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Verdict in Toronto van attack case and new vaccine arrives: In The News for March 3

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 March 3 ... 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 March 3 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

TORONTO — A judge is expected to deliver her verdict today in the case of a man who deliberately drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk killing 10 people and injuring 16 others.

Alek Minassian has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018.

But he has argued he should be found not criminally responsible for his actions because he is autistic.

The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Anne Molloy's judgment will be delivered via video conference and broadcast on YouTube.

The key issue at Minassian's trial, which began last November without a jury, was whether he had the capacity at the time of the attack to make a rational choice.

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Also this ...

OTTAWA — The first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are set to arrive in Canada today as confusion persists over who should get it.

Canada is to receive 500,000 doses of the vaccine, the third approved for use in Canada, from the Serum Institute of India.

But questions about who should receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine continue amid conflicting guidance about its use.

Health Canada last week authorized its use for all adult Canadians but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended Tuesday that it not be administered to people 65 years of age or older.

The committee says there is limited data from clinical trials about how effective the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is for seniors and recommends that they be given priority for the two other vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — already greenlighted for use in Canada.

Both Health Canada and the committee stress no safety concerns have arisen in the clinical studies or among the millions of seniors who have received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in other countries.

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

HOLTVILLE, Calif. -- Barely a couple of kilometres from where an SUV packed with 25 people struck a tractor-trailer — killing 13 inside — a cemetery with unmarked bricks is a burial ground for migrants who died crossing the border from Mexico to remote California desert. 

Authorities are investigating whether human smuggling was involved in Tuesday's early-morning collision that killed the 22-year-old male driver of the SUV and 12 passengers. 

The Mexican government said 10 of the dead were Mexican citizens and that nationalities of the three others who died was undetermined. Seats of the 1997 Ford Expedition were removed except for the driver and right front passenger's, said Omar Watson, chief of the California Highway Patrol's border division.  

The cause of the collision was undetermined, authorities said, and it also was unknown why so many people were crammed into a vehicle built to hold eight people safely. But smugglers have been known to pack people in extremely unsafe conditions to maximize profits.  

The crash occurred during the height of harvest in California's Imperial Valley, which provides much of the lettuce, onions, broccoli and winter vegetables to U.S. supermarkets. Holtville, a no-stoplight town with a gazebo in its large central square, calls itself the world's carrot capital.  

The area became a major route for illegal border crossings in the late 1990s after heightened enforcement in San Diego pushed migrants to more remote areas. Many crossed the All-American Canal, an aqueduct that runs along the border and unleashes Colorado River water to farms through a vast network of canals. 

At the back of Terrace Park Cemetery in Holtville, single bricks — rows of them — mark the unidentified remains of people who died, many of them migrants.  

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

BAGDAD — At least 10 rockets targeted a military base in western Iraq that hosts U.S.-led coalition troops today, the coalition and the Iraqi military said. It was not immediately known if there were any casualties. 

The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province at 7:20 a.m., spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said.  

Later, the Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the missiles. An Iraqi military official said they had been found in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to brief media.  

It was the first attack since the U.S. struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week that killed one militiaman, stoking fears of a possible repeat of a series of tit-for-tat attacks that escalated last year, culminating in the U.S.-directed drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani outside the Baghdad airport.  

Today's attack targeted the same base where Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January last year in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of U.S. service members were injured, suffering concussions in that strike. 

The attack today comes two days before Pope Francis' is scheduled to visit Iraq in a much anticipated trip that will include Baghdad, southern Iraq and in the northern city of Irbil.  

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On this day in 1875 ...

The first recorded hockey game under new rules developed by McGill University student J.G.A. Creighton took place in Montreal. Those rules formed the basis of the current game.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO — Canadian actor Jahmil French of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" fame has died.

His agent, Gabrielle Kachman, confirmed the news to The Canadian Press through a statement.

Kachman did not provide details on his death but noted French "will be remembered by many for his passion for the arts, his commitment to his craft, and his vibrant personality." 

French played high-school student Dave Turner on the Toronto-shot teen series "Degrassi: The Next Generation."

In a statement, "Degrassi: The Next Generation" co-creator and executive producer Linda Schuyler said she was "heartbroken" to hear the news Tuesday.

"Jahmil was an extraordinary talent and a bright light on and off the screen," Schuyler said. "He was a joy to work with on 'Degrassi: The Next Generation.' 

"He brought an authenticity and burst of life to every scene he was in and infused his character 'Dave' with an airy lightness. Off screen Jahmil would always make me smile. He will be deeply missed.”

French's other credits include the Netflix series "Soundtrack," the Pop TV show "Let's Get Physical," and the Canadian film "Boost," for which he earned a 2018 Canadian Screen Award nomination for supporting actor.

According to various bios online, he was 29.

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ICYMI ...

BOSTON — Six Dr. Seuss books — including "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" and "If I Ran the Zoo" — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author's legacy said Tuesday.

"These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong," Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.  

"Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalogue represents and supports all communities and families," it said.  

The other books affected are "McElligot's Pool," "On Beyond Zebra!," "Scrambled Eggs Super!," and "The Cat’s Quizzer."  

The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company, which was founded by Seuss' family, told AP.  

"Dr. Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalogue of titles," it said.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021

The Canadian Press