Firefighters calendar too hot to handle and anti-pipeline protests; In The News for Feb. 14


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. 14 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Anti-pipeline protests that have severed vital freight and passenger rail links across Canada could heat up today, with the added threat of activists planning to shut down government offices in British Columbia’s capital.

Protests continue as political leaders look to negotiate solutions, while business leaders, opposition politicians and ordinary people call for immediate action to end the disruptions, which have already seen more than 80 arrests.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan spoke Thursday about the need to work together to resolve the pipeline tensions that have resulted in solidarity blockades in Ontario, Manitoba and B.C.

Indigenous leaders in B.C.’s northwest have invited federal and B.C. politicians to meetings to find solutions.

The Indigenous leaders have said they would ensure a blockade of CN Rail track near New Hazelton, B.C., would come down during talks.

Canadian National Railway said Thursday it was starting a progressive shutdown in the East, while Via Rail cancelled all service on CN tracks in Canada. 

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said safe and efficient passenger and freight rail service is critical to Canada’s well-being.

He is to meet with his provincial and territorial counterparts as well as representatives of national Indigenous organizations to discuss a way forward.

Also this …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will address the Munich Security Conference today and urge global leaders to accept that a changing world requires more effort to bring economic prosperity for all.

Trudeau’s speech comes after he spent the last week in Africa and Kuwait, where he said several times that improving access to education and providing hope for young people will go a long way to keeping youth from turning to militancy.

It also comes after what he has called a tumultuous month for the globe, with the rise of tensions between the United States and Iran in early January, the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner by an Iranian missile and the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has now killed more than 1,000 people and infected more than 42,000.

Both the Iran-U.S. relationship and the coronavirus will be high on the agenda for the three-day conference, though Trudeau will attend only on Friday.

World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week the coronavirus, called COVID-19, is “public enemy No. 1,” with a potentially bigger impact than any act of terrorism.

Before delivering his speech, Trudeau meets with a U.S. congressional delegation led by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as the prime ministers of Niger and Albania and the president of Kazakhstan.

Trudeau is continuing Canada’s campaign for votes for a temporary seat on the powerful United Nations Security Council. His trip to Africa was planned in large part to help that campaign and he met more than a dozen African leaders over the last week.


What we are watching in the U.S. …

The Justice Department has added new criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and two of its U.S. subsidiaries, accusing the company in a plot to steal trade secrets from competitors in America, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

The case comes as the Trump administration is raising national security concerns about Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, and is lobbying Western allies against including the company in wireless, high-speed networks.

The new indictment brought by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn adds to the legal woes in the U.S. for Huawei, which already faced bank fraud charges in that district and a separate trade secrets theft in federal court in Seattle.

The latest allegations accuse Huawei of plotting to steal the trade secrets and intellectual property of rival companies in the U.S. In some cases, prosecutors said, Huawei directed and provided incentives its own employees to steal from competitors by offering bonuses to those who brought in the most valuable stolen information.

The company also used proxies, including professors at research institutions, to steal intellectual property, prosecutors said.

A lawyer for Huawei did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

China reported a surge in deaths and infections from a new virus Thursday after changing the way the count is tallied, further clouding an epidemic that has stirred fear as it spread to more than two dozen countries.

The spike came after two days in which the number of new cases dropped and brought little clarity for those desperate to understand the trajectory of the outbreak.

“What we need is some consistency over time to give us an idea of what’s actually happening,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in the United States. “Is transmission happening or is it not?”

The answer has proved frustratingly elusive despite the official reports.

The death toll in China from the disease known as COVID-19 reached 1,367, up 254 from a day earlier, and the number of confirmed cases jumped to 59,804, up 15,152.

ICYMI (In case you missed it) …

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — An Ontario city is telling firefighters to turn down the heat on their steamy charity calendar or risk losing municipal backing for the fundraiser.

Members of the St. Catharines Fire Combat Team strip down to their overalls for the annual calendar to raise money for a good cause.

But now city officials say firefighters have to cover up or take off their uniforms, because municipal resources can’t be used for bare-chested photo shoots of employees.

The deputy chief administrative officer insists the no shirts, no city services directive isn’t about discouraging charity, but ensuring “respect and dignity in the workplace.”

David Oakes says the policy was prompted by an investigation into an internal complaint about a calendar featuring partially undressed women being displayed in a municipal setting. 

The president of the St. Catharines Professional Firefighters Association calls the city’s decision unfortunate, and says they’ve never received any complaints about the combat team’s calendar.

Ryan Madill says last year’s calendar helped raise $18,000 for mental health services in St. Catharines, and also serves as a “morale booster” for the firefighters involved.

Weird and wild …

SASKATOON — It’s not quite the sound of silence, but residents of Saskatoon might sleep more peacefully now that the city has replaced backup alarms on some of its maintenance vehicles.

The city says the conventional, high-pitched “beep, beep beep” of the alarms can be disturbing — especially at night when a lot of snow-clearing, road-repair and street-sweeping equipment operates.

Noise complaints from residents led the city to put in new “white noise” backup alarms on 17 maintenance vehicles.

The new alarms emit a pulsing “psssht-psssht” sound directed at the rear of the equipment.

Roadways director Goran Saric says the alarms still alert workers and pedestrians, but don’t blast the noise in all directions.

He says the city is thinking about retrofitting more equipment with the low-impact alarms.

“Now we can still get our work done safely with less disruption to residents,” Saric said in a release Thursday.

“As we gain more experience with the white-noise alarms, we may include the requirement for this type of backup alarm in some of our contracts for winter maintenance work.”

Know your news …

The Tragically Hip bassist Gord Sinclair is to release his solo album at the end of the month. What is the album called?

(Keep scrolling for the answer)

On this day in 1996 …

“Mr. Dressup,” the CBC children show starring Ernie Coombs, taped its last episode after 29 years.

Health news …

TORONTO — The Ontario Ministry of Health says it’s working with manufacturers of medical masks to address shortage concerns expressed by dentists in light of the new coronavirus outbreak,

A memo sent to the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario last week says the ministry is aware some orders of personal protective equipment, which dentists need to wear during any routine dental procedure, are backlogged. 

It added that it is “working with health sector partners…manufacturers and supply chain organizations” and that it was “following up to make sure critical shortages are addressed.”

The ministry did not respond to a request for comment from The Canadian Press.

Fear surrounding a new type of coronavirus dubbed COVID-19 that’s rapidly spreading in China has prompted a rush from the public to stockpile the protective gear, despite advice from Canadian health authorities that they are not effective for healthy people.

“There are a lot of people wearing masks who don’t need to wear masks,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a press conference earlier this week, adding the government was tracking the situation.

“Canada does have a stockpile (of masks) for domestic use and we have enough supply as we understand the outbreak right now,” she said. “There are some rumblings around a supply chain shortage and we’re monitoring that very carefully.”

Entertainment news …

TORONTO — As she releases her romantic drama “The Photograph” in theatres today, Canadian filmmaker Stella Meghie is hoping it will spur more films like it.

Issa Rae stars as a New York art gallery curator who learns about her father and late mother’s past while also forging a romance with a journalist, played by Lakeith Stanfield.

The two meet in a serendipitous way while Stanfield’s character is on assignment for a story that ends up having ties to her character.

Meghie says there’s a dearth of black love stories like this getting big-screen releases by Hollywood studios, and she feels the magnitude of that as “The Photograph” comes out on Valentine’s Day and during Black History Month.

“I love these movies, I want to see more,” says Meghie, who grew up in Oshawa, Ont.

“It’s important that it does well, so that it can send a message to the industry that these movies are wanted and will do well and speak for an audience.”

Meghie wrote, directed and co-executive produced “The Photograph.” She previously made a splash with the 2018 comedy “The Weekend,” the 2017 romantic drama “Everything, Everything,” and her 2016 debut indie feature “Jean of the Joneses.”

Know your news answer …

 “Taxi Dancers” is to be released on Feb. 28.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press