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Federal minister, B.C. premier try for meetings with chiefs over blockades

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Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and British Columbia Premier John Horgan are working to arrange meetings with Indigenous leaders in an effort to halt blockades of rail lines that have choked Canada’s economy.

Miller wrote a letter to three chiefs in Ontario regarding a protest on Tyendinaga Mohawk traditional territory that has halted freight and passenger traffic between Toronto and Montreal. He offered to meet at a location of their choice on Saturday.

“My request, that I ask you kindly to consider, is to discontinue the protest and barricade of the train tracks as soon as practicable. As you well know, this is a highly volatile situation and the safety of all involved is of the utmost importance to me,” Miller said in the email, a copy of which he posted publicly Thursday morning.

“I hope you will agree to this request and that we can meet in the spirit of peace and co-operation that should guide our relationship.”

Horgan also publicly released a letter Thursday addressed to Simogyet Spookw, who also goes by Norman Stephens, a chief of the Gitxsan Nation in B.C. In the letter, the premier thanked the chief for reaching out to his office to propose a meeting with hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Nation.

“I confirm our government’s willingness to participate in such a meeting,” Horgan said, adding that his office has urged the federal government to respond as quickly as possible to the proposal.

“I understand that on receipt of this letter and a similar commitment from Canada, the blockade of the CN line will be removed to allow for a period of calm and peaceful dialogue.”

A spokesman for the premier’s office confirmed that Horgan is referring to a blockade set up near New Hazelton, B.C.

Stephens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Blockade organizers across Canada have said they’re acting in solidarity with those opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation near Houston, B.C.

Blockades were erected after the RCMP enforced a court injunction last week against Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who had been stopping construction of the pipeline, a key part of a $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export project.

Miller’s offer comes after the Assembly of First Nations and Opposition politicians urged the Liberal government to take swifter and firmer action to defuse tensions over the pipeline.

Via Rail has cancelled service on its Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto routes until at least the end of the day on Friday because of the Mohawk blockade near Belleville, Ont.

Via has also said the blockade near New Hazelton means normal rail service is being interrupted between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Ian Boxall, vice-president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said the rail blockades are affecting almost every commodity. 

Boxall said dozens of ships in Vancouver are waiting to be loaded, while eight await shipments in Prince Rupert.

In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister said the Justice Department will seek an injunction to end a rail blockade west of Winnipeg and have it enforced within a few days.

Meanwhile, two hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have launched a constitutional challenge of fossil-fuel projects.

The challenge calls on the Federal Court to declare that Canada is constitutionally obliged to meet international climate-change targets, which the chiefs contend would cancel approvals for the Coastal GasLink line.

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route, but the hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation say they have title to a vast section of the land and never relinquished that by signing a treaty.

Without their consent, the project cannot be built, they say, and they’ve repeatedly gone to court to stop it — without success.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 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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february, 2020

sun12jan(jan 12)2:00 pmsun22mar(mar 22)5:00 pmAnne Frank: A History for Today opening at Red Deer MAG(january 12) 2:00 pm - (march 22) 5:00 pm mst Red Deer Museum & Art Gallery Address: 4525 - 47A Avenue, Red Deer

sun02feb(feb 2)7:00 pmsun15mar(mar 15)8:00 pm7:00 pm - (march 15) 8:00 pm Festival Hall, 4214 58 St, Red Deer, AB Event Organized By: Country Pride Dance Club

thu20feb(feb 20)10:00 amsun23(feb 23)4:00 pmRed Deer RV Show10:00 am - 4:00 pm (23)

tue25feb5:30 pm7:30 pmDiabetes Discussion Drop InLearn about Type 2 diabetes5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

wed26feb7:30 pm11:00 pmCeltic Illusiion7:30 pm - 11:00 pm

thu27feb5:30 pm7:00 pmMonthly Mindfulness Drop-In5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

fri28febsun01mar54th Annual Sport & Outdoor Show4:00 pm - (march 1) 9:00 pm

fri28feb6:00 pm11:00 pmFriday Family DanceFamily Dance6:00 pm - 11:00 pm

fri28feb7:00 pm11:00 pmBattle of the Bands for Crime Prevention7:00 pm - 11:00 pm Burgundy's Food & Stage, 5008 48 ST Event Organized By: The Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre

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