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Top officials weighed Canadian warship’s passage through sensitive strait near China

Talia Knezic | posted Friday, Nov 27th, 2020

Newly released documents have shed light on the secret government talks and debate that took place ahead of a Canadian warship’s passage through a sensitive waterway near China last year.

Those discussions included a private meeting between the top bureaucrats at the Department of National Defence and Global Affairs Canada, weeks before HMCS Ottawa sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

Defence officials were also told to keep quiet about the frigate’s trip in September 2019, three months after Chinese fighter jets buzzed two other Canadian ships making the same voyage.

And they were ordered to keep the Privy Council Office, the department that supports the prime minister, in the loop as the Ottawa was making its way through the waterway.

The unusual level of attention from the highest levels of government laid out in the documents, obtained by The Canadian Press through access to information, underscores the sensitivities surrounding the trip.

That is because while much of the world considers the 180-kilometre strait to be international waters, Beijing claims ownership of the strait separating mainland China from Taiwan.

Beijing, which regards the self-ruled island of Taiwan as a rogue province, has repeatedly condemned such passages by foreign warships from the U.S., Canada and elsewhere as illegal.

HMCS Ottawa ended up sailing through the Taiwan Strait twice in early September. Media reports at the time said the frigate was shadowed by the Chinese navy.

The heavily redacted memo to Global Affairs deputy minister Marta Morgan dated Aug. 7, 2019 starts by saying the Defence Department was looking for a risk assessment for the Ottawa’s planned transit.

Defence Department deputy minister Jody Thomas “has also requested a meeting with you on Aug. 12 to discuss this deployment,” the memo adds.

While HMCS Ottawa was in the region at the time helping enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea, the memo noted that the frigate was due to make a port visit in Bangkok in mid-September.

Defence officials have publicly stated that the decision to have the Ottawa sail through the strait was because the route was the fastest way for the frigate to reach Bangkok from its position near North Korea.

The memo backs that assertion, noting that going around Taiwan would add one or two days to the trip each way.

Yet it also says the navy’s presence in the South China Sea, of which the Taiwan Strait is a part, “has demonstrated Canadian support for our closest partners and allies, regional security and the rules-based international order.”

Global Affairs ultimately agreed to the Ottawa’s sailing through the strait, but called on defence officials to keep the trip quiet, in large part because of fears the trip would coincide with the federal election campaign.

“Finally, GAC will ask DND to ensure that it keeps PCO informed as this naval deployment progresses,” the memo adds.

Former Canadian ambassador to China David Mulroney described the discussions leading up to the Ottawa’s transit of the Taiwan Strait as “an illustration of smart and effective consultation producing the right decision.”

“It is tremendously important that China sees that, in addition to the United States, other serious countries like Canada will not be intimidated into surrendering the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan itself to China’s complete control,” he said.

“The RCN, working closely with Global Affairs, is promoting the national interest and asserting our sovereignty from the far side of the world.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Talia Knezic | posted Friday, Nov 27th, 2020

Black Friday, the one-day shopping bonanza known for its big bargains and large crowds, has arrived.

While rising COVID-19 cases and weeks of staggered deals have muted the usual fanfare of the shopping event, retailers are banking on today’s sales to bolster their bottom line.

Retail analysts say some bargain hunters are still expected to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, where possible, in the hopes of snagging a doorbuster deal.

But they say the majority of this year’s Black Friday purchases are expected to be made online.

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

He says given ongoing lockdowns and in-store capacity limits, online sales are expected to be strong today and remain heightened over the holiday shopping season.

Indeed, big box stores, which often attract the largest lineups and crowds on Black Friday, have moved most promotions online.

Yet although Black Friday’s top sellers tend to be big-ticket electronics, some shoppers might be on the hunt for deals on more basic items.

Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at consulting firm J.C. Williams Group, says some shoppers may take advantage of today’s sales to “stock up and hunker down for the winter.”

Black Friday, which started as a post-Thanksgiving sale in the United States, has gained in popularity in Canada in recent years.

It’s also become an increasingly important sales event for retailers, along with Cyber Monday, overshadowing Boxing Day.

Robin Sahota, managing director and Canadian retail lead for professional services firm Accenture, says retailers might be saving some special discounts for Cyber Monday.

“It’s going to be a day where retailers look to add some sweeteners to entice consumers, particularly with the pull forward of Black Friday,” he says. “I think folks will be seeking out something special on Cyber Monday.”

A COVID-19 Black Friday and stricter rules in Saskatchewan: In The News for Nov. 27

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Nov 27th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 27 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Black Friday, the one-day shopping bonanza known for its big bargains and large crowds, has arrived.

While rising COVID-19 cases and weeks of staggered deals have muted the usual fanfare of the shopping event, retailers are banking on today’s sales to bolster their bottom line.

Retail analysts say some bargain hunters are still expected to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, where possible, in the hopes of snagging a doorbuster deal.

But they say the majority of this year’s Black Friday purchases are expected to be made online.

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

He says given ongoing lockdowns and in-store capacity limits, online sales are expected to be strong today and remain heightened over the holiday shopping season.

Indeed, big box stores, which often attract the largest lineups and crowds on Black Friday, have moved most promotions online.

Yet although Black Friday’s top sellers tend to be big-ticket electronics, some shoppers might be on the hunt for deals on more basic items.

Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at consulting firm J.C. Williams Group, says some shoppers may take advantage of today’s sales to “stock up and hunker down for the winter.”

Also this …

REGINA — Group sports are suspended in Saskatchewan starting today and no more than 30 people are allowed to gather inside public venues as the province tries to contain its spread of COVID-19.

The cap applies to bingo halls, worship services, casinos, and receptions for weddings and funerals.

The Saskatchewan Party government announced added health measures on Wednesday after weeks of rising cases that have driven up hospitalizations.

Although formal competition is prohibited, athletes and dancers who are 18 years old and younger can still practise in groups of eight if they stay far enough apart and wear masks — now required in all indoor fitness facilities.

No more than four people can sit together at a bar or restaurant and tables must be three metres apart if they are not separated by a barrier.

Large retail stores have to cut their capacity by half.

The measures are to be in place until Dec. 17.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

Americans are marking the Thanksgiving holiday amid an unrelenting pandemic that has upended traditions at dinner tables all around the country.

Zoom and FaceTime calls are fixtures this year, and people who have lost family members to the virus are keeping an empty seat to honour their loved ones.

Far fewer volunteers will help at soup kitchens or community centres.

A Utah health department has been delivering boxes of food to residents who are infected with the virus and can’t go to the store.

A New York nursing home is offering drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

SEOUL — South Korea’s spy agency has told lawmakers that North Korea executed at least two people, banned fishing at sea and locked down its capital as part of frantic anti-coronavirus steps.

The lawmakers cited the National Intelligence Service as saying that North Korea also ordered diplomats overseas to refrain from any acts that could provoke the United States because it is worried about president-elect Joe Biden’s expected new approach toward the North.

One lawmaker cited the agency as saying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is displaying excessive anger and taking irrational measures over the pandemic and its economic impact.

On this day in 1998 …

Hells Angels kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher was acquitted of killing two Quebec prison guards.


A Venezuelan woman who believes she was used as part of Jason Kenney’s argument not to lockdown restaurants in Alberta remembers her encounter with the premier as less dramatic than he suggested.

Carolina De La Torre says Kenney got her central feelings correct, but she said she did not break down into tears the way Kenney recalled.

“No crying,” the 57-year-old woman said with a laugh during a phone interview Thursday.

She also said it was Kenney who approached her Calgary food court booth called Arepas Ranch for lunch in October, not the other way around as the premier told it.

After weeks of mounting COVID-19 cases, as more than 1,000 new cases and 16 deaths were reported on Tuesday, Kenney announced new rules that included making indoor private social events illegal.

During the news conference, Kenney gave an example of how much a lockdown would hurt businesses by telling the story of a Venezuelan refugee he met.

“A couple of weeks ago, I was in my constituency, at a little food court thing and a new Albertan, a refugee from Venezuela socialism, came up to me,” Kenney said.

“She had just opened a little food kiosk, she recognized me, she came up to me, and she broke down in tears in front of me saying, ‘sir, I put my entire life savings as a refugee into this business, we’re struggling to pay the bills, if you shut me down, I’m going to lose it all, everything, and I’ll be in abject poverty.’”

“For some, perhaps, it is a little bit too easy to say just flick a switch. Shut them down,” Kenney said.

“I would ask people who have the certainty of a paycheque to think for a moment about those individuals whose entire life savings are tied up in businesses.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020

The Canadian Press

COVID projections and ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel for sale: In The News for Nov. 26

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 26 …

What we are watching in Canada …

TORONTO — Ontario health officials are expected to release new COVID-19 projections today.

It will be the first time they have released such data since sending the province’s two biggest virus hot spots — Toronto and Peel Region — into lockdown earlier this week.

Two weeks ago, the province unveiled modelling that showed Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December unless steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus.

It said the province would reach 2,500 new daily cases by that time if the growth rate was at three per cent, or 6,500 if the growth rate was at five per cent.

At the time, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, one of the experts behind the projections, said a five per cent growth rate was “slightly optimistic.”

Premier Doug Ford announced he would lower thresholds for imposing stricter COVID-19 measures under the province’s colour-coded restrictions system the following day.

Also this …

Quebec’s highest court is scheduled to deliver its ruling today on appeals to the life sentence of Alexandre Bissonnette, who shot and killed six men in a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

Bissonnette was sentenced in February 2019 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 40 years.

Both sides appealed the ruling: the defence said the killer should be allowed a parole hearing in 25 years while the Crown said 40 years wasn’t enough, and Bissonnette should not have the possibility to leave prison before 50 years.

And in Toronto, a psychiatrist is expected to testify for the defence in the murder trial for a man who drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 people.

Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

The defence argues the 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., should be found not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018, due to autism spectrum disorder.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — A big Biden family Thanksgiving is off the table for president-elect Joe Biden because of the pandemic.

In remarks billed as a Thanksgiving address to the nation, the Democrat urged Americans to “hang on” and not “surrender to the fatigue” after months of coping with the virus.

He noted that public health officials have asked Americans to give up many of the traditions that make Thanksgiving special, like big indoor family get-togethers.

Biden said he knows how hard it is to give up family traditions but that it’s very important this year given the spike in virus cases, averaging about 160,000 a day.

He urged everyone to wear masks, practice social distancing and limit the size of groups, calling it a “patriotic duty” until a vaccine is approved.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

SEOUL — The operator of an online chat room in South Korea was sentenced today to 40 years in prison for blackmailing dozens of women, including minors, into filming sexually explicit video and selling them to others.

The Seoul Central District Court convicted Cho Ju-bin, 24, of violating the laws on protecting minors and organizing a criminal ring, court spokesman Kim Yong Chan said.

The court ruled Cho “used various methods to lure and blackmail a large number of victims into making sexually abusive contents and distributed them to many people for an extended period,” Kim said. “

He particularly disclosed the identities of many victims and inflicted irreparable damages to them.”

Cho has maintained he only cheated victims into making such video but didn’t blackmail or coerce them, forcing some of the victims to testify in court.

Kim said the court decided to isolate Cho from society for a prolonged period in consideration of his attitude and the seriousness and evil influence of his crime.

Both Cho and prosecutors, who had requested a life sentence, have one week to appeal.

On this day in 1917 …

The National Hockey League was founded in Montreal with Frank Calder as president. The NHL replaced the National Hockey Association. Its first teams were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Toronto Arenas, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs.

In entertainment …

There’s a rose-coloured opportunity for would-be hoteliers looking to flaunt their wealth in small-town Canada.

A landmark location from the beloved CBC sitcom “Schitt’s Creek” hit the market Wednesday, offering buyers the chance to re-enact the show’s riches-to-rags saga for a listing price of $2 million.

The Hockley Motel in Mono, a town of about 8,000 people northwest of Toronto, served as the exterior set for the Rose family’s home on the Emmy Award-winning series.

The listing presents the 6.7-acre riverside property as a fixer-upper that would appeal to travellers seeking rural refuge from the commotion and contagion risk of city life in the COVID-19 era.

It’s a sales pitch that may sound familiar to “Schitt’s Creek” fans who have followed the Rose family as they refurbished their motel-turned-home in a town they once purchased as a joke, said property owner Jesse Tipping.


ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — A school superintendent in British Columbia is apologizing to an Indigenous mother whose daughter was given an assignment to find something good about the infamous residential school system.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed how the residential school system played a central role in perpetrating cultural genocide against Indigenous people.

Krista MacInnis says she was reduced to tears when her daughter asked for help on the Grade 6 assignment from William A. Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford.

MacInnis says she asked her daughter to erase the work she had done, which included the web address for a blog post entitled “Balancing the Biased ‘Genocide’ Story About Residential Schools.”

MacInnis says she’s since heard from the superintendent of the Abbotsford school district, Kevin Godden, who told her as a person of colour he was outraged by the assignment her daughter received.

MacInnis says she’s heard from the school’s principal, who told her he has spoken with the teacher responsible for the assignment and they would both like to apologize to the mother and her daughter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020

The Canadian Press

For posterity: George Pimentel project captures effects of COVID-19 on Canadian society

Talia Knezic | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2020

Across the world, people are living through a pandemic the likes of which has not been seen for over 100 years.

While there is little doubt that 2020 and the COVID-19 crisis will be remembered as a dark chapter, it is an extraordinary time in human history and one that is being documented extensively by almost everyone with a smartphone.

One of Canada’s most renowned photographers has taken it upon himself to curate thousands of such images submitted on social media by Canadians across the country, to capture how COVID-19 has altered every facet of their existence.

“It all started when I was looking at photos from the Spanish flu,” George Pimentel said.

With all events cancelled due to the pandemic, including the Toronto International Film Festival where Pimentel has snapped some of his most iconic images, he was left with time on his hands and a desire to do something meaningful with it.

“I thought it’s so important to document the historical value of this pandemic … to archive this for the future. I want to be able to look back at the photos one day and maybe get a sense of what time was like back then,” he explained.

Pimentel began by photographing life during the pandemic for himself — everything from gymnastics practice in a park to a physically distanced visit with his father. Hearing people’s stories as he photographed them has been both heart wrenching and eye opening, he said.

As he started creating a photo essay on his Instagram account, Pimentel began to feel that it was vital to see how others across the country were experiencing the pandemic and get a glimpse of it through their lenses.

To make his vision a reality, he decided to use social media as a hub to gather images from all walks – whether or not they were professional photographers. He began asking people to use #CanadaCOVIDPortrait to share their photos with him on Instagram in hopes of creating a country-wide archive.

“The power of social media — everyone started hash-tagging their photos. We had over 5,000 images come in. It was overwhelming,” he said.

Pimentel said the story of COVID in Canada has so many different chapters — frontline workers, businesses, families, and the elderly to name a few — and the photos he received told rich stories of their real life experiences.

“Each photo tells a story and has the diversity of Canada, from west coast to east coast, we wanted to show everything. There’s photos from Indigenous [people] and Black Lives Matter,” he said, adding that they are all strung together by the common thread of hope and resilience.

“We had over 5,000 images come in.”

Those photos are now part of the ‘Portraits in COVID Times: Documenting a Nation in Change’ exhibit at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

View some of the images from the exhibit below:
Photos provided by George Pimentel

Open Gallery10 items


The exhibit itself is one of the many things impacted by COVID-19. With indoor events and gatherings now prohibited, the outdoor format and large scale was a deliberate and necessary decision in order to make the exhibit accessible to as many people as possible.

“There’s no other exhibit like this,” Pimentel stated. “You can see the exhibit from the streetcar, while you’re riding your bike, while you’re walking down here.”

Habourfront Chief Programming Officer Iris Nemani said Pimentel’s vision for the project was in perfect harmony with the centre’s own goals of engaging with the community and bringing them innovative, COVID-safe programming during a time when their extensive roster of events had to be cancelled.

“How could we use our 10 acres and really create a visual art canvas for the community to engage artists and to also have relevant conversations? What George brought to us was absolutely a current conversation that was so poignant,” she explained.

For the first time, the entire façade of the main Harbourfront building has been taken over for a single exhibit of black and white photographs.

“Our offices are closed, so it was a non-issue for the people working inside the building. This was a moment to do something that was really impactful and large scale, so we just said let’s take over all the windows,” Nemani said.

“There’s no events going on inside and we felt like the only way to do it is outdoors and the best way to do it is to bring it out to the community,” Pimental added. “We’re just so lucky that the Harbourfront has such a great space.”

But even with the entire building covered, there are still more stories to tell. A second site along the waterfront has been chosen for Part 2 of the exhibit, expected to be completed next week.

“When [people] come down, they’re going to see that maybe they can relate to this.”

It will run along Queens Quay near Rees Street on 200 feet of lineal hoarding that will display an additional 30 images in colour.


“This is for the community, both that live here and those who are coming down here, and a way to bring some reflection for what we are all going through together,” Nemani said.

Pimentel added that he hopes the images will help people find common ground during what has been an incredibly divisive and polarizing time for the country.

“When [people] come down, they’re going to see that maybe they can relate to this. The most important thing is maybe they can learn from this and just see how the other side live. And really be sensitive to the issues …and lets all be kinder, it’s COVID,” he said.

Person of interest identified but not arrested in billionaire murders: police

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2020

Toronto police say they have identified a person of interest in the high-profile 2017 homicides of a billionaire philanthropist couple.

However, the force says no arrest has been made related to the murders of Barry and Honey Sherman.

The founder of generic pharmaceutical company Apotex and his wife were killed inside their Toronto mansion in December 2017.

Autopsy results revealed the couple died by “ligature neck compression” and police have said there were no signs of forced entry.

The killings shocked the city and made international headlines.

The family offered up to $10 million for information that would help solve the case, and hired its own team of private investigators.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Test of emergency public alert system expected today across Canada, CRTC says

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2020

Most people across Canada can expect an interruption Wednesday by an emergency public alert that will be broadcast on television, radio and sent to mobile devices as part of a countrywide test of the system.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says all provinces and territories, except Nunavut, will get the alerts, but people will not be required to take action.

The exact time of the test will vary depending on the province or territory.

The agency says testing the national public alerting system is aimed at checking performance and reliability “to ensure it operates as intended in the event of a life-threatening situation.”

For a wireless device to receive a test alert, the CRTC says it must be connected to an LTE wireless or a newer wireless network, it must be wireless public alerting compatible and equipped with a recent Canadian version of its operating software.

If a mobile device meets these conditions and does not receive the test, the CRTC encourages Canadians to contact their service provider.

Testing the system, which hasn’t always gone according to plan, started in 2018.

It was supposed to be fully operational under regulator orders by April 6, 2018. But that year in Quebec, it didn’t sound at all. Many wireless subscribers in Ontario also didn’t receive it.

“Since January 2019, hundreds of emergency alert messages were successfully transmitted by emergency management officials to warn Canadians of a potentially life-threatening situation,” the CRTC said in its statement Tuesday. “These alerts have been credited with saving lives.”

This summer, Ontario Provincial Police used the system to alert Lanark County residents that an armed man was at large after a body was found in a motel room.

That alert came about three months after a denturist went on a shooting rampage in Portapique, N.S., killing 22 people. The RCMP was criticized for not using the system.

Quebec City police also faced backlash last month for not using the system to warn the public about a sword-wielding individual roaming the streets, killing two people and injuring five others.

Alert Test Times Across Canada:

  • Alberta – 1:55 PM MST
  • British Columbia – 1:55 PM PST
  • Manitoba – 1:55 PM CST
  • New Brunswick – 10:55 AM AST
  • Newfoundland & Labrador – 10:55 AM NST
  • Northwest Territories – 9:55 AM MST
  • Nova Scotia – 1:55 PM AST
  • Nunavut – No test scheduled
  • Ontario – 12:55 PM EST
  • Prince Edward Island – 12:55 PM AST
  • Quebec – 1:55 PM EST
  • Saskatchewan – 1:55 PM CST
  • Yukon – 1:55 PM MST

Tougher COVID-19 restrictions and a major Grammy snub: In The News for Nov. 25

Talia Knezic | posted Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 25 …

What we are watching in Canada …

The Ontario government is expected to spell out its guidelines today for celebrating the upcoming winter holidays as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Toronto and Peel Region are currently under the grey or lockdown level in the province’s tiered COVID-19 alert system, with those restrictions to stay in place at least until the week of Christmas.

Public health measures under the lockdown level include a ban on indoor gatherings except with those in the same household, as well as closing down restaurants for all but takeout and delivery.

The province’s top doctor said earlier this week it seemed unlikely the situation would improve in those regions enough over 28 days to warrant moving them to the red alert level, which is one level lower.

In Alberta, tougher COVID-19 restrictions were announced Tuesday that included limits on social gatherings and less face-to-face class time for students.

Premier Jason Kenney said there are to be no indoor gatherings, but people who live alone can have up to two personal contacts.

He says students in grades 7 through 12 will transition next week to at-home learning and the school holiday break will be extended from Dec. 18 to Jan. 11.

Banquet halls, conference centres and concert venues must also close.

Kenney added that anyone who can work from home should do so and masks will be mandatory in workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and surrounding areas. The measures will be in effect for three weeks and re-evaluated after that.

Also this …

A review of the Catholic archdiocese of Montreal’s handling of complaints against a pedophile priest is to be released today.

The archdiocese enlisted former Quebec Superior Court justice Pepita Capriolo to examine the church’s response to complaints against former priest Brian Boucher.

Archbishop Christian Lepine is expected to speak about the report, tabled in September, at a news conference today.

Lepine requested the review himself, saying he wanted to establish who knew what in relation to Boucher’s crimes.

Boucher was sentenced in March 2019 to eight years in prison for abusing two boys after being found guilty in one case and pleading guilty in the other.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is not giving up his fight to overturn the election results, even as agencies across the federal government begin to support president-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration.

Career federal officials are opening the doors of agencies to hundreds of transition aides ready to prepare for Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

And on Tuesday, Trump signed off on allowing Biden to receive the presidential daily brief, the highly classified briefing prepared by the nation’s intelligence community for the government’s most senior leaders.

An administration official said logistics on when and where Biden will first receive the briefing were still being worked out.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

The European Union has committed to be “creative” in the final stages of the Brexit trade negotiations but warned that whatever deal emerges, the United Kingdom will be reduced to “just a valued partner,” far removed from its former membership status.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said “genuine progress” has been made on several issues.

And she said that on the divisive issues of fisheries, governance of any deal and the standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU, the bloc is “ready to be creative, but we are not ready to put into question the integrity of the single market.”

On this day in 2010 …

Steven Chand, 29, convicted of trying to raise funds for the so-called Toronto 18 terror plotters, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He had been in jail since June 2006 but because of credit for time served, he only had to serve another seven months and 10 days.

In entertainment …

The Weeknd angrily slammed the Grammy Awards, calling them “corrupt” after the Canadian pop star walked away with zero nominations despite having multiple hits this year.

The three-time Grammy winner criticized the Recording Academy on Tuesday after he was severely snubbed, despite having one of the year’s biggest albums with “After Hours” and being tapped as the Super Bowl halftime headline performer. He also topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless.”

“The Grammys remain corrupt,” the singer said on Twitter. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”

The harsh words come less than a year after the Recording Academy’s ousted CEO accused the group that determines nominations in the top categories of having conflicts of interest and not engaging in a transparent selection process.


A researcher from the University of Alberta is being recognized for her innovation that uses the sharp edges on salt crystals to destroy COVID-19 droplets on reusable masks.

Ilaria Rubino, a recent PhD graduate, says a solution of mostly salt and water is used to coat the first or middle layer of the mask.

As the liquid from the droplets evaporates, she says the salt crystals grow back as spiky weapons, which damage the bacteria or virus within five minutes.

Rubino collaborated with a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta to advance the project she started five years ago.

She is being recognized today with an innovation award from Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that honours researchers from academic institutions.

The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval.

Rubino says it could also be used to stop the spread of other infectious illnesses, such as influenza.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020

The Canadian Press

Canada-wide survey of women’s shelters shows abuse more severe during COVID-19

BRENNA OWEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2020

A new national survey by Women’s Shelters Canada offers a glimpse into the experiences of front-line workers and women fleeing violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, with reports of clients facing more violence that is also increasing in severity.

The Shelter Voices survey says 52 per cent of 266 participating shelters reported seeing clients who were experiencing either somewhat or much more severe violence, as public health measures aimed at fighting COVID-19 increase social isolation, while job losses fuel tension over financial insecurity in many households.

Violence “was also happening more frequently, or abusers who hadn’t used violence in the past were suddenly using violence,” said Krys Maki, the research and policy manager for Women’s Shelters Canada.

The survey also found 37 per cent of shelters reported changes in the type of violence clients faced, including increased physical attacks resulting in broken bones, strangulation and stabbings.

Shelters and transition houses that did not report changes in the rates or type of violence were often located in communities that had seen fewer cases of COVID-19, the report notes.

The data show public health restrictions have a “huge impact on women and children who are living with their abusers,” said Maki.

The survey says 59 per cent of shelters reported a decrease in calls for help between March and May, when people were asked to stay home, and businesses, workplaces and schools shut their doors.

From June to October, “as soon as things started up again, we see a huge increase in crisis calls and requests for admittance,” said Maki.

The survey includes responses from shelters and transition houses in rural and urban areas in every province and territory.

Just over half of the shelters in population centres with 1,000 to 29,999 residents reported increases in crisis calls between June and October, said Maki, compared with 70 per cent of shelters in urban centres with populations between 100,000 and just under a million.

Women in smaller communities may be more hesitant to reach out for help, said Maki, “because everybody knows everyone, and everyone knows where the shelter is, too.”

While the survey shows women are facing more severe violence at home, at the same time, 71 per cent of shelters reported reducing their capacity in order to maintain physical distancing and other public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.

It was more common that shelters in large population centres had to cut their capacity.

To continue serving women remotely, 82 per cent of shelters and transition houses reported purchasing new technology, such as tablets, phones and laptops, although limited cell service and internet connectivity pose challenges in rural and remote areas.

For many shelters, financial difficulties increased throughout the pandemic, as 38 per cent reported raising significantly less money compared with last year.

The shelters were mostly appreciative of the federal government’s emergency funding in response to COVID-19, with some reporting it kept them open, while others said they had to lay off staff because the money didn’t go far enough.

The federal government announced last month it would double the initial amount it was providing to gender-based violence services in response to the pandemic for a total of $100 million, some of which has been distributed through Women’s Shelters Canada.

The survey found more than three quarters  of the shelters faced staffing challenges during the pandemic. That’s not surprising, the report notes, since women make up the majority of shelter workers and have been trying to balance paid work with childcare and other family responsibilities during lockdown periods.

The release of the survey results on Wednesday coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment is also working to have Nov. 26 recognized each year to raise awareness about economic abuse.

So far, the cities of Ottawa, Brampton, Parry Sound and Kingston have signed on in Ontario, while Victoria and Comox, B.C., will also mark the day.

There is little data about economic abuse in Canada, said Meseret Haileyesus, who founded the centre, although the shelter survey showed clients were subject to increasing coercion and control tactics, including limited access to money.

A survivor’s debt load, credit rating, and their ability to access housing and educational opportunities may be affected for years, long after they’ve left an abusive relationship, Haileyesus said.

The centre is working with MP Anita Vandenbeld on a petition urging lawmakers to expand the strategy to end gender-based violence to include economic abuse. It also wants Statistics Canada to begin collecting data and studying economic abuse.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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