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Eastern Ontario rail blockade still in place as provincial police keep watch

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TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY, Ont. — A handful of protesters continue to maintain a blockade along a key stretch of railway in eastern Ontario as provincial police face mounting political pressure to remove them.

Officers are on scene at a blockade near Belleville, Ont., but are parked well back from the stretch of track that has been the scene of a demonstration for more than a week.

Protesters erected the blockade in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose a major pipeline project that crosses their traditional territory in northwestern British Columbia.

A court injunction was issued last week ordering the protesters to abandon the blockade, which has shut down passenger and freight service for much of the country.

Ontario provincial police say they’re communicating with protesters in a bid to resolve the situation peacefully, following a framework put in place for managing potential conflicts with Indigenous communities.

An OPP spokesman says exercising police discretion should not be confused with lack of enforcement.

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

The Canadian Press

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Woman returning from Iran is B.C.’s sixth case of new coronavirus

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VANCOUVER — A sixth case of the novel coronavirus has been diagnosed in British Columbia after a woman in her 30s returned to the province from Iran.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the woman’s case is relatively mild and a number of her close contacts have already been put in isolation.

She said health officials are working on a detailed investigation of the woman’s travel and when her symptoms started to help determine if they need to notify those who travelled with her on the same aircraft.

Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus.

“This one, clearly, is a bit unusual in that the travel to Iran is something new,” she told a news conference.

“Iran has recently started reporting cases and we’ll be working with our national and international colleagues to better understand where she may have been exposed to this virus prior to her return to Canada.”

Henry said earlier this week that four of the five people already diagnosed with the virus were symptom free. The fifth person, a woman in her 30s who returned from Shanghai, China, is in isolation at her home in B.C.’s Interior.

Henry said over 500 people have been tested for the virus in B.C. and many of those tested positive for the flu.

Three cases of the virus have also been confirmed in Ontario.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Government needs to produce plan for dealing with veterans’ backlog: Ombudsman

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OTTAWA — Veterans ombudsman Craig Dalton says the federal government should clearly explain how it plans to eliminate a backlog that is keeping thousands of former service members waiting to find out if they qualify for benefits and aid.

The number of unaddressed applications for disability benefits and other assistance continues to grow despite repeated government promises to fix the problem.

Most recently, Veterans Affairs Canada revealed that there were 44,000 applications waiting to be processed at the end of September, which was a 10 per cent increase from six months earlier.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay says eliminating the backlog is his top priority and the department is trying to move files along faster.

Yet Dalton says the government has not laid out a clear plan that includes specific actions and targets.

Dalton also says the government needs to invest more money and resources into tackling the backlog, which he worries is leaving some veterans at greater risk of financial and health problems.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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