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Protesters prepare to rally in Toronto against anti-black, Indigenous racism

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 11:37
TORONTO - A rally is set to take place in Toronto today in protest of what organizers describe as anti-black and anti-Indigenous racism around the world. The protest, organized by a group dubbed Not Another Black Life, comes on the heels of high-profile, police-involved deaths in both Canada and the United States. A Minnesota police officer is now facing a murder charge in the death of George Floyd, a black man caught on film pleading for air as an officer knelt on his neck. And Ontario's Special Investigations Unit is looking into the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from the balcony of a 24th-floor Toronto apartment while police were in the home on Wednesday.   A lawyer representing Korchinski-Paquet's family says her relatives do not want to see violence, only answers as to how and why she died. In a statement released Saturday, lawyer Knia Singh says the family did not organize or plan the protest. The family says it thanks organizers for bringing attention to a "very serious matter." Toronto Mayor John Tory called the community's anger over her death understandable, describing anti-black racism as "a fact in our society" and encouraging protesters gathering this afternoon to practice physical distancing in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2020.   The Canadian Press

UN sets pandemic voting rules for Canada’s Security Council campaign

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 10:03
OTTAWA - The United Nations has confirmed that the election for non-permanent seats on the Security Council - which pits Canada against Norway and Ireland - will take place in June under unprecedented new rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The 193 ambassadors will cast their votes on behalf of their countries in a secret ballot with the three candidates vying for two available temporary seats on the UN's most powerful body. But the vote won't take place during a full meeting of the General Assembly because New York has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak and that has forced UN diplomats to work from home and rely on videoconferencing. Instead, the ambassadors will be notified in advance to come to a designated venue at UN headquarters - a staggered, solitary procession that will see the world's leading diplomats presenting their UN security passes and then being given paper ballots.  The ambassadors will be assigned different time slots to come to the UN to cast their ballots to avoid a mass gathering during the pandemic. The details were released in a memo that has been under consideration by the UN ambassadors for more than a week, and that carried a Friday-night deadline to reach a consensus. "Enabling the (General Assembly) to carry out its essential duties is one of my top priorities during this challenging time," Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, the Nigerian diplomat currently serving as the president of the General Assembly, said in a tweet on Friday night.  Marc-Andre Blanchard, Canada's ambassador to the UN, said the country is ready for a June vote if it can be done in a safe way and carried out with respect for UN voting rules. "This is uncharted territory. This has never been done," Blanchard said in a recent interview. "We need to make sure the institutions are actually adapted to this reality," he added. "This is not a military war we are facing. It's a health-care crisis and the biggest economic and financial crisis that we have seen since 1929." The vote was originally set for June 17. The new rules do not specify exactly when the ballot will occur, other than sometime in the month. Two of the competing countries will need at least 128 votes each, or two-thirds support of the assembly, to win a two year-term that would begin next year. That could mean multiple rounds of voting. Blanchard said he expected the race to be hotly contested in the "Western European and Others Group," the most competitive of the UN's geographic blocs, where Canada faces formidable opponents. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been courting the support of large voting blocs in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean because European countries are expected to rally around Norway and Ireland. This past week, Trudeau co-hosted a major UN meeting on rebuilding the global economy after the pandemic. Canada is running on a platform of trying to help rebuild the post-pandemic world. In a joint press video press conference with Trudeau, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tacitly endorsed Canada's ability to convene larger groups of countries to serve the greater international good - a key plank in Canada's platform for the council. Blanchard wouldn't say how much support Canada has been able to garner, but the secret balloting process in the UN has been notorious for deception that has seen countries promise support but take it away when an ambassador casts his or her secret vote. Blanchard said Canada's campaign for the council rests on what it has been doing to help fight the pandemic. That includes convening like-minded countries to ensure food security in developing countries, keeping vital supply chains open across the globe, and working on new financing models to help struggling countries whose economies have been devastated by the pandemic. "In other parts of the world, one of the biggest threats is access to food at this time of pandemic when the supply chain is disrupted, where there's no transportation," said Blanchard. Canada hopes to bridge the differences on the security council - where permanent members Russia and China have been at odds with the U.S., Britain and France - by proposing they all work together towards a common good: the need to elevate economic conditions in all countries after the pandemic. Canada lost its last bid for a security council seat in 2010 when tiny Portugal won more support. Canada had previously served six stints on the council, one each in the six previous decades. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2020. Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Federal officer killed in shooting at California courthouse

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 09:49
OAKLAND, Calif. - A federal contract security officer was killed and another injured in a shooting outside the U.S. courthouse in Oakland, the FBI said Saturday. A vehicle pulled up outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building at about 9:45 p.m. Friday and someone opened fire at the contract security officers who worked for the Federal Protective Service of the Department of Homeland Security, authorities said. The identities of the officers were not released and there was no word on the condition of the wounded officer. The officers protect federal court houses as part of their regular duties. The shooting happened less than a half-mile from the Oakland Police headquarters where demonstrators gathered to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Some demonstrators smashed windows, vandalized stores stopped traffic on a freeway and set fires. Police said several officers were struck by objects and responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. The federal building's glass doors were smashed and the front entrance was sprayed with anti-police graffiti. The Associated Press

Two men arrested in Avenue L garage fire

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 09:29
Saskatoon police arrested a 20-year-old man and a 22-year-old man after they ran from the scene of a suspicious fire. Firefighters responded to the fire on the 200 block of Avenue L South around 11:30 p.m. Friday. The building was fully involved when they arrived and was brought under control in 15 minutes. A fire investigator determined the fire was intentionally set. It caused approximately $8,000 in damage. Saskatoon police charged the 20-year-old with arson and failing to comply with a court order. The 22-year-old faces arson and possession of a controlled substance charges.

‘What do we do now?’ Labour dispute at Regina refinery nears 6 months

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 08:36
REGINA - For Dean Funke, getting hired at Regina’s Co-op oil refinery felt like winning the lottery. “For a blue-collar worker, you can't get better than the refinery. And it's always been that way,” he told The Canadian Press. Born and raised in Saskatchewan’s capital, Funke had worked in Alberta’s oilpatch but the refinery job allowed him to stay home and put down roots. Nearly a decade later, the process-operator-turned-picket-captain wonders what he might do next as a dragging labour dispute between the refinery and his union nears the six-month mark. "They're hard conversations. What do we do now? Go get another skill, I guess, is my option, so go back to school?” he said. "Maybe this isn't where we're going to finish our careers. Hopefully it is, but you never know." About 700 unionized workers were locked out by refinery owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., on Dec. 5 after they took a strike vote. One of the most contentious issues were proposed changes to employee pensions because of costs to the company. “Negotiators from FCL have indicated they are prepared for prolonged job action,” reads a briefing note prepared for Saskatchewan’s deputy minister of labour relations earlier this year. It was released to The Canadian Press under freedom-of-information legislation. Over the winter, Unifor members blocked access to the refinery, which led to fines, court hearings and police arrests. Mischief charges were laid against 14 people, including the union’s national president, Jerry Dias. “Co-op won’t return to the table unless Unifor removes the barricades, i.e stops breaking the law. Unifor won’t remove the barricades unless the Co-op removes all replacement workers. I think they call that a Mexican standoff,” a labour relations official wrote in an email at the time. Premier Scott Moe appointed veteran labour mediator Vince Ready, who made recommendations that were accepted by workers, but not the company. In turn, the refinery owner put forward its final offer, which members rejected. About 200 replacement workers and 350 managers are keeping the plant running, said the company. "This is labour relations at its most brutal,” said Scott Walsworth, a business professor at the University of Saskatchewan. "This is kind of the threat that holds labour relations together - that you'd better work things out and keep a good relationship with the other side or else you'll end up like the refinery." Walsworth, who’s also an arbitrator, believes the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown has swung the pendulum of public support towards the company. "It's hard to manufacture sympathy in this kind of a climate, when so many people are out of work." The refinery has cut oil production because of low prices and a drop in demand. Walsworth said it makes it a convenient time not to be paying employees. The crisis has also created expectations for employers to be sympathetic and not to put profits before people, he added. “I don't think Co-op wants to get on the wrong side of that momentum." In a statement, Co-op spokesman Brad DeLorey said the company hopes Unifor reconsiders the final offer, which he said exceeds compensation at other Canadian refineries. Co-op has criticized Unifor for trying to disrupt the fuel supply of farmers busy with spring seeding by picketing cardlocks. Unifor Local 594 president Kevin Bittman said the pandemic makes it tough for the union to get its message out when members can’t meet in person or rally in large groups. He also said the company’s demands have been met and there’s nothing left to bargain. The Opposition NDP has joined the union in calling on the Saskatchewan Party government to intervene and legislate binding arbitration. Premier Scott Moe, calling the dispute a fight between a private company and a union, has rejected the idea. Walsworth said under provincial labour laws, the government can’t force a private employer into binding arbitration unless the case can be made that society is in danger. If the refinery owner says its equipment and those living around the plant are safe - and without evidence to prove otherwise - “it's a pretty tough case to make that the government should step in." Without both sides consenting to binding arbitration or the appointment of another mediator, which the government isn't considering, the waiting continues. "How do you break this stalemate?” asked Walsworth. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2020 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press