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Prospect of no jab, no visa for Australian Open tennis stars

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Elite tennis players are being urged to get a COVID-19 vaccination or risk missing the Australian Open next January.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, whose state hosts the season-opening major at Melbourne Park, has already introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes competing in domestic sports leagues and people working in some industries.

On Tuesday, he increased the pressure on tennis players traveling from abroad.

“I don’t think any unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” Andrews said. “If they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks when no other players will have to.”

Australia’s federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the policy for all incoming arrivals, including international athletes, will be the same.

“Our health advice is that when we open the borders everyone that comes to Australia will have to be double-vaccinated,” Hawke told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. early Wednesday.

Australia is preparing to re-open its international borders for the first time in more than 18 months, but it’ll be a gradual, state-by-state process starting next month and will depend on vaccination rates across the country. Fully vaccinated people will have fewer restrictions in Australia than those who are not.

The vaccination debate has been ongoing in tennis since international competition started re-emerging following a global shutdown last year.

Some players, including men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic, have advocated that the decision to get the vaccine should be a personal choice. Others, including Andy Murray, have said it should be mandated for the good of the majority.

Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open title a record nine times and shares the men’s Grand Slam record of 20 titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, hasn’t confirmed whether he has been vaccinated for COVID-19. If he doesn’t get vaccinated, he risks missing the tournament he has won for the last three years.

Australia’s immigration minister didn’t think there’d be any exceptions, for anyone.

“I have a message to everyone who wishes to visit Australia, you’ll need to be double vaccinated,” Hawke told the ABC. “That’s a universal application, not just to tennis players.”

At the U.S. Open, which ended Sept. 12, spectators had to show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend matches, although players weren’t required to get a shot.

Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion and three-time runner-up at the U.S. Open, thought that sent a mixed message. She reached the U.S. Open final in 2020, when there were no fans allowed.

“To me that’s a bit bizarre that fans have to be vaccinated and players are not,” Azarenka said. “So I think that in my opinion, it’s inevitable that it will be mandated at some point, like other leagues are doing.”

Both the men’s and the women’s tours are recommending all players get vaccinated but so far have not enforced it. Just before the U.S. Open, roughly half of the elite male and female players were vaccinated.

Ahead of the Australian Open earlier this year, all players had to quarantine for two weeks and be regularly tested under Australia’s strict regulations on COVID-19 measures.

Most were allowed a limited time to practice, but any who tested positive or we deemed to be close contacts of a positive case — which in some cases meant simply being on the same charter flight — had to do a hard lockdown. Those players weren’t allowed to leave their hotel rooms.

Melbourne, which hosts season-opening Formula One Grand Prix races, the richest horse race in the southern hemisphere and the biggest football crowd in Australia, has either barred crowds or shifted sports events interstate during months of lockdown in recent months.

There are plans to have crowds at the Australian Open.

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More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

John Pye, The Associated Press

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Alberta

TC Energy shuts down Keystone pipeline system after leak in Nebraska

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CALGARY — TC Energy Corp. says it has shut down its Keystone pipeline after a leak in Nebraska.

The company says it has mobilized people and equipment in response to a confirmed release of oil into a creek, about 32 kilometres south of Steele City, Neb.

TC Energy says an emergency shutdown and response was initiated Wednesday night after a pressure drop in the system was detected.

It says the affected segment of the pipeline has been isolated and booms have been deployed to prevent the leaked oil from moving downstream.

The Keystone pipeline system stretches 4,324 kilometres and helps move Canadian and U.S. crude oil to markets around North America.

TC Energy says the system remains shutdown as its crews respond and work to contain and recover the oil.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TRP)

The Canadian Press

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Indigenous

Advocate asks AFN chiefs to ensure $40B settlement deal leaves no child behind

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By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

A First Nations child welfare advocate on Wednesday implored chiefs to ensure “no child is left behind” in a landmark $40-billion settlement agreement with the federal government.

Cindy Blackstock delivered the message to an Assembly of First Nations gathering in Ottawa, after being invited to take the stage by Cindy Woodhouse, regional chief in Manitoba who helped negotiate the agreement, which had been thrown into question since being rejected by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

The AFN, representing more than 600 First Nations across the country, had asked the tribunal to approve the settlement deal, which would see the government spend $20 billion to compensate families and children for systemic discrimination in the Indigenous child welfare system. It would also spend another $20 billion on making long-term reforms.

Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Caring Society who first lodged the complaint at the heart of the issue, raised concerns that the agreement wouldn’t provide $40,000 in compensation to all eligible claimants, which is the amount the tribunal ruled they should get.

“We can make sure that in our First Nations canoe of justice, no child has to see their money go away and no child is left behind in justice,” she said Wednesday.

“We are capable of that.”

Following the tribunal’s decision in October, the federal government filed for a judicial review of some parts of its decision.

Endorsing the settlement agreement loomed as one of the biggest items on the assembly’s agenda, with chiefs being asked to vote on what the organization should do next.

The chiefs had been preparing to vote on conflicting resolutions, with one asking them to support the final settlement agreement, while another sought to see the organization not appeal the tribunal decision and renegotiate the deal.

But on Wednesday, further talks between both sides took place, assisted by former senator and judge Murray Sinclair, who helped the AFN, federal government and lawyers for two related class-action lawsuits reach the $40-billion agreement in the first place, which was formally announced in January.

Chiefs ultimately voted late Wednesday against re-entering negotiations but to instead support compensation for victims outlined in the agreement and “those already legally entitled to the $40,000 plus interest under the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal compensation orders.”

It also included a provision that AFN leaders must regularly return to chiefs to provide it with progress updates and “seek direction” from chiefs on implementing the final agreement.

Many chiefs thanked Blackstock, who was greeted with applause after further agreement was met and said she was honoured to see people come together for children harmed by Ottawa’s discrimination.

“We have had too many apologies, we’ve had too many compensation deals, we’ve had too many kids hurt. And this has got to be it,” she said.

She added more discussion on the long-term reform part of the deal would be presented to chiefs on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the assembly heard from sisters Melissa Walterson and Karen Osachoff, plaintiffs on the case, about the impact the foster care system had on their lives.

Osachoff said she had been in the child welfare system since she was born and didn’t have a chance to grow up with her sister.

“Had it not been for the ’60s Scoop and the child welfare (system), her and I would have grown up together.”

She said she understands why the tribunal characterizes those like her as “victims,” but told chiefs to instead think of them as survivors.

“I am not a victim and our claimants are not victims.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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