WE Canada's demise and a scaled-down TIFF: In The News for Sept. 10 - InfoNews

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WE Canada's demise and a scaled-down TIFF: In The News for Sept. 10

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference as he unveils plans for greater support for Black businesses, at HXOUSE in Toronto, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
September 10, 2020 - 1:15 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 Sept. 10 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

OTTAWA — The demise of WE's Canadian operations won't take the heat off Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his government's decision to hire the charity to run a now-defunct student volunteer program.

NDP MP Charlie Angus says WE's announcement Wednesday that it is shuttering its Canadian operations only underscores the lack of due diligence done by the government before handing administration of the program over to an organization that was evidently in financial distress.

Two months before the government gave the contract to WE in late June, Angus notes that the organization had laid off hundreds of staff and replaced almost its entire board of directors, which had been denied access to the charity's financial reports.

Angus says WE was "desperate" and cashed in on its connections to Trudeau, his family and his former finance minister, Bill Morneau, in order to persuade them to pay the organization to run the student service grant program.

Trudeau himself has been a featured speaker at half a dozen WE events and his wife, mother and brother have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in expenses and speaking fees.

Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from the decision to pay WE up to $43.5 million to administer the program and are both under investigation by the federal ethics watchdog for possible breaches of the Conflict of Interest Act.

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Also this ...

VANCOUVER — Students in British Columbia are returning to school today, but parents who have opted for online learning fear their kids will lose coveted spots in specialty programs.

Thereisa Reid's daughter Sydney was looking forward to her first day in a new arts and technology program at a middle school in Chilliwack but will be staying home to protect her father's health in case she contracts COVID-19.

Reid says her husband is in remission from testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and kidneys and may need to move to his parents' place in Kamloops if their kids, including two in high school, have to learn in class.

Principals at both schools have said a temporary five-week online learning option is available but Reid says that's too risky for her family, which needs remote instruction for the year as COVID-19 cases increase in B.C.

Parents with children in French immersion say online learning isn't available so keeping their kids at home could mean losing those spots.

Education Minister Rob Fleming says school districts are trying to meet families' needs but B-C Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring says the province should have taken leadership instead of leaving families to make deals for themselves with principals.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

OROVILLE, Calif. — A Northern California wildfire is threatening thousands of homes after winds whipped it into a monster that incinerated houses in a small mountain community and killed at least three people.

The North Complex fire northeast of San Francisco exploded to six times its previous size between Tuesday and Wednesday thanks to gusting winds.

The winds have subsided but only after flames critically burned several people and damaged or destroyed hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and other buildings.

Some 20,000 people are under evacuation orders or warnings in three counties.

Other large fires are burning around the state and the West.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

ATHENS — A second fire in Greece's notoriously overcrowded Moria refugee camp has destroyed nearly everything that had been spared in the original blaze, Greece's migration ministry says, leaving thousands more people in need of emergency housing.

Early this morning, former residents of the country's largest camp, which had been under coronavirus lockdown, returned to the area to pick through the charred remains of their belongings, salvaging what they could.

Many had spent the night sleeping in the open by the side of the road.

Aid agencies have long warned of dire conditions at Moria, where more than 12,500 people were living in and around a facility built to house just over 2,750.

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On this day in 2000 ...

Tiger Woods won the Canadian Open golf championship at Glen Abbey golf course in Oakville, Ont. He became the second golfer (Lee Trevino in 1971) to win the U.S. Open, the British Open and the Canadian Open in the same year.

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News you can use ...

With children going back to school across the country, some infectious disease experts say it's time to rethink our social bubbles to protect our most vulnerable populations from contracting COVID-19.

That could mean veering back to virtual visits for grandma and grandpa, or at the very least, reintroducing distancing and mask-wearing when seeing them.

Dr. Barry Pakes, a public health physician and professor at the University of Toronto, says there is plenty to consider in deciding whether to kick grandparents out of your bubble, including how old your kids are, how big their classes are, and whether their schools are implementing remote or in-person learning.

"It's going to be hard for parents to factor in all those elements and make a decision, but I think the simplest thing is just rethinking how our bubbles are looking and potentially reintroducing more masking and distancing around people who are vulnerable," Pakes said.

"Certainly distancing completely from grandparents is going to be the safest option, but that isn't going to be in the best interest of everybody's mental health."

Most provinces cap social circles or bubbles at 10 people, though some, including Alberta, allow 15. Bubbles are safe in theory if everyone in one bubble agrees to only interact with people in that same circle.

But with children going back to school and interacting with teachers and other students every day, our bubbles are suddenly expanding "almost infinitely," Pakes said.

And while he doesn't think we need to throw bubbles out the window completely, we do need to reassess them.

Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta, agrees, saying the "idea of a bubble still has validity.

"But as that bubble expands, it becomes weaker and weaker. The more individuals in that bubble, the more likely there's going to be a breach. ... And soon the bubble becomes so porous that it really has no protective value at all."

Schwartz says it's a "delicate balance" determining when a bubble has become too expansive, but limiting class size in schools can help it from getting out of control.

"The smaller that bubble, the more hope there is for it to retain its integrity," he said.

Individual families will have to determine the level of risk they're comfortable with when debating excluding grandparents from their social circles, Schwartz said.

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ICYMI ...

VICTORIA — A python that twice escaped from its owner in the Victoria area has not survived its second bid for freedom.

Saanich police say the snake, which was nearly 1.5 metres long, was found Sunday on the lawn of a home.

A police statement says the ball python had been dead for some time.

Police say its owner was contacted and he confirmed the remains were those of the non-venomous snake that slipped out of his backpack as he slept on Aug. 19.

Seven days earlier, it was found under a car near downtown Victoria, several kilometres from where it was reported missing on Aug. 4.

The snake was checked by a veterinarian when it was recaptured last month and was returned to its owner, reportedly in good health.

Ball pythons, sometimes called royal pythons, are the smallest of the non-venomous constrictor pythons found in Africa.

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Entertainment news ...

TORONTO — Broadway percussionist Jacqueline Acevedo says hunkering down for 14 days of self-isolation was worth it to be able to attend tonight's premiere of "David Byrne's American Utopia" at a Toronto drive-in cinema.

The Toronto-born artist returned to Canada to show her support for the Spike Lee-directed concert film she stars in, which kicks off this year's pandemic edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

It's a much smaller version of the usual TIFF, with about 60 features screening over the next week and a half, compared to the usual selection of several hundred.

The socially potent "American Utopia" opens the TIFF festivities in the most unusual way: by playing at three outdoor theatres.

Two of the screens will be drive-in locations while the other is an open-air cinema with a physically distanced audience.

Acevedo plans to attend one of the drive-in screenings, and she says the biggest question for her right now is what kind of evening attire will comfortably fit into her car.

The 45th edition of TIFF runs through Sept. 19, with tickets for virtual screenings available across the country.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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