WE fallout and 260 Chinese boats fish near Galapagos; In The News for July 31

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 31 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

article continues below

The WE controversy that has been dogging the Liberals is expected to continue to follow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government after Trudeau's appearance before a House of Commons committee Thursday.

Opposition MPs on the Commons finance committee are now pushing to hear from more junior staffers in the prime minister's office, and demanding access to cabinet documents.

They want more detailed answers about why WE Charity began working on and incurring expenses for the now-abandoned student-volunteering program on May 5, when it had not yet been approved by cabinet.

Trudeau's chief of staff Katie Telford told the committee that another Trudeau aide talked to WE that same day, though she said he referred WE to the public service to talk about anything substantial.

WE's Craig and Marc Kielburger have said those permanent officials told WE it could incur expenses before being awarded the agreement.

They said they wanted to get the program going quickly, and started work knowing they could lose money if cabinet said no.

---

Also this ...

Some parents and teachers are balking at Ontario's newly released back-to-school plan, saying it doesn't do enough to protect kids from the risk of COVID-19.

The Ontario Parent Action Network says that instead of getting kids back to school safely, the province has "abandoned" them.

And the four major teachers unions argue the plan jeopardizes the safety of staff and students alike, saying the return to school is "underfunded."

The plan, announced yesterday by Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce, will see elementary students and many high schoolers return to school full-time in September.

But high school students at two dozen boards — including the Toronto District School Board — will only attend class half the time, with a maximum class size of 15.

Parents will also have the option to keep their kids out of class, and boards must provide options for remote learning.

---

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

A shift to mail voting is increasing the chances that Americans will not know the winner of November's presidential race on election night. But that doesn't mean the results will be flawed or fraudulent, as President Donald Trump suggested on Thursday.

Trump, seeking to already undermine the results of an election he could lose, demanded that the winner of the Nov. 3 contest be known that night.

"I don't want to be waiting around for weeks and months and literally, potentially if you really did it right, years, because you'll never know," Trump told reporters.

The president has repeatedly raised unsubstantiated fears of fraud involving mail-in voting, which is expected to be more widely used in the November election out of concern for safety given the COVID-19 election. On Thursday, as national and battleground state polls show Trump in political peril in his race against Democrat Joe Biden, he went even further, floating the idea of delaying the election until it could be conducted in person.

The prospect of a delayed election was rejected by fellow Republicans. Shifting Election Day is also virtually impossible for Trump on his own; the date — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year — is enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change.

What is more likely to be delayed is the result. State election officials in some key battleground states have warned that it might take days to count the votes given what they expect will be a surge of ballots sent by mail. In an election as close as 2016's, a delayed tally in key states could keep news organizations from calling a winner.

---

What we are watching in the world ...

Some call it a floating city, a flotilla of 260 mostly Chinese fishing vessels near the Galapagos archipelago that is stirring diplomatic tension and raising worries about the threat to sharks, manta rays and other vulnerable species in waters around the UNESCO world heritage site.

Yet the vast fleet is in international waters, outside a maritime border around the Galapagos and also outside coastal waters off Ecuador, which controls the archipelago. That means the fleet, one of the biggest seen in years off South America's Pacific coast, is likely to fish with minimal monitoring until its holds are full.

The Chinese fleet is "very close" to the edge of the exclusive economic zone around the Galapagos, which extends 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the archipelago, said its governor, Norman Wray. He said that, because of overfishing in recent years, "what we're seeing is that each time fewer species return to the Galapagos."

Luis Villanueva, an officer with the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, said Thursday that it was possible, though unproven, that long fishing lines from the Chinese vessels could be drifting into the exclusive economic zone. The fleet is a huge logistical undertaking, with storage and supply vessels that allow it to stay at sea for long periods.

The fleet has drawn the attention of the United States, whose relationship with China is fraught on many fronts. The U.S. National Security Council tweeted that the U.S. stands with Ecuador "against any aggression directed toward their economic and environmental sovereignty."

China maintains that it is a "responsible fishing nation" with a "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal fishing. The Chinese Embassy in Quito said in a July 23 statement that China respects Ecuador's measures to protect the environment and preserve marine resources.

---

Today in 1955 ...

Seventeen-year-old Marilyn Bell of Toronto became the youngest person, at the time, to swim the English Channel. Bell was already a household name in Canada for her much-covered swim across Lake Ontario at the age of 16, almost a year before the channel swim.

---

Just in time for your long weekend ...

As bars, restaurants and house parties continue to play significant roles in spreading COVID-19, some infectious disease experts in Canada think it's time to offer a safer alternative to drinking in public.

Cracking a cold one in a park may be a good substitution, they say, if only it wasn't illegal throughout most of the country.

Drinking among friends in sprawling green spaces — where there's much more room to physically distance — can keep people away from dangerously crowded indoor gatherings, says Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

"There's all these reports of transmission in bars and house parties. So why don't we mitigate that risk?" he said. "Let's use the outdoors rather than forcing people indoors for their gatherings."

While drinking in public parks is commonplace in many European cities, Canada has been slower to adopt those laws.

Some areas seem to be moving in that direction — or at least crawling towards it.

Park board commissioners in Vancouver this week voted in favour of allowing alcohol consumption in 22 parks around the city, though actual implementation of legal park drinking likely won't happen until next summer.

---

ICYMI (In case you missed it) ...

The Supreme Court of Canada has decided to hear the appeal of Quebec comedian Mike Ward in a human-rights case that touches on the limits of artistic expression and the role of the country's human rights tribunals.

Ward is appealing a decision by Quebec's highest court that largely upheld a human rights tribunal's ruling requiring the comedian to pay damages to a disabled singer he mocked.

The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled last November that Ward's comments about Jeremy Gabriel's disability compromised the young performer's right to the safeguarding of his dignity and could not be justified, even in a society where freedom of expression is valued.

A 2016 Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruling had ordered Ward to pay $35,000 in moral and punitive damages to Gabriel based on comments he made during shows between 2010 and 2013.

Gabriel has Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by skull and facial deformities.

In his act, Ward joked he thought Gabriel's illness was terminal and people were only nice to him because he would soon die. Ward then joked that after he realized the child was not going to die, he tried to drown him.

---

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2020

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Tri-City News

Tri-City News POLL

Should ICBC be giving drivers rebates during the COVID-19 pandemic?

or  view results