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Ontario community shocked after ‘plausible burials’ uncovered



Ontario 'plausible burials' uncovered

The chief of a northern Ontario First Nation that found the province’s first “plausible burials” says the community is in shock and its members are working hard to ensure survivors and their loved ones have mental health support.

Wauzhushk Onigum Nation Chief Chris Skead says the uncovering of 171 anomalies and “plausible burials” at the site of former St. Mary’s Indian Residential School in Kenora earlier this week is retraumatizing many survivors who attended the Catholic-run institution.

The chief says he is seeing difficult emotions from community members and is feeling overwhelmed as his siblings and ancestors attended the institution.

Studies were being conducted by the First Nation‘s technical, archeological and ground-penetrating-radar team since May that were informed by testimony from survivors.

Most of the findings were unmarked, except for five with grave markers, on the grounds of the former institution that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has said was attended by more than 6,000 Indigenous children between 1897 and 1972.

The chief says along with mental health support, the Nation’s next steps include securing funding from the province to continue forensic identification of the bones that were discovered and establish a way to memorialize the plausible burials.

“We need treatment centres, things like that, because a lot of this is stemming from intergenerational trauma,” he said.

“That hurt is still alive and well in each and every one of us as an Anishinaabe person because you either were a survivor, a grandchild of a survivor, a child of a survivor, or you’re all three.”

The chief said he has heard from provincial ministers who have told the First Nation they will support it “in any way they possibly could.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recorded at least 36 children deaths at the site but the chief says survivor testimonies indicate a significantly higher death toll.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2023.


In the news today: Storms on the way as B.C. wildfires ramp up



Here is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to bring you up to speed…

Storms on the way as B.C. wildfires ramp up

The B.C. Wildfire Service says a significant change in the weather could ramp-up fire activity, as Environment Canada warns of severe thunderstorms in several parts of the province following weeks of hot and dry conditions.

The service says there were thousands of lightning strikes over the weekend in the province’s north, and more lightning is on the way for multiple regions, with severe storms potentially bringing gusty winds, hailstones the size of nickels and heavy downpours of rain.

The service says hot and dry conditions persist in the south of the province, with more than 350 fires burning across B.C., four of which are categorized as “wildfires of note.”

Environment Canada says heat warnings remain in effect for a number of communities, where daytime temperatures have hovered above 30 degrees, although temperatures are expected to ease over the coming days.

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation says non-essential travel to the Interior is also discouraged as wildfire activity has increased, warning of potential highway closures and delays.

Here’s what else we’re watching…

LCBO stores to reopen across Ontario

Hundreds of Ontario’s liquor stores will reopen today following a strike that saw their doors close in early July.

About 10,000 Liquor Control Board of Ontario workers returned Monday to prepare for the opening of nearly 700 stores after they walked off the job on July 5.

In addition to reopened retail stores, the LCBO says there will also no longer be limits on online orders, but any online order may take up to three weeks for delivery.

Smaller bars and restaurants began to see dwindled alcohol supplies as the strike stretched on for two weeks.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents LCBO workers, had said the labour dispute was largely about Premier Doug Ford’s plan to allow convenience and grocery stores to sell ready-to-drink cocktails, saying expanded sales of the beverages would threaten their jobs.

What will make Toronto resilient to flood?

Toronto city councillors, who presided last week over a city of inundated transit stations, roadways and basements, are set to discuss how to make the metropolis more resilient to climate-fuelled floods.

Mayor Olivia Chow’s motion, to be tabled at Wednesday’s city council meeting, is expected to stir discussion on flood mitigation efforts. The motion, recognizing how climate change has made flood-inducing storms more intense and frequent, asks city staff to look at what discontinued programs could be resuscitated, which ones are already working, and what more can be done.

Experts say Toronto, and most other major cities in Canada, face a tall task.

Across Canada, a once-in-every-50-years rainstorm could come around every 10 years by late century if planet-warming fossil fuels continue to be burned at high levels, according to a 2019 federal assessment.

In Toronto, extreme rainstorms could carry 30 per cent more rainfall by 2080, a recent city report indicated.

Accused to testify in Coutts conspiracy trial

The trial of two men charged with conspiring to murder Mounties at the Coutts border blockade in Alberta is expected to hear more testimony today from one of the accused.

Chris Carbert has told court he brought guns and body armour to the blockade, but says there was no plan for violence unless he had to perhaps flee to the mountains and fend off someone trying to give him a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

Carbert and Anthony Olienick are being tried together in front of a jury in Court of King’s Bench in Lethbridge.

The two were charged after police made arrests and seized weapons at the blockade in early 2022.

The protest against COVID-19 rules and vaccine mandates tied up traffic for two weeks at the Alberta-U.S. border crossing at Coutts.

Necropsy results coming for Calgary polar bear

The results of a necropsy are expected to be announced today after the death of a polar bear at Calgary’s zoo.

The Wilder Institute and the Calgary Zoo say seven-year-old Baffin did not resurface from a pool after playing with another polar bear on Friday.

The zoo says its animal health team and an independent pathologist have completed a necropsy.

It said last week that Baffin was sparring with his enclosure mate, eight-year-old Siku, before being found dead.

Baffin and Siku were transferred from Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo to Calgary in 2023.

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

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ACC’s Phillips touts financial gains, intent to fight lawsuits in assertive stance for the future



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Commissioner Jim Phillips firmly believes in the future of the Atlantic Coast Conference amid the uncertainty of realignment and the wholesale changes to the model of college athletics itself.

He was ready to tell everyone why, too, as the league opened its preseason football media days Monday.

Trading his typically reserved comments for a more assertive message, Phillips touted the gains made from years of working to improve the ACC’s financial standing. He promised the league will fight “as long as it takes” in legal cases against Florida State and Clemson as those member schools challenge the league’s ability to charge hundreds of millions of dollars for leaving the conference. And he came bearing specifics, from dollar amounts to recent national-title counts.

“This league is better than the narrative that it’s getting right now because people want to talk about what may happen instead of about what is happening,” Phillips said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The league opened its four-day “ACC Kickoff” event Monday in an expanded format after the additions of California and Stanford from the Pac-12, and SMU from the American Athletic Conference. Phillips, preparing for his fourth full season leading the ACC, pulled back the curtain a bit on a league that he described as “aggressive” in battling a growing revenue gap behind its Big Ten and Southeastern Conference peers.

“Our M.O. has not been to do this in the public eye,” Phillips told the AP. “Ours is to do it internally, to be aggressive, and to look at every avenue possible for us to grow the revenue. … That will continue, not only what we’ve done and what we’re going to do in the future.”

For example, Phillips said the league’s addition of the three new schools will create $600 million in additional incremental revenue gains through the ACC’s current ESPN deal running through 2036. Additionally, a league that has long leaned on equitable distributions has Cal and Stanford taking reduced payouts (around 30%) through the first seven seasons before gradually increasing those amounts to a full share in the 10th season, while SMU is forgoing nine years of TV money.

Additionally, there’s this season’s launch of a success-driven incentive model with schools able to keep more money based on their own postseason success instead of sending them to conference coffers to be divvied up evenly. Phillips said that could amount to $20 million to $25 million in additional payouts for schools based on success in the College Football Playoff, bowl games and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Throw in corporate partnerships and sponsorships of marquee events like the high-profile men’s basketball tournament earlier this year, and Phillips is pointing to multiple revenue streams to enhance the bottom line.

“I think we’ve done a really good job in a challenging situation to generate the revenue we’ve generated, new revenue,” Phillips said. “To also be able to unanimously accept disproportionate revenue for the first time with the success initiative and (expansion), that takes alignment. That’s not easy to do.

“The idea is we have to continue this kind of forward momentum into the future. So we have to be creative.”

The good news is those measures come amid years of record revenues, even though the ACC lags behind what many regard now as a Power Two with the Big Ten and SEC.

According to tax documents, the ACC distributed an average of $44.8 million to its 14 football-playing members (Notre Dame receives a partial share as a football independent) and $706.6 million in total revenue for the 2022-23 season. That marked an increase of 13.6% in payouts from the previous year, with Phillips saying increases in the league’s TV contract accounted for roughly two-thirds of that bump.

Additionally, TV revenue has increased from roughly $288.6 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year before the launch of the ACC Network to $481.7 million for 2022-23, an increase of 66.9%.

Overall, the ACC ranked third behind the Big Ten ($879.9 million revenue, $60.3 million average payout) and SEC ($852.6 million, $51.3 million) in the most recent filings, and ahead of the smaller Big 12 ($510.7 million, $44.2 million). Of that quartet, the SEC (six), Big Ten (two) and ACC (two) have combined to win all 10 CFP championships leading into its expansion to a 12-team field for this season.

“All the data says it’s a top-3 conference,” said SMU coach Rhett Lashlee said of the Mustangs’ new home.

And those revenue numbers don’t factor in the recent wave of realignment that tore apart the Pac-12 and scattered its pieces throughout the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12, as well as sending the Big 12’s two top football brands (Texas and Oklahoma) to the SEC.

Still, Phillips knows the league faces challenges beyond money.

He called the lawsuits filed by FSU and Clemson “extremely damaging, disruptive and harmful” during his annual forum. Most notably, those schools are challenging the league’s grant-of-rights media agreement that gives the ACC control of media rights for any school that attempts to leave for the duration of its ESPN deal. League schools signed that agreement in the lead-up to the ACC Network’s 2019 launch.

The league has also sued those schools to enforce the agreement in a legal dispute that has no end in sight and leaves everyone likely locked in position.

“I can say that we will fight to protect the ACC and our members for as long as it takes,” Phillips said emphatically during the forum.

Asked later about his comments, Phillips told the AP: “It’s important for our membership to know, as well as the country, where we’re at.”

Still, there were the awkward optics that came with Florida State being among the schools featured after Phillips’ forum. For Seminoles coach Mike Norvell, there was little to say beyond trying to win a second straight title in a league that FSU is also pushing to exit.

“Life is full of distractions,” Norvell said. “At the end of the day you stay focused on the things that are in front of you and ultimately the things that you can control. I’m fortunate to have the responsibility to help lead this team and that is where my focus is going to be.”


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Newly acquired winger Daniel Sprong wants to keep evolving with Vancouver Canucks



VANCOUVER – Daniel Sprong’s road through the NHL has been a winding one.

After signing a one-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks, the 27-year-old scoring winger is looking to make his latest destination more than a pit stop.

“I’m hoping Vancouver’s not just one year,” Sprong said in a video call Monday. “I can see myself being there long term and that’s really what excited me.”

The Canucks did not release the value of the contract, but multiple reports have pegged it at US$975,000.

Vancouver will be the sixth NHL team Sprong has played for since he was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015.

The six-foot, 195-pound forward registered 18 goals and 25 assists in 76 appearances for the Detroit Red Wings last season. He’s also had stints with the Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Washington Capitals and Seattle Kraken.

Heading into free agency this summer, he felt confident.

Sprong admitted he was surprised when the market opened on July 1 and the right offer didn’t surface.

“It’s kind of a wake-up call, but at the same time, I think it’s also good motivation and kind of put some fuel to the fire,” he said.

Eventually, Vancouver made its bid and a phone call with Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet sealed the deal.

“There were other teams but I felt the most comfortable and happiest with Vancouver when I talked on the phone and that made my decision very easy at the end,” he said.

Tocchet, who won the Jack Adams award as the league’s top coach last season, has history with Sprong, having worked with him as an assistant bench boss in Pittsburgh.

Sprong’s also familiar with Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin, both of whom were in the Penguins’ front office when he was drafted.

“They drafted me, they’ve believed in me from the second I got drafted,” he said.

“I think since then, I’ve matured a lot, I think my game has developed. There’s still a part of my game that I want to fix. We talked about that on the phone, how we’re going to work on it, improve in that area. And that’s only going to lead to bigger opportunity and, hopefully, more success for the team and myself.”

Born in Amsterdam, Sprong and his family moved to Montreal when he was seven so he could have more opportunities in hockey. He was a standout for the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders, leading the team with 88 regular-season points and another 11 in playoffs.

The jump to pro hockey hasn’t always been easy.

While he’s contributed 85 goals and 74 assists over 344 regular-season NHL games, Sprong has averaged 11:57 in ice time.

A lack of situational trust from coaches may have impacted how he has been used in the past, the winger said, noting that his defensive game hasn’t always been strong.

“We’re going to work on it in Vancouver to gain the trust and be reliable in those situations,” he said. “I’m working on it over the summertime to work on those details.”

Sprong’s scoring touch will complement a Canucks offence that already boasts the likes of centre J.T. Miller, who finished last season with 103 points, and right-winger Brock Boeser, who registered 40 goals.

In addition to working on his defensive game, Sprong said he’ll be sharpening his shot this summer to keep up his offensive output.

“I think it’s not just working on your weaknesses, it’s working on your strengths so you keep evolving as a player. And I think over time I’ve done that,” he said.

“And there’s still things I want to fix. And I think if I fix those things, there’s only positives and better outcomes.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

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