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 July 15 ...
What we are watching in Canada ...
The head of the Transportation Safety Board says a wildfire that raced through Lytton, B-C, during record high temperatures is a wake-up call to consider precautions needed by railways during extreme weather.
Kathy Fox says the board will have an update on the investigation into the cause of the fire in the coming days, but a final report could take up to two years.
The safety board was called in after police and the B-C Wildfire Service provided evidence suggesting the fire that destroyed most of the town and killed two people may have been sparked by a train.
Fox says the board will first work to determine the underlying cause of the Lytton fire before considering any safety deficiencies that need to be addressed.
Spokesmen for both Canadian Nation and Canadian Pacific railways say they have safety protocols in place to prevent fires, and conditions across their networks are being closely monitored.
On Sunday, the federal transport minister ordered Canada's two major railway operators to take several steps in fire prevention along their lines as heat and drought conditions worsened in B-C.
Also this ...
A report is slated to be released today by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation will outline the findings of a search of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School property using ground-penetrating radar.
The First Nation in British Columbia's Interior will host a public presentation on the findings of the report on unmarked children's graves, including a briefing on the technology used, an explanation of next steps, and statements from school survivors.
The Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc announced in May that the ground-penetrating radar had identified what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves.
Since then, other First Nations have reported similar devastating discoveries.
The Cowessess First Nation reported 751 potential unmarked grave sites in Saskatchewan last month, while a newsletter circulating online this week from the Penelakut Tribe on Vancouver Island said more than 160 undocumented graves had been found near Chemainus, B.C.
And this ...
The Royal Military College of Canada's first female commander says that while she may bring an outsider’s perspective to her new role, she has no immediate plans for radical changes.
Commodore Josee Kurtz takes over as commandant of the 145-year-old military college in Kingston, Ontario, as the Canadian Armed Forces deals with allegations of sexual misconduct involving top officers.
The fact many of those officers themselves graduated from the R-M-C has prompted questions about the role the prestigious institution has played in creating the conditions for the scandal.
Kurtz is one of the few R-M-C commandants who did not study at the college.
She agrees the college must play a part in changing the military’s culture, and that she will likely make some changes once she gets a better handle on the institution.
Kurtz says the college has successfully produced generations of military officers for Canada, and that she has no plans to come in and make sweeping changes right off the bat.
What we are watching in the U.S. ...
NEW YORK— Overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimate that far eclipses the high of about 72,000 drug overdose deaths reached the previous year.
The U.S. government said Wednesday the rise in deaths amounts to a 29 per cent increase.
“This is a staggering loss of human life,” said Brandon Marshall, a Brown University public health researcher who tracks overdose trends.
The nation was already struggling with its worst overdose epidemic but clearly "COVID has greatly exacerbated the crisis,” he added.
Lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get, experts said.
While prescription painkillers once drove the nation’s overdose epidemic, they were supplanted first by heroin and then by fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid, in recent years. Fentanyl was developed to treat intense pain from ailments like cancer but has increasing been sold illicitly and mixed with other drugs.
“What’s really driving the surge in overdoses is this increasingly poisoned drug supply,” said Shannon Monnat, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University who researches geographic patterns in overdoses. “Nearly all of this increase is fentanyl contamination in some way. Heroin is contaminated. Cocaine is contaminated. Methamphetamine is contaminated.”
Fentanyl was involved in more than 60 per cent of the overdose deaths last year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data suggests.
There’s no current evidence that more Americans started using drugs last year, Monnat said. Rather, the increased deaths most likely were people who had already been struggling with addiction.
What we are watching in the rest of the world ...
COVID-19 deaths and cases are on the rise again globally in a dispiriting setback that is triggering another round of restrictions and dampening hopes for an almost normal summer of fun.
The World Health Organization is reporting that deaths climbed last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 deaths, a three per cent increase from the week before. Cases rose last week by 10 per cent to nearly three million.
The highest numbers were recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain, WHO said.
The reversal has been attributed to low vaccination rates, the relaxation of mask rules and other precautions, and the swift spread of the more-contagious delta variant, which the WHO said has now been identified in 111 countries and is expected to become globally dominant in the coming months.
Sarah McCool, a professor of public health at Georgia State University, said the combination amounts to a "recipe for a potential tinderbox.”
"It’s important that we recognize that COVID has the potential for explosive outbreaks,’’ warned Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
Amid the surge, the death toll in hard-hit Argentina surpassed 100,000. Daily coronavirus deaths in Russia hit record highs this week. In Belgium, COVID-19 infections, driven by the delta variant among the young, have almost doubled over the past week. Britain recorded a one-day total of more than 40,000 new cases for the first time in six months.
In Myanmar, crematoriums are working morning to night. In Indonesia, which recorded almost 1,000 deaths and over 54,000 new cases Wednesday, up from around 8,000 cases per day a month ago, people near Jakarta are pitching in to help gravediggers keep up.
Tokyo is under a fourth state of emergency ahead of the Summer Games this month, with infections climbing fast and hospital beds filling up. Experts have said caseloads could rise above 1,000 before the Olympics and multiply to thousands during the Games.
On this day in 1945 ...
About $20 million in cheques were mailed as the federal government made its first family allowance payments. The money was to be used for the maintenance, care, education and advancement of children.
In entertainment ...
TORONTO — British singer Harry Styles has quietly cancelled concerts set for Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal later this year.
The pop star released an updated schedule of his North American tour on Wednesday and missing from the 40 dates was any mention of his four Canadian shows.
Styles, formerly of boy band One Direction, was originally set to bring Love on Tour stopovers to Vancouver on Aug. 16 before rolling into Toronto on Sept. 28 and 29, and Montreal on Oct. 20.
Ticketmaster now lists those tour dates as cancelled, with one of the Toronto shows replaced with a stop in Nashville.
Fans took to Twitter to express their frustration over the surprise cancellation, with some saying they've held onto tickets for about two years despite a previous postponement.
The speed of a return to indoor live events has been anything but certain in many parts of the country, with each province coming up with different guidelines — and sometimes few guidelines — for how plans will roll out in the fall.
With the U.S.-Canada border still closed, that has seen some international artists completely skip tour dates in Canada, while others have postponed until 2022.
"As always, the well-being of my fans, band, and crew is my top priority," Styles wrote in a tweet.
His record label Columbia added in a statement that "in compliance with global COVID-19 guidelines, international tour dates are not possible at this time."
WASHINGTON — State lawmakers from across the Midwest have made an official request for the Canada-U. S. border to open "immediately" to fully vaccinated travellers.
Scotty Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, was giving a presentation to the Midwestern Legislative Conference in Rapid City, S.D., on Wednesday when she got an earful from delegates complaining about Canada's arbitrary enforcement of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
By the time the annual meeting of the conference was over, it had unanimously passed a formal resolution, at Greenwood's suggestion, adding more political pressure to the burning question of precisely when and how incidental travel between Canada and the United States will resume.
The resolution describes the relationship between the two countries as the most prosperous in the world, amounting to more than a trillion dollars in trade and investment each year, but one that depends on the "efficient movement of people, goods and services" to function properly.
The conference, an offshoot of the Council of State Governments, represents legislators from 11 states across the U.S. Midwest — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin — as well as the province of Saskatchewan. Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are also affiliate members.
The resolution, Greenwood said in an interview, was not preplanned, but rather emerged organically from her discussions with delegates and was passed unopposed — an indication of the mounting frustrations south of the border, particularly in the agricultural community.
"This is not just the northern border. This is the entire Midwestern region of the United States," Greenwood said.
"It's significant because of the broad reach, if you just look at the map of the country and who these folks represent. It's significant because it is bipartisan; it's leadership from all of these state governments. And it is a validation of how important this Canada-U. S. relationship is, and what is at stake economically if we continue to keep the border closed."
The border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020, with the mutual restrictions extended bilaterally on a monthly basis ever since. They are set to expire July 21, which means an announcement about next steps is likely in the coming days.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2021
The Canadian Press