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NDP says Alberta premier’s prosecutor review flawed, calls for outside investigation

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Alberta premier's prosecutor

Alberta’s Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith’s assurance of a thorough investigation into allegations of interference with Crown prosecutors is “an empty talking point” given new details on the search itself.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said that while the Smith-directed email search covered the four-month period in question, any deleted message was erased from the system after just a month, meaning the relevant time period for those emails was likely missed.

“It is outrageous that Danielle Smith is really naive enough to think that Albertans would trust an internal investigation that has not been transparently conducted, that has been conducted by people who answer to her, and that only considered deleted emails that go back 30 days,” Notley said Thursday in Calgary.

“This is an empty talking point and nothing else,” she added, renewing a call for an independent, judge-led inquiry into whether Smith and her office interfered in the administration of justice.

Smith ordered an email review last weekend after CBC News reported allegations that a staffer in the premier’s office sent a series of emails last fall to Crown prosecutors questioning their assessment and direction in cases related to the blockade at the Coutts, Alta., U.S. border crossing in early 2022.

The CBC did not specify precisely when the emails were sent and said it has not viewed the emails in question.

RCMP laid charges against several people involved in the three-week blockade at Coutts to protest COVID-19 restrictions. The charges range from mischief to conspiracy to commit murder.

On Monday, the Justice Department reported that a review of almost a million emails — incoming, outgoing and deleted — sent over a four-month period last fall turned up no evidence of any communications between prosecutors and the premier’s office.

However, Alberta Justice, in a statement to media outlets Wednesday, stated that deleted emails are only kept for 30 days, meaning the search for deleted emails would only capture those from around Dec. 22 onward and perhaps not capture deleted emails during the time frame in question.

Alberta Justice, along with Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, who speaks for Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, declined to respond to requests Thursday for that statement or explain why the statement was now being withheld.

Notley’s comments came a day after Smith faced a second CBC story, quoting unnamed sources alleging she pressured Shandro and his office to intervene in COVID-related cases.

Smith reiterated in a statement: “All communications between the premier, her staff, the minister of justice, and ministry of justice public servants have been appropriate and made through the proper channels.”

In the statement, Smith also accused the CBC of publishing “a defamatory article containing baseless allegations” referring to the original email story.

Chuck Thompson, the CBC head of public affairs, said in a statement Wednesday: “We stand by the story which transparently attributes the allegations to trusted sources and provides context to the allegations.

“As is our practice, we gave the premier and her office an opportunity to react and we included that response prominently in the story, including the sub-headline.”

Smith has given multiple versions in recent weeks of what she has said to justice officials about COVID-19 cases.

She has not taken questions in a general news conference with reporters since the affair took off two weeks ago when Smith announced that she was talking to prosecutors about the COVID-19 cases.

Smith has said she talked to prosecutors directly and did not talk to prosecutors directly. She has said she reminded justice officials of general prosecution guidelines, but at other times said she reminded them to consider factors unique to the COVID-19 cases. She has also suggested the conversations are ongoing and that they have ended.

She has attributed the confusion to “imprecise” word choices.

In her statement Wednesday, Smith delivered a sixth version, now saying she met not only with Shandro and the deputy attorney general, but also with other unnamed “ministry officials” to discuss the possibility of legal amnesty to those charged with “non-violent, non-firearms pandemic-related violations.”

The statement added: “The premier and her staff had several discussions with the minister of justice and ministry officials, requesting an explanation of what policy options were available for this purpose.

“After receiving a detailed legal opinion from the minister to not proceed with pursuing options for granting amnesty, the premier followed that legal advice.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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'Stars are aligning' for Bank of Canada rate cut: economists – CTV News

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‘Stars are aligning’ for Bank of Canada rate cut: economists  CTV News

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Member of Canada Soccer support team detained in France for alleged drone use

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PARIS – The Canadian Olympic Committee says a “non-accredited” member of Canada Soccer’s support team has been detained by French authorities in Saint-Étienne for allegedly using a drone to record New Zealand’s women’s soccer team during practice.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee said in a statement Tuesday that team support members alerted police after a drone was flown over the women’s soccer team’s practice on Monday, leading to the detention.

The NZOC said it registered a complaint with the International Olympic Committee’s integrity unit and asked Canada for a full review.

The COC said in a statement released Tuesday it is “shocked and disappointed” over the allegation and apologized to the NZOC and New Zealand Football.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee stands for fair-play and we are shocked and disappointed,” the statement said. “We offer our heartfelt apologies to New Zealand Football, to all the players affected, and to the New Zealand Olympic Committee.”

Canada, the defending Olympic women’s soccer champion, is scheduled to open its tournament against 28th ranked New Zealand on Friday in Saint-Étienne.

The COC said it is reviewing next steps with the IOC, Paris 2024, Canada Soccer and FIFA. The COC said it will provide an update Wednesday.

“Canada Soccer is working closely and cooperatively with the Canadian Olympic Committee on the matter involving the Women’s National Team,” Canada Soccer communications chief Paulo Senra said it a statement. “Next steps are being reviewed with the IOC, Paris 2024, and FIFA. We will provide an update (Wednesday).”

It’s not the first time a Canadian soccer team has been involved in a drone controversy involving an international rival’s training session.

In 2021 at Toronto, Honduras stopped a training session ahead of its men’s World Cup qualifier against Canada after spotting a drone above the field, according to reports in Honduran media. The teams played to a 1-1 draw.

French security forces guarding Paris 2024 sites are intercepting an average of six drones per day, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said Tuesday.

Attal added the drones are often operated by “individuals, maybe tourists wanting to take pictures.”

“That’s why it’s important to remind people of the rules. There’s a ban on flying drones,” he said, according to multiple news outlets.

“Systems are in place to allow us to very quickly intercept (drones) and arrest their operators.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Physicality and endurance win the World Series of perhaps the oldest game in North America

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CHOCTAW, Miss. (AP) — As the drummers walk onto the field, the players behind them smack their hickory sticks to the beat. The rhythm envelops the stands and a palpable sense of anticipation flows through the crowd.

Indigenous peoples have been playing stickball for hundreds of years, and every summer since 1975, teams have competed in Mississippi to become champion of perhaps the oldest game in North America.

A game of physicality and endurance, stickball is often referred to as the grandfather of field sports and the annual tournament in Mississippi is the game’s premier event. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has been producing some of the country’s best players for generations. A team from Mississippi will almost certainly be the one to beat in any tournament or exhibition game in the country.

No pads, no timeouts, no mercy

As the July sun set on another sweltering day, hundreds of people gathered at the Choctaw Central High School football field and sat down on the Indian blankets they had draped across the metal seating. Others lined their folding chairs along the chain-link fence to get a glimpse of the action.

Stickball, known as ishtaboli in the Choctaw language, is played with 30 players on the field, each carrying two netted sticks called kabotcha, and a small woven leather ball painted bright orange, called a towa.

Stickball fans say it remains pure. There are no pads, no timeouts and no mercy. Players typically don’t even wear shoes. It is not uncommon for people to leave the stickball field with broken bones from full contact, or gashes from taking a stick to the face. Any player possessing the ball can expect to be tackled or torn down by their jersey or breechcloth.

“It makes your heart just beat like a drum. Just the intensity of the sport,” Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Cyrus Ben said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what color jersey or what team, it’s being Choctaw.”

Although the game is high-contact, it is so respected by the Choctaw, and so central to their cultural identity, that no hit is taken personally, no matter how intense. Players often slam each other so hard that their sticks go flying through the air, and they simply get back up, nod to each other, and race down the field after the ball.

Variations on stickball have traditionally been played by several tribal nations using rules created by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Players are not allowed to hit each other with their sticks, although that happens routinely when players huddle around a loose ball. Late and early tackles are prohibited, and anything above the shoulders is off-limits.

The field is never empty

Chief Ben, like many here, was given a pair of sticks as soon as he could walk. Some recall sleeping with them above their pillows and a ball underneath. Boys and girls play together in the youth tournaments the night before the men’s and women’s championship games every year at the Choctaw Indian Fair. All over town you will see kids with sticks poking out of their backpacks.

The field is never empty. Children play stickball before every game — living out their fantasy of one day claiming victory on the same field. Between that, the snow-cone stand, and the almost fanatical way the assistant coaches scream from the sidelines, it’s as familiar as any Friday night high-school football game.

This year, Koni Hata, the 2023 men’s champion and one of the most dominant teams in the modern era of stickball, defended its dynasty in both the men’s and women’s title games against neighboring Choctaw communities such as Pearl River and stickball powerhouse Bok Cito.

The finals started with the women’s championship, Bok Cito Ohoyo taking on Koni Hata Ohoyo, which was looking for its second threepeat in the last seven years. Scoreless at the end of regulation play, the game was decided in sudden death when Bok Cito Ohoyo center shooter Leia Phillips scored with a running midfield shot.

“I said, ‘yeah, it’s my time to shine, this is my shot right here, you worked all year for this,’” Phillips, the women’s tournament MVP, said after the game.

Blood, gashes and breaks

The men’s game between Koni Hata and Pearl River was highly physical, and several skirmishes for the ball ended with sticks shooting through the air “like my 9-iron,” one announcer said. Several players were treated by medics for a variety of injuries including a bleeding eye and a gash across the forehead. Earlier in the tournament a player suffered from a broken nose.

Pearl River had no trouble scoring during tournament play, racking up an impressive 41 points in its first three games. They scored in the first half, but the point was negated for having 31 players on the field. Koni Hata scored in the second half but that point was also taken away for having too many players on the field. But Pearl River scored late in the fourth quarter and took home the ceremonial drum presented by Chief Ben.

As the Choctaw Indian Fair was winding down, Jackie Morris, the coach of the team from the community of Bok Cito, waited in line for a hot dog. He made sure that every passing Bok Cito player had a chance to sign the drum slung over his shoulder.

“This is what we play for,” he said, patting the trophy. On the field nearby, drums and sticks beat together.



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