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COVID and air pollution, storm cleanup in Ontario and Quebec : In The News for May 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 May 24 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. An extensive study of thousands of COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals has found links between the severity of their infections and the levels of common air pollutants they experience. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP

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 May 24 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

An extensive study of thousands of COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals has found links between the severity of their infections and the levels of common air pollutants they experience. 

Chen Chen, an epidemiologist at the University of California, says the study suggests that the more long-term pollution people are exposed to, the worse a COVID-19 infection hits them. 

The study has been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study looked at more than 150,000 COVID-19 cases in Ontario patients and correlated their outcomes with levels of fine particles, ozone and nitrogen dioxide -- the three components of smog.

Chen says the research shows that more severe reactions to the virus were associated with higher levels of long-term exposure to the contaminants.

She says it adds to the growing body of evidence that air pollution is what she calls a "silent killer."

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Also this ...

Power outages caused by the powerful and deadly storm that swept across Ontario and Quebec on Saturday are stretching into another day, as hydro providers warned customers they could be waiting even longer for electricity to be fully restored.

Hydro Ottawa's chief executive said Monday that their distribution system had been "crushed," noting the 187 poles downed during the storm not only exceeds the number the city traditionally puts down in a year but also tops the number felled during the 1998 ice storm and 2018 tornado.

The lack of power prompted the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board to close all schools and childcare centres on Tuesday due to ongoing safety concerns posed by the storm, saying in a notice to parents that about half of their schools were without power.

By early Tuesday morning, Hydro Ottawa was reporting about 110,000 customers were still without power, while provincial provider Hydro One had more than 150,000 customers still affected by outages.

Across the provincial boundary, Hydro-Quebec was reporting about 134,000 customers were still without power Tuesday morning, down from a peak of more than 550,000 stretching from Gatineau to Quebec City. 

The Ontario communities of Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa and Uxbridge, east of Toronto, remained under a state of emergency as a result of the storm damage, with some buildings reduced to rubble and streets blocked by uprooted trees, downed power lines and broken telephone poles.

The death toll has now climbed to at least 10, with Peterborough Police confirming Monday that a 61-year-old Lakefield man died during the storm from a falling tree.

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

TOKYO _ U.S. President Joe Biden told fellow Indo-Pacific leaders assembled for a four-country summit Tuesday that they were navigating ``a dark hour in our shared history'' due to Russia's brutal war on Ukraine and he urged the group to make greater effort to stop Vladimir Putin's aggression.

"This is more than just a European issue. It's a global issue,'' Biden said as the ``Quad'' summit with Japan, Australia and India got underway.

While the president did not directly call out any countries, his message appeared to be pointed, at least in part, at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom differences persist over how to respond to the Russian invasion.

Unlike other Quad countries and nearly every other U.S. ally, India has not imposed sanctions or even condemned Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware.

With Modi sitting nearby, Biden made the case that the world has a shared responsibility to do something to assist Ukrainian resistance against Russia's aggression.

"We're navigating a dark hour in our shared history,'' he said. "The Russian brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe and innocent civilians have been killed in the streets and millions of refugees are internally displaced as well as in exile.''

"The world has to deal with it and we are,'' he added.

Later, in comments to reporters after a one-on-one meeting with Modi, Biden said they Russia's invasion of Ukraine "and the effect it has on the entire global world order.'' Biden added that the U.S. and India will continue to consult "on how to mitigate these negative effects.''

In his comments, Modi made no mention of the war in Ukraine, instead ticking off several trade and investment programs that he discussed with the president.

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

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, it had hoped to overtake the country in a blitz lasting only days or a few weeks. Many Western analysts thought so, too.

As the conflict marked its third month Tuesday, however, Moscow appears to be bogged down in what increasingly looks like a war of attrition, with no end in sight and few successes on the battlefield.

There was no quick victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin's powerful forces, no rout that would allow the Kremlin to control most of Ukraine and establish a puppet government.

Instead, Russian troops got bogged down on the outskirts of Kyiv and other big cities amid stiff Ukrainian defences. Convoys of Russian armour seemed stalled on long stretches of highway. Troops ran out of supplies and gasoline, becoming easy targets from the land and the air.

A little over a month into the invasion, Russia effectively acknowledged the failure of its blitz and pulled troops back from areas near Kyiv, declaring a shift of focus to the eastern industrial region of the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

To be sure, Russia has seized significant chunks of territory around the Crimean Peninsula that Moscow annexed eight years ago. It also has managed to cut Ukraine off completely from the Sea of Azov, finally securing full control over the key port of Mariupol after a siege that prevented some of its troops from fighting elsewhere while they battled diehard Ukrainian forces holed up in massive steelworks.

But the offensive in the east seems to have bogged down as well, as Western arms flow into Ukraine to bolster its outgunned army. 

Each day, Russian artillery and warplanes relentlessly pound Ukrainian positions in the Donbas, trying to break through defences built up during the separatist conflict. But they have made only incremental gains, clearly reflecting both Russia's insufficient troop numbers and the Ukrainian resistance. In one recent episode, Russians lost hundreds of personnel and dozens of combat vehicles in the Luhansk region while trying to cross a river to build a bridgehead.

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On this day in 1918 ...

Women attained full voting rights in Canadian federal elections.

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In entertainment ...

The sex assault trial of Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard is set to resume in Toronto today.

The Crown finished presenting its evidence early last week, and the defence is expected to begin making its case today.

Hoggard, the frontman for the band Hedley, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one of sexual interference, a charge that relates to the sexual touching of a person under 16.

The charges relate to incidents involving two complainants, one of whom was a teenager at the time.

Prosecutors allege Hoggard arranged to have the complainants meet him at Toronto-area hotels, where they allege he violently and repeatedly raped them, leaving them bleeding and bruised.

The defence, meanwhile, argues Hoggard had consensual sex with the complainants.

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Did you see this?

KAMLOOPS, B.C. _ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received a loud, stern reception Monday during his attendance at a daylong memorial marking one year since the detection of graves believed to hold the remains of hundreds of children at a former Kamloops, B.C. residential school.

Trudeau was followed by a large group of memorial attendees who chanted and pounded drums as he stopped in the stands, talking face-to-face with people and often exchanging hugs with others.

"We have so much more to do,'' Trudeau was overheard saying to an elderly women who he spoke with and hugged.

Others did not appear as friendly, chanting, "Canada is all Indian land,'' and "We don't need your Constitution.''

Trudeau told the crowd he hears their concerns.

Earlier Monday, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon told the crowd the atrocities, the death, the loss and the silence of residential schools that Indigenous Peoples knew about for so long is now known by all.

"It's unimaginable that a place of learning was so cruel. It's inexcusable that people could commit these atrocities or that people could stand silent as they were committed,'' she said.

One year ago, the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced that the graves were detected using ground-penetrating radar at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. 

They are believed to hold the remains of up to 215 children who died at the school, a finding that led to the discovery of hundreds of other similar sites across the country and triggered a national reckoning on Canada's past and present relationship with Indigenous peoples.

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

The Canadian Press