Raptors Game 7 and deadly U.S. wildfires: In The News for Sept. 11

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 Sept. 11 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has agreed to hold a virtual first ministers meeting on federal health care transfers to the provinces and territories.

His agreement during a conference call with premiers Thursday came one day after Quebec's Francois Legault and Ontario's Doug Ford issued a joint call for a significant increase in the funding Ottawa sends them to help cover mushrooming health care costs.

The federal government has already committed to transferring $19 billion to the provinces to help them cope with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, including some $10 billion for health-related expenses.

But Legault and Ford pointed out that money is a one-time transfer and argued that what the provinces need is sustainable, long-term funding to cover the ballooning costs of new technologies, drugs and an aging population, as well as ongoing pandemic-related costs.

They did not put a price tag on their demand but said a significant increase to the annual transfer is needed.

The federal government will transfer almost $42 billion to provinces and territories for health care in the current fiscal year under an arrangement that sees the transfer increase by at least three per cent each year.

Legault argued that the federal contribution covers only 21 per cent of the cost of delivering universal health care, well down from the 50 per cent share originally agreed to decades ago.

Trudeau has been holding conference calls almost every week with provincial and territorial leaders since the pandemic shut down the country in mid-March.

While those calls — 18 of them as of Thursday — have covered a range of issues, he has now agreed to devote one meeting entirely to the health transfers issue. His office says no date has been set for that call but it is likely to take place before Sept. 23, when Trudeau's government will issue a throne speech laying out its plan for economic recovery.

Trudeau is to join Ford today for IAMGOLD's ground-breaking ceremony for their Cote Gold Project in northern Ontario, about 130 kilometres southwest of Timmins.

During construction, the project, which involves international and local First Nations partners, is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs, as well as 450 full-time jobs once completed.

Trudeau is expected to tout the project as a sign that the economy, flattened by COVID-19, is starting to get back on its feet.

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Also this ...

For the first time since the most famous shot in team history, the Toronto Raptors will play a Game 7 tonight.

The Raptors and the Boston Celtics square off at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida in the finale of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

The most recent Game 7 for the Raptors came in last year's Eastern Conference semi, when Kawhi Leonard's buzzer-beating jump shot went in after hitting the rim four times, giving Toronto a dramatic victory over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers. Toronto went on to win the NBA championship.

The Raptors beat Boston 125-122 in double overtime on Wednesday to set up the winner-take-all showdown.

The Raptors are 3-2 in Game 7s in franchise history, winning on the last three occasions.

Tonight's winner will face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference final.

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

A Northern California wildfire that destroyed a foothill hamlet has become the state's deadliest blaze of the year with 10 people confirmed dead — and the toll could climb as searchers look for 16 missing people.

The North Complex fire that exploded in wind-driven flames earlier in the week was advancing more slowly Friday after the winds eased and smoke from the blaze shaded the area and lowered the temperature, allowing firefighters to make progress, authorities said.

However, the smoke made for poor visibility and fire helicopters couldn't fly Thursday.

In most parts of the state, red flag warnings of extreme fire danger because of hot, dry weather or gusty winds were lifted.

On Thursday, Butte County sheriff's Capt. Derek Bell said seven bodies were discovered, bringing the total to 10 in two days. At least four people with critical burns were hospitalized.

Deputies and detectives were searching for human remains as they made their way into devastated areas with a team of anthropologists from Chico State University, Bell said.

The rising death toll comes as deadly wildfires in heavily populated northwest Oregon grow, with hundreds of thousands of people told to flee encroaching flames while residents to the south tearfully assessed their losses.

People evacuated statewide because of fires had climbed to an estimated 500,000 — more than 10 per cent of the 4.2 million people in the state, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management reported late Thursday.

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

Russia clashed with Germany and five of its Western allies Thursday over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, with Moscow's ambassador demanding evidence that a Soviet-era nerve agent was responsible and Germany’s envoy countering that his country's findings have been handed over to the international chemical weapons watchdog.

The confrontation came at the monthly UN Security Council meeting on chemical weapons in Syria, with the United States, Belgium, Britain, Estonia and France expressing grave concern at Germany’s determination that 44-year-old Navalny was the victim of a chemical weapons attack using a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group.

Britain’s acting UN ambassador, Jonathan Allen, said a similar nerve agent was used "with lethal effect" in southern England in 2018 on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. A woman exposed to the contents of a perfume bottle reportedly used in the attack died several months later. Russia vehemently denied any involvement, but Britain has charged two men it called Russian military intelligence officers with the nerve-agent poisoning.

Allen told the council that the United Kingdom stands with Germany’s findings on Navalny and called on Russia to "urgently conduct a full and transparent investigation into this use of a banned chemical weapon" and to uphold the Chemical Weapons Convention that bans their use.

Acting U.S. deputy ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet called Navalny’s poisoning by a chemical weapon "completely reprehensible" and urged Russia "to be fully transparent and to bring those responsible to justice."

Navalny, the most visible opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell ill on a flight to Moscow on Aug. 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing. He was flown to Germany two days later.

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On this day in 1956 ...

Canadian war hero Billy Bishop died in Palm Beach, Fla., at age 62. The Owen Sound, Ont.-native was the top scoring Canadian and Imperial ace of the First World War, credited with shooting down 72 German aircraft. He was also the first Canadian airman to win the Victoria Cross.

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ICYMI ...

Mike Charlebois describes karaoke as a way of life, a form of expression and a little bit of escapist fun — something he says is more important than ever as the world grapples with a health crisis.

"Whether you have talent or you don't, you have a microphone, you have a stage, you have lights projected on you, you're a star for a moment, regardless of who you are," said Charlebois, a professional performer, host and karaoke event organizer in the Montreal area.

Those fleeting moments of wannabe rock stardom appear to be coming to an end. On Thursday, a provincial bar owners' association reported the Quebec government was preparing to ban karaoke after an outbreak at a Quebec City bar was linked to dozens of cases.

While the government had not confirmed the news late Thursday, the province's top doctor, Horacio Arruda, has said the combination of droplet-projecting singing, shared microphones and alcohol consumption make karaoke the ideal environment to spread COVID-19.

But singers and bar owners who aren't ready to stash their microphones say the activity can be safe and worry all karaoke enthusiasts are being punished for the acts of an irresponsible few.

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Entertainment news ...

Director Michelle Latimer's documentary "Inconvenient Indian" debuts tomorrow at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Toronto-based filmmaker adapted it from Thomas King's acclaimed non-fiction book, about the cultural colonization of Indigenous peoples in North America.

Latimer says she wanted to reverse the white-settler lens that has seen Indigenous people's history shaped by stereotypes and stories told by others.

King appears throughout the film and narrates the story.

Latimer — who is of Algonquin, Metis, and French heritage — is also a major fixture of TIFF this year with the series "Trickster," based on Eden Robinson's acclaimed novel.

The show about an Indigenous teen will premiere Tuesday at TIFF before its CBC debut on Oct. 7.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2020

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