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Protests in Ottawa, SCOC decision on rape shield laws: In The News for June 30

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 June 30 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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An Ottawa Police vehicle blocks off Kent Street in front of parked trucks as a protest against COVID-19 restrictions that has been marked by gridlock and the sound of truck horns continues into its second week, in Ottawa, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

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 June 30 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

A Canadian soldier charged for speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements will march through Ottawa today, kicking off what organizers are promising to be a new wave of protests through the summer.

James Topp was charged in February with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for comments made while wearing his uniform.

The reservist warrant officer has since been leading a four-month march to the capital from Vancouver in opposition to vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.

Topp's march has been supported by many of the same figures involved in the "Freedom Convoy" that snarled downtown Ottawa for weeks until police used force to end what they and the government described as an illegal occupation.

His arrival in the capital and promises of a new round of protests starting Canada Day have set residents on edge while police are promising to crack down on any illegal activity.

More than two dozen Conservative MPs hosted Topp and other leading figures in the "Freedom Convoy" on Parliament Hill last week and were treated to a lecture on the purported dangers of COVID-19 vaccines.

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Also this ...

The Supreme Court of Canada will issue a constitutional ruling today about extensions to Canada's rape shield laws made by the Liberals four years ago.

Rape shield laws, which have been in place in Canada for several decades, are intended to prevent a complainant in a sexual assault case from having their sexual history used to discredit them.

The Criminal Code says evidence of a complainant's prior sexual activities that are unrelated to the charges at hand can only be admitted with permission of a judge following a private hearing.

The court ruling today will determine whether some extensions to those laws made in 2018 violate the rights of an accused to a fair trial.

Those extensions include granting a complainant standing and the right to a lawyer at the private hearings on evidence, and that an accused must request permission from the judge with at least seven days’ notice to admit private records of a complainant that the accused has in his possession.

It involves two separate appeals that were heard jointly by the Supreme Court, one brought by an accused and another a complainant.

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And this too .. 

A historic summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders is expected to wrap up today, capping off a worldwide summit tour focused squarely on Russia's war in Ukraine. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened with other NATO leaders in Madrid, Spain Wednesday to approve a new strategic concept that will chart the defence plans of the alliance for the next decade. 

Today, the leaders will discuss plans to protect the alliance's southern flank, particularly against the threat of terrorism.

The NATO meeting followed a Group of Seven Summit in the Bavarian Alps in Germany where leaders pledged support for Ukraine.

Before that, the prime minister was in Kigali, Rwanda, for a meeting of Commonwealth heads of government whose nations were feeling the global impacts of the war, including the energy crisis and threat of famine.

After the NATO summit, the prime minister will be hosted by Spain's President Pedro Sanchez for a short visit before flying home to Canada. 

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

WASHINGTON _ About half of Americans believe former president Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, a new poll shows.

The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 48 per cent of U.S. adults say the former president should be charged with a crime for his role, while 31 per cent say he should not be charged. An additional 20 per cent say they don't know enough to have an opinion. Fifty-eight per cent say Trump bears a great deal or quite a bit of responsibility for what happened that day.

The poll was conducted after five public hearings by the House committee, investigating Jan. 6, which has sought to paint Trump's potential criminal culpability in the events that led to deadly insurrection. But it was taken before Tuesday's surprise hearing featuring former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Her explosive testimony provided the most compelling evidence yet that the former president could be linked to a federal crime, experts say

Views on Trump's criminal liability break down predictably along party lines, with 86 per cent of Democrats but only 10 per cent of Republicans saying Trump should be charged with a crime. Among Republicans, 68 per cent say he should not be charged and 21 per cent say they don't know. Still, the fact that nearly half the country believes he should be prosecuted is a remarkable position for the former president, pointing to the difficulties he could face if he makes another run at the White House in 2024.

While views of Trump's role have not changed since December, Americans are somewhat more likely now than they were then to say Republicans in Congress were significantly responsible for the events of Jan. 6.

Forty-six per cent say that now, up slightly from 41 per cent in December. An additional 21 per cent say GOP lawmakers had some responsibility and 30 per cent say they were not responsible. The change in the share saying Republicans in Congress have a large amount of responsibility was driven mostly by Democrats and independents.

Close to six in 10 Americans _ 56 per cent _ say they followed news about the congressional hearings. A smaller but still sizable share -- 42 per cent -- say they watched or listened.

The nine-member panel, comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans, has worked around the clock for the past year to investigate the connection between Trump and his allies and the violence and chaos that ensued on the Capitol. The public hearing phase of their investigation is meant to put all of that investigative work on display to the American public in an effort to create a historical record of what occurred.

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

SRINAGAR, India _ Thousands of Hindu devotees began an annual pilgrimage Thursday through mountain passes and meadows to an icy Himalayan cave in Indian-controlled Kashmir amid heavy security in the Muslim-majority region.

Officials say pilgrims face heightened threat of attacks from rebels fighting against Indian rule and have for the first time tagged devotees with wireless tracking system. They also have deployed drones for surveillance.

The religious activity has been the target of past attacks by suspected Muslim rebels who accuse India of using it to reinforce its grip over the disputed region. This year's pilgrimage comes after two years of suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The worshippers began their arduous trek early Thursday through forested mountain passes with a view of snowy peaks. Some rode ponies or wooden litters carried by porters. Some chanted religious hymns on their way to pray at the hallowed mountain cave's Amarnath shrine, where Hindus worship Lingam, a naturally formed ice stalagmite inside the cave, as an incarnation of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration.

In massive security arrangements, tens of thousands of police and soldiers carrying automatic rifles and wearing flak jackets have been deployed to guard the pilgrimage. They have set up checkpoints, barricades and temporary camps along the routes leading to the cave.

Muslim rebels fighting for decades against Indian rule in Kashmir accuse Hindu-majority India of using the pilgrimage as a political statement to bolster its claim on the disputed Himalayan region.

In the past, the pilgrimage has been targeted by the rebels who have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan since 1989. At least 50 pilgrims have been killed in three dozen attacks blamed on militants in past three decades. However, hundreds have died due to exhaustion and exposure in harsh weather during journeys in the icy mountains.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindus from across India typically take part in the pilgrimage, which lasts up to 45 days. This year, officials expect nearly a million visitors after the two-year gap in the annual endeavour. The pilgrimage concludes on Aug. 11, a full-moon night that Hindus say commemorates Shiva revealing the secret of the creation of the universe.

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On this day in 1987 ...

The Bank of Canada stopped issuing $1 bills. They were replaced with $1 coins that came to be known as loonies. The $2 coin, the toonie, was introduced a few years later.

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In entertainment ...

V is for vaccine.

Elmo got a COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, according to Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind "Sesame Street.''

In a public service announcement posted to YouTube, the beloved three-and-a-half-year-old "Sesame Street'' star talked with his dad about what it was like to get the shot.

"There was a little pinch, but it was OK,'' Elmo said in the video.

Elmo's dad said he had a lot of questions for the pediatrician, who assured him that vaccinations are safe and effective for children.

"Was it safe? Was it the right decision? I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice,'' Louie said in the PSA. "I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbours and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love.''

COVID-19 vaccinations for the youngest Americans started last week. That means U.S. kids under five _ roughly 18 million youngsters _ are eligible for the shots.

U.S. regulators authorized shots from Moderna and Pfizer. The Moderna vaccine is two doses and the Pfizer shot is three.

Last November, Big Bird got vaccinated _ sparking criticism from some conservative politicians. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, called it "government propaganda.''

The CDC advises vaccination even for those who already had COVID-19 to protect against reinfection, and says it is OK to get other vaccines at the same time.

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Did you see this?

OTTAWA _ The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending booster shots this fall in advance of a possible future wave of COVID-19 in Canada.

In a release Wednesday, NACI says jurisdictions should plan to offer boosters to people who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID regardless of the number of booster doses they previously received.

It says this should include people 65 years of age and older, residents of long-term care or living facilities, and individuals 12 years of age and older with an underlying medical condition that places them at high risk of severe COVID-19.

The recommendation also includes adults in Indigenous, racialized and marginalized communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences, as well as quarters for migrant workers, shelters, correctional facilities and group homes.

NACI also recommends that boosters be offered to all other individuals from 12 to 64 years of age regardless of the number of booster doses they have previously received.

It says it will provide recommendations on the type of COVID-19 vaccine to be offered for this booster dose as evidence on appropriate vaccines becomes available.

"Cases of COVID-19, including associated hospitalizations and deaths, are currently declining in Canada. However, the likelihood, timing, and severity of a future wave of COVID-19 is uncertain,'' NACI said in a release.

"It is possible that consistent with other respiratory viruses, incidence of COVID-19 will increase in the later fall and winter seasons thus posing a risk for individuals/communities and increasing pressure on health systems.''

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.

The Canadian Press