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Federal Islamophobia summit, Linda O'Leary trial wraps up: In The News for July 22

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 22 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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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 July 22 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The federal government is hosting a summit on Islamophobia today following a series of violent, targeted attacks that killed or injured Muslim Canadians and left communities across the country in shock. 

Diversity Minister Bardish Chagger says the summit will be an opportunity for Muslim Canadians to express their ideas and insights on how Ottawa can stop these attacks and implement policies that protect their communities. 

She says there is a need for more work to protect Muslim communities against hate and discrimination fuelled by Islamophobia and the government has worked with national Muslim-led organizations to convene the summit. 

Members of Parliament unanimously adopted a motion calling on the government to convene an emergency summit on Islamophobia on June 11, a few days after a vehicle attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., left four dead and a nine-year-old boy seriously injured. 

A spate of hate-motivated attacks targeted several hijab-wearing Muslim women in Alberta in recent months. Last September, a Muslim man was stabbed to death while volunteering in a Toronto mosque. 

The National Council of Canadian Muslims released 61 recommendations to fight anti-Muslim hate across Canada ahead of the Islamophobia summit. 

Mustafa Farooq, chief executive officer of the NCCM, says the federal government currently doesn't have any specific resources or strategy specifically aiming to fight Islamophobia.

He says his organization's calls for action include urging the federal government to create an office of a special envoy on Islamophobia and to invest in a specific anti-Islamophobia strategy.

"We need to see action. And we need to see it now," he says. "Governments attending the summit must know that we want more than their attendance. We want to see their commitment to timelines."

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Also this ...

A New Democrat MP's request for documents related to a new regulator that will handle child pornography and exploitive material could take over half a decade for the government to process.

In a letter responding to NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus's access-to-information request, the Justice Department says it will take more than six years to provide correspondence and briefings from a three-month period between December and March related to the regulator.

In April, the Liberal government announced it would introduce legislation to create a new regulator that will ensure online platforms remove harmful content, including depictions of children and intimate images that are shared without consent.

Conservative and New Democrat MPs have questioned why a regulator is needed to crack down on exploitive content when the Criminal Code already bars child pornography and the knowing distribution of illicit images.

Angus says the lack of details or timelines around the regulator prompted his request, calling the 75-month waiting period "ridiculous."

The Justice Department says in an email that time frames for processing requests are based on the estimated number of records and that interim release of documents is possible in high-volume cases.

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And this ...

Closing arguments are set to take place today at the trial of Linda O'Leary, who is charged in a 2019 boat crash that killed two people. 

She has pleaded not guilty to one charge of careless operation of a vessel under the Canada Shipping Act.

Her husband — celebrity businessman Kevin O'Leary — testified in her defence Wednesday, saying he saw "zero light" coming from the other vessel involved in the late-night crash on Lake Joseph until after the collision.

The question of whether the other boat had its lights on has been a point of contention in the case. 

Witnesses on the other boat, including the owner who was charged in the crash with failing to exhibit a navigation light, testified that they remembered some lights being on.

O'Leary also said he did not recall if his wife had consumed alcohol in the hours before the crash. 

Court earlier heard testimony from a police officer who said Linda O'Leary registered an "alert range'' level of blood alcohol on a breath test taken shortly after the crash. The officer said Linda O'Leary told her she had only had one drink after the crash.

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

MISSION, Kan. — COVID-19 cases have nearly tripled in the U.S. over two weeks amid an onslaught of vaccine misinformation. 

The spike in infections is straining hospitals, frustrating doctors. 

Across the U.S., the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 on Tuesday, up from less than 13,700 on July 6. Health officials blame the delta variant and flattening vaccination rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 56.2 per cent of Americans have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine. 

“Our staff, they are frustrated," said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville, a Florida hospital that is cancelling elective surgeries and procedures after the number of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 in-patients at its two campuses jumped to 134, up from a low of 16 in mid-May.

“They are tired. They are thinking this is déjà vu all over again, and there is some anger because we know that this is a largely preventable situation, and people are not taking advantage of the vaccine.”

In Louisiana, health officials reported 5,388 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday — the third-highest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. 

Utah reported having 295 people hospitalized due to the virus, the highest number since February. 

“It is like seeing the car wreck before it happens,” said Dr. James Williams, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Texas Tech, who has recently started treating more COVID-19 patients. “None of us want to go through this again.”

He said the patients are younger — many in their 20s, 30s and 40s — and overwhelmingly unvaccinated.

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

TOKYO — On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, the government’s attempts to curb a coronavirus surge by targeting drinkers is drowning in liquor, frustration and indifference. 

Japan has asked the city’s restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m., if not entirely, to deter people from socializing in close contact with strangers and spreading the virus. But instead, drinkers moved outdoors and Tokyo bars were bustling with defiant customers. 

Those enjoying a drink on a recent weekday evening were hardly celebrating the Olympics. But the long emergency situation and the inconsistency of officials' words and actions isn't making Tokyo residents stay home.

“Nobody is convinced when (the government) victimizes people who are drinking alcohol without showing decent scientific evidence, even while going ahead with the Olympics,” said Mio Maruyama, a 28-year-old real estate industry worker who was chatting with her colleagues on the street in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.

She says she’s interested in watching the Games, especially new sports like skateboarding and Japan’s Rui Hachimura, an NBA star, “but when I think of how politicians are playing around with this, I’m not quite rooting for this event from my heart.” 

On a quiet street in east Shinjuku, Naoto Suga picked up a can of lemon-flavoured liquor that his friend had just brought him. They sat on a curbside, along with around a dozen others who were also drinking on the street.

“We’ve been here every night for the past three days or so,” said Suga, 25, who works in a nearby apparel shop.

“I don’t think the Olympics itself made this (situation), but even before the Games, things like the state of emergency have remained half measures, and I think that’s making things worse,” he said. “People are all used to the state of emergency, so it’s getting less meaningful now.”

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On this day in 1981 ...

The tradition of men-only taverns in Quebec ended when it was announced that taverns licensed since 1979 must post a notice saying women were allowed to enter. Taverns licensed before 1979 were not affected.

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In entertainment ...

WASHINGTON — Canadian "Saturday Night Live" mastermind Lorne Michaels and music legend Joni Mitchell are among those slated to received Kennedy Center Honors at a ceremony in December.

This 44th class of honorees for lifetime achievement in the creative arts is heavy on musical performers. The honorees also include opera singer Justino Diaz, actress-singer Bette Midler and Motown Records creator Berry Gordy.

All will be honoured on Dec. 5 with a trademark program that includes personalized tributes and performances that are kept secret from the honorees.

Saskatchewan-raised Mitchell, 77, emerged from the Canadian coffee shop circuit to become one of the standard-bearers for multiple generations of singer-songwriters. In 2020, Rolling Stone magazine declared her 1971 album “Blue” to be the third-best album of all time. In a brief statement, Mitchell, said, "I wish my mother and father were alive to see this. It’s a long way from Saskatoon."

Michaels, 76, who grew up in Toronto, is a comedy institution unto himself — creating and producing "Saturday Night Live" since 1975 and producing dozens of movies and television shows, including "Wayne's World," "Kids in the Hall" and "Mean Girls." He received the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Award for lifetime achievement in comedy in 2004.

Not normally an onstage performer, Michaels recalls the Mark Twain evening as “mostly nerve-wracking” because he spent the evening dreading the traditional end-of-night speech he had to deliver.

But the Kennedy Center Honors bring no such pressures, and Michaels said he intends to sit back in the special honorees box at the opera house and see what surprises the organizers have in store.

"You don't have to give a speech at the end, which is huge," he said. "You're just there with your friends."

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ICYMI ...

OTTAWA — Canada has quietly made another multimillion-dollar payment toward development of the F-35 stealth fighter despite uncertainty over whether it will buy the aircraft and calls from some prominent Canadians not to purchase any new fighter jets.

Canada is one of nine countries that have agreed to cover a portion of the stealth fighter's multibillion-dollar development costs each year in exchange for being able to buy the plane at a lower cost and compete for work associated with building and maintaining it.

Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier says the most recent payment was for US$71-million and was made in the spring, bringing Canada's total investment in the project to more than US$600 million since 1997.

News of the investment comes as the government is poised to announce later this year whether Canada will buy Lockheed Martin's F-35, Boeing's Super Hornet or Saab's Gripen to replace the military's aging CF-18s at an estimated cost of $19 billion.

It also comes as dozens of Canadian singers, authors, politicians and activists, including Neil Diamond, David Suzuki and Michael Ondaatje have signed a statement calling on the government to cancel its plans to buy new fighter jets.

The signatories argue fighter jets not only contribute to climate change but that the real cost will be billions of dollars more than advertised, money they say would be better spent on social housing, railway lines and in Indigenous communities.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2021

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