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Wet'suwet'en meeting to take place and quiet fireworks; In The News for Feb. 27

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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 Feb. 27 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

HOUSTON, B.C. — A meeting between Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the federal and British Columbia government is expected to take place today.

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks as a show of support for the hereditary chiefs of the First Nation in northwestern B.C., who oppose a natural gas pipeline project cutting across their traditional territory.

Chief Na'Moks, who is also known as John Ridsdale, says the meeting scheduled to start this afternoon and continue Friday.

It was abruptly cancelled Wednesday afternoon, but Na'Moks says he and the other hereditary chiefs were notified it was back on several hours later.

He says they were told the cancellation was a "miscommunication."

A spokesman for the office of the B.C. premier says the report of a rescheduled meeting is "promising," but the provincial government was not in a position to confirm it until Thursday morning.

The federal governments could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Also this ...

EDMONTON — It's budget day in Alberta.

And while the United Conservative finance minister is saying the province remains on track to end the deficit, the Opposition NDP is warning people to brace for deep cuts.

Finance Minister Travis Toews will introduce the budget later today in the house, and says the plan remains to balance the books by 2023 while introducing a new blueprint to boost employment.

It's the second budget by Premier Jason Kenney's UCP government, which was elected last spring on promises to increase jobs, grow the economy and revitalize Alberta's wellspring oil and gas industry.

But since last summer, the province has shed about 50,000 full-time jobs.

And this week, Teck Resources Ltd. decided not to pursue a highly anticipated $20-billion oilsands mine project in northern Alberta amid concerns about its economic viability.

On top of that, the province has budgeted the benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil price at US$57 per barrel for this year, with it rising to $63 in two years.

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

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says the U.S. is "very, very ready" for whatever the new coronavirus threat brings, even as health authorities warn Americans that more infections are coming.

Shortly after a presidential news conference, the government announced a worrisome development — a new U.S. case that so far hasn't been linked to travel abroad.

Trump has put Vice-President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the nation's response.

The president has been pushing back against criticism that his administration isn't doing enough to meet the coronavirus threat.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are calling for much more money than the $2.5 billion the White House has requested.

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

BEIJING — As the worst-hit areas of Asia continued to struggle with a viral epidemic, with hundreds more cases reported Thursday in South Korea and China, worries about infection and containment spread across the globe.

For the first time, the coronavirus has caused more new cases outside China, the epicentRE of the outbreak, than inside the country. With Brazil on Wednesday confirming Latin America's first case, the virus has reached every continent but Antarctica.

The United States, which has 60 cases, hasn't been spared the fear that has swept Asia, Europe and the Mideast.

As the epidemic expanded geographically, worries about the COVID-19 illness multiplied.

"The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

South Korea reported 505 more cases Thursday, bringing its total to 1,766. Most of the new cases were in the country's fourth-biggest city, Daegu, where the outbreak has hit hardest and the national government has mobilized public health tools to help the region's overwhelmed medical system.

The South Korean and U.S. militaries postponed their annual joint drills out of concerns over a viral outbreak that has infected soldiers in both countries' armed forces, put many troops in quarantine and closed base facilities. Twenty South Korean soldiers and one American service member in South Korea have tested positive for the new coronavirus. South Korea has already suspended some unilateral field training, and the U.S. military was urging its personnel to avoid handshakes and large gatherings if possible.

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ICYMI (In case you missed it) ...

TORONTO — A homeowner who gunned down a would-be car thief seconds after a driveway confrontation will again have to stand trial on second-degree murder.

In its unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal found the trial judge was wrong in how he instructed the jury that acquitted Peter Khill, of Binbrook, Ont. Khill had argued he was acting in self-defence when he fatally shot Jon Styres in the early hours of Feb. 4, 2016.

"The trial judge failed to instruct the jury to consider Mr. Khill's conduct during the incident leading up to the shooting of Mr. Styres when assessing the reasonableness of that shooting," Justice David Doherty wrote for the court.

The case initially took on racism overtones because Styres was Indigenous, although there was no evidence Khill knew that when he opened fire.

Khill had argued at trial that his four years of training as an army reservist had kicked in when he instinctively grabbed a loaded Remington shotgun in his bedroom and went barefoot outside to confront Styres.

Within seconds of spotting Styres leaning into his 15-year-old pickup truck, Khill yelled "hands up" and opened fire twice from just a few metres away. Styres, 29, who had no gun but may have had a screwdriver, died almost immediately.

The prosecution argued that Superior Court Justice Stephen Glithero failed to instruct the jury properly about the role Khill played in bringing about the confrontation, not just what he was thinking at the moment he opened fire.

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Weird and wild ...

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia city councillor is pushing for quiet fireworks in Halifax out of concern the noise is alarming veterans and people on the autism spectrum.

However some in the pyrotechnics industry say the idea is likely to fizzle when the City of Halifax views the high costs, while a veteran with PTSD notes not all people with wartime traumas react badly to the shows.

An amended version of a motion proposed by Coun. David Hendsbee was sent to council staff on Tuesday night, following a 13-2 vote in favour of further study.

It requests examination of the cost and "possible benefits associated with using silent pyrotechnics over traditional fireworks," along with information on the health impacts of the popular displays.

A few other Canadian jurisdictions, including Banff, Alta., have abandoned fireworks displays, though in Banff's case it was due to concerns over frightening wildlife.

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Know your news ...

A House of Commons committee says the ongoing renovation of Centre Block, which began more than a year ago, and could last until well into the 2030s. The building, which boasts the iconic Peace Tower, is being modernized for 21st-century technology and security needs. How old is it? 

(Keep scrolling for the answer)

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On this day in 1977 ...

Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones was arrested at the Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto on heroin possession charges. He was eventually found guilty. In lieu of a jail sentence for Richards, The Rolling Stones' played two Canadian National Institute for the Blind benefit concerts at the civic auditorium in Oshawa, east of Toronto, in April 1979.

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Your health ...

FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick government is standing firm in its position that it is not violating the Canada Health Act by refusing to fund out-of-hospital abortions.

"We are working with the federal government to address their concerns," New Brunswick Health Department spokesman Bruce Macfarlane says

The comments came after federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu this week tabled in the House of Commons a report on the Canada Health Act, which is the legislative framework underpinning universal health care.

"In New Brunswick, surgical abortion services are only covered under the provincial health insurance plan if performed in a hospital; procedures provided in the private clinic in Fredericton are not covered," the report states. "Any patient charges for surgical abortions would be considered extra-billing and user charges under the act, and would result in penalties."

Hajdu has written to New Brunswick to state that position, and last fall Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would remind Premier Blaine Higgs that his province has an obligation to fund out-of-hospital abortions or risk penalties.

The next step should the issue not be resolved by the end of March would be deductions from New Brunswick's Canada Health Transfer, however Hajdu said there is still time for negotiations.

New Brunswick provides abortion services at the Moncton Hospital, Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton and the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst, but it doesn't cover the procedure at Clinic 554 — a private facility in Fredericton.

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Entertainment news ...

Vancouver-born "Deadpool" star Ryan Reynolds and Toronto native Catherine O'Hara of "Schitt's Creek" are among this year's Governor General's Performing Arts Awards winners.

Organizers say the laureates also include veteran First Nations actress Tantoo Cardinal, who was born in Fort McMurray, Alta., and currently stars in the series "Stumptown."

Other recipients include Vancouver-born composer Alexina Louie, who has written for the stage and screen, and Quebec-based Innu singer-songwriter Florent Vollant, who has worked extensively with Indigenous musicians.

Also on the list is Montreal-based dancer-choreographer Zab Maboungou, who pioneered a contemporary movement technique that draws on the rhythms of traditional Central African music and dance.

Reynolds will receive the National Arts Centre Award, while the other recipients are honoured for lifetime artistic achievement.

The 2020 laureates will be honoured at three events in Ottawa, culminating in the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Gala at the National Arts Centre on April 25.

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Know your news answer ...

Ninety-two. The original Centre Block was destroyed by fire in 1916. While new unfinished Centre Block opened in 1920, the Peace Tower was not dedicated until July 1, 1927.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press




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