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Court martial planned for soldier who criticized vaccine mandate, led march to Ottawa

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By Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

The Canadian soldier who recently led a protest march to Ottawa is now facing a court martial for having spoken out against the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements while wearing his uniform.

Warrant Officer James Topp was recently notified that he will be allowed to have his case heard in a military court instead of by his chain of command, according to the army reservist’s civilian lawyer.

Phillip Millar says the decision represents a second about-face after the military initially offered his client a court martial when he was charged in February, only to rescind the offer and send his case to Topp’s unit commanders.

“It’s hard to know what they’re doing, because I don’t think they really know what they’re doing,” said Millar. “But now they’re saying it’s a court martial.”

The decision raises the stakes for Topp, according to military law experts, as courts martial are allowed to impose heavier sentences against Armed Forces members than if they are tried by their chain of command in what is known as a summary trial.

Yet it also means he will be allowed to have legal representation at trial, which wouldn’t have necessarily been the case if he was tried by his commanding officer, while his trial will receive much more public attention.

“The stakes are obviously going to be increased in a public-relations context,” said retired lieutenant-colonel Rory Fowler, who is now a lawyer specializing in military law in Kingston, Ont.

The Department of National Defence did not respond to questions about whether Topp’s case was changed from a court martial to summary trial and back again.

Topp was charged in February with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline after the army reservist appeared in uniform in two online videos criticizing vaccine requirements for military personnel and other federal employees.

Canadian Armed Forces members are severely restricted in the comments they can make while in uniform, particularly when it comes to criticizing government policies, in large part to protect the military from any perception of politicization.

Topp, who is now in the process of being released from the military, later led a months-long march from Vancouver that ended in Ottawa last week and was supported by many of the same organizers as this year’s “Freedom Convoy.”

He has since become a symbol of sorts for Canadians opposed to vaccines, vaccine mandates and perceived government overreach. Some Conservative MPs have also hitched their wagon to him, including leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre.

While Millar questioned the military’s back and forth with his client, and said he planned to question the way Topp’s charges were handled, he nonetheless welcomed the latest decision to allow a court martial.

That is because Topp will now be allowed to have a lawyer present during his trial, where Millar said he plans to call expert witnesses to question the need and efficacy of the military’s vaccine requirement.

The requirement imposed by chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre late last year remains in place even though a similar mandate for most other federal public servants has now been suspended.

“It opens the door for us to call witnesses about the decision to charge him,” Millar said. “It opens the door for us to call experts on whether or not there was any science behind the mandate.”

While the shift from a summary trial back to a court martial means Topp will be afforded an independent trial with legal representation, Fowler said it also means the army reservist faces potentially stiffer penalties if convicted.

Under a summary trial, commanding officers are largely restricted to handing down reprimands and fines. If he is found guilty by court martial, however, Topp faces the threat of dismissal from the military with disgrace and up to two years in prison.

Retired colonel Michel Drapeau said while there may be a number of reasons why the military opted to change the case from a summary trial back to a court martial, he believed the latter was the appropriate venue for hearing Topp’s case.

“It provides for a trial in an open court with all Charter legal guarantees,” Drapeau said in an email. “It also provides for the provision of free legal support to the member.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

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Alberta

AUDITOR GENERAL MUST INVESTIGATE CASH BONUS SCHEME: NDP

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From the Alberta NDP

Alberta’s NDP is requesting the Auditor General investigate the UCP government’s process for pandemic management bonuses as new bonus pay policies were only recently approved in March.

According to CBC News, the Government of Alberta paid out $2.4 million in extra compensation to Government of Alberta managers in 2021 for work related to the pandemic.

An updated “Extra or special services compensation directive” was approved by the Alberta Public Service Commission in March 2022, reporting to then-finance minister Travis Toews. The directive includes two processes for lump-sum payouts, one that requires Treasury Board approval and one that does not.

The directive   on the website in February. The creation of a more recent compensation directive suggests considerable effort went into reviewing the policy, raising questions as to how Toews could possibly have no knowledge of the management bonus structure prior to media reports.

“For many Albertans, including members of our caucus who have served as ministers and on Treasury Board, MLA Toews’ claims defy belief,” wrote Alberta NDP Finance Critic Shannon Phillips in a letter to Auditor General Doug Wylie.

“Not only did he have ministerial authority over the policy, but such significant payments, on such a widespread scale, would — as a standard operating procedure — be brought to the attention of the Minister or be considered by the Treasury Board Committee as whole for their appropriateness.”

The Alberta NDP is asking the Auditor General to investigate the following questions:

  1. Was then Minister of Finance Travis Toews ever briefed on COVID bonus pay? And likewise, did the then Minister verbally approve of these payments? Was the Treasury Board Committee of Cabinet ever informed of these payments, either as an item For Decision or For Information?
  2. Was the policy on management bonus pay followed appropriately, during the fiscal year in question?
  3. As the directive on “Extra or special services compensation directive” was reviewed and updated under former Minister Toews, what role did he play in its development and approval? Likewise, what was the timeline on updating this directive?
  4. Did any members of the political staff, in either the Premier’s Office or a Minister’s Office receive bonus payments for COVID19 related actions, which were not in alignment with their employment contract?
  5. In addition to the extraordinary bonus payments paid in 2021, how many bonus payments were made thus far in 2022?

——

Letter sent by NDP Finance Critic Shannon Phillips to Alberta Auditor General Doug Wylie

Dear Mr. Wylie,

I am writing to request a performance audit of the Government of Alberta’s bonus payment structure and process related to the COVID-19 pandemic response, and in particular, the actions of the President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.

As you are likely aware, and as originally reported by the CBC, the Chief Medical Officer of Health received $227,911 in cash benefits in calendar year 2021 on top of her regular salary of $363,634. While this bonus amounted to 63 per cent of her base pay – or roughly $19,000 per month – media has also reported an additional 106 government employees received supplemental bonus pay.

By all indications, the scale and scope of these bonus payments are unique in Alberta’s history, and are out of line with other provinces who faced similar pandemic demands and challenges.

According to responses provided to media by the government, the Public Service Commission overseen by then-Minister of Finance Travis Toews was responsible for the bonus payment policy, and the payments made to these employees..

Subsequent to these bonus payments becoming public and entering the public conversation, former Minister Toews stated on Aug. 2 through a campaign spokesperson, that he did not authorize or have knowledge of these payments.

On Aug. 3, Mr. Toews promised that, as Premier, no bonuses would be paid “without a ministerial signature.” The implication of this commitment was that the Minister responsible for the bonus payments was, at the time, entirely in the dark.

For many Albertans, including members of our caucus who have served as ministers and on Treasury Board, MLA Toews’ claims defy belief. Not only did he have ministerial authority over the policy, but such significant payments, on such a widespread scale, would – as a standard operating procedure – be brought to the attention of the Minister or be considered by the Treasury Board Committee as whole for their appropriateness.

I am mindful that the Government of Alberta’s “Extra or special services compensation directive” (henceforth referred to as the “directive”) under which these officials were compensated was last reviewed and updated in March 2022. As such, it does not appear reasonable that the Minister responsible would not be aware and actively involved in the directives’ development and approval, and I should note that the directive does not require a ministers’ signature for the paying of bonuses. I also note with interest that the directive was not on the government’s website as of February 2022, suggesting that considerable thought went into policy for the provision of extraordinary bonus payments after 2021, and that the new directive would allow for similar payments in 2022.

Perhaps more importantly, the directive “provides the criteria and approach to the application of lump sum payments.” While there appears to be two types of lump sum payments under this directive, at least one requires Treasury Board approval. Given the threshold of Treasury Board approval under this directive, is it not reasonable to conclude that any lump sum payments to such a large group of officials would not be brought to the attention of the minister responsible.
Furthermore, I am mindful that former Minister Toews, during calendar year 2021, was actively involved in public sector bargaining and compensation, and brought forward to cabinet changes to management compensation in the core public service (see for example, Order in Council 338/2021). The record indicates that the former Minister was deeply involved in compensation issues, including for specific employees, and therefore Albertans are rightly skeptical of his
current claims of ignorance on the COVID bonus payment issue.

In June 2022, you released a report into the activities of then Minister Toews, and Treasury Board and Finance, into the lack of accountability for $4 billion in COVID19 spending during fiscal year 2020-21.

As bonuses are generally paid at the end of the year, and as part of your further performance audit work into COVID19 spending for fiscal year 2021-2022, we are requesting that you investigate and report on the following issues:

1. Was then Minister of Finance Travis Toews ever briefed on COVID bonus pay? And likewise, did the then Minister verbally approve of these payments? Was the Treasury Board Committee of Cabinet ever informed of these payments, either as an item For Decision or For Information?

2. Was the policy on management bonus pay followed appropriately, during the fiscal year in question?

3. As the directive on “Extra or special services compensation directive” was reviewed and updated under former Minister Toews, what role did he play in its development and approval? Likewise, what was the timeline on updating this directive?

4. Did any members of the political staff, in either the Premier’s Office or a Minister’s Office receive bonus payments for COVID19 related actions, which were not in alignment with their employment contract?

5. In addition to the extraordinary bonus payments paid in 2021, how many bonus payments were made thus far in 2022?

The issue of the appropriateness of bonus pay for selected officials during the COVID19 response has generated significant discussion amongst Albertans. More importantly, the role of ministerial oversight and competency has also been called into question on this matter. Given the opaqueness of the Government of Alberta’s responses to legitimate public inquiries, we are asking for your assistance.

At present, only your office has the authority to investigate and answer the public’s questions. We strongly believe that the aforementioned issues warrant your immediate attention, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Shannon Phillips
NDP Official Opposition Finance Critic
MLA for Lethbridge-West

 

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Brownstone Institute

Vaccines Will Not and Cannot Make this Virus Endemic

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President Joe Biden’s repeated COVID-19 diagnosis is the latest data point showing our government’s “vaccine only” approach needs an immediate course correction. If four doses of a vaccine cannot protect the leader of the free world from infection, it is time to consider other tactics.

These measures should include generic medicines that have been dismissed by the mainstream medical community and media.

While Americans across the ideological spectrum wish the president recovery, we must take this moment to acknowledge that a strategy blindly focused on vaccinations is not getting the job done.

Don’t take my word for it. Use Biden’s own standard for success. Exactly one year before testing positive, the President declared, “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” Back then, the seven-day average of new cases in the United States was around 50,000. Today, that number is estimated to be between 300,000-500,000 when considering ubiquitous and uncounted home testing, despite two-thirds of the population considered “fully vaccinated” by the CDC.

Yet the push for vaccines from the administration has continued unabated. Following Biden’s diagnosis, the White House tried to take a political victory lap. In their first press briefing following news of the diagnosis, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed the president’s vaccination status as, “what’s most important here.”

As a lifelong Democrat and medical doctor who has helped more than 700 patients recover from COVID-19 and its complications, I have seen the effectiveness of other treatment options with my own eyes. Take for instance, fluvoxamine, an inexpensive generic medicine typically associated with depression treatment. It costs $4 per pill, is readily available at pharmacies, and has demonstrated an effectiveness combating COVID-19 in large, randomized, controlled trials published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Lancet.

Yet two years after this data appeared, fluvoxamine is still getting the cold shoulder from the medical gatekeepers. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institutes of Health do not recommend its use against COVID-19.

Furthermore, medical professionals who deviate from the party line are callously dismissed by mainstream media outlets such as NPR, as “fringe medical doctors, natural healers and internet personalities ready to push unproven cures for COVID.”

Science and medicine are always changing for the better. Consider the incredible shifts in the landscape that occurred between the current president contracting the novel coronavirus and his predecessor. In October 2020, there were limited options available for President Donald Trump. Less than two years later, a nearly 80-year-old president was presumed to be on a path toward recovery on the day of his diagnosis.

Progress is a wonderful thing, but it’s only possible with an attitude of open-mindedness that challenges the status quo. Doctors and innovators should be incentivized to pursue and explore new and different approaches. Instead, we are being forced to adopt a group think or risk suffering the wrath of the establishment, or worse, loss of livelihood.

The powerful American Board of Internal Medicine, a sprawling organization with certification authority, has been issuing threatening letters to board-certified physicians with exemplary careers, accusing them of “misinformation” when their public assessments of the efficacy of generic, repurposed therapies contradict those of federal health agencies.

To be sure, demonstrably false “misinformation” can be dangerous, and a topic worthy of discussion. But with overwhelming evidence to support the statements in question, advocating different courses of action toward COVID-19 is far from misinformation. In fact, the suggestion from the White House that the vaccine lessened Biden’s symptoms more closely meets the standard for misinformation since it is an impossible standard to prove.

Of all people, Biden should be open to new ideas. He was elected with a clear mandate to implement a fresh approach toward the pandemic. Two summers ago, he castigated his predecessor, saying, “the president still does not have a plan.” He went on to say, “More than 170,000 Americans have died — by far the worst performance of any nation on Earth.”

Today, that number has — sadly — topped 1 million. Many more lives have been lost on this president’s watch than the last one. These are sobering statistics. Biden has fallen short of promise to “shut down” the virus.

It’s clear COVID-19 is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. How we address it is up to us. Now is the time for a change in approach. Let’s hope our elected leaders and medical professionals take heed.

Author

Pierre Kory is a Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist, Teacher/Researcher. He is also the President and Chief Medical Officer of the non-profit organization Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance whose mission is to develop the most effective, evidence/expertise-based COVID-19 treatment protocols.

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