Trucker protest continues in Ottawa, Trudeau contracts COVID: In The News for Feb. 1


Published February 1, 2022 at 4:15 am

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 1 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Crowds have thinned out considerably on Parliament Hill and the surrounding area, where anti-COVID restrictions demonstrators have been protesting for days.

But those that remain say they are staying put until all the restrictions are lifted, with the president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association saying some protesters have been extending their stays at hotels, or are asking to rebook for the coming weekend.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday he will not meet with anyone involved, noting reports that some participants have been seen harassing local businesses, waving Nazi flags, defecating on residential lawns, urinating on National War Memorial and stealing food from the homeless.

The Ottawa Paramedic Association reported that paramedics asked for police escorts after rocks were hurled at an ambulance from a truck in the convoy.

But Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen said Trudeau was “gaslighting” the protesters, who deserve the chance to be heard and be given some respect.

She said the protesters she met with from her home province of Manitoba on Sunday are “good people, patriotic, peace-loving.”

Canada Unity, the group behind the convoy, originated during the 2019 pro-pipeline convoy to Ottawa but morphed into an anti-COVID restrictions protest after the pandemic began. 

The vaccine mandate for truckers that took effect on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border earlier this month added more fire to the demands and helped trigger the bigger convoy that descended on Ottawa in the last week.

Also this …

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the fact that both he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have contracted COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated, shows his province’s vaccine requirement has “run its course.”

Arguing the Omicron variant spreads among the vaccinated and unvaccinated, Moe said yesterday the province’s proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test requirement will “very soon come to an end,” but did not provide a date.

Vaccines have been shown to have significant benefit in preventing hospitalization and death, and data suggests a third dose boosts protection against the Omicron variant.

Moe’s comments came hours after Trudeau revealed his positive test, saying he had no symptoms and would keep working remotely this week as he follows public health guidelines.

COVID-related hospitalizations dropped again in Ontario, as the province began easing pandemic restrictions to allow restaurant dining rooms, gyms and theatres to reopen at 50-per cent capacity.

Quebec also took steps to reopen, including allowing restaurants to operate at half capacity, permitting private indoor gatherings of up to four people and the resumption of extracurricular sports in elementary and high schools, CEGEPs and universities.

And this …

Statistics Canada is scheduled to provide its preliminary reading of how the economy fared last year.

The release this morning will include a first estimate of growth in real gross domestic product for 2021 as it rebounded from the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian economy suffered its worst year on record in 2020 when output shrank by 5.4 per cent.

RBC economists Nathan Janzen and Claire Fan say the rebound last year should show output grew in 2021 by 4.6 per cent, similar to the Bank of Canada’s latest estimates.

Getting to the finish line of 2021, economists expect Statistics Canada to show that growth in November clocked in at or above the agency’s earlier estimate of 0.3 per cent, which would leave total economic activity within 0.1 per cent of pre-pandemic levels recorded in February 2020.

CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham is warning that December could show flat, or even a pullback in GDP, linked to the effects of flooding in British Columbia and the spread of the Omicron variant, and leave growth in the fourth quarter at an annualized rate of 5.5 per cent.

The Bank of Canada warned last week that it expects Omicron to dampen spending in the first quarter, and slow growth to an annualized rate of about two per cent. 

What we are watching in the U.S. …

LOUISVILLE, Ky. _ Questioning of potential jurors begins Tuesday for the trial of a former Kentucky police officer involved in a botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical technician.

Brett Hankison is standing trial on three counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly firing wildly into Taylor’s neighbours’ apartments in March 2020. Taylor, a Black woman, was shot multiple times during the raid. No drugs were found, and the warrant was later found to be flawed.

No officers were charged for their role in causing Taylor’s death, despite protests countrywide, with many demonstrators demanding that the officers involved stand trial for murder. That set the outcome apart from two other cases that put race relations in the national spotlight in 2020 with the killing of Black people at the hands of white people: the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the custody of a police officer and the Georgia shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. The 25-year-old Black man was shot to death while being chased by three white men while out jogging through a neighbourhood.

The three white men who pursued Arbery were convicted of murder in November and given life prison sentences in early January. Last year, former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court in the videotaped killing of Floyd.

In the Taylor case, Kentucky’s Republican Attorney General, Daniel Cameron determined that the officers fired into the woman’s apartment in self-defence after her boyfriend, who was in the apartment with her, shot at them first. Cameron, who is Black, did not give a grand jury considering the case the option of charging those officers in connection with Taylor’s death, though he acknowledged that her death was heartbreaking.

Hankison is the only officer facing any criminal charges from the incident. If convicted, he faces one to five years in prison for each of the wanton endangerment counts.

The process, which began last Friday, is expected to take weeks. Potential jurors will be asked questions to determine if they can serve as fair and impartial jurors. The pool, which consists of Jefferson County residents, will be whittled down to a group that consists of 12 jurors and alternates.

Hankison has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

BANGKOK _ Opponents of military rule in Myanmar marked the one-year anniversary of the army’s seizure of power with a countrywide strike Tuesday to show their strength and solidarity amid concern about what has become an increasingly violent contention for power.

The “silent strike” sought to empty the streets of Myanmar’s cities and towns by having people stay home and businesses shut their doors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In Yangon, the country’s largest city, and elsewhere, photos on social media showed normally busy streets were almost empty.

The anniversary has also attracted international attention, especially from Western nations critical of the military takeover, such as the United States.

U.S. President Joe Biden in a statement called for the military to reverse its actions, free the country’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees and engage in meaningful dialogue to return Myanmar on a path to democracy.

The military’s takeover on Feb. 1, 2021, ousted the elected government of Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party was about to begin a second five-year term in office after winning a landslide victory in the previous year’s November election. The military said it acted because there was widespread voter fraud in the polls _ an allegation that independent election observers have said they’ve seen no serious evidence for.

Widespread nonviolent demonstrations followed the army’s takeover initially, but armed resistance arose after protests were put down with lethal force. About 1,500 civilians have been killed but the government has been unable to suppress the insurgency, which some U.N. experts now characterize as a civil war.

The U.S. on Monday imposed new sanctions on Myanmar officials, adding to those already applied to top military officers. They freeze any assets that those targeted may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them. Britain and Canada announced similar measures.

On this day in 1799 …

Ile St. Jean was given royal assent to change its name to Prince Edward Island.

In entertainment …

NEW YORK _ Rihanna and A$AP Rocky took an epic stroll over the weekend in snowy New York to reveal she’s pregnant with her first child.

Despite the frigid temperatures, the 33-year-old “Diamonds” singer and fashion mogul showed off her bump in a long, open, pink, vintage Chanel coat and ripped jeans as her boyfriend beamed by her side in Harlem, which is A$AP’s home neighbourhood.

In one photo, the two hold hands with smiles on their faces. In another, he kisses her forehead. Her bump was well adorned with a long jewelled necklace. The photos were published by People.

Rihanna spoke of motherhood in 2019 at her fifth Diamond Ball in New York City, saying “I’m a Black woman. I came from a Black woman, who came from a Black woman, who came from a Black woman, and I’m going to give birth to a Black woman. It’s a no-brainer. That’s who I am. It’s the core of who I am in spirit and DNA.”

After months of dating rumours, the two publicly transformed their long-standing friendship into a romance during the pandemic. In an interview with GQ magazine in May 2019, A$AP called her “my lady” and “the love of my life.” Of the relationship, the “PMW” rapper spoke of their travels the previous summer in a rented tour bus and how the experience cemented their bond.

Asked what it felt like to be in a relationship after his past as a ladies’ man, he said: “So much better when you got the One. She amounts to probably, like, a million of the other ones. I think when you know, you know. She’s the One.”

He also spoke of having children in the future, telling GQ: “If that’s in my destiny, absolutely. I think I’d be an incredible, remarkably, overall amazing dad. I would have a very fly child.”


OTTAWA _ Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is prepared to fight.

He turned to social media late Monday after a group of his MPs submitted a letter to the party’s caucus chair to hold a leadership review.

In response to what one former caucus supporter said was one-third of his MPs wanting him gone, O’Toole posted: “I’m not going anywhere.”

He wrote that MPs who want him out are confused about what direction to take the Conservative party — which has been a source of concern under O’Toole’s tenure.

O’Toole said there are two roads for the Tories to take. “One is the road of Randy Hillier and Derek Sloan,” he says. “It is angry, negative, and extreme.”

The other road, he writes, is about building a more inclusive party and recognizing the need to change, which has been O’Toole’s message since taking the reins of the party in 2020 and again after last year’s election loss.

“It’s time for a reckoning. To settle this in caucus. Right here. Right now. Once and for all,” said O’Toole.

Wednesday is when caucus is set to meet next. Conservative caucus chair and Ontario MP Scott Reid informed MPs Monday evening that he had received written notice with signatures from at least 20 per cent of members requesting O’Toole’s leadership be reviewed. He said information on a vote, which would have to happen by secret ballot, would be provided within the next day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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