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Vaccine passports, wildfire smoke blows across Canada : In The News for July 20, 2021

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 July 20 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

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 July 20 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

A new poll suggests a majority of Canadians say proof of vaccination should be required of all essential and non-essential travellers.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents to an online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies say travellers should be required to show a document that proves they are immunized against the novel coronavirus.

The poll suggests 48 per cent of Canadians support the total reopening of the Canada-U. S. border at the end of August, including to tourists, while 52 per cent say they oppose the reopening.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says Canadians are divided on the issues of requiring travellers to show proof of vaccination and reopening the borders.

"(They are) divided in a way that, I think, gives some flexibility to Ottawa when making decisions, because there is no hard consensus on either side," he said.

He says the survey shows that Canadians are also split almost in half on whether they are comfortable in engaging in social activities.

The online poll of more than 1,500 adult Canadians was carried out July 16 to 18 and it cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based surveys are not considered random samples.

Federal officials announced yesterday that fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be allowed into Canada as of August 9, joined by the rest of the world September 7.


Also this ...

Environment Canada has issued special air quality advisories across the country as smoke from wildfires in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwest Ontario causes poor air quality and reduced visibility.

Advisories for southern Ontario and some regions of southern Quebec were issued late Monday afternoon and include the cities of Toronto and Ottawa. A smog warning as a result of the fires was issued for Montreal.

The advisories for southern Ontario further warn that high levels of air pollution due to smoke are possible.

Air quality statements remain in effect across Western Canada.

Environment Canada says conditions in Ontario and Quebec are expected to improve Tuesday with the passage of a cold front.

However, the agency says there are no signs of any major weather systems staying put in parts of the Prairies or British Columbia to help extinguish flames or clear the smoke.


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

A Florida man who breached the U.S. Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag has received an eight-month prison term.

It was the first resolution for a felony case in the Capitol insurrection.

Prosecutors wanted Paul Allard Hodgkins to serve 18 months behind bars, saying he and other Jan. 6 rioters “contributed to the collective threat to democracy.”

A lawyer for Hodgkins asked the judge at his Monday sentencing in Washington, D.C., not to impose a prison sentence. Hodgkins was never accused of assaulting anyone or damaging property.

Hodgkins pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing an official proceeding and apologized Monday, saying he made a ”foolish decision.”

In pronouncing the sentence on Paul Allard Hodgkins, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said the 38-year-old had played a role, if not as significant as others, in one of the worst episodes in American history. Thousands of rioters loyal to then-president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol and disrupted the certification of Joe Biden's election win, in a stunning display of public violence.

“That was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a protest,” Moss said. “It was … an assault on democracy.”

Moss acknowledged Hodgkins’ sentence could set a benchmark for future cases. And deciding an appropriate punishment was made more challenging because the case is unique and the court couldn’t look to previous sentencings as a guide.

More than 500 people have been charged so far for their participation in the attack, and many like Hodgkins were accused of serious crimes but were not indicted, as some others were, for roles in larger conspiracies. They will have to decide whether to plead guilty or go to trial.


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

BERLIN — German officials defended their actions ahead of last week’s devastating floods that caught many towns by surprise but they conceded that lessons still need to be learned from the disaster.

As floodwaters receded Monday, authorities continued a search for more victims and intensified efforts to clean up a sodden swath of western Germany, eastern Belgium and the Netherlands.

Weather officials had forecast the downpours that led to even small rivers swelling at vast speed, but warnings of potentially catastrophic damage didn’t appear to have found their way to many in the affected areas.

So far, 117 people have been confirmed dead in the worst-affected German region, Rhineland-Palatinate, while 47 were killed in the neighbouring state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and at least one in Bavaria, parts of which saw heavy rain and flooding over the weekend. The death toll in Belgium was 31.

Authorities said they were likely to find more victims among destroyed homes.

Federal and state authorities faced criticism from some opposition politicians over the disaster, which comes as a national election looms in September. But Interior Minister Horst Seehofer dismissed suggestions that federal officials had made mistakes and said warnings were passed to local authorities “who make decisions on disaster protection.”

“I have to say that some of the things I’m hearing now are cheap election rhetoric,” Seehofer said during a visit to the Steinbach Reservoir in western Germany, where authorities say they no longer fear a dam breach. “Now really isn’t the hour for this.”

Seehofer underlined that message during a visit Monday to Bad Neuenahr, in the worst-hit area, but said authorities will have to draw lessons once the immediate relief phase is over.

“Wherever we can improve anything — in alarms, in equipment ... we must do so,” he said. “We owe that to the families who have been affected, and above all to the victims.”


On this day in 1975 ...

Fire destroyed the main street of Springhill, N.S., demolishing 25 buildings and causing damage estimated at more than $3 million.


In entertainment ...

TORONTO — When early chatter about COVID-19 began circulating through the music industry, Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies feared what it would mean for live concerts.

Having more than three decades of experience in the band, the singer-songwriter said he couldn’t imagine thousands of people gathering at shows while a mysterious virus raged.

"I knew right away that my industry would be the last thing to return," he said in a recent interview.

And so Robertson and his bandmates — Jim Creeggan, Tyler Stewart and Kevin Hearn — began mapping out a year that sent them on many detours.

They postponed their ominously titled Last Summer on Earth 2020 North American tour and set their sights on saving another potential victim of the pandemic: their 16th studio album, which was released last week.

Started early last year, in the depths of winter at Robertson's cottage near Peterborough, Ont., the project was partially finished when a brief hiatus for March break turned into an indefinite lockdown with their families.

Being forced to hit pause wound up being a "blessing in disguise," Robertson said.

"It afforded us the luxury of time to really listen to what we had and think about directions we could take."

When they reunited months later at Toronto's Noble Street Studios to finish the project, they blended "organic, live off-the-floor" songs recorded at the cottage with new tracks laid down in a more polished professional space.



HALIFAX — A new marine robot will be used to help monitor and protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The underwater glider is part of a fleet of gliders operated by the Ocean Tracking Network and Dalhousie University in connection with a $3.6-million project spanning the next five years.

The University of New Brunswick and Transport Canada are also partners.

Fred Whoriskey of the Ocean Tracking Network says the newest glider will carry a hydrophone that can identify the calls of the right whales and report their locations in order to prevent ships from colliding with the animals.

Scientists estimate there are fewer that 400 of the whales left in existence.

Whoriskey says he believes his team's research, which includes analyzing the animals' movements, will help the species bounce back.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2021

The Canadian Press

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