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The latest on protests across Canada in support of anti-pipeline demonstrators – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia:

The federal agriculture minister is indicating that help could soon be on the way for farmers impacted by barricades that have virtually shut down Canada’s rail network.

Marie-Claude Bibeau says 2019 and the beginning of this year have been difficult for Canada’s agriculture sector.

She told reporters in Ottawa today that she is looking for “practical ways” to support farmers who have been unable to get their products to market as a result of the barricades, but could not elaborate, saying she needs to speak with her cabinet colleagues first.

Rail and road barricades have been erected in several locations across the country over the last two weeks in solidarity with the hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose a pipeline project on their territory in northwestern B.C.

The RCMP confirms the commander of the Mountie’s British Columbia division has sent a letter to Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, agreeing to discuss the future of a small contingent of officers stationed on traditional First Nation territory near the site of a disputed pipeline.

The letter from Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan says she is willing to meet with the chiefs to discuss what she calls the Community Industry Safety Office, located southwest of Houston along a road leading to the area where the Coastal GasLink pipeline is under construction.

Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says the letter states that if there is continued commitment to keep the road open, the need for the police presence is “diminished or decreased.”

Shoihet says the letter was sent Wednesday.

She says Strachan also sent an internal memo to all RCMP employees in B.C., offering her appreciation for their “professionalism” during recent enforcement of a court injunction ordering demonstrators away from the pipeline site.

The memo tells members that management is aware the presence of the RCMP contingent on the road is considered by hereditary chiefs as a barrier to further dialogue, and RCMP management supports efforts now underway to find a long-term solution to the issue.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says police will dismantle a rail blockade in St-Lambert, south of Montreal, if a court grants an injunction.

He says the blockade that went up Wednesday is not on First Nations land, making it easier to take action.

The blockade in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia was erected on CN tracks, and has disrupted rail service for suburban commuters and travellers between Montreal and Quebec City.

A few dozen protesters, well stocked with supplies, tents, camping gear and firewood, are at the site today and say they plan to stay as long as RCMP remain on Wet’suwet’en lands.

Snow has been piled onto tracks, with signs strung across a cord hung between rail signals.

Protesters, who declined to give their names to reporters, describe themselves as supporters of the Wet’suwet’en and say they will take their direction from the B.C. First Nation’s hereditary chiefs, who are contesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole says he would criminalize blockades of railways, air and seaports, major roads, businesses and households if he were prime minister.

The Ontario MP and former cabinet minister says police should clear blockades as soon as possible without having to wait for court injunctions.

Blockades set up in support of Indigenous protests of a natural-gas pipeline in British Columbia have halted rail traffic in Central Canada and temporarily blocked roads and bridges in spots across the country.

O’Toole also says he would take charitable status away from any group that accepts foreign contributions and encourages blockades.

To improve relations with Indigenous Peoples, O’Toole says he would fund an Aboriginal liaison officers in the RCMP.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the RCMP have offered to move officers away from the area where traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have been opposing a pipeline on their territory.

Blair says that meets the conditions set by the chiefs, who have demanded that Mounties leave their traditional lands southwest of Houston, B.C.

But yesterday Chief Na’moks, one of five hereditary clan chiefs who lead the First Nation under its traditional form of governance, said pipeline builder Coastal GasLink must also pull out of the traditional territory before any meeting with provincial and federal politicians can proceed.

Canada’s minister in charge of Indigenous relations, Carolyn Bennett, and her B.C. counterpart Scott Fraser are in northern B.C. to meet with any of the hereditary chiefs who might be willing to talk.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he is attending a funeral and is unavailable to meet today, while the other four hereditary chiefs are expected in Mohawk territory to thank members of that Ontario First Nation for their solidarity.

Nationwide protests and blockades followed a move by RCMP to enforce a court injunction earlier this month against the hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who had been obstructing an access road to the company’s work site.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

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Omicron: Should you travel and what insurance will you need? – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Experts are divided on whether travel is advisable in light of the Omicron variant spurring restrictions at the border and new travel bans leading into the holiday season.

On Tuesday, the government announced travel bans for 10 countries and added that fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from international destinations other than the U.S. would be required to take a PCR test upon arrival, and quarantine while awaiting the results.

Some travellers are having second thoughts amid the confusion, and Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure Inc., told CTV News Channel that the confusion at airports over the new PCR test requirement is likely to grow.

“There’s nothing clearly stated as to how it’s going to work — are they getting it done there, are they lining up with thousands of other people, are they getting a take-home test, are they going to wait and isolate three days till test results — incredibly confusing right now, in all aspects,” he said.

“I’m seeing right now there’s many people that are making a decision to cancel their flights or cancel their trips.”

Firestone said that booking an international trip for January or February might not be the best idea.

“They maybe have to be on hold,” he said.

“I’m looking at summer 2022 as the best chance to start going to Europe and Asia and places such as that.”

So far, just how dangerous Omicron might be is unclear, making it another question in the calculus of whether travelling is advisable. Scientists are studying the variant in the hopes of pinpointing whether it causes more severe illness, but so far cases have shown largely mild symptoms, and no deaths have been connected to the variant.

However, preliminary data suggests that those who have previously had COVID-19 are at a higher risk of reinfection from Omicron than other variants.

Currently, there are 18 cases of Omicron in Canada.

Not everyone is jumping to cancellations, according to Richard Vanderlubbe, president of tripcentral.ca and a member of the board of directors for the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), but “new inquiries and new bookings have slowed down.”

“We were at about a 40 per cent of the 2019 level just prior to that,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “And it was rising. So I think people are pausing and they’re trying to figure out what this means.”

Many who had planned Christmas trips are likely going to go through with them and simply plan for the added requirements at the border, he said, adding that whether to travel or not is up to where a person is going and how important it is to them to make that trip.

“I think what’s happening with government testing right now at airports is long overdue,” he said. “And we need to be able to create an environment where people are safe, that we’re vaccinated, […] the testing is available, it’s not [difficult] in terms of costs, that’s convenient and we get the results quickly.”

Firestone believes that it’ll be simplest to go to the U.S. this holiday season, if a person is set on getting away despite the added restrictions.

“Going to the U.S. right now, again, if everything’s properly done, including now the new one-day rapid test, negative test, that has to be done before you get into the U.S., that could still be plausible,” he said, adding that published health measures such as masking still need to be followed.

“But I think that’s the best bet at this point, is a U.S. holiday, possibly a sun destination holiday, although you’re going to face the large crowds coming back in, getting the negative PCR test. So it’s just nothing simple anymore, and I’m hoping that we get a bit of a holiday season and then travel eventually [can] open up again.”

IF I DO TRAVEL, SHOULD I GET INSURANCE?

Travellers worried about insurance should be aware of a couple things, Vanderlubbe said.

One is that since the blanket advisory against non-essential travel was lifted by the government in October, medical insurance policies for travel are now, in general, covering COVID-19 related medical claims, he explained.

“There was a time when the advisory was out that the insurance plans did not generally cover it,” he said. “And you had to buy separate insurance.”

When it comes to cancellation insurance, after some struggles earlier in the pandemic to get airlines to issue refunds when flights were cancelled by the airline itself, airlines are now generally covering any sort of involuntary cancellation where the airline decides not to operate the flight.

“There’s not a lot of risk now for consumers in booking something and then the government comes and, let’s say in the future slaps on a restriction on a certain destination and they cancel all the flights — you won’t lose your money,” Vanderlubbe said.

That leaves voluntary cancellation, which is when a person decides themselves that they no longer wish to fly.

“I’m looking at the arrangements and I’m looking at these things going on and maybe I’m getting cold feet and I don’t necessarily want to travel,” he explained.

Considering the shifting landscape right now, a traveller who is concerned that they may want to back out later — due to fears of COVID-19, due to falling ill themselves before the flight, or due to other unforeseen complications — may want to consider a waiver or other type of insurance that could aid them if they want to cancel a flight voluntarily.

“If you change your mind, at least you don’t lose all your money, you can rebook it as a credit,” Vanderlubbe said.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

In Asia, South Korea again broke its daily records for coronavirus infections and deaths and confirmed three more cases of the new omicron variant as officials scramble to tighten social distancing and border controls.

The 5,352 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Saturday marked the third time this week the daily tally exceeded 5,000. The country’s death toll was at 3,809 after a record 70 virus patients died in the past 24 hours, while the 752 patients in serious or critical condition were also an all-time high.

As the delta-driven surge threatens to overwhelm hospital systems, there is also concern about the local spread of the omicron variant, which is seen as potentially more infectious than previous strains of the virus.

The country’s omicron caseload is now at nine after the KDCA confirmed three more cases. The new cases include the wife, mother-in-law and a friend of a man who caught omicron from a couple he drove home from the airport after they arrived from Nigeria on Nov. 24. The couple’s teenage child and two other women who also travelled to Nigeria have also been infected with omicron.

A woman walks near a banner that reads, ‘Mandatory mask wearing,’ at a park in Goyang, South Korea, on Saturday. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

Officials say the number of omicron cases could rise as some of the patients had attended a church gathering involving hundreds of people on Nov. 28.

While the emergence of omicron has triggered global alarm and pushed governments around the world to tighten their borders, scientists say it remains unclear whether the new variant is more contagious, more likely to evade the protection provided by vaccines or more likely to cause serious illnesses than previous versions of the virus.

Starting next week, private social gatherings of seven or more people will be banned in the densely populated capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been hit hardest by delta and are now running out of intensive care units.

To fend off omicron, South Korea has required all passengers arriving from abroad over the next two weeks to quarantine for at least 10 days, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status. The country has banned short-term foreign travelers arriving from nine African nations, including South Africa and Nigeria.


What’s happening across Canada

A 10-year-old girl is administered a COVID-19 vaccine shot as her eight-year-old sister reacts at a drive-thru clinic in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

  • More than 1,000 public-sector workers placed on leave over N.S. vaccine mandate.

What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 265 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.

PHOTOS | Thousands protest restrictions in Dutch city:

In Europe, thousands of people marched peacefully through the Dutch city of Utrecht on Saturday to protest the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures. Meanwhile, Princess Beatrix, the country’s 83-year-old former queen, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the royal house announced Saturday.

In the Americas, Rio de Janeiro cancelled its famed New Year’s Eve party, becoming the latest Brazilian city — after Sao Paulo and Salvador — to halt holiday celebrations due to omicron fears.

In Africa, South Africa is being hit by a fourth wave of infections driven by the new variant that has been detected in seven of the country’s nine provinces, its health minister said.

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Thailand seizes $88 million worth of crystal meth bound for Taiwan

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Thai authorities intercepted nearly 900 kg (2,000 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine hidden in a cargo shipment at Bangkok’s Port Custom Office and bound for Taiwan where it could be sold for up to $88 million, a customs official said on Saturday.

The drug was seized by customs officials late on Friday, hidden in powder form inside 161 white silicon slabs in packages destined for Taiwan.

“The 897 kg of crystal meth is worth about 500 to 600 million baht ($15 million to $18 million), but once they reach their destination they will be worth 3 billion baht in market price,” Thai Customs Director-General Patchara Anuntasil told a press conference on Saturday.

Patchara said that Thai and Taiwanese authorities were both investigating.

The methamphetamine market has continued to expand and diversify in East and Southeast Asia, unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In October, police in neighboring Laos seized a record https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/laos-police-seize-record-drugs-haul-golden-triangle-2021-10-28 haul of 55 million methamphetamine tablets and over 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine tablets in the Golden Triangle region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.

The Golden Triangle has a long history of illicit drug production and has recently served as a massive production centre for amphetamine-type stimulants, especially methamphetamine, used by Asian crime syndicates with distribution networks reaching as far as Japan and New Zealand.

($1 = 33.8400 baht)

 

(Reporting by Artorn Poonkasook and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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