Sexy onions and PM, Ford invest in electric vehicles: In The News for Oct. 8

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 Oct. 8 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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The federal and Ontario governments are each chipping in more than $250 million to mass produce electric vehicles — and the batteries that power them — at Ford Motor Co.'s plant in Oakville, Ont.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are to announce the joint investment today.

It is part of a three-year agreement worth nearly $2 billion that was announced last month between the automaker and Unifor, the union that represents autoworkers in Canada.

The premier is to be at the Oakville plant with representatives of the motor company for the announcement.

Trudeau and Unifor president Jerry Dias are to hook up with them virtually from the company's connectivity and innovation centre in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata.

The Oakville plant employs 3,400 Ford workers and Dias has said retooling the plant to produce electric vehicles will save 3,000 of those jobs.

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Also this ...

An industry group says the federal government's plan to ban some single-use plastic products by labelling them "toxic" to the environment is defamatory and harmful to the companies that produce them.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced a list of six single-use plastic items that will be banned because they are both harmful to the environment and difficult to recycle.

To do all of that, Wilkinson said on Oct. 10 he will add "plastic manufactured items" to the "toxic substances list" under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

But Elena Mantagaris, the vice-president of the plastics division at the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, says plastic products don't belong anywhere near a list of harmful products that includes mercury, asbestos and lead.

"It's a criminal-law tool and it's intended to manage toxic substances," she says. "Plastic is an inert material. It's not toxic."

"That's reputational damage to a sector, suddenly calling it toxic," says Mantagaris. "That's not fair game."

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

Sen. Kamala Harris took the fight to Vice-President Mike Pence right out of the gate Wednesday, savaging the Trump administration's "incompetence" and "ineptitude" in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harris wasted no time from the start of the 90-minute debate in Utah, taking full advantage of the fact that the head of the much-maligned White House task force was sitting across from her.

"The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country," she said.

A laundry list of grim statistics followed: more than 210,000 dead, more than 7 million cases, one in five businesses shuttered and more than 30 million unemployment claims.

And she made note of Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward's tape-recorded revelations that Trump knew in February how serious the crisis could be, but kept it to himself.

"They knew what was happening, and they didn't tell you," she said into the camera. "They knew, and they covered it up."

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

The de facto detention of 130,000 ethnic Rohingya in squalid camps in Myanmar amounts to a form of apartheid, a human rights group alleged Thursday in urging the world to pressure Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to free them.

The camps are a legacy of long discrimination against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar and were the immediate consequence of communal violence that began in 2012 between the Rohingya and the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group. The fighting left people in both groups homeless, but almost all of the Rakhine have since returned to their homes or been resettled, while the Rohingya have not.

Human Rights Watch in its new report said inhuman conditions in 24 tightly restricted camps and closed-off communities in the western state of Rakhine threaten the right to life and other basic rights of the Rohingya.

"Severe limitations on livelihoods, movement, education, health care, and adequate food and shelter have been compounded by widening constraints on humanitarian aid, which Rohingya depend on for survival," the report said. "Camp detainees face higher rates of malnutrition, waterborne illnesses, and child and maternal mortality than their ethnic Rakhine neighbours."

"The government’s claims that it’s not committing the gravest international crimes will ring hollow until it cuts the barbed wire and allows Rohingya to return to their homes, with full legal protections," said Shayna Bauchner, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.

Myanmar’s government had no immediate response to the report. Rohingya are not recognized as an official minority in Myanmar, where they face widespread discrimination and most are denied citizenship and other basic rights. Many members of other ethnic groups consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

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On this day in 1989...

Twelve people died and 45 were injured after a tractor-trailer loaded with logs toppled into a hay wagon carrying people celebrating a family reunion in Cormier Village, N.B. A 13th victim died later.

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In sports ...

The Hockey Diversity Alliance is separating from the NHL.

The HDA, co-founded by San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane and former NHL player Akim Aliu, doesn't believe the NHL is committed to addressing barriers to inclusion for Black people, Indigenous and people of colour.

"The support we hoped to receive from the NHL was not delivered and instead the NHL focused on performative public relations efforts that seemed aimed at quickly moving past important conversations about race needed in the game," the HDA says in a statement.

The NHL announced a number of anti-racism initiatives in early September including mandatory inclusion and diversity training for players, and an "inclusion learning experience" for employees.

The league and the Players' Association said it would work with the Hockey Diversity Alliance to establish a grassroots hockey development program in the Toronto area for BIPOC communities.

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ICYMI ...

Facebook has reversed its decision to prevent a seed company in Newfoundland from using a photo of a pile of onions, which the social media giant had deemed "overtly sexual."

Jackson McLean, the manager of Gaze Seed Co. in St. John's, says Facebook approved the online advertisement on Wednesday after he asked for a review of the ban.

McLean says he was setting up ads for the onion seeds when he got an error response back from the site.

"A couple of them came back with errors, and I looked into it further to see what the error was, and for the onion photo it said that it was overtly sexual," he says.

McLean said there was nothing sexual about the ad for the Walla Walla sweet onion seeds. A photo on the packaging shows several whole onions piled in a wicker basket and a few sliced onions in the foreground.

Meg Sinclair, head of communications for Facebook Canada, blames the company's filtering technology.

"We use automated technology to keep nudity off our apps, but sometimes it doesn’t know a Walla Walla onion from a, well, you know," Sinclair says. "We restored the ad and are sorry for the business's trouble."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2020

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