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In The News for May 2 : Farewell to "rare talent" Gordon Lightfoot

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 May 2 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
Gordon Lightfoot poses for a photo at The Eglinton Grand in Toronto on March 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

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 May 2 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Gordon Lightfoot, the legendary folk musician whose silvery refrains told a tale of Canadian identity that was exported to listeners worldwide, has died at 84.

The singer-songwriter died of natural causes at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Monday evening, said Victoria Lord, the musician's longtime publicist and a representative for the family. He had suffered numerous health issues in recent decades.

Considered one of the most renowned voices to emerge from Toronto's Yorkville folk club scene in the 1960s, Lightfoot went on to record no less than 20 studio albums and pen hundreds of songs, including "Early Morning Rain," "Carefree Highway" and "Sundown."

"We have lost one of our greatest singer-songwriters," tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late Monday.

"Gordon Lightfoot captured our country’s spirit in his music – and in doing so, he helped shape Canada’s soundscape. May his music continue to inspire future generations, and may his legacy live on forever."

Other celebrities and politicians added their praises of Lightfoot's craft on Twitter. Author Stephen King described him as "a wonderful performer," while the Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson added a simple "rest in peace."

Former Ontario premier Bob Rae said he was "such a decent man" and a "musician with a magnificent tenor voice that will last forever" while Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said his "poetry and melodies are an eternal inspiration."

Once called a "rare talent" by Bob Dylan, Lightfoot's timeless compositions have transcended the boundaries of generations and musical genres.

Dozens of artists have covered his work, including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, Anne Murray, Jane's Addiction, Sarah McLachlan and, perhaps most surprisingly, dance supergroup Stars on 54 who turned his classic "If You Could Read My Mind" into a disco-pop curiosity for the 1998 movie "54."

Most of his songs are deeply autobiographical with lyrics that probe his own experiences in a frank and unclouded manner and explore issues surrounding the national identity.

His 1975 song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" chronicled the demise of a Great Lakes ore freighter, and 1966's "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" depicted the construction of the railway.

"I simply write the songs about where I am and where I'm from," he once said. "I take situations and write poems about them."


Also this ...

A new study suggests there's been an uptick in phone scams in Canada, such as those involving federal agency impersonation or air duct cleaning.

A report released Tuesday by Seattle-based Hiya, which aims to protect phone users from spam through its voice security platform, found 6.3 per cent of unwanted calls received by Canadians in the first three months of the year were considered fraud, compared with 5.9 per cent in the final quarter of 2022.

Unwanted calls include those that are legal, such as sales calls concerning a service the recipient has subscribed to, as well as two illegal types: scams involving an outright lie, and those where a product does exist, but the recipient didn't request it.

Canada lags behind the United States, the study found: the average Canadian received three spam calls per month in the early part of the year, compared with 14.5 in the United States.

But Canadians were on the other end of a much higher proportion of fraud-related calls. Spam calls made up 18.3 per cent of calls from unrecognized numbers in Canada, the report found, with 6.3 per cent of them considered fraud. In the U.S., one-quarter of calls from non-contacts in the first quarter were spam, but fraud calls accounted for just 0.7 per cent of them.

Like other countries studied, some of the top scams in Canada were related to cryptocurrency trading and those targeting newer immigrants who may be less familiar with the way the government works. The latter included callers impersonating government officials claiming to be from the Canada Border Services Agency or Canada Revenue Agency.

On its website, the CRA reminds Canadians to be cautious when receiving calls that request personal information such as a social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number or passport number. While the CRA may call using an automated telephone message during tax season, it said it would never ask recipients to give any personal information.

Canadians also received high volumes of air duct cleaning scam calls, which the report noted were nothing new, but are largely unheard of outside of the country.

In 2022, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 90,377 fraud reports totalling more than $530 million in losses, according to data published in February. It estimated that just five to 10 per cent of victims file a fraud report with the CAFC.


And this too ...

A Calgary pastor is expected to learn today whether he will be found guilty for his participation in a convoy protest last year that blocked Alberta's main border crossing into the United States.

Crown prosecutors say Artur Pawlowski's impassioned speech to the truckers in Coutts, Alta., in February 2022 fanned the flames of unrest and convinced them to stay at the border crossing for another two weeks.

The blockade began in late January 2022 to protest COVID-19 health restrictions.

It paralyzed the border crossing for more than two weeks.

Pawlowski has pleaded not guilty to mischief and breaching a release order, as well as a charge under the Alberta Critical Infrastructure Defence Act of wilfully damaging or destroying essential infrastructure.

Separately, several people were also charged after RCMP found a cache of guns, body armour and ammunition in three trailers during the blockade, with four men facing counts of conspiracy to commit murder.


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

WASHINGTON _ The Biden administration says COVID-19 vaccination requirements for foreign air travellers and at the Canada-U. S. border are being lifted as of May 12.

The day before, May 11, will mark the end of the COVID-19 emergency the U.S. imposed back in 2020 as the world was coming to grips with the scale of the pandemic.

New York Rep. Brian Higgins, a vocal advocate of eased border restrictions, is cheering the news as a victory for families, tourists and long-suffering border communities.

Canada ended its own vaccination requirements for foreign visitors back in October.

The U.S., however, has continued to require federal workers, contractors and most international air travellers to show proof of vaccination.

The White House says deaths from COVID-19 around the world are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, and 95 per cent lower in the U.S. than they were in January 2021.

"We are in a different phase of our response to COVID-19 than we were when many of these requirements were put into place,'' the administration said in a statement.

The restrictions will end "at the end of the day on May 11, the same day that the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.''


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

BERLIN _ Environmental campaigners urged climate envoys from dozens of nations gathering Tuesday in Berlin to discuss a global deadline for phasing out fossil fuels and ways of increasing aid to poor countries hit by global warming.

About 40 countries, including the United States, China, India and Brazil, are attending the Petersberg Climate Dialogue being held in the German capital. The two-day meeting is a key negotiating step in the run-up to this year's international climate conference in Dubai, known as COP28.

Campaign groups are concerned that countries such as the U.S., COP28 host United Arab Emirates and the European Union back the idea of carbon capture as a means of allowing oil and gas extraction to continue or even expand. Scientists say technologies for removing planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere aren't proven at scale and could require huge investments at the expense of cheaper alternatives such as solar and wind power.

"They are trying their best to prolong the use of fossil fuels, especially by focusing on (...) carbon capture and storage, which is deeply worrying for us,'' said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to all fossil fuel use, which is blamed for the majority of global warming that has occurred since the start of the industrial era, warning that otherwise the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius may be missed. But so far only coal has been put on notice, with a commitment by nations two years ago to "phase down'' its use.

Denmark's climate minister, Dan Jørgensen, said recently that a global pledge to also stop using oil and gas "will be a part of the conversation'' before and during the Dubai summit.

Singh said solutions also need to be found for millions of workers in the coal, oil and gas industry if it is to be wound down successfully, as well as alternative sources of energy for many who still rely on cheap fossil fuels.

"What we need to see coming out of the year is not just about fossil fuel phaseout, but equitable phaseout of fossil fuels,'' he said.

Diplomats will also be discussing how to ramp up various forms of financial aid for developing countries hardest hit by climate change. A pledge to provide $100 billion every year has yet to be met and a separate fund, agreed at last year's climate talks in Egypt, is still being set up.


On this day in 1967 ...

The Toronto Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup, beating Montreal 3-1 to take the NHL final in six games.


In entertainment ...

NEW YORK _ Television and movie writers declared late Monday that they will launch a strike for the first time in 15 years, as Hollywood girded for a walkout with potentially widespread ramifications in a fight over fair pay in the streaming era.

The Writers Guild of America said that its 11,500 unionized screenwriters will head to the picket lines on Tuesday. Negotiations between studios and the writers, which began in March, failed to reach a new contract before the writers' current deal expired just after midnight, at 12:01 a.m. PDT Tuesday. All script writing is to immediately cease, the guild informed its members.

The board of directors for the WGA, which includes both a West and an East branch, voted unanimously to call for a strike, effective at the stroke of midnight. Writers, they said, are facing an "existential crisis.''

"The companies' behaviour has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,'' the WGA said in a statement. "From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a 'day rate' in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labour force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.''

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade association that bargains on behalf of studios and production companies, signalled late Monday that negotiations fell short of an agreement before the current contract expired. The AMPTP said it presented an offer with "generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.''

In a statement, the AMPTP said that it was prepared to improve its offer "but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon.''

The labour dispute could have a cascading effect on TV and film productions depending on how long the strike persists. But a shutdown has been widely forecast for months due to the scope of the discord. The writers last month voted overwhelming to authorize a strike, with 98 per cent of membership in support.

At issue is how writers are compensated in an industry where streaming has changed the rules of Hollywood economics. Writers say they aren't being paid enough, TV writer rooms have shrunk too much and the old calculus for how residuals are paid out needs to be redrawn.

"The survival of our profession is at stake,'' the guild has said.


Did you see this?

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says the Pope's willingness to return artifacts stored at the Vatican Museum is another step forward on Indigenous Peoples' journey with the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

"We asked for the return of our sacred items, and they will make their way home soon,'' said Chief RoseAnne Archibald in an emailed statement.

Pope Francis said Sunday that talks were underway to return the artifacts. He was asked about the issue during a news conference on a flight back home from Hungary and said that "in the case where you can return things, where it's necessary to make a gesture, better to do it.''

Much of the Vatican's current collection is from a former pope who decided to hold a world exposition in 1925. A message went out at that time to missionaries around the globe to send items. More than 100,000 objects and works of art were displayed.

The Vatican has said parts of its collection were gifts to popes and the church.

Francis said Sunday that the "restitution of the Indigenous things is underway with Canada _ at least we agreed to do it.''

Returning artifacts is vital, said Audrey Dreaver, an artist, curator and instructor at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina. The artifacts give communities connection to history, build pride and help healing, she added.

But Dreaver, who is nehiyiwak or Plains Cree, said there are a lot of questions about the Vatican's process of repatriation.

"Who are they going to give it to? What is their plan to return things,' Dreaver asked. "Who exactly are they talking to?"


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press