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Convoy protest and growing global tension over Ukraine: In The News for Jan. 24

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. 24 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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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. 24 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

OTTAWA — A federation representing truckers across Canada has denounced a series of planned protests against the federal government's cross-border travel vaccine mandate, arguing such demonstrations aren't a safe or effective way of resisting the policy.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance spoke out against the pending protests in a statement issued 24 hours before a convoy of unvaccinated truckers was set to leave British Columbia en route to Ottawa. They will be joined by fleets of other drivers from across Canada in the Nation's capital on Jan. 29, where they plan to hold a rally decrying policies that require drivers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

"The Canadian Trucking Alliance does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges," the statement read. "CTA believes such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed."

The "vast majority" of Canadian trucking industry members are vaccinated, the alliance said, noting the immunization rate among truck drivers is on par with that seen among the general public.

Alliance President Stephen Laskowski called for still greater compliance in light of the fact that both Canada and the United States have cross-border vaccination rules in place.

Those opposed to the measure, however, were unmoved.

“We’re not backing down and we are going to Ottawa,” Tamara Lich, a protest organizer from Medicine Hat, Alta., said in a Facebook Live video posted on Sunday.

Organizers describe the vaccine mandate as an example of political overreach resulting in economic harm, arguing the policy hurts small businesses and denies some workers the means to survive.

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Also this ...

MONTREAL — The senior military officer once tasked with overseeing Canada's COVID-19 vaccination drive will be in a Quebec courtroom today to face allegations of sexual misconduct.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin was charged with one count of sexual assault in August 2020, related to an alleged incident in 1988.

Fortin has been fighting for reinstatement to his former role with the Public Health Agency of Canada, or an equivalent position, since he was abruptly removed from his post in May 2021.

His dismissal came five days before military police announced they had referred an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct to Quebec’s prosecution service.

Fortin has maintained his innocence and, in challenging his removal in Federal Court, accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other senior members of the Liberal government of turfing him for purely political reasons.

His lawyer, Natalia Rodriguez, says an appeal concerning his reinstatement is expected to go to a panel hearing in the spring.

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And this ...

UNDATED — A study on indoor air quality and housing characteristics in isolated First Nations communities found elevated rates of respiratory infections and wheezing in young children, which authors associate with poor conditions within their homes.

Researchers analyzed factors that could affect respiratory health in four First Nations communities in the Sioux Lookout region of northern Ontario, finding high levels of mould on interior surfaces and high levels of endotoxin, a residue of certain bacteria associated with wheeze.

Indoor air quality, dust mite concentration and contaminants from wood smoke were also analyzed.

The study, which included homes where 98 First Nations children aged three years or younger lived, found that 85 per cent of the houses lacked controlled ventilation, more than half had damaged windows, 44 per cent showed water penetration in exterior walls and six per cent had immediate safety issues.

Pediatric respirologist Dr. Thomas Kovesi, the lead researcher on the project, said housing inadequacies were linked to high rates of respiratory illness in children — 21 per cent of kids in the study had been admitted to hospital during the first two years of life and one-quarter needed to be medically evacuated because of a respiratory illness.

"People talk a lot about inadequacies in First Nations' housing, but very few studies have quantified it," said Kovesi, a physician at Ottawa's pediatric hospital, CHEO. "We now have high-quality data showing what kinds of problems these houses have.

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

A Florida man is set to appear in U.S. court today, charged with sneaking migrants across the Canada-U.S. border in a perilous human-smuggling scheme that cost the lives of four people, including an infant.

Steve Shand, 47, will appear by video before a Minnesota judge for a detention and preliminary hearing.

Shand, of Deltona, Fla., is charged with transporting or attempting to transport illegal aliens.

The victims, believed to be a family from India who perished in the cold, were found just metres from the border on the Canadian side, near the Manitoba town of Emerson.

Investigators believe they were part of a larger group of Indian migrants who were trying to get into the U.S. by way of Canada.

Their bodies were found Wednesday, shortly after U.S. Border Patrol agents pulled over a passenger van on the American side and found two other undocumented Indian nationals inside.

At about the same time, agents encountered another group of five migrants, one of whom told the agents they had been walking through the snow and bitter cold for more than 11 hours.

Department of Justice officials say the deaths are likely linked to a larger human smuggling operation — a phenomenon that's practically a fact of daily life in the southern U.S., but rarely seen up north.

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Also this ...

WASHINGTON — The State Department is ordering the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country and allowing non-essential staff to leave Ukraine.

The move comes amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine despite talks between U.S. and Russian officials.

The State Department stresses that the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the departure of families and some non-essential personnel is not an evacuation.

At the same time, officials are warning all Americans against travel to Ukraine as well as to Russia, pointing in part to tensions between those two countries and, in Russia, because of potential harassment of U.S. citizens.

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

BRUSSELS — Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney says Russia plans to holds war games off his country’s coast, in a move that is not welcome given heightened tensions and uncertainty over whether Moscow plans to invade Ukraine.

Coveney told reporters the exercises are due to take place 240 kilometers off Ireland’s southwest coast, in international waters but also within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

EU foreign ministers are aiming to put on a fresh display of resolve and unity in support of Ukraine in their meeting today, amid deep uncertainty about whether President Vladimir Putin intends to attack Russia’s neighbor or send his troops across the border.

Meanwhile, NATO says it’s sending additional ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe amid Russia's troop build-up near Ukraine.

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In sports ...

MELBOURNE — Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime rallied from a set down, overcame a crucial set point in the second set, and won two tiebreaks to defeat Marin Cilic in the fourth round of the Australian Open Monday.

Auger-Aliassime of Montreal bounced back from a poor opening set to defeat the No. 27 seed Cilic 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, 7-6(4) to advance to the quarterfinal at Melbourne Park.

Ranked ninth, Auger-Aliassime became the second Canadian to reach the quarterfinal after Denis Shapovalov punched his ticket with an upset victory over Alexander Zverev on Sunday. Shapovalov takes on Rafael Nadal next.

The 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime will face second-ranked Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the next round, with a place in the semifinal on the line.

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In entertainment ...

NEW YORK — Toronto-bred comic Samantha Bee says she believes humour is always the cure, particularly at a time when the world has never been more fraught.

It's the lens through which her TBS series "Full Frontal" has operated for seven seasons, along with Bee's weekly interview podcast, "Full Release."

Reached by phone in New York, Bee says she's looking forward to joining this week's Hot Docs Podcast Festival with a remote, live edition of "Full Release" on Friday.

The Toronto-based festival launches tomorrow, and also features conversations with Ira Glass, Michael Lewis, and Anna Maria Tremonti.

Bee is known for confrontational takedowns of U-S politicians on her late-night TV show, but says her podcast is more about finding community and comfort.

For the complete festival lineup and tickets to the live episode of "Full Release," visit hotdocs.ca.

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ICYMI ...

New Canadian research is backing up a strange consequence of evolutionary theory often predicted but never before shown.

Given the right circumstances, fish get old but they don't age.

Craig Purchase of Newfoundland's Memorial University says he looked at lake trout in Ontario's Experimental Lakes Area — an open-air biology lab with data on individual fish that goes back decades.

Purchase says he was able to compare young and old fish by combining that historic data with new measurements of health and fertility.

He says the old fish did great, with little or no decline in their body condition or reproductive capability.

Purchase says it's exactly what evolution predicts for a species that keeps growing after it matures and has few, if any, natural predators.

Although neither of those conditions hold for humans, Purchase points out that learning how other species age could offer clues to how the process works in people.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2022

The Canadian Press