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Bill to ban conversion therapy being turned into political fundraising tool

STEPHANIE LEVITZ, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 13th, 2020

OTTAWA — A proposed bill banning forcing someone into therapy to alter their sexual orientation is turning into a political fundraising tool.

Conservative MP and failed leadership candidate Derek Sloan is asking his supporters to help him raise $25,000 for his re-election bid on the strength of his effort to fight the bill, currently before the House of Commons.

Sloan has long been opposed to the legislation, and used it during his leadership campaign to rally supporters in the social-conservative wing of the party by suggesting it amounted to child abuse.

He alleges, among other things, that bill would criminalize private conversations, which the Liberals say it will not do.

Sloan was among seven Tory MPs who refused to back the bill in the Commons, a fact the Liberals noted in their own recent fundraising pitch.

Their email warned that Sloan and his colleagues — and by extension Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole — aren’t willing to stand up for the rights of all Canadians.

The Liberals say forcing people into so-called conversion therapy causes immense harm and the practice must be banned.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2020.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

N.L. public health has COVID advice for the holiday mummering tradition

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 13th, 2020

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador public health officials have issued advice for those looking to stay COVID-safe while marauding around town with underwear on the outside of their clothes.

At a news conference Thursday, the province’s chief medical officer of health asked residents to stick to their households of close contacts while mummering this holiday season.

Mummering is a popular Christmas tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador in which revellers go door to door, completely disguised, often with underwear over their clothes.

It’s common for mummers to pad their behinds and wear pillowcases or doilies over their faces with the eyes cut out.

Mummers first ask if they’re allowed in and then burst into homes to dance, sing and drink while the host tries to guess who they are.

Health authorities in the province are also advising that people will have to maintain six feet between themselves and Santa Claus this year, meaning children will not be able to sit on his knee.

Shane Mills, a St. John’s-based film director, jokes that when it comes to mummers, this year he’ll be following the protocols he learned from years of watching horror movies.

“If you’re wearing a pillow case and banging on my door, I’m not letting you in,” he said in a Facebook message.

Mills said he has always been fascinated by the terrifying, macabre idea of strangers showing up unannounced, staring out through dark holes cut out of old cloth.

His film crew Grind Mind is working on their second horror film inspired by the Newfoundland tradition, “Mummering Legends,” and they’re due to start filming in January.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2020.

The Canadian Press

COVID-19 testing down as positive case numbers soar in most provinces

MIA RABSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 13th, 2020

Two months after the City of Ottawa scrambled to expand its COVID-19 testing options to deal with a massive spike in demand, it is now set to cut back on hours at testing sites this weekend because far fewer people are showing up for a swab.

The decline mirrors what is happening in much of the rest of the country, with average daily testing numbers down more than 25 per cent compared to a month ago, even as positive cases soar.

On Oct. 15, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported an average of 77,000 COVID-19 tests had been completed each day over the previous week, the highest it had ever been. That fell to an average daily count of 61,000 a week ago, and to below 55,000 this week.

In mid-October, Canada had about 2,300 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed each day. This week, that number grew to above 4,000.

Ontario, which on Thursday recorded its fifth record case total in the last six days, was aiming to have 68,000 tests daily by the middle of November. It hasn’t hit 40,000 tests once in those six days, and twice dropped below 30,000 tests per day.

The province averaged 38,273 tests per day in October, and this month so far the daily average is 33,870.

British Columbia averaged 9,369 tests last month. So far in November the average daily test number is 8,553.

In many provinces the testing numbers bounce around dramatically. In Quebec, the province tested 30,919 people on Nov. 5. Three days later, the dropped below 19,000. By Nov. 10, it was back up over 30,000.

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said last week the decline could be because local health authorities were offering testing to almost anyone who asked for it earlier this fall, regardless of whether they had symptoms or possible exposure to an infected person.

“I think people are now recognizing that the best approach could or should be more focused that it may not be the best use of resources and it may actually sort of slow down the testing for those who actually need it,” he said Nov. 6.

Ontario’s testing system was unruly in September, forcing the province to massively expand hours and locations of testing sites, make an appointment booking process, and changed the criteria so people without symptoms didn’t clog the lines.

In Ottawa, the testing task force that in September was begging people not to get tested unless they had symptoms began last week to beg people to go get a test. Today, the weekend hours at one of the city’s main testing sites are being cut from 11 hours a day to eight because so many appointments were going unfilled.

Ottawa public health chief Dr. Vera Etches said weekends have become particularly slow. She said the overall numbers have come back a bit from earlier in November and didn’t express alarm that not enough people are being tested, saying it could be due to Ottawa’s declining infection rate.

Ottawa has mostly bucked Ontario’s trend of rising cases, with the infection rate falling from 70 per 100,000 people in mid-October to 38 this week. Toronto’s grew from 57 to almost 100 over that time.

“You know, if the virus level is dropping, there may be more people without symptoms or fewer people with symptoms presenting to be tested,” Etches said.

But she said she still wants people to know if they have symptoms, even very mild ones, getting a test is the responsible thing to do because “we have to detect as much COVID as possible.”

“And so it is one of the things we’re watching and we continue to work with our partners that run the testing system to try to explore more,” she said.

“Why are people coming? Why are they not coming? You know, these are these are things that’s worth exploring for sure.”

It starts with a trout, and ends up a growing disaster

THE BIG STORY | posted Thursday, Nov 12th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, this is part four of a five-part series in collaboration with The Narwhal. There are no viable solutions to stop the tide of selenium leaching into Canadian and U.S. water from a 100-kilometre stretch of coal mines near Elk Valley, B.C., which are owned and operated by mining giant Teck Resources. Deformed fish, a potential fish population collapse and contaminated drinking water signal more trouble to come…

GUEST: Carol Linnitt, Managing Editor

You can learn more at thenarwhal.ca.

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Manitoba hunkering down for 2nd time to fight spread of COVID-19

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 12th, 2020

Today is the day Manitoba goes into a self-imposed economic and social hibernation to try to bring surging COVID-19 numbers back under control.

The province has been struggling to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus since it started spiking in recent weeks after a summer lull.

Gatherings are limited to five people, but the restriction does not apply to those who live in the same household.

Churches can’t hold in-person services and non-essential stores and restaurants are limited to curbside pickup and delivery.

Bars, museums and theatres are closed and recreational activities suspended, although schools remain open.

The province reported 5,676 active cases on Wednesday, the deadliest day of the pandemic for Manitoba, with nine new deaths for a total of 123.

It’s the largest per-capita caseload of active infections in the country.

Tighter public health orders had already been brought in for some areas, notably Winnipeg, but chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said earlier this week that the targeted approach was not working.

The sharp rise in cases and, with it, a record number of hospitalizations has put the health-care system under strain. Intensive care beds, including those occupied by non-COVID-patients, are running close to capacity.

There have been outbreaks in long-term care homes and hospitals, and widespread community transmission.

“We need to flatten our COVID curve and we need to do that now,” Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday as he announced the widespread slowdown which is to last as long as four weeks.

Alek Minassian’s murder trial for carrying out Toronto van attack resumes

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 12th, 2020

The trial for the man who killed 10 people and hurt 16 others in a van attack in Toronto resumes Thursday.

Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty and has raised a defence of being not criminally responsible for his actions.

He faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

Minassian’s state of mind at the time of the attack will be the sole issue at trial.

The defence has not yet stated what mental disorder Minassian will argue he suffered from.

Minassian has admitted in court he planned and carried out the attack.

He told a detective the attack was retribution against society because he was a lonely virgin who believed women wouldn’t have sex with him.

Former coach arrested on sex charges involving teen boys in Edmonton decades ago

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 11th, 2020

EDMONTON, Australia — A former track coach and official from Ottawa has been arrested on sex crime charges involving five teenage boys who were with the Edmonton Olympic Track and Field Club decades ago.

The Edmonton Police Service says Kenneth Porter, who is 72, was a coach in Edmonton at the time of the allegations between 1976 and 1980.

Porter has been charged with five counts of indecent assault and five counts of gross indecency based on the Criminal Code at the time.

Police say the charges are linked to track meets that were held in Calgary and Edmonton.

Porter has been released from custody and is to appear in Edmonton court on Dec. 7.

Edmonton police say they started the investigation in April 2019, the same month the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club announced the expulsion of Porter from the organization.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

The latest numbers on COVID 19 in Canada for Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 11th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. EST on Nov. 11, 2020:

There are 273,037 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 117,151 confirmed (including 6,493 deaths, 99,721 resolved)

_ Ontario: 86,783 confirmed (including 3,260 deaths, 73,417 resolved)

_ Alberta: 34,873 confirmed (including 369 deaths, 26,407 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 19,239 confirmed (including 284 deaths, 13,704 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 8,878 confirmed (including 114 deaths, 3,374 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 4,214 confirmed (including 28 deaths, 2,880 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,132 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,049 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 355 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 332 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 297 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 286 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 67 confirmed (including 64 resolved)

_ Yukon: 23 confirmed (including 1 death, 20 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 10 confirmed (including 10 resolved)

_ Nunavut: 2 confirmed

_ Total: 273,037 (0 presumptive, 273,037 confirmed including 10,624 deaths, 221,277 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Scaled-down ceremonies mark Remembrance Day across Canada

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 11th, 2020

OTTAWA — Canadians are being encouraged to stay home this morning while they mark the service and sacrifice of those who have given their lives to defend the country.

The solemnity of Remembrance Day is butting up against the threat posed by COVID-19.

The Royal Canadian Legion is explicitly discouraging Canadians from attending Remembrance Day ceremonies in person this year and instead asking people to watch on TV or online.

The legion is promising to include many of the traditional elements of the ceremonies, such as the playing of the Last Post, the singing of In Flanders Fields, and flybys of military aircraft.

There will also be a special emphasis on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War after many commemorations planned for earlier this year in Europe and elsewhere were cancelled because of the pandemic.

But most observances of Canada’s wartime sacrifices are expected to be extremely small, including in Ottawa, where the legion is planning to have only 100 people in place of the 30,000 who normally turn out for the national ceremony.

Many other legion branches across the country have also prepared stripped-down ceremonies, with parades by veterans and serving military personnel cancelled and wreaths laid before the events.

Private ceremonies are also being planned by long-term care facilities that are home to some of Canada’s oldest surviving veterans, many of whom might normally attend a local commemoration but who are at particularly high risk due to COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday encouraged Canadians to mark Remembrance Day despite the pandemic.

“Even though we can’t gather as we usually do, we can always show our support for our veterans by wearing a poppy and watching the ceremonies online on Remembrance Day,” he said in French.

“Thinking of Remembrance Day, let’s pay homage to our veterans who have given us so much and to those who continue to serve today.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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