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More COVID restrictions, Indigenous child welfare settlement : In The News for Jan. 4

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 Jan. 4... What we are watching in Canada ...

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 Jan. 4...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Ontario is joining the list of provinces delaying in-person schooling in the new year, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across the country.

Monday's announcement by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that schools will conduct online learning until at least Jan. 17 backtracked on an announcement made last week that in-person classes would resume this Wednesday. 

Ford also announced what he called "targeted and time-limited'' restrictions including reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 outdoors, closing indoor dining at restaurants and bars and shuttering indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas and gyms.

Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia and British Columbia all previously announced delays for the return of in-person learning, with a targeted Jan. 10 start date. Manitoba, which expected students to return on Jan. 6 following the holiday break, later extended that to the 10th.

Starting today, Quebec's booster program is set to expand to those 18 and older. 

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted yesterday that members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to Quebec to speed up the province's vaccination efforts. 

The Defence Department has said up to 200 personnel are being deployed at vaccination centres in Montreal.

In-person trials at British Columbia's Supreme and provincial courts are being postponed this week as the courts work with public health officials to update their COVID-19 safety policies.

Newfoundland and Labrador is now in "Alert Level 4," with chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald noting active cases in the province have increased from 30 to nearly 3,000 in the last two week.

The province announced new restrictions, which includes further capacity restrictions at gyms and restaurants, which will be re-assessed on Jan. 17.

New, shortened isolation measures are now in effect in Alberta, with those who have received at least two doses of vaccine who test positive for COVID-19 only needing to isolate for five days instead of 10.

The five-day isolation period is similar to recommendations recently announced in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and B.C. Symptoms must be fully resolved by the end of the five-day period, otherwise people must continue to isolate. 


Also this ...

Family members of some of the victims of the Iranian military’s downing of a passenger jet two years ago, along with their legal team, are holding a news conference today to discuss a court decision that awarded them millions.

An Ontario court has awarded more than $107 million to families of six victims.

The decision made public Monday follows a May ruling that the missile strikes amounted to an intentional act of terrorism, paving the way for relatives of those killed to seek compensation from Iran.

In the damages decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found on a balance of probabilities that the missiles that shot down the Ukraine International Airlines Flight were fired deliberately at a time when there was no armed conflict in the area.

As a result, he found it constituted an act of terrorism that would invalidate Iran's immunity against civil litigation.

While the State Immunity Act protects foreign states from legal claims, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act provides an exception in cases where the losses are caused by terrorist activity.

More than 100 of the 176 people killed in the plane crash on Jan. 8, 2020 had ties to Canada, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

Belobaba awarded $7 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages, plus interest, to the family members who went to court.


And this ...

An agreement in principle that will see Ottawa pay billions in compensation to First Nations children harmed by an underfunded child welfare system is set to be announced in Ottawa today.

Sources have confirmed to The Canadian Press that negotiations reached final stages on New Year's Eve, resulting in an agreement that may finally bring an end to a human rights challenge launched 14 years ago.

The case has been a major sore point in reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples in Canada, as both the former and current federal governments spent millions fighting it in court.

The battle began in 2007 when the First Nations Children and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed a human rights complaint arguing chronic underfunding of child welfare services on reserve was discriminatory when compared to services provided by provincial governments to kids off reserve.

Following multiple unsuccessful court challenges and appeals by the former Conservative government, the complaint was heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2013 and 2014.

In 2016, the tribunal ruled the federal government had discriminated against First Nations children.

What we are watching in the U.S. ...

BOULDER, Colo. _ Federal and state investigators have interviewed dozens of people in their search for the cause of a destructive Colorado wildfire, but the results of that investigation _ and even a progress report _ could take days, if not weeks, the Boulder County sheriff warned.

Declaring that ''the stakes are huge,'' Sheriff Joe Pelle said he would not release details on the probe until he was ready "to announce some progress _ perhaps that may be a week, perhaps that may be a month.''

Getting it right, he told reporters Monday, was "more important than the urge for speed that a lot of folks are feeling right now.''

The wind-whipped inferno erupted Thursday, destroying nearly 1,000 homes and other structures and forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate in a rapidly-growing suburban area pockmarked by grasslands between the cities of Boulder and Denver. Two people were missing, and crews sifted two locations by hand and used small tools in their search for any remains.

Experts say the winter fire was rare but that similar events will become more common as climate change warms the planet and suburbs grow in fire-prone areas. The blaze broke out following months of drought that included a dry fall and a winter with little snow so far.

The investigation into the fire's origin is focused on an area near Boulder where a passerby captured video of a burning shed on the day the fire began, Pelle told a news briefing Monday. He said dozens of people have been interviewed thus far and that experts from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and

Explosives and the U.S. Forest Service were involved. Authorities say no downed power lines were found in the area.

Known as Marshall Mesa, the area in unincorporated Boulder County is near the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills and overlooks the more heavily populated suburbs to the east that were devastated by the fast-moving fire. The area is surrounded by tinder-dry public open space and private grasslands.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

BEIJING _ Activists are appealing to Tesla Inc. to close a new showroom in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, where officials are accused of abuses against mostly Muslim ethnic minorities.

The appeals add to pressure on foreign companies to take positions on Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan and other politically charged issues. The ruling Communist Party pressures companies to adopt its positions in their advertising and on websites. It has attacked clothing and other brands that express concern about reports of forced labour and other abuses in Xinjiang.

Tesla on Friday announced the opening of its showroom in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, and said on its Chinese social media account, "Let's start Xinjiang's all-electric journey!''

The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Monday called on Tesla and its chairman, Elon Musk, to close the showroom and "cease what amounts to economic support for genocide.''

"No American corporation should be doing business in a region that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority,'' said the group's communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, in a statement.

The Communist Party has pressured foreign hotel, airline and other companies to adopt its positions on the status of Taiwan, the island democracy claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, and other issues in advertising and on their websites.

Activists and foreign governments say some one million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim minorities have been confined in detention camps in Xinjiang. Chinese officials reject accusations of abuses and say the camps are for job training and to combat extremists.

China is one of Tesla's biggest markets. The company's first factory outside the United States opened in Shanghai in 2019.


On this day in 1986 ...

Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers became the first NHL player to score 100 or more points in seven consecutive seasons.


In entertainment ...

TORONTO _ The Weeknd is kicking off 2022 with the sudden release of a new album.

The Toronto native revealed Monday on social media that "Dawn FM'' is set to arrive on Friday.

A trailer for the album teased clips of new music and named several other artists involved in the project, including Canadian comedian Jim Carrey, record producer Quincy Jones, musician Tyler, the Creator and rapper Lil Wayne.

"Dawn FM'' marks the singer's first album since his smash "After Hours'' arrived in early 2020, spawning a series of hits including "Blinding Lights'' and "Save Your Tears.''

He's since collaborated on singles with several other artists and headlined the 2021 Super Bowl Halftime show.

It's unclear exactly how Scarborough, Ont.-raised Carrey will be involved in the Weeknd's new album, but the singer told GQ in an interview last year he struck up a friendship with "The Truman Show'' star after discovering they were neighbours in Los Angeles with a shared interest in telescopes.



CALGARY _ A New Year's Eve disturbance on an Air Canada plane which some passengers have said was related to bad behaviour by Russia's world junior hockey team does not appear to have resulted in any charges, but the International Ice Hockey Federation says it could still take action.

"The IIHF is gathering further information on this incident from the relevant authorities and will refer the incident to the IIHF Ethics Board to determine if the Russian National Team's actions violated the IIHF Ethics Code,'' the federation stated in an email.

"Upon the IIHF Ethics Board decision, the incident will be referred to the IIHF Disciplinary Board for sanctioning.''

Calgary police said in a news release over the weekend that officers responded to reports of a disturbance involving multiple passengers on an Air Canada aircraft at the city's airport, and that officers helped airline staff ``keep the peace'' while the passengers were deplaned.

Several passengers reported that the Frankfurt-bound flight was delayed about three hours after Russian players and team officials refused to follow COVID-19 rules and wear their masks properly.

Passengers also claimed some in the group smoked and wouldn't listen to flight attendants.

A spokeswoman for the city's police says there were no arrests or charges that she was aware of, and that officers only boarded the plane during the New Year's Eve incident to ensure the safety of passengers as they were removed.

The Russian team members were heading home from the IIHF world junior championships in Red Deer and Edmonton, which were cancelled last week due to COVID-19 outbreaks on several teams.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2022.

The Canadian Press