers “three COVID-19” moments, or personal crises of his own life, that gave him the chance to stop, think and change course.The first was the respiratory infection that nearly killed him when he was 21 and in his second year at the Buenos Aires diocesan seminary. After being saved, Francis decided to join the Jesuit religious order.“I have a sense of how people with the coronavirus feel as they struggle to breathe on ventilators,” Francis wrote.The second COVID-19 moment was when he moved to Germany in 1986 to work on his thesis and felt such loneliness and isolation he moved back to Argentina without finishing it.The third occurred during the nearly two years he spent in exile in Cordoba, northern Argentina, as penance for his authoritarian-laced reign as head of the Jesuit order in the country.“I’m sure I did a few good things, but I could be very harsh. In Cordoba, they made me pay and they were right to do so,” he wrote.But he also revealed that while in Cordoba he read a 37-volume “History of the Popes.”“Once you know that papal history, there’s not that much that goes on in the Vatican Curia and the church today that can shock you,” he wrote.Francis repeated his call for a universal basic income, for welcoming migrants and for what he calls the three L’s that everyone needs: land, lodging and labour.“We need to set goals for our business sector that — without denying its importance — look beyond shareholder value to other kinds of values that save us all: community, nature and meaningful work," he writes.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakNicole Winfield, The Associated Press
Statistics from Public Health Ontario (PHO) show the opioid-related death rates in many parts of Northern Ontario are significantly higher than the numbers being reported by Toronto Public Health and some other Southern Ontario locations. For comparison purposes, statistics were compiled in quarterly segments from the end of March 2019, through to the end March of 2020, which was the one-year time period with the latest available information on Emergency Room visits, hospitalizations and opioids-related deaths. In the first quarter of this year, just in the Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) jurisdiction, the rate of opioid deaths was listed at 41.9 per 100,000 population, an increase of 16.7 per cent from the previous year. This was based on a population of 200,424 within the jurisdiction of the Sudbury health unit, which includes the City of Greater Sudbury and several surrounding smaller communities, such as Espanola, Chapleau and on Manitoulin Island. Public Health Ontario said this accounts for 21 deaths in the first three months of this year for the PHSD service area. The Sudbury health unit's own opioid surveillance program reports that from January 2020 to June 2020, opioids have claimed 44 lives. The Sudbury health unit jurisdiction, in the first three months of this year, also had an opioid death rate more than three times higher than the national rate in Canada, which is 12.1 deaths per 100,000 residents. By comparison, for the Toronto Public Health area, the rate of opioid deaths was 11.4 per 100,000 population. It is an increase of 8.6 per cent from the previous year. This was based on a population of 3,090,377. The rate for the last three months of 2019 was 10.5 per 100,000. For the third quarter, the rate was lower at 6.1 deaths per 100,000. The second quarter of 2019 in Toronto, the death rate was 10.5 and in the first quarter the death rate was 11.2 deaths per 100,000. The lower rate was evident in other parts of Southern Ontario. In the jurisdiction of Ottawa Public Health, the rate of opioid deaths was lower at 7.7 per 100,000, the first three months of this year. This was for a population of slightly more than one million. In the Peel region, Peel Public Health reported an even lower fatality rate of 7.6 per 100,000 residents, for a population listed at more than 1.5 million. In the Windsor - Essex County Health Unit, the opioid fatality rate was 15.2 per 100,000 based on a population of roughly 420,000. In the Niagara Public Health Region, the death rate in the first three months this year was reported at 23.1 per 100,000 population for a region of more than 468,000 residents. Back to Northern Ontario, the rates were far higher in general. The Porcupine Health Unit, representing Timmins and several other smaller northern towns, also has a high rate of opioid deaths according to the PHO stats. For the first three months of this year, the death rate attributed to opioids was 32.8 per 100,000 population, three times the Toronto rate. This was for a population of 85,273. Figures for the Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) for the first quarter of this year revealed a mortality rate of 28.5 per 100,000 population. This was for a population of nearly 155,000 in the TBDHU jurisdiction. For the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit it was revealed that the rate of opioid deaths was 18.6 per 100,000 population. This was for a region of more than 129,000 residents. The Timiskaming Health Unit, which includes such communities as Kirkland Lake and Temiskaming Shores, the rate was 12.1 per 100,000 for a jurisdiction with a population of more than 33,000 residents. Four deaths occurred in that jurisdiction between March 2019 and March 2020. Further west in the jurisdiction of the Northwestern Health Unit, for communities such as Kenora, Red Lake and Dryden, the mortality rate for the first three months of this year was 9.8 per 100,000, a couple of points lower than Toronto. This was for a population just short of 82,000. A full report on the patterns of opioid-related deaths in Ontario during 2020 the pandemic may be causing some unintended consequences. "In June 2020, Ontario’s Chief Coroner announced a 25 per cent increase in suspected drug-related deaths between March and May 2020, compared to the monthly median reported in 2019. Similar trends have been reported elsewhere in Canada," said the report. "It is expected that this increase in drug-related deaths is being driven by a combination of numerous factors, including an increasingly toxic unregulated (‘street’) drug supply, barriers to access to harm reduction services and treatment, and physical distancing requirements leading to more people using drugs alone."Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
In a part of B.C. with a long history of gold mining, a revival of the industry is stirring up conflicting opinions. Dave Jorgenson and his wife Cheryl own two guesthouses and a gift shop in the central Interior community of Wells, B.C., where gold was king until the 1930s.Over the past two decades, the Jorgensons have been working hard to maintain the small town as a tourist destination, but they fear an underground gold mine a Montreal-based company proposes to build near Wells will put an end to that.Wells is seven kilometres from the National Historic Site of Barkerville which preserves the streetscapes of the gold-rush town that boomed in the 1860s making it one of North America's largest living museums.Technological changes later made underground mining the area's key industry.Now, Osisko Gold Royalties, which owns the Barkerville Gold Mines (BGM) based in Wells, plans to launch the Cariboo Gold Project which is still going through the provincial government's environmental assessment process.Part of the plan is to construct a 16-hectare ore-processing concentrator complex — with a 12-storey waste rock treatment tower — near a visitor information centre in western Wells.Big eyesore to townJorgenson says the building will be a big eyesore and will scare many travellers away along with noise from mineral carrying trucks."That [tower] will dominate the landscape as you drive into town," he told Carolina de Ryk, host of CBC's Daybreak North.BGM has been doing mine exploration for the Cariboo Gold Project over the past four years. Jorgenson says the company and its contractors have already bought up 80 per cent of the hotel rooms in Wells and neighbouring Barkerville and turned them into staff housing, but workers don't stay in town long-term and accommodations are often left empty for most of the year."The result is that people [tourists] don't come to our stores to shop or eat … don't have the opportunity to extend their stay," he said. "All tourism dollars have stopped flowing in our community."COVID proves tourism unsustainable in WellsIan Douglas, a gold prospector who has lived in Wells for seven years, agrees that BGM shouldn't be under-using the hotel rooms it's purchased but says it doesn't really matter right now. The pandemic has already dealt a severe blow to local tourism, an industry he once worked in."Tourism isn't going to be able to sustain Wells as it used to," Douglas told Matt Allen, guest host of CBC's Daybreak North. "The [Cariboo Gold Project] mine in its current planning position will help subsidize our existence." Douglas says he is eagerly awaiting the job opportunities at BGM."I would love to use it as a foot in the door to the rest of the industry," he said. "[Training] at BGM and working there for a few years could get you a job anywhere else in the industry."Jorgenson has suggested BGM build the gold mine 600 metres away from Wells, but he says the company is resisting the idea."They've chosen the place that's the most economical for Osisko shareholders in other parts of the world, but I don't believe that they've chosen the best place for the stakeholders that are the people in our community," he said.Douglas says relocating the mine somewhere else may not be feasible."I … don't think that there is any other place to put such a complex, readily available nearby, that wouldn't take more time or energy to construct," he said.In a written statement to CBC News, Barkerville Gold Mines says it has been listening to Wells residents and has made adjustments to the Cariboo Gold Project.Tap the link below to listen to Dave Jorgenson's interview on Daybreak North:Tap the link below to listen to Ian Douglas' interview on Daybreak North:Subscribe to Daybreak North on CBC Listen or your favourite podcast app, and connect with CBC Northern British Columbia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
On the Toronto Raptors' first full day in their temporary home away from home, the state of Florida hit an inglorious milestone, surpassing one million COVID-19 cases.Concern around the pandemic itself is just one of the huge challenges Canada's NBA team faces in Tampa, where the Raptors will host their home games for at least the first part of the season because of Canada's travel restrictions around COVID-19.The price tag of playing outside their own market is massive. "It's something we're going through with the league now," GM Bobby Webster said on a Zoom call Tuesday. "There is a discretionary fund that the NBA has . . . the last time it was invoked for something like this was Hurricane Katrina, when New Orleans went to Oklahoma City."It's a huge strain on us as an organization, but I think, as you all know, when faced with different challenges or obstacles, we thrive, and we like it, so we're looking at it much more from a really unique experience for our team, for our staff."The Raptors made their team official on Tuesday. On a positive note, they signed Canadian Oshae Brissett to a multi-year extension. The restricted free agent forward from Mississauga, Ont., who split time between the Raptors and Raptors 905 of the G League last season, averaged 1.9 points in 19 games with the NBA team.The presence of Terence Davis at camp, however, is a contentious topic. Davis is facing seven charges, including two counts of third-degree assault, after he was arrested in New York on Oct. 27 for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. "We've obviously had our conversations with Terence, done as much due diligence as we can on the situation," Webster said. He said the matter is in the hands of the NBA and the players' union and results of their investigation will determine whether Davis might be put on administrative leave."I think sometimes that may feel a bit unsatisfying but I think that we need to be respectful of that process as well," he said. The Raptors have taken a proactive approach to hiring women, so Webster was asked if their position on Davis is hypocritical. "We take this incredibly serious," he said. "There’s no basketball issue that would ever prevent us from doing anything, but we also have to go with our relationship and our understanding of the conversation and what happened."The Raptors began individual workouts at Saint Leo University on Tuesday. They're still in the process of setting up a practice facility in a downtown hotel — another of the huge hurdles no other team in the league faces. They got the hotel ballroom idea after seeing the league do it in the "bubble" at Walt Disney World. "If you can imagine a world-class basketball court, a world-class training room, a world-class weight room, there are challenges in doing that in the equipment but essentially the idea here was to create a world-class practice facility in a place where there isn’t one," Webster said. "That’s been fun and challenging for us."Webster, a dad of two young kids, isn't sure how many Raptors players and staff might move their families temporarily to Tampa. "We’re all in a bit of no-man’s land as we decide. We all wanted to come down here and see what the setup is . . . so see what the setup is here, what the comfort level is, obviously finding housing or living in a hotel is different than living in a place with a routine," he said. "I think over the course of the next few days or weeks we’ll have a better sense of it."Webster said they learned other lessons from being cooped up in the Disney World bubble for three months they can apply to this unique season."You really understand the meaning of being part of a team and relying on each other, not only for playing the games and getting to the arenas, but now it's our collective health, our collective well-being," he said. "I think that sense of belonging and unity is really important for a time like this, where everyone feels like we have each other's back, and we're all looking out for the greater good."If there is a plus side to playing in Tampa, Webster noted that it snowed Tuesday in Toronto. "We are here in nice, sunny Florida with no state income tax," Webster grinned.The Raptors also announced centre Henry Ellenson signed a multi-year contract. Ellenson played five games for the Brooklyn Nets last season. He has also played for Detroit and New York since entering the league in 2017.Meanwhile, the Raptors signed first-round pick Malachi Flynn to a rookie-scale contract and second-round pick Jalen Harris to a two-way contract.Free-agent forwards Alize Johnson and Yuta Watanabe have signed one-year, Exhibit-10 contracts.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
À la suite de la publication d'un article sur le site de Radio-Canada portant sur les relations de travail et un climat toxique à Hockey Québec, l'organisation a mis en place un comité indépendant qui sera chargé d'enquêter sur la situation. Celui-ci sera dirigé par Michel B. Fournier, un avocat retraité expérimenté en relations de travail. «Dès que l’information m’a été communiquée, j’ai informé mon conseil d’administration de cette situation que nous prenons très au sérieux, a mentionné Yve Sigouin, président du conseil d'administration, par voie de communiqué. C’est pour cela que nous avons immédiatement décidé de la mise en place de ce comité qui aura toute la latitude pour rencontrer confidentiellement les employés, faire la lumière sur la situation et effectuer des recommandations.» Le texte publié dans le média national rapportait des «directives contradictoires, réprimandes écrites pour des peccadilles, employés subrepticement délestés de leurs dossiers, microgestion de vétérans en poste depuis plusieurs décennies, absence de communication, climat de suspicion et conflits entre la direction et des partenaires de longue date de la fédération». Au total, une quinzaine d'entrevues ont été réalisées par le journaliste Martin Leclerc auprès de membres actifs ou démissionnaires du personnel de Hockey Québec. Par ailleurs, l'organisation a précisé, par voie de communiqué, qu'aucune plainte formelle provenant du syndicat des employés ne lui a été adressée depuis l'arrivée en poste de Paul Ménard à titre de directeur général. Deux directeurs auraient quant à eux rencontré le conseil d'administration pour émettre certains désaccords. Selon l'instance provinciale, la situation aurait ensuite été réglée.Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
Last week, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced his top cabinet picks, and selected Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Melanie Mark as the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. Mark holds the distinction of being the first First Nations woman to serve in the B.C. Legislature. She was elected to the riding in 2016 and previously served as the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, before being given this new assignment. Mark’s appointment was heralded by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA). “We look forward to working closely with Melanie Mark, the new Minister of Tourism, Arts Culture and Sport to tackle the significant challenges facing the industry, and ultimately moving the sector down the path to economic recovery,” said TOTA President and chief executive officer Glenn Mandziuk. Mandziuk is currently serving as the chair of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat. The organization is a collaboration between the province’s regional destination management organizations and is giving key input on the province’s tourism recovery plan. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
British Columbia has seen more COVID-19 deaths over the past two weeks than the preceding two months because the virus has found its way back into nursing homes. And with long-term care workers exhausted and families frustrated, it's not clear what can be done.
A woman arrested by the North Battleford RCMP gang unit failed to appear in court Nov. 30 and a warrant was issued. Amanda Wohobin, 31, failed to appear Nov. 9 and a warrant to hold was issued. She again failed to appear on Nov. 30 so the warrant was activated. The RCMP Crime Reduction Team arrested Wahobin, along with Kyle Caron, 40, and Dean Lafreniere, 48, on Sept. 20 after police raided a home in North Battleford, a vehicle and a hotel room. The arrests followed a two-month investigation into drug activity in North Battleford. The three were charged with three counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and weapons offences. Caron and Lafreniere appeared in North Battleford Provincial Court on Nov. 30 and their matters were adjourned to Feb. 1, 2021, for election and plea. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
An Indigenous woman wakes up in a hospital far from her rural community in 2018 and again in 2019, dry heaving after both of her surgeries. She thinks she could be allergic to the sedative, but the nurse assumes she is going through withdrawal, despite the fact she hadn’t been drinking before either surgery. “You people drink too much,” the nurse says, and moves the woman to a bed where she doesn’t get further care for three days. A health-care worker witnesses an Indigenous patient go untreated for days against medical advice. The patient eventually had a stroke that could have been prevented. An Elder described how her teeth were forcibly and improperly removed when she was at a residential school. Her mother was held for nearly two decades in the Nanaimo Indian Hospital. The woman now avoids the hospital and the dentist out of fear, and is assumed to be drug-seeking when she seeks care for lifelong tooth infections. “We don’t give drugs,” the staff say. And she describes how, while still a teen, a urologist performed a rough examination, and said “Come on, you know you native women like it rough,” when she cried out in pain. A first-of-its-kind report into anti-Indigenous racism in B.C. health care has found these and hundreds more horrific stories of racism against Indigenous peoples seeking care. Racism is “widespread and insidious” in every corner of the health system, according to the report, titled “In Plain Sight.” After surveying and interviewing almost 9,000 patients and health-care workers about decades and generations of their experiences, the investigation found that 84 per cent of Indigenous patients had experienced racism in health care. More than 50 per cent of Indigenous health care workers reported experiencing racism on the job, mostly from their own colleagues. The disturbing findings led investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to call today for drastic changes in the beliefs, behaviours and structures of health care in the province and new accountability measures. A startling 13 per cent of surveyed health-care workers of all races also made racist comments in their responses to the survey itself. Turpel-Lafond said that showed the degree of racism in the system and health-care workers’ comfort in expressing it. The report noted racist acts not only harm a patient’s dignity but also reduce the quality of care of Indigenous patients and increase their likelihood of chronic illness, poor health outcomes and self-harm. “At the point of care, there is direct prejudice and racism touching all points of care and impact Indigenous people in B.C.,” said the former provincial representative for children and youth, who is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. “Any Indigenous person could face it because it is pervasive and entrenched in the system.” The independent probe was commissioned by Health Minister Adrian Dix in June after allegations of racist games in emergency rooms, alleging health-care workers were guessing the blood alcohol contents of Indigenous patients in the style of “The Price Is Right.” Turpel-Lafond said her investigation “found no evidence of an organized game as originally depicted,” but its results were much more alarming. Harmful stereotypes that Indigenous people drink alcohol in excess, are drug-seeking, less worthy, poor parents, get things for free, or that Indigenous women are sexually promiscuous or involved in the sex trade permeated the comments from patients and health-care workers alike. Those surveyed reported experiencing and witnessing everything from outright denial of care to physical or emotional abuse to medical mistakes because concerns were not heard or respected. “Often these kinds of stereotypes lead to poor care and services,” said Turpel-Lafond. “These actions begin a cycle of poorer outcomes.” The investigation’s analysis of patient data on 185,000 Indigenous people found they go to emergency rooms at nearly twice the rate of non-Indigenous peoples, due to poor access to primary care services or because they avoid care due to past traumatic experiences. Hospitalization rates are three times higher for Indigenous peoples with preventable conditions and Indigenous women are 11 times more likely to leave the hospital against medical advice than non-Indigenous patients due to mistreatment and concerns for their safety. Sexism and misogyny directed at Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people means they are more severely impacted by racism in health care and half as likely to feel safe in health-care settings as Indigenous men. They are more likely to be in poor health, the report found. The impacts of the current pandemic and overdose crises in B.C. disproportionately harm Indigenous women, Turpel-Lafond said. Turpel-Lafond said the rampant problems stem from a lack of accountability and respect and protection for patients and health-care workers who blow the whistle on racism. She wants to see commitments to improving access to care and increasing Indigenous-led services that include cultural healing and traditional practices. And the responsibility to bring change must rest on the health-care sector and government, not Indigenous peoples. “Racism isn’t an Indigenous person’s problem,” said Turpel-Lafond. In her 24 recommendations, Turpel-Lafond says changing systems, beliefs and behaviours is required to address these problems. She wants to see whistleblower protection legislation extended to health-care workers, and new senior positions in government working specifically on anti-racism in health care. Anti-racism policies should be required in all colleges, regulatory bodies and post-secondary training institutions for health-care providers and leaders, she said. Dix offered an apology to all Indigenous people who experienced racism when seeking care and vowed to formulate a cross-government plan to implement the recommendations rooted “in anti-racism and cultural humility.” “My apology today is an acknowledgement of the pain that Indigenous people have borne from racism,” he said today. “Racism will have no place here.” The province has already directed each health authority to hire five new Indigenous health liaisons and has seconded Dawn Thomas, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and a vice-president of Island Health, to serve as associate deputy minister of Indigenous health in Dix’s portfolio. Turpel-Lafond thanked the people who came forward to tell their stories and urged Indigenous peoples to seek care for themselves and support one another in light of the disturbing report. “It’s up to Indigenous people whether they can accept that apology today,” she said. “And today is a very important beginning, so I do feel comfort in that.”Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
TORONTO — The Liberal government says it will take steps over the next year to tax foreign homeowners who live outside of Canada as part of a plan to lower housing prices.It's an idea that has been growing in popularity over the last few years in provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, but some experts question how effective such a plan would be.In this week's fiscal update, the government says the plan will benefit first-time homebuyers and put more homes on the market by taxing homeowners who use Canada to passively store wealth in housing.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last year his government would introduce such a tax, praising a similar measure in British Columbia during his most recent election campaign.The B.C. government said last year its speculation and vacancy tax raised $115 million, paid mostly by owners based abroad, with Finance Minister Carole James crediting the tax as a factor behind the 5.6 per cent fall in home prices in the first part of 2019.Tsur Somerville, an associate professor at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, said that while prices did fall in the Vancouver area after the introduction of foreign buyers' taxes, the policy is not a silver bullet for affordability. "If you're looking to address affordability, that on its own is never going to get you to affordability. But it can certainly be part of the package of both demand- and supply-side policies," he said.In addition to the speculation and vacancy tax — on those who own local residences but do not pay provincial income taxes — B.C. has also tried a property transfer tax on home purchases made by foreign nationals in Vancouver, according to the Chartered Professional Accountants regulator of British Columbia. In 2017, Ontario passed a speculation and vacancy tax on homebuyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe who were neither citizens nor permanent residents. And in Prince Edward Island, non-residents must apply to a special commission to buy more than five acres of land.Renewed talk of taxing non-Canadian homebuyers comes as several housing markets across the country set sales records during the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing up prices amid low interest rates and a rush on telecommuter-friendly houses with yards.While the housing market has been hot, the government is looking for ways to finance $25 billion in new spending to support those hit hard by the pandemic.In practice, some markets with lots of demand from foreign buyers could see house prices decline but remain "crazy unaffordable," even with the proposed tax, said Somerville. Other locales, such as tourist spots, could actually benefit from travellers owning vacation homes there, Somerville said, while still other cities may already have landlords who are struggling to find tenants as it is.For example, the supply of housing may be flexible enough in cities like Calgary or Edmonton where foreign-based buyers don't have that much impact on overall home prices, he said. Also, when it comes to building a giant apartment building, foreign investment from a European pension fund is unlikely to be an affordability problem, he noted."I can't understand why you would introduce it at a national level," Sommerville said. "That doesn't make any sense to me as a policy because it is not as if we are in a national crisis of foreigners buying up housing in every market and creating challenges on affordability. That's a stretch."Somerville also noted that the policy has raised objections for targeting Chinese people in Vancouver, although different populations would be affected in different areas of the country.Andrey Pavlov, professor of finance at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, said it was a "terrible" idea to nationalize British Columbia's policies, saying the tax would discourage foreign investments without improving affordability.Pavlov said that the share of first-time homebuyers has actually gone down since the tax was put in place in B.C. Other than Toronto and Vancouver, most Canadian cities can be built out to accommodate and even benefit from second homes for people like business travellers, said Pavlov. The problem with further taxing homeownership, Pavlov said, is that it could actually reduce the supply of housing by discouraging builders and investors. Pavlov also questioned whether the policy would help the government pay for its fiscal stimulus plans."Our chance to repay the debts we are incurring now is to grow our economy as fast as we can," Pavlov said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies like Netflix will go up under a taxation plan the government wants to put in place next year, experts said Tuesday.Ottawa said in its fiscal update released Monday it will require multinationals to collect GST or HST on digital products and services, which it said would add up to $1.2 billion over five years.Sometimes labelled a "Netflix tax," the measure would also apply to other services such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video or the Spotify audio streaming service, as well as digital products such as software applications. The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales, so it's only fair that foreign multinationals should do the same. KPMG tax partner Joe Micallef said it's likely Canadians will end up paying the taxes collected for the government by foreign multinationals."Right now, the way in which they're delivering their services, they're not responsible for the collection," Micallef said."And so, effectively, it would mean that these charges would be appearing on (their) invoices."A regular monthly subscription for a streaming service that delivers video or music would be a simple calculation, with the tax rate applied to the purchase price.But Micallef said it is be more difficult to estimate how much additional tax individual consumers, or businesses, will pay for other types of digital purchases, he said.Something like gaming software might cost little or nothing itself, but offer the option for subsequent charges to add features that make the experience better."How many times? How many transactions? It adds up," Micallef said.Dwayne Winseck, a media industry researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, also expects companies will add the price of the tax to the total sale price. "I mean, this is really not a very substantial amount, when we're talking about corporate finances," said Winseck, who is a professor of journalism and communication.He said that the term "Netflix tax" has become highly politicized and is often used as "code" for levelling the playing field between U.S.-based digital media companies and traditional Canadian broadcasters."And if the idea is to create a level playing field between those two services, then that by all means that makes great sense," Winseck said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.David Paddon, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Alek Minassian was "saturated in horrific material" online where he conceived the idea to use a van as a weapon to get a high "kill count" score, his murder trial heard Tuesday. Dr. Alexander Westphal, a psychiatrist who is testifying for the defence, said Minassian was obsessed with various abhorrent online sites, including one that glorified mass murderers listed in order by how many people they killed. "I don't doubt that in the absence of this sort of thing that this would not have happened," Westphal said. Westphal is expected to say Minassian is not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018, due to autism spectrum disorder. "Autism alters perception and understanding of the world enough to be something that is really, really important when you’re discussing culpability," Westphal said. Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. He has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack, leaving his state of mind at the time the sole issue at the judge-alone trial. Westphal, who specializes in autism, met with the 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., on several occasions for a total of 15 hours. The psychiatrist said Minassian feels no emotion over what he did. "It's as abstract as killing people in a video game, which is such a horrific concept, but that really is how I feel he was thinking about this," Westphal said. "He still doesn't have any emotional connection with what he did." Westphal said Minassian told him multiple reasons why he committed the attack, but nothing really explains the motivation. Minassian has said he was motivated by his hatred towards women for years of rejection as part of the convoluted world of so-called "incels", or involuntary celibates, of like-minded men who believe they are on the bottom rung of society. "I don't really see incels as an explanation," Westphal said. Westphal said Minassian's social isolation was a factor, as was his anxiety toward starting a new job. But Minassian was drawn to the notoriety of mass murderers and their "kill counts," Westphal said. The concept of death is abstract to Minassian, Westphal said, and he talked about the lives lost as "converting life status to death status." When the psychiatrist asked what Minassian knew about death, the 28-year-old said "death is irreversible." "The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that he didn't understand or didn’t have the slightest insight into the horror or devastation that he was inflicting," Westphal said. He said Minassian has a complete lack of empathy and cannot understand how other people feel. Minassian told Westphal, and several other assessors, he was bullied in school. At one point, Westphal asked Minassian if he understood that others would think of him as a bully because of the attack. "He appeared both shocked and dismayed by the statement and in a way almost like it was an outrageous suggestion," Westphal said. "I'm not a bully," Minassian responded, according to Westphal. "I hate bullies, how could anyone think that?" Westphal has said Minassian lacks empathy due to his autism spectrum disorder. He said Minasisan does not feel remorse or regret, but is also not experiencing sadism or taking any joy from retelling the attack. "When he describes this stuff, he's describing it completely flat in the same way you or I would describe going shopping and the order of things we purchased when we went shopping," he said. "It's completely devoid of any emotional context whatsoever and any sense of the impact this had on other lives." Court has heard that more than 90 per cent of people found not criminally responsible in Canada experienced psychosis. "Overall, it was our impression that despite the fact he was not psychotic, his autistic way of thinking was severely distorted in a way similar to psychosis," Westphal said. "There is support in the literature that autistic ways of thinking may distort reality as substantially as psychotic ways of thinking." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania's highest court questioned Tuesday whether Bill Cosby's alleged history of intoxicating and sexually assaulting young women amounted to a signature crime pattern, given studies that show as many as half of all sexual assaults involve drugs or alcohol. Cosby, 83, hopes to overturn his 2018 sex assault conviction because the judge let prosecutors call five other accusers who said Cosby mistreated them the same way he did his victim, Andrea Constand. The defence said their testimony prejudiced the jury against the actor and should not have been allowed.“That conduct you describe — the steps, the young women — there’s literature that says that’s common to 50% of these assaults — thousands of assaults — nationwide,” Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor asked a prosecutor during oral arguments in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. “So how can that be a common scheme?”The prosecutor, in response, offered more precise details about the relationships, saying Cosby used his fame and fortune to mentor the women and then took advantage of it. And he sometimes befriended their mothers or families.“There was a built-in level of trust because of his status in the entertainment industry and because he held himself out as a public moralist,” said Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe, of suburban Philadelphia's Montgomery County, where Constand says she was assaulted at Cosby's estate in 2004.“The signature was isolating and intoxicating young women for the purpose of sexually assaulting them," Jappe said.Cosby has served more than two years of his three- to 10-year prison sentence for drugging and molesting Constand, whom he met through the basketball program at his alma mater, Temple University.Courts have long wrestled with decisions about when other accusers should be allowed to testify in criminal cases. It's generally not allowed, but state law permits a few exceptions, including to show a signature crime pattern or to prove someone's identity. The state's high court appears eager to address the issue, and in doing so took on the first celebrity criminal case of the MeToo era. The court typically takes several months to issue its opinion.Judge Steven T. O'Neill had allowed just one other accuser to testify at Cosby's first trial in 2017, when the jury could not reach a verdict. The MeToo movement took hold months later with media reports about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and other men accused of sexual misconduct.O'Neill then let five other accusers testify at Cosby's retrial in 2018, when the jury convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting Constand.Cosby's appellate lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said prosecutors exploited “all of this vague testimony” about his prior behaviour and his acknowledgement that he had given women alcohol or quaaludes before sexual encounters.“They put Mr. Cosby in a position where he had no shot. The presumption of innocence just didn't exist for him,” Bonjean said in the arguments Tuesday, which were held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.Constand went to police in 2005, about a year after the night at his home. The other women knew Cosby in the 1980s through the entertainment industry, and they did not go to police.The defence also challenged the trial judge's decision to let the jury hear damaging testimony Cosby gave in a lawsuit Constand filed against him in 2005, after then-prosecutor Bruce Castor declined to arrest Cosby.The testimony was sealed for nearly a decade until The Associated Press asked a federal judge to release documents from the case as more Cosby accusers came forward. The judge agreed, and Castor's successor reopened the case in 2015, just months before the statute of limitations to arrest him would have expired.Cosby, a once-beloved comedian and actor known as “America’s Dad,” has said he will serve his entire 10-year term rather than admit wrongdoing to the parole board.Criminal law professor Laurie Levenson believes it's important for the court to scrutinize Cosby's conviction given the publicity the case attracted, the legal questions it raised and the potential influence of the MeToo movement.However, she was less sure there's data to show that intoxication was as prevalent in sex assault cases in the 1980s through 2004 as it is today.“We have heard a lot more about doping types of sexual assaults (recently), but I'm not sure how common it was at the time of this offence,” said Levenson, of Loyola Law School. “I think the court’s doing the right thing, which is asking, ‘Did he get convicted on legitimate evidence?'"The AP does not typically identify sexual assault victims without their permission, which Constand has granted.___Follow Maryclaire Dale on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Maryclairedale.Maryclaire Dale, The Associated Press
Students across Alberta started learning from home again Monday and will continue to do so until Jan. 11. In an attempt to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the province forced all students in Grades 7-12 to go back to at-home learning. All students will go on winter break on Dec. 18. In January, in-person classes will resume on Jan. 11 after a week of online learning to begin the New Year. Grade 8 St. Mary’s student Bethany Taylor says online learning is naturally different than in-class learning, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. “I’m still able to communicate with my friends and have a good time,” she said. “Learning online is good for me and I’m able to learn new things and communicate with everyone I need to.” When schools shifted online in March, they did not have much time to plan for the online aspect of learning. Taylor says things seem more structured this time around. “We have to be at a specific meeting at a specific time,” she said. “We have a schedule every day and it’s pretty similar to a normal day at school.” Alexandra Middle School student Rowan Hughson says online learning has its ups and downs. “It’s alright learning online and I don’t mind being at home,” Hughson said. “It’s just confusing sometimes trying to figure out what is going on. “I really like being around other people, so that is really hard at times, too.” The Grade 9 student says things seem much smoother this time around. “This seems much better than the emergency learning we had in March,” Hughson said. “I think they’ve had a lot more time to plan this time around and to listen to feedback from parents and students.” Jackson Harnett is a Grade 8 student at Notre Dame says online learning is a good experience. “I actually do like it – it’s really good,” he said. “I like that you get to work at your own pace and there aren’t as many distractions this way.” Harnett agrees that things are going better this time. “Everyone is showing up to class,” he said. “Things seem a lot more organized.”Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
Next year, if all goes as planned, Canadians will get a free COVID-19 vaccine, billions of dollars in economic stimulus, and perhaps, insiders and analysts say, an early election. Five sources familiar with the thinking in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party say a snap election is likely at some point in 2021 rather than at the scheduled end of the legislature in 2023. Last year, the ruling Liberals won only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, leaving them reliant on opposition parties to survive.
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s auditor general says the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the need for more robust cybersecurity and anti-fraud measures as government employees are forced to work remotely. However, he says the provincial government isn't working fast enough to manage those risks. Acting auditor general Terry Spicer notes in a report released Tuesday that the federal government's Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity has warned of an increase in attempts to access and attack networks used by remote workers. The audit finds that 10 provincial government departments, nine public service units and 19 government organizations have not completed fraud risk assessments. It adds that Service Nova Scotia, which helps citizens access government programs and services, is lagging behind on finalizing its regulations around cybersecurity. The auditor general cautions that fraud in the public sector can result in the loss of taxpayer funds and erode the public’s confidence in government if the risk isn’t properly handled. Tim Houston, leader of the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, said in a statement that the auditor general's findings reveal the province is failing to protect the information of residents. "As governments around the world find themselves increasingly at risk of cyberattacks, Nova Scotia has shown that it doesn’t place a high importance on keeping our health and other records safe from improper access," Houston said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. - - - This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — Insurance companies in British Columbia have agreed to end a pricing practice that has been identified as one of the key factors in skyrocketing property insurance premiums for condominiums. Earlier this year, the B.C. Financial Services Authority said premiums have gone up by 40 per cent on average for a number of reasons. Finance Minister Selina Robinson says an agreement to end so-called best terms pricing on Jan. 1 is a positive step. Insuring multi-unit properties in B.C. often sees many insurers submit bids.Under best terms pricing, the final premium paid by owners is usually based on the highest bid, even if most quotes were lower. Blair Morrison, CEO of the financial services authority, says the change is an important step for long-term stability in the property insurance market. Robinson was the housing minister in June when she introduced legislation to change the Strata Property Act and the Financial Institutions Act to bring more transparency to the insurance market. The Insurance Council of B.C., the regulatory body for insurance agents in the province, says it will work with the industry to address the practice. Council CEO Janet Sinclair says the change will mean less price volatility.A financial authority report released in June says price pressures will continue on buildings considered to be higher risk and the insurance market for so-called strata properties was "unhealthy."It says insurers were accumulating losses mostly from minor claims, especially for water damage due to poor building maintenance and initial construction. It says new building construction, building material changes and rising replacement costs have put added strain on the industry's profitability. Insurers are also reducing the amount of insurance they offer in B.C. because of excessive exposure to earthquake risk, it says. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press