Connect with us

News

Johnson’s office apologises to Queen for party on eve of Philip’s funeral

Published

 on

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office apologised to Queen Elizabeth on Friday after it emerged that staff partied late into the night in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, when mixing indoors was banned.

Johnson is facing the gravest crisis of his premiership after almost daily revelations of social gatherings during COVID-19 lockdowns, some held when ordinary people could not bid farewell in person to dying relatives.

As an opinion poll showed the opposition Labour Party pulling into a 10-point lead over Johnson’s Conservatives, a report said he had encouraged staff to “let off steam” during regular “wine-time Friday” gatherings.

After building a political career out of flouting accepted norms, Johnson is now under growing pressure from some of his own lawmakers to quit. Opponents say he is unfit to rule and has misled parliament by denying COVID-19 guidance was breached.

In an extraordinary twist to a saga that has been widely lampooned by comedians and cartoonists, the Daily Telegraph said drinks parties were held inside Downing Street on April 16, 2021, the day before Prince Philip’s funeral.

“It is deeply regrettable this took place at a time of national mourning and No. 10 (Downing Street) has apologised to the Palace,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

Johnson was at his Chequers country residence that day and was not invited to any gathering, his spokesman said.

Such was the revelry in Downing Street, the Telegraph said, that staff went to a nearby supermarket to buy a suitcase of alcohol, spilled wine on carpets, and broke a swing used by the prime minister’s son.

The next day, Queen Elizabeth bade farewell to Philip, her husband of 73 years, following his death aged 99.

Dressed in black and in a white trimmed black face mask, the 95-year-old Elizabeth cut a poignant figure as she sat alone, in strict compliance with coronavirus rules, during his funeral service at Windsor Castle.

‘LEAVE THE STAGE’

Opponents have called for Johnson, 57, to resign, casting him as a charlatan who demanded the British people follow some of the most onerous rules in peacetime history while his staff partied at the heart of government.

A small but growing number in Johnson’s Conservative Party have echoed those calls, fearing it will do lasting damage to its electoral prospects.

“Sadly, the Prime Minister’s position has become untenable,” said Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen, a former Johnson supporter. “The time is right to leave the stage.”

In the latest report of rule-breaking, the Mirror newspaper said staff had bought a large wine fridge for Friday gatherings, events that were regularly observed by Johnson as he walked to his apartment in the building.

“If the PM tells you to ‘let off steam’, he’s basically saying this is fine,” it quoted one source as saying.

Separately, the former head of the government unit behind COVID restrictions, Kate Josephs, apologised for holding her own drinks gathering when she left the job in December 2020.

Johnson has given a variety of explanations of the parties, ranging from denials that any rules were broken to expressing understanding for the public anger at apparent hypocrisy at the heart of the British state.

The Independent newspaper said Johnson had dubbed a plan to salvage his premiership as “Operation Save Big Dog”.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, seen as a possible successor, said “real mistakes” had been made.

“We need to look at the overall position we’re in as a country, the fact that he (Johnson) has delivered Brexit, that we are recovering from COVID… He has apologised.”

“I think we now need to move on.”

To trigger a leadership challenge, 54 of the 360 Conservative members of parliament must write letters of no confidence to the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee.

The Telegraph said as many as 30 such letters had been submitted.

Johnson faces a tough year ahead: beyond COVID-19, inflation is soaring, energy bills are spiking, taxation will rise in April and his party faces local elections in May.

British police said on Thursday they would not investigate gatherings held in Johnson’s residence during a coronavirus lockdown unless an internal government inquiry finds evidence of potential criminal offences.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden, Gareth Jones and Hugh Lawson)

News

Supreme Court of Canada to rule on sentencing for Quebec City mosque shooter

Published

 on

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to rule Friday on the sentencing of a man who went on a deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque.

The decision in Alexandre Bissonnette’s case will determine the constitutionality of a key provision on parole eligibility in multiple-murder convictions.

As a result, it will also reverberate far beyond the case before the court.

In March 2021, a judge found Alek Minassian guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder, three years after he smashed into people with a van on a busy Toronto sidewalk. The judge decided to delay sentencing until after the Supreme Court decision.

At issue is the tension between society’s denunciation of such horrific crimes and the notion of rehabilitation as a fundamental value in sentencing.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder in the January 2017 mosque assault that took place just after evening prayers.

In 2019, Bissonnette successfully challenged a 2011 law that allowed a court, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.

A judge found the provision unconstitutional but saw no need to declare it invalid and instead read in new wording that would allow a court to impose consecutive periods of less than 25 years.

Ultimately, the judge ruled Bissonnette must wait 40 years before applying for parole.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal agreed that the sentencing provision violated Charter of Rights guarantees of life, liberty and security of the person, as well as freedom from cruel or unusual punishment.

“Parliament’s response to the problem identified is so extreme as to be disproportionate to any legitimate government interest,” the Appeal Court said.

“The judge was therefore right to conclude that the scope of the provision is clearly broader than necessary to achieve the objectives of denunciation and protection of the public.”

The Appeal Court, however, said the judge erred in making the ineligibility period 40 years.

It declared the sentencing provision constitutionally invalid and said the court must revert to the law as it stood before 2011, meaning the parole ineligibility periods are to be served concurrently — resulting in a total waiting period of 25 years in Bissonnette’s case.

The Court of Appeal noted there is no guarantee the Parole Board would grant Bissonnette parole in 25 years.

“This will depend on the circumstances at the time, including the appellant’s level of dangerousness, his potential for rehabilitation and the manner in which his personality has evolved,” the court said.

“Furthermore, as with any parole, if it is granted, it will include the necessary conditions for adequately ensuring the security of the public, failing which it will not be granted.”

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

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

News

Minke whale carcass found northeast of Montreal is likely one seen near city: expert

Published

 on

MONTREAL — A dead whale found in the St. Lawrence River northeast of Montreal is probably one of two minke whales seen near the city earlier this month, a marine researcher said Thursday.

Robert Michaud, president of a Quebec marine mammal research group, said experts have yet to examine the carcass found in Contrecoeur, Que., about 50 kilometres downstream from Montreal.

Michaud said a necropsy could be performed depending on that assessment, adding that the task would fall to veterinary medicine students at Université de Montréal.

Two minke whales were spotted this month near Montreal, and there were concerns for their well-being, as they were about 450 kilometres upstream of their usual range.

Minke whales are common in Quebec but don’t generally venture west of the saltwater St. Lawrence estuary around Tadoussac, Que.

Ronald Gosselin, one of the fishermen behind the discovery on Thursday morning, said he was in his boat fishing when he saw a bizarre shape in the water.

“In my life, I’ve seen maybe two or three whales, including one that beached in Contrecoeur,” Gosselin said.

A local fishing guide, Gosselin, 66, said whales are not a common sight in the area. He spotted the mammal floating in the St. Lawrence River near Île Saint-Ours.

The two Montreal whales had not been seen since mid-May.

It’s unclear why whales occasionally venture into freshwater habitats, but Michaud has said there isn’t much that can be done to help them besides hoping they turn around and head home.

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

 

The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

News

Murray Sinclair honoured with Order of Canada at Rideau Hall ceremony

Published

 on

OTTAWA — Murray Sinclair received the Order of Canada Thursday for dedicating his life to championing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and freedoms.

Sinclair held his wife’s hand as the award was announced in Rideau Hall, and was met with a standing ovation as he rose to receive it.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon presented Sinclair with the award at the ceremony, which was held several months after it was announced he would receive the honour.

By accepting the award, Sinclair wanted to show the country that working on Indigenous issues calls for national attention and participation, he said in an interview.

Sinclair, 71, said at his age he has begun to reflect on his life, and he realizes that he’s had both the joy and sadness that comes with participating in this work.

Receiving the award recognizes the importance of that work, and can act as inspiration for younger people, Sinclair said.

“When I speak to young people, I always tell them that we all have a responsibility to do the best that we can and to be the best that we can be,” he said.

Sinclair led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the experiences of Indigenous children sent to residential schools.

Sinclair said it was a particular honour to receive the award from Simon, the first Indigenous Governor General, as she is a good friend and was an honorary witness to the commission.

“As an Indigenous person, we had a unique relationship. And I think we brought it to what happened here today,” he said.

The former senator is a highly respected voice on matters of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest distinctions, for those who have made exceptional contributions to Canadian society.

Sinclair also received the Meritorious Service Cross for his role in overseeing the Truth and Reconciliation commission and producing the final report.

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

Continue Reading

Trending