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Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny’s supporters to rally for his release despite warnings

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By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were set to confront Russian authorities on Saturday at nationwide rallies that the police have declared illegal and vowed to break up.

The gatherings will be the first protests by Navalny’s supporters since he returned dramatically to Moscow and was immediately arrested last weekend after recovering in Germany from a nerve agent poisoning in Russia.

He accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin denies.

The stubborn ex-lawyer who has campaigned against Putin for years despite what he describes as an unrelenting state effort to stifle his activity could now face years in jail over legal cases that he calls trumped up.

His supporters are betting on a high-risk strategy to produce a show of anti-Kremlin street support during winter and a pandemic to pressure the authorities into freeing him.

The gamble puts the Kremlin in a quandary as to how it responds, nine months before parliamentary elections.

The West has told Moscow to let him go, sparking new tensions in already strained Russia ties as U.S. President Joe Biden launches his administration.

In a push to galvanise support, Navalny’s team released a video about an opulent palace on the Black Sea they alleged belonged to Putin, something the Kremlin denied. The clip had been viewed more than 60 million times as of late Friday.

Police have cracked down in the run-up to the rallies, rounding up several of his allies they accused of calling for illegal protests and jailing at least two of them, including Navalny’s spokeswoman, for more than a week each.

Authorities also announced a criminal investigation against Navalny supporters over calls urging minors to attend illegal rallies that it said were made on various social networks.

Navalny’s allies hope to tap into what polls say are pent-up public frustrations over years of falling wages and economic fallout from the pandemic. But Putin’s grip on power looks unassailable and the 68-year-old regularly records an approval rating of over 60%, many times higher than that of Navalny.

 

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by William Maclean)

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Canada's Divorce Act modernized | CTV News – CTV Toronto

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CALGARY —
The federal government has revamped legislation in hopes couples won’t have to go through custody battles during a divorce.

As of Monday, significant changes have been made to Canada’s Divorce Act, which hasn’t seen substantial updates in more than 20 years. 

The federal government said the aim of the legislation — which applies to legally married couples who are divorcing — is to put more emphasis on the best interests of a child.

“The children are at the centre of this legislation,” said Tahira Karim with Legal Aid Alberta.

“Parties are going to have to demonstrate how their decisions are going to impact the child and that impact better be positive.”

For the first time, the Divorce Act mentions family violence and will require courts to consider any instances of abuse when making decisions. 

“It’s a really big step forward in recognizing that violence could have a huge impact on the family and more importantly, impact on children,” said Karim.

Karim said the changes are a long time coming.

“We needed something that was written down, something that acknowledged various things that were happening in life and society that weren’t recognized by law,” said Karim.

The legislation also establishes guidelines for when one parent wants to relocate with a child. 

“The more things written down there, the less you have to fight for yourself right,” said Livia Fajkusz, a mother of three whose divorce was finalized in January.

Fajkusz said her divorce was amicable but she believes the new laws will help other couples settle their differences outside court.

“For me the most important changes are they put a more detailed description about family violence … not just physical violence but mental, emotional abuse, financial abuse,” she said.

Fajkusz is a life coach who now runs divorce coaching for parents. She said it’s an emotional process.

“It’s an overwhelming thing going through divorce and taking care of the kids at the same time and dealing with your own feeling of loss,” she said.

The reforms were schedule to go into effect July 1, 2020 but were postponed until March. 

The government also said other objectives include helping to reduce child poverty and make Canada’s family justice system more accessible and efficient.

More details on the Divorce Act can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.

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Canada's chief science adviser issues warning about B.C.'s 'experiment' with vaccine timing – CBC.ca

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British Columbia’s decision to extend to four months the interval between first and second doses of three different vaccines amounts to a “population level experiment,” said Mona Nemer, Canada’s chief science adviser.

“I think that it’s possible to do it. But it amounts right now to a basically population level experiment. And I think it needs to be done as we expect clinical trials to be carried out,” Nemer told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics today. 

Nemer told host Vassy Kapelos that the data provided so far by Moderna and Pfizer on their vaccines were gathered when the first and second doses of the vaccines were being spaced three to four weeks apart, not three to four months apart. 

“I think it’s really important that we stick with the data and with the great science that give us these fantastic vaccines, and not tinker with it,” she said. 

If provinces want to find out if the interval between the first and second doses can be extended to 16 weeks, she said, those provinces should conduct proper clinical trials by registering participants and explaining to them the possible advantages and disadvantages of taking part.

She said that while such trials might show that it’s safe to extend the interval to four months, Canada is not there yet.  

“For now, we simply don’t have enough data that tells us this is an effective strategy, particularly when we think that we have variants of the virus that are emerging that are not as well recognized by the vaccine,” Nemer said. 

“Partial immunity is something that people need to be very wary of. And it’s probably best to just vaccinate as recommended and as studied for now.”

Watch: Mona Nemer: ‘partial immunity is something that people need to be very wary of.’:

In response to B.C. extending the gap between first and second doses, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor says “partial immunity is something that people need to be very wary of. And it’s probably best to just vaccinate as recommended and as studied for now.” 2:18

B.C. extends the interval

Earlier today, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks.

“From the very early days, we made sure that every single dose is recorded and we knew who got what vaccine when, and part of this feeds into our evaluation of vaccine effectiveness,” Henry said.

“We have seen that the vaccines we have here in B.C. are safe and they provide a very high level of real world protection with the initial dose.”

Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, and countries around the world, shows “miraculous” protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

NACI guidance

Henry said the B.C. CDC has been exchanging data with colleagues across the country and similar results are coming from Quebec, as well as from the U.K., Israel and other countries.

She also said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has been looking at the issue and will be issuing a statement on the matter in the near future.

As of March 1, however, the advice NACI is providing on its website says that the interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for Pfizer should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. 

The head of Moderna’s Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, told Kapelos Monday that the company’s own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four week interval.

“That being said, we’re in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made,” Gauthier said. “This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments … can make their own decisions.”

Gauthier said she is not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months.

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Biden spokesperson rules out helping Canada, Mexico with vaccine supply before all Americans are inoculated – CBC.ca

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The White House spokesperson today ruled out sending vaccines to continental partners like Canada and Mexico, saying U.S. President Joe Biden is committed to getting every American vaccinated before sharing doses with other countries.

During a White House press briefing today, Jen Psaki was asked if Biden was considering sharing part of the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine supply with allies. “No,” she replied.

“The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are accessible to every American. That is our focus,” she added.

Psaki was more definitive than U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was last week. In an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live, Blinken said the U.S. was looking at “how we can help get vaccines around the world.”

“None of us are going to be fully safe until everyone in every part of the world is vaccinated,” Blinken said when asked if the administration would scrap Trump-era restrictions on U.S. vaccine exports.

WATCH: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Canada-U.S. border

In an exclusive interview with CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discusses the Canada/U.S. border. 1:20

Canada is a vaccine laggard in the Western world right now; dozens of other countries have vaccinated more people per capita. The U.S. is expected to have enough supply to vaccinate 4.5 times more people, per capita, than Canada in the first three months of 2021.

Biden has so far maintained the past administration’s policy of earmarking virtually all U.S.-made vaccines for the American market. Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Mich. plant and Moderna operations in New England are dedicated to producing U.S. shipments alone.

Last December, then-U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order demanding drugmakers first supply the U.S. government before assisting other nations. Trump’s Operation Warp Speed — the U.S. mission to develop a vaccine, manufacture it in large quantities and push it out into communities — provided funding to Moderna to develop its product.

That policy has forced Canada to turn to European plants for supply, despite the geographic proximity of those American operations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week, however, that Canada is expecting part of its supply of the AstraZeneca product to be shipped from U.S. plants in the second and third quarters of this year.

U.S. President Joe Biden listens as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

While Health Canada approved the shot last week, that company hasn’t yet applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) for the U.S. market.

“We are receiving positive indications that we will be on track to receive our 20 million doses from the facility in the United States,” Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said.

Anand has said she asked the U.S. administration to allow some Pfizer shots to flow north but her requests were rebuffed.

Psaki said that once the 300 million-plus Americans who are eligible for a shot have been vaccinated, the U.S. could talk about sharing supply.

“But our focus, [Biden’s] focus, the administration’s focus is on ensuring that every American is vaccinated, and once we accomplish that objective we’re happy to discuss further steps beyond that,” she said.

“The next step is economic recovery and that is ensuring that our neighbours, Mexico and Canada, have similarly managed the pandemic so that we can open borders and build back better.”

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