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Gwich'in Tribal Council grand chief turns away from politics, toward family –



Grand Chief Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan of the Gwich’in Tribal Council says she has decided not to seek re-election so she can spend more time with her family. 

“It came down to the demand of my time, and although we say family is always first, there were times where I had to miss out on my daughter’s school events and special occasions,” she says.

The family came to the decision together last summer, says Greenland-Morgan. 

Elected in 2016, Greenland-Morgan served one term as grand chief of the organization that protects and promotes the rights and interests of the Gwich’in people and their land. The election for a new grand chief and deputy grand chief is scheduled for Sept. 3. 

The “unnecessary drama and dysfunction” of politics also influenced Greenland-Morgan’s decision not to run again, she said.

“[There are] so many different views and values among the different people and different agendas,” she says. “It’s crucial for leadership to focus on one agenda and that agenda should always be for the best interest and benefit of all Gwich’in (all four communities) and not just one over the other.”

Greenland-Morgan says she’s pleased with what her team accomplished over the last four years.

For example, she says, there was the January release of the mineral development strategy in the Gwich’in Settlement Area — the first of its kind for the Gwich’in Tribal Council. 

“Looking at the objectives of our land claim, and being environmental stewards, and being in support of responsible development, it’s very important to have a strategy in place,” she says. 

Struggles for government contracts

But her term hasn’t been without challenges. 

Most notable, says Greenland-Morgan, are federal procurement policies that see work for projects within the Gwich’in Settlement Area put out to public tender.

“We strongly believe that when there’s opportunities and projects within our Gwich’in Settlement Area, that those procurement processes need to change to honour that,” she says. “If we have the capacity and the capabilities to do work in our region, then we don’t believe that we need to go to public tender.” 

Neither Deputy Grand Chief Jordan Peterson nor Greenland-Morgan are seeking re-election. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Grand Chief George Mackenzie of the Tłı̨chǫ Government voiced the same complaint last week after a contract for road work on Tłı̨chǫ land was put out for public bidding. He said the procurement process disrespected the Tłı̨chǫ land claim and self-government agreement. 

The Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement was signed in 1992, so by now, says Greenland-Morgan, Gwich’in people should be seeing some of those direct benefits. 

“That’s the main reason why these [procurement] processes need to be overhauled, because in a lot of cases it’s not working.”

The high turnover among members of her team has also been an obstacle, she says. 

We strongly believe that when there’s opportunities and projects within our Gwich’in Settlement Area, that those procurement processes need to change to honour that.– Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan, Gwich’in Tribal Council grand chief

To her successor, Greenland-Morgan urges putting the healing and well-being of people first.

“Like every other Indigenous group across this country, we have the intergenerational trauma of residential school and a lot of other things that have happened in the history of our country … and there’s a lot of healing needed yet,” she says. 

“The more progress we make with our people to revitalize who we come from, revitalize that power in the people, the more we heal as a nation — it’s going to make things easier across the board. I really believe that.”

Urges voters to cast ballot

Born at the hospital in Inuvik and raised in Aklavik, N.W.T., Greenland-Morgan was previously an administrative assistant to the principal at the Moose Kerr School in Aklavik, a hamlet councillor, and executive assistant to former premier Floyd Roland.

“She was definitely dedicated to the people, even when she worked with me, she was always informed of the folks up there and what was happening,” said Roland.

As for what’s next, Greenland-Morgan says she hasn’t made any commitments. For now, she’ll spend more time with her family and her aging parents. 

But before she does that, Greenland-Morgan is urging eligible voters to cast a ballot in the upcoming election.

“We do have a lot of solid candidates,” she says. “As you look at what they have to offer, it makes me hopeful.”

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Science and politics tied up in global race for a vaccine – battlefordsNOW



“To be the first one out of the block with a coronavirus vaccine would be a real — pardon the pun — shot in the arm for the Kremlin,” said Timothy Frye, a political science professor at Columbia University who specializes in post-Soviet politics.

Russia is not alone in viewing a vaccine in this light. China, where the virus first emerged, has also raced to make progress on a vaccine. A state-owned Chinese company is boasting that its employees, including top executives, received experimental shots even before the government approved testing in people.

President Donald Trump, whose handling of the coronavirus pandemic has put his political fate in grave jeopardy, is hoping to get credit for his administration’s aggressive push for a vaccine, ideally one that arrives before Election Day in November.

It’s far from clear at this point whether Putin has beaten Trump to this medical milestone.

Putin said the Health Ministry gave its approval after the vaccine, named “Sputnik V,” underwent the necessary tests. He said one of his two adult daughters had been inoculated. “We should be grateful to those who have taken this first step, which is very important for our country and the whole world,” he said.

No proof was offered and scientists in Russia warned that more testing would be necessary to establish it is safe and effective. Nonetheless, officials said vaccination of doctors could start as early as this month and mass vaccination may begin as early as October.

Scientists around the world have been cautioning that even if vaccine candidates are proven to work, it will take even more time to tell how long the protection will last.

“It’s a too early stage to truly assess whether it’s going to be effective, whether it’s going to work or not,” said Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton.

It was also too soon to dismiss the Russian claim out of hand.

The country, though economically dependent on the export of natural resources, does have a history of achievement in science, medicine and aerospace — including becoming the first to put a person into space, in 1961.

“It is possible that they concentrated and could do this,” said Daniel Fried, a retired senior U.S. diplomat. “I’m not scoffing at it, but it doesn’t mean that the Russian economy is advanced.”

A vaccine would be the kind of significant achievement that would elevate Putin at home and in the international community.

“They would love to be able to claim credit because the first country to develop the vaccine will gain enormous prestige,” said Fried, a former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs who is now a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.

It’s also possible Russia had help. The U.S., Britain and Canada l ast month accused hackers working for Russian intelligence of trying to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from academic and pharmaceutical research institutions.

In any case, the public is eager for a vaccine as global deaths from the virus surpass 730,000. Some say they would even welcome one from Russia, provided it passes muster with the Food and Drug Administration, which approves vaccines used in the U.S., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends who should receive them.

“I can’t take it anymore. I’m getting crazy,” said Fernanda Henderson, as she strapped her infant into a car seat at a park in the Maryland suburbs of Washington for a break from quarantining at home. “I don’t think the CDC or the FDA would approve something that is not going to work.”

But to Vesna Jezic, a 79-year-old native of Croatia and immunologist who was taking her grandchildren to the same park, the suspiciously fast progress on the vaccine announced by Putin was reason to be doubtful. “You can imagine we don’t trust anything that comes from Russia,” she said.

The Russian president may face similar doubts at home. Frye noted a 2018 Gallup Poll that showed the former Soviet countries have some of the highest rates of anti-vaccination sentiment in the world.

“If it turns out not to work, it would be a real black eye,” he said.


Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman in Wheaton, Maryland, and Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

Ben Fox, The Associated Press

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Thai investor mood dips for first time in four months, politics weigh



By Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Orathai Sriring

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Investor confidence in Thailand’s capital markets over the next three months dropped for the first time in four months, unsettled by recent anti-government protests, a capital market association said on Thursday.

The risk coming from political turbulence is adding to pressure on the government as policy makers struggle to revive an economy expected to shrink by a record amount as the coronavirus pandemic upends tourism and consumption.

The Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisations said its July survey showed the investor confidence index fell to 85.26 from 101.19 in the previous month.

“The main reason was politics. It’s the first time in months that political factors took the spotlight and played a role in investment,” the federation’s chairman, Paiboon Nalinthrangkurn, told a briefing.

Demonstrators have called for the removal of the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, amendments to the constitution and reforms of the monarchy.

The Thai stock index .SETI> has fallen by 15% so far this year, with foreign investors dumping 231 billion baht ($7.44 billion) of shares.

Investors remained concerned about the economy and the earnings of listed companies, but they hoped a new government economic team would help restore confidence, Paiboon said.

“From now on, it will depend on the new team and whether they will have policies to build market confidence,” he said.

In a cabinet shake-up, banking executive Predee Daochai was picked as finance minister and given the tough task of pulling Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy out of a deep slump.

The finance ministry expects the economy to shrink 8.5% this year, although the government has introduced stimulus measures, including a 1.9 trillion baht package, in a bid to mitigate the outbreak impact.

(Reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Orathai Sriring; Editing by Ed Davies)


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Blanchet will push for election if Trudeau, Morneau, Telford won’t resign



Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet says he will try to trigger a fall election if the prime minister, his chief of staff and his finance minister don’t resign.

Blanchet said the government is not “worthy” of the public’s trust in the wake of the WE Charity controversy, which was sparked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau failing to recuse themselves from cabinet talks involving the organization despite family ties to it.

While his preference is to see the trio step down, Blanchet said he’s prepared to table a motion of non-confidence in the government if they remain in their jobs.

If that motion passed with the support of other parties, it would lead to an election campaign in the midst of a pandemic.

“Which is more dangerous — the mismanagement of a crisis, or taking the time to change the people who are managing the crisis?” Blanchet said during a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.

The BQ leader said he has not had any formal discussions with the NDP or the Conservatives on his plan. He said Elections Canada is preparing to hold a safe election in the event it is held during the pandemic.

Elections Canada preparing

Elections Canada has created an internal working group to do “readiness planning” in the event of an election during the pandemic. The group is looking at issues such as:

  • Possible physical distancing measures for polling stations and Elections Canada offices.
  • The capacity of the existing vote-by-mail system.
  • How to recruit, train and keep election workers safe.
  • Identifying alternative options for polling station locations that may become unavailable due to COVID-19.

“The working group will consider potential legal, administrative and operational changes in order to deliver an accessible and safe election,” according to Elections Canada’s website.

Normally, a fixed election date means an election is held every four years, but with a minority government, an election could occur at any time the House loses confidence in the government.

Put government ‘out of its misery’: O’Toole

Conservative MP and leadership candidate Erin O’Toole on Wednesday called the Liberal government “tired, scandal-plagued and ethically challenged” and said it needs “to be put out of its misery.”

“Once I’m leader I’ll be working with all the parties to see what we can do to get Canada back on track, and to show a lack of confidence. But I’m going to wait until the end of my race and take time to consult with my caucus before I do anything,” he said during media scrums on Parliament Hill.


Conservative MP and leadership candidate Erin O’Toole on Wednesday says the Liberal minority government needs ‘to be put out of its misery.’ (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)


Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the Liberals will always be ready for an election when the time comes, but said health and safety is the top concern for Canadians right now.

“I’m not concerned about threats,” he said.

NDP MP Charlie Angus accused Blanchet of throwing a “hissy fit” and said Canadians want the opposition parties to press the government to do what’s best for Canadians.

“I want to get accountability from these guys. That’s our focus right now,” he said.


NDP MP Charlie Angus said Canadians want the opposition parties to press the government to do what’s best for Canadians. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)


Blanchet’s remarks come as the House of Commons holds a rare summer sitting to debate the government’s response to COVID-19.

The finance committee on Wednesday continued its probe into the government’s selection of WE Charity to manage a $900-million student volunteer grant program. Trudeau and others have maintained the public service had deemed the organization the only one qualified to run the large-scale initiative.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Small Business Minister Mary Ng both appeared at the committee on Wednesday, and said they were not clear on the details of the parties named in the WE contract.


Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, left, and Small Business Minister Mary Ng, right, both told the House finance committee on Wednesday they were unaware the federal government’s agreement was with a separate charitable entity within the WE organization, the WE Charity Foundation, when cabinet approved the contract. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)


That agreement was with a separate charitable entity within the WE organization, the WE Charity Foundation, which has no assets. The WE organization said this was done “to protect the pre-existing charitable assets of WE Charity from liabilities.”

Qualtrough and Ng both said they were unaware of this fact when cabinet approved the contract.

“I, for example, know the contribution agreement was signed, I think it was June 23, did not know at that time who the actual legal entity that we were entering into an agreement for,” Qualtrough said. “But I wouldn’t. It wasn’t my file.”

Ng offered a similar answer.

“We had approved the recommendation put forward to cabinet and by my colleague-minister, and understood it would be WE Charity that would deliver this program,” she said.

On Tuesday, Qualtrough testified at the House ethics committee, which is also studying the WE Charity issue, and conceded the government had “dropped the ball.” She said she offered “no excuse or justification” for Trudeau and Morneau’s roles in the resulting controversy.

Trudeau on Tuesday issued a statement saying he has full confidence in Morneau, saying any reports to the contrary are false. The statement was released amid speculation that the finance minister could depart the post.

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