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B.C. boy’s mom, stepdad facing first-degree murder charges in ‘tragic’ case: RCMP

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PORT ALBERNI, B.C. — RCMP say the mother and stepfather of a little boy are being held in custody on first-degree murder charges following “painstaking” efforts by police on Vancouver Island to get all the evidence to prosecutors.

Const. Richard Johns of the Port Alberni detachment said Monday that Rykel Frank, 28, and Mitchell Frank, 29, are expected to make a court appearance this week following their arrest on Friday.

Six-year-old Dontay Lucas was found dead in a home in March 2018.

Sgt. Clayton Wiebe said the long wait for charges has been frustrating for the boy’s family, his Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation and police officers who worked on the “sad” case.

It took time to gather a large amount of material including reports from the coroners service and other agencies as well as on forensics before the BC Prosecution Service could approve charges, he said.

“Television makes homicides look very easy (to solve). In fact, they’re not. Four years is a long time to wait for answers and unfortunately, these things are just very complex,” Wiebe told a news conference.

He said the couple, who are now married, had other children in their care but they no longer live with them.

A bail hearing for the Franks will be set following their appearance in court on Wednesday, Wiebe said.

“This is a tragic investigation that affected numerous people,” Wiebe said, citing those connected to the little boy, including his classmates.

Wiebe said he could not say why the couple was charged with first-degree murder, which involves intent, because that would be providing details that will have to be revealed in court.

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which represents 14 First Nations in three regions of Vancouver Island, said concerns about the long investigation without charges had many in the community questioning the whole process.

“We raised it with the Attorney General’s (Ministry) in January. We said this is ridiculous.”

The ministry did not respond to their requests for an explanation, Sayers said.

Tribal council vice-president Mariah Charleson said she last saw the boy when he was about three years old.

“I remember him down below in the intertidal zone in Hesquiaht village, and he was just so amazed at all these little crabs. And he would point to a big rock and ask me to flip it over for him. I flipped it over and then you would see his big smile light up.”

Charleson said members of the community are heartbroken by what happened to the boy and know how hard his family has pushed for justice as the years dragged on without anyone being arrested.

“They didn’t stay silent, they continued speaking, fighting for justice for the last four years for Dontay.”

Charleson said the family and the entire community will need culturally appropriate services through a trial that may include disturbing details about how the little boy died.

“That wound is going to be opened up again.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2022.

 

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Parliamentary committee to start report on expanding eligibility for assisted dying

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OTTAWA — A special joint parliamentary committee will now consider its report on current legislation on assisted death and whether to expand who is eligible to opt for it.

The committee of MPs and senators is considering whether medically assisted dying should be expanded to people solely suffering from mental illness and mature minors.

It is also considering whether it should let people opt in to assisted dying in advance before they lose the mental capacity to do so.

The committee was also tasked with studying a host of associated issues, such as the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities.

It will begin drafting its report based on its findings.

The government already agreed in Bill C-7 passed last March to lift the current ban on assisted dying for those suffering solely from mental illness in 2023.

It set up a separate panel of experts to advise on the rules that should apply in those cases and the panel made 19 recommendations in a report tabled earlier this month.

The government’s work on the legislation is under scrutiny as critics say the law has unforeseen effects, amid reports of people opting for a medically assisted death because of inadequate care or resources.

The Liberals faced criticism last year for proceeding with amendments to the law — in response to a Quebec court ruling, which struck down the requirement that a person’s death be “reasonably foreseeable” — without having even launched the promised review.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government is removing a section of its end-of-life care bill that would have allowed quadriplegics and people with cerebral palsy to receive an assisted death.

Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters that opposition parties expressed concern with the bill, which was tabled Wednesday, because the question of extending medical aid in dying to people with neuromuscular disorders was never debated in the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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Monkeypox: 26 cases now confirmed in Canada – CTV News

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There are now 26 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Canada, and the virus has been detected in a new province, according to an update from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

In Thursday’s update, PHAC stated that over the past week, it had confirmed 25 cases of monkeypox in Quebec.

Now, it has confirmed a case of monkeypox in Ontario as well, the first case in a province outside of Quebec.

“Our understanding of the virus is still evolving, but I want to emphasize this is a global response,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, said in the update.

Toronto Public Health stated Thursday that they have confirmed one case in Toronto, and are also investigating several suspected and probable cases.

“It is likely that additional cases will be reported in the coming days as the [National Microbiology Laboratory] is continuing to receive samples for confirmatory testing from multiple jurisdictions,” PHAC said in a written statement Thursday evening.

Monkeypox is a rare virus from the same family as smallpox, with symptoms including fever, muscle aches, skin rashes, swollen lymph nodes and headache, among others.

Canadians should be aware of the symptoms, Njoo said, and limit contact with others and seek medical attention particularly if they have an unexplained rash, one of the more recognizable symptoms.

The incubation period — the span of time between initial infection and seeing symptoms — for monkeypox is generally 6-13 days, but can range to as many as 21 days, according to PHAC.

Spread occurs through close contact with an infected individual, usually through contact with an infected person’s fluids, open sores or large “respiratory droplets”, Njoo said, as well as through shared contaminated objects.

He emphasized that although the risk to Canadians is currently low, anyone is capable of contracting this virus.

Because smallpox was eradicated in 1980, many people do not already have the smallpox vaccine, which provides some protection, which means the “whole Canadian population is susceptible to [monkeypox].”

“Contrary to recent media reports, this virus does not discriminate and is not limited to spread from sexual activity,” he said.

Because the virus spreads through close contact, this obviously includes sexual activity, Njoo said, but it’s important to note that sexual contact is far from the only way the disease is spread, and it can infect anyone — it’s not limited to one specific demographic.

“Anyone who is engaged in close contact with someone who is infected with monkeypox is certainly susceptible to infection,” Njoo said.

“At the present time, it appears to be circulating in specific communities.”

Many of the current individuals who are infected with the virus are men who have sex with other men, who are believed to have contracted the virus through sexual contact with an infected individual.

Officials are working with community organizations to spread awareness to those who may be at an elevated risk currently, Njoo said.

He added that incorrectly viewing this virus as purely sexually transmitted, or a disease only affecting a certain group, can lead to stigmatization and “misunderstanding of risks, and negative health outcomes.”

PHAC stated that they are focusing on a “targeted approach to vaccination and treatment”, and do not believe a mass vaccination campaign is necessary.

They have already supplied Quebec with 1,000 doses of the smallpox vaccine Imvamune from Canada’s National Emergency Strategic Stockpile. Due to the similarity between the viruses, the smallpox vaccine can provide around 85 per cent efficacy in protecting recipients from monkeypox as well, according to the World Health Organization.

They’re also looking at the use of the antiviral Tecovirimat (TPOXX), an oral capsule designed to treat smallpox, which was approved by Health Canada last fall.

Monkeypox is endemic in animals in regions in Western Africa, and can sometimes transmit from animals to humans, often through a bite from an infected animal, with the first human case recorded in 1970.

While monkeypox has popped up in countries where it is not endemic before, the cases typically involved people who recently travelled from a country in Africa where the virus is endemic.

What is unusual right now is that officials in numerous countries that don’t usually deal with monkeypox are seeing cases where the patient has no travel history, Njoo said.

Prior to this month, monkeypox had never been detected in Canada.

He added that clinicians on the ground are seeing variety between cases — some patients have not presented with a rash on their face, the common location for this symptom, and instead have just had rashes around their genitals.

“They’re not all similar in how they’re presenting,” he said.

Co-operating with international partners will help Canadian officials keep track of the virus and whether it is evolving, he said.

Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory is continuing to do testing on samples to track the spread and keep Canadians updated on risk level if the virus continues to progress.

“We will provide updates to the public as new emerging information becomes available,” Njoo said. 

More guidance on case identification and contact tracing, along with infection prevention, will be released shortly, PHAC stated.

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Guilbeault ‘optimistic’ G7 climate ministers will agree to gradually phase out coal

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MONTREAL — Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Thursday he’s “very optimistic” this week’s meeting of G7 climate and energy ministers will produce a consensus to gradually phase out the use of coal.

Ministers and senior officials from the G7 countries are holding a three-day meeting in Berlin during which they will seek to agree on common targets for the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which scientists say is urgently needed to curb climate change.

Guilbeault told The Canadian Press from the German capital that he is insisting “on the importance of strong international action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and ensure that the 1.5°C warming target remains achievable.”

Guilbeault said he thinks his counterparts in the Group of Seven countries — the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Japan — agree with him that “we need to reduce, even eliminate the use of coal.”

But, he said, “it remains to be seen where we will land precisely.” The ministers need to publish a communiqué on Friday, at the conclusion of the meeting. And there have been reports that Japan and the United States are pushing back against having anything firm about reducing coal in the wording of the document.

Robert Habeck, German minister for economic affairs and climate action, said on Thursday that G7 countries “can perhaps take on a certain pioneering role to push forward ending the use of coal for electricity and in decarbonizing the transport system.”

G7 members Britain, France and Italy have set deadlines to stop burning coal for electricity in the next few years, while Germany and Canada are aiming for 2030. Japan wants more time, and the Biden administration has set a target of ending fossil fuel use for electricity generation in the United States by 2035.

Guilbeault, meanwhile, said the G7 doesn’t intend to sacrifice climate goals to fill the gap in fossil fuels entering Europe caused by sanctions levied on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. He said the the climate ministers recognize they “cannot sacrifice the fight against climate change in the name of energy security, and the members of the G7 are unanimous and unequivocal on this.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

 

Stéphane Blais, The Canadian Press

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