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Scientists let go from National Microbiology Laboratory amid RCMP investigation – CBC.ca

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Two Canadian government scientists escorted from the National Microbiology Laboratory amidst an RCMP investigation and internal review have been let go from the Public Health Agency of Canada, CBC News has learned.

“The two scientists are no longer employed by the Public Health Agency of Canada as of Jan. 20, 2021,” Eric Morrissette, chief of media relations for Health Canada and PHAC, confirmed in an email late Friday.

“We cannot disclose additional information, nor comment further, for reasons of confidentiality.” 

Sources say members of the lab’s special pathogens unit were called to a meeting on Thursday and told that Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, will not be returning to work. They were not given an explanation.

Cheng, Qiu and her students from China were removed from Canada’s only Level 4 lab in July 2019 over what was described as a possible “policy breach” and administrative matter.

Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, were escorted from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg on July 5, 2019. After that, the University of Manitoba ended their appointments and reassigned her graduate students. (Governor General’s Innovation Awards)

The Public Health Agency of Canada had asked the RCMP in Manitoba to get involved several months earlier.

A Level 4 virology facility is a lab equipped to work with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. That makes the Winnipeg lab one of only a handful in North America capable of handling pathogens requiring the highest level of containment, such as Ebola.

As recently as December, the RCMP said the investigation was ongoing but that there is no threat to public safety.

Sources say the couple have been off work with pay, living in Winnipeg, but PHAC has never confirmed that, citing confidentiality.

Developed Ebola treatment

Qiu is a medical doctor and virologist from Tianjin, China, who came to Canada for graduate studies in 1996. She is still affiliated with the university there and has brought in many students over the years to help with her work.

She helped develop ZMapp, a treatment for the deadly Ebola virus, which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

She was head of the Vaccine Development and Antiviral Therapies Section in the Special Pathogens Program at the Winnipeg-based lab.

Her husband is a biologist who has published research papers on HIV infections, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), E. coli infections and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. 

The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is the only Level 4 facility in Canada, equipped to work with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Last year, documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request found that Qiu was responsible for a shipment of Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology four months before she and her husband were escorted from the NML.

At the time, PHAC said the shipment and Qiu’s eviction from the lab were not connected.

“The administrative investigation is not related to the shipment of virus samples to China,” Morrissette wrote in an email last June.

“In response to a request from the Wuhan Institute of Virology for viral samples of Ebola and Henipah viruses, the Public Health Agency of Canada sent samples for the purpose of scientific research in 2019.”

No connection to COVID-19

The RCMP and PHAC have consistently denied any connections between the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus shipments. There is no evidence linking the shipment to the spread of the coronavirus. Ebola is a filovirus and Henipah is a paramyxovirus — no coronavirus samples were sent.

Qiu also made at least five trips to China in 2017-18, including one to train scientists and technicians at China’s newly certified Level 4 lab, which does research with the most deadly pathogens, according to travel documents obtained by CBC News in October 2019.

Despite RCMP and PHAC denial of connections, there have been conspiracy theories stating otherwise. One medical expert says we need more transparency on the issue.

Canadians have the right to know more, said Amir Attaran, a professor in the faculty of law and School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa.

“This adds to the appearance that NML staff acted improperly, and perhaps illegally, when they exported Canada’s collection of Ebola virus to a lab in Wuhan, China, totally without any scientific justification that NML cares to offer,” Attaran said.

“It is a deeply suspicious transaction that deserves powerful, but not politicized, parliamentary scrutiny when it comes to an extremely lethal virus.”

The former head of the NML, Matthew Gilmour, left last July to work for the U.K.-based Quadram Institute Bioscience.

His medical adviser, Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, took over until a permanent replacement can be found.

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Canada Day Ottawa: Ottawa police prepare for festivities, possible protests | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa

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Police officers in cruisers and on bicycles are patrolling downtown Ottawa and the Parliamentary Precinct today, as the city prepares for Canada Day festivities and possible protests against COVID-19 mandates and the federal government.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit downtown Ottawa and the LeBreton Flats area over the next few days to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday. Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will also complete his cross-country march at the National War Memorial, as he protests the remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

At LeBreton Flats, there was a very strong security presence Friday morning as preparations continued for the Canadian Heritage Canada Day festivities. The Canada Day daytime show begins at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, while the evening show begins at 7:30 p.m. 

Ottawa police interim Chief Steve Bell says the increased police presence will remain in place through the weekend.

“We’ve talked for a number of days about all the planning and preparation we have and the expectation of people attending,” Bell told CTV News Ottawa. “I think what you’re seeing is those plans coming into action and us being out there and vigilant around who’s attending, and trying to make sure people that understand it’s a safe place on Canada Day and you should come down and enjoy the festivities.”

On Wednesday, officers stopped a small convoy of vehicles in the area of Pinecrest Road and Hwy. 417 and several tickets were issued.   Bell defended the actions of officers to stop vehicles in the capital region.

“We actually have good legal grounds for the plans we’ve put in place. We make sure that we stay on legal grounds because that’s very important as a police service,” Bell said. “We’re comfortable with the posture we’re taking and the actions officers are taking, and it’s all in the name that we ensure public safety and we can have a good, festive Canada Day.”

JAMES TOPP ARRIVES IN OTTAWA

Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will finish his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates this evening at the National War Memorial.

The final leg of his journey began at 1811 Robertson Road at 10 a.m. Topp is scheduled to arrive at Hog’s Back Park at 1:30 p.m. and finish his march at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at 6 p.m.

“We have been in contact with Mr. Topp and his group and have plans in place to ensure that he can safely and lawfully move from the west end of the city down to the Parliament Hill buildings,” interim chief Bell said on Monday.

Speaking in Ottawa last week, Topp said a number of groups that formed out of the Freedom Convoy had come together to protest the federal government.

“What I would like to see with the establishment of C3 – the Canadian Citizens Coalition is for us to have further conversations about the way forward, about the way of the future, of what we see Canada being and becoming,” said Topp.

SNOWBIRDS 

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will not be taking part in Canada Day festivities in Ottawa.

The Royal Canadian Air Force announced the Snowbirds fly-past over Ottawa on Friday has been cancelled, following a problem with the aircraft’s emergency ejection parachute that grounded the fleet for nearly a week.

PARLIAMENT HILL

Visitors to Parliament Hill will need to pass through a security checkpoint, and be searched by a Parliamentary Protective Service officer.

A sign on the fence along Wellington Street says several items are restricted, including tables, speakers, barbecues, aerosols, weapons, fireworks and sporting equipment.

MOTOR VEHICLE CONTROL ZONE

A motor vehicle control zone remains in effect around the Parliamentary Precinct, downtown Ottawa and roads near LeBreton Flats.

The zone stretches from Colonel By Drive/Sussex Drive in the east, Booth Street in the west, Laurier Avenue in the south and Wellington Street in the north, along with the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Albert Street west of Booth Street.

The roads in the motor vehicle control zone are not closed today; however, motor vehicles taking part in any form of demonstration, event or protest will not be permitted in the area. There will be no on-street parking or stopping on roads in the control zone.

The city of Ottawa says a motor vehicle control zone will be in effect from Wednesday at 8 a.m. until July 4 at 6 a.m. (City of Ottawa/Twitter)

TICKETING AND TOWING VEHICLES

Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services says officers are out ensuring all parking regulations are observed in the motor vehicle control zone.

“All vehicles found failing to observe the no-stopping zones will be ticketed and towed. Parking time limits and no parking zones outside the centre core will also be strictly enforced,” the city said.

Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Ottawa Bylaw says 120 parking tickets were issued and 28 vehicles were towed in the vehicle control zone.

Ottawa Bylaw will also be focusing on the following bylaws to ensure residents and visitors obey the rules over the Canada Day weekend.

  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle or other noise, including speakers or shouting
  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle idling
  • No encumbering a sidewalk or roadway by any means, including setting up tents or other illegal structures
  • No public urination and defecation
  • No open air fires
  • No littering
  • Discharging of fireworks – contravening any regulations under Fireworks By-Law.

DOWNTOWN PARKING

Ottawa City Hall and the underground municipal parking facility will be closed all weekend.

City Hall and the parking structure will be closed from 5 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. on Monday.

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Tips for starting online betting safely

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Sports betting has been part of the entertainment world for a long time now, but it has become even more popular now. This is because of the internet and especially online betting. It has increased the number of opportunities for betting and now people don’t need to leave their homes to have fun.

 

The internet has some of the most popular options such as NFL Week 1 odds and more rare possibilities. Because of this diversity, you can be sure that you can find an option fitting your taste. But if you have never bet on sports online before, you need to know how to do so safely. This article will help you with this.

There are many different interesting sports to follow

The world is full of different types of sports, which means that there will be one that will entertain you. Even if you are only looking for Canadian sports, there are still many different fantastic possibilities. This obviously means that there are also plenty of different possibilities regarding betting as well.

 

Even though there are many exciting opportunities for betting, you need to only bet on sports that you are familiar with. If you know everything there is to know about the sport, it will be easier for you to place your bets. Therefore it’s a much safer way to bet. If you are interested in specifically betting on a game that you don’t know too well yet, you should do some research.

Choose a safe betting site

Not only do you need to bet in a safe way, but you also need to choose a safe betting site. There are many different options when it comes to different betting sites, so you have a lot of options to choose from.

 

If you don’t know how to recognize safe betting sites, you don’t have to worry. There are plenty of different guidebooks specifically about this online. You can also use different websites that introduce popular and safe betting sites for the players. This will make the search process much easier.

What is the best betting site for you?

As we said, there are many different betting sites. Not only do you need to choose a safe option, but you also need to find one that is the best for you. And how can you know which is the best for you?

 

Simply by thinking about what you are looking for. It doesn’t matter what type of betting site you choose, as long as it fits you and it’s safe, it’s a good choice.

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Spouse of gunman to testify at N.S. shooting hearings but won’t be cross-examined

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HALIFAX — The spouse of the gunman in the Nova Scotia mass shooting will testify mid-July before a public inquiry, but she won’t face direct questions from lawyers representing victims’ families.

Lisa Banfield, on the advice of her lawyers, had initially refused to speak under oath at the hearings into the 22 killings carried out by her spouse on April 18-19, 2020.

However, she changed her stance after a criminal charge laid against her for supplying ammunition to the killer was referred to restorative justice.

The public inquiry said today in a news release that due to Banfield’s status as a “survivor of the perpetrator’s violence,” only the inquiry’s lawyer will be asking her questions during her July 15 appearance.

Josh Bryson, a lawyer for the family of victims Peter and Joy Bond, says his clients are losing faith in the credibility of the inquiry.

Bryson says the families’ lawyers have been polite and respectful throughout the hearings, adding that it is frustrating to be denied the opportunity to pose direct questions to key witnesses.

“Cross-examination can make or break a witness’s evidence … You test the evidence in a meaningful and trauma-informed way,” he said in an interview today.

The inquiry has also refused to allow cross-examination of Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill and Staff Sgt. Andy O’Brien, who were the first RCMP managers overseeing the response to the shootings.

Emily Hill, senior commission counsel, says participatinglawyers can submit their questions in advance and can provide follow-up questions to the inquiry’s lawyer to ask during the single day set aside to hear Banfield.

Banfield’s evidence could provide further information about the killer’s personal history and state of mind and may also be key to the commission’s mandate to examine the “role of gender-based and intimate-partner violence” in the killer’s actions.

The inquiry has heard she was the last person with the gunman before he went on his rampage. The killer allegedly assaulted her and confined her in a car, but she managed to escape. She fled into the woods and hid before emerging the next morning and telling police the killer was driving a replica RCMP vehicle.

The RCMP have said from the outset that Banfield wasn’t aware of her spouse’s intentions when she provided him with ammunition, but they proceeded with charges alleging she, her brother and her brother-in-law had illegally transferred ammunition to the killer.

During a briefing this morning, the commission confirmed that senior RCMP officers, including Supt. Darren Campbell, Chief Supt. Chris Leather, assistant commissioner Lee Bergerman and Commissioner Brenda Lucki will testify in July and August — under oath and subject to cross-examination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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