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Canada Day festivities and the Old Sam logo; In The News for June 30

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 June 30 …

What we are watching in Canada … 

OTTAWA — COVID-19 means the true north is not entirely free this Canada Day, but a new survey suggests that’s not going to change how many people mark the holiday.

Leger Marketing and the Association for Canadian Studies surveyed Canadians to see whether, given all that’s gone on around the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ll be more or less likely to find a way to celebrate this year.

For 42 per cent of those polled, this Canada Day will be no different than previous years.

Sixteen per cent of those surveyed are feeling that true patriot love — they say they’re more likely this year to find a way to celebrate, even if it’s just a small gathering.

But 38 per cent are standing on guard, saying it’s actually less likely they’ll mark the holiday.

The poll surveyed 1,524 Canadians online between June 26 and June 28 and cannot assign a margin of error because internet polls are not considered truly random.

Also this …

VANCOUVER — Celebrating Canada Day for some Indigenous groups in British Columbia isn’t a top priority, especially given recent reports of confrontations with police and systemic racism in the provincial health-care system.

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis says there’s been an erosion of the relationship between government and Indigenous Peoples, which makes it difficult to join the celebration.

Jess Housty, with the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, says she can’t recall the last time the community celebrated Canada Day.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the director of the University of B.C.’s residential school centre, has been appointed to investigate allegations that some emergency room staff played a guessing game of the blood-alcohol content of Indigenous patients.

She says Canada Day is a symbol of colonialism and recent anti-pipeline protests by First Nations and the Black Lives Matter movement add complexity to the national celebration.

The federal Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations says in a statement it recognizes Canada Day isn’t a celebration for all and that it is important to acknowledge and apologize for past behaviour.

ICYMI (In case you missed it) …

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. says it will change the logo — but keep the name — of a locally bottled rum brand that appears to depict a laughing Black man.

The Crown corporation says its own research into the 200-year history of Old Sam Rum did not unearth any direct evidence that the image on its labels is rooted in racist stereotypes.

But in a Monday statement announcing the character’s removal from the logo, the agency says it was impossible to reach a definitive conclusion about any links to “negative racial stereotypes.”

The company announced a review of the product this month after a staff member raised concerns, following several other companies making changes to racist depictions of Black people in brands.

The corporation says its “extensive research” found that the person depicted on the label may be the founder of Edward Young & Co., the company that originally owned the brand.

A description that was removed from the product website on Monday had described the “Old Sam” character as a man who sold rum products along the Demerara River in Guyana in the 1700s.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — Eight Democrats are to be briefed today about explosive allegations that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan.

Republicans who attended a Monday briefing on the matter expressed alarm about Russia’s activities in Afghanistan and urged the administration to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insists U.S. President Donald Trump has not been briefed on the findings because they hadn’t been verified.

Members of Congress in both parties are calling for additional information and consequences for Russia.

What we are watching elsewhere in the world …

HONG KONG — China has approved a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong.

Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, confirmed the law had been passed. The law has sparked fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory.

Tam said punishments would not include the death penalty but did not elaborate on further details such as whether the law could be applied retroactively.

Tam said in the interview with reporters, “We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble.”

Today in 1987 … 

The Bank of Canada stopped issuing $1 bills. They were replaced with $1 coins that came to be known as loonies.

In business news …

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada will release its reading for gross domestic product for April this morning.

The report is expected to show a record plunge as the COVID-19 pandemic brought non-essential businesses to a halt.

April is expected to be the bottom for the economy with non-essential businesses shut for the full month before they started reopening in May.

Statistics Canada’s initial estimate for April that it released last month pointed to a 11 per cent decline in GDP for the month.

Economists on average expect a drop of 13 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The Canadian economy pulled back 7.2 per cent in March as the World Health Organization declared the pandemic and non-essential businesses closed to slow the spread.

In entertainment …

TORONTO — Alessia Cara emerged the top winner at this year’s Juno Awards, scooping up three trophies in a pre-recorded ceremony that paired celebration with an acknowledgment that more needs to be done to represent the diverse voices of Canadian artists.

While the Junos usually mark the biggest night for the country’s music industry, the Monday event, which streamed online, took on a noticeably different tone in isolation. Missing were those euphoric acceptance speeches inside a massive venue filled with adoring fans, replaced with a handful of intimate performances and some serious reflection on the future.

Running a bit over 90 minutes, the Junos were handed out at historic speed, with 42 categories announced by presenters that included “Stranger Things” actor Finn Wolfhard and singer Jessie Reyez, who also pocketed her third career Juno during the event.

But it was the 23-year-old Cara who shone brightest as her deeply personal 2018 “The Pains of Growing” picked up both album and pop album of the year, while she also won songwriter of the year for her work on several of its tracks.

It was an uplifting finish for the Brampton, Ont.-raised pop singer after her dreams of hosting the awards show were dashed in the wake of COVID-19. She was originally lined up to be MC for the televised event in Saskatoon last March before organizers pulled the plug in response to the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press


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Edmonton Oilers online 50/50 raffle sells out with record-setting $5.7M pot

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers online 50/50 raffle has hit another record and had to close early after it reached the server provider’s maximum allowable tickets sales.

The Oilers Entertainment Group says the final estimated jackpot Wednesday is $5.4 million, with the lucky winner taking home $2.7 million.

The other half of the funds raised from the raffle will go to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.

Monday night’s raffle for Game 2 of the Oilers-Blackhawks series shamed the previous record for the largest sports raffle as the pot surpassed $3.2 million.

The previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when the 50/50 raffle reached $2 million during the 2019 NBA Finals, the year the team won the championship.

For Game 4, ticket sales are to open at 9 a.m. MT on Friday and Oilers Entertainment Group says its online 50/50 service provider is working to address the maximum ticket issue before that game.

“The passion and support for the 50/50 raffle has been exceptional and is yet another concrete example of Oilers fans’ commitment to their community,” the company said in a statement.

“You should expect improvements in the very immediate future as we chase yet another 50/50 record.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2020

The Canadian Press

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Veteran Canadian Press broadcast journalist Peter Ray dies at age 71

TORONTO — Peter Rakobowchuk, a journalist with Canada’s national news agency whose high energy delivery was instantly recognizable to decades of listeners, has died.

More widely known by his radio moniker Peter Ray — a supervisor early on told him it sounded smoother — the irrepressible Rakobowchuk had been undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer. He was 71.

“He had such a distinctive voice that no name was required,” said Rose Kingdon, broadcast director at The Canadian Press.

In fact, according to those who were there, guests at his wedding to his wife Pat Enborg three decades ago clamoured for him to do his famous sign off when he got up to respond to the roasts.

“Do the sign-off, do the sign-off,” they chanted when he picked up the microphone. To much applause, Rakobowchuk boomed: “Peter Ray, Montreal.”

Born in Verdun, Que., Rakobowchuk began his career as a DJ with various private radio outlets, known at one point as “Rockin’ Peter Ray.” In February 1979, he joined Broadcast News, a subsidiary of The Canadian Press, in Toronto. He transferred to the Ottawa bureau 18 months later, spending four years there before moving to Montreal, where, apart from a six-year stint covering the legislature in Quebec City, he remained.

A fearless reporter, Rakobowchuk covered a wide array of assignments with unbridled enthusiasm. He was there when the Queen signed the Constitution. He was at the Oka crisis. He covered referendums, protests, political leadership races and elections, sometimes racing to events in the “War Wagon,” a 1978 Chevy Malibu, the first car he owned.

He loved the craft, especially when news was breaking, Enborg said on Wednesday.

“He didn’t hesitate at all to be called on to a story as it was developing, and to follow it through to its end — no matter how long it took,” Enborg said. “He loved every minute of it.”

In the early ’90s, Rakobowchuk slipped into a phone booth to file a report on a protest south of Montreal when he began having difficulty. Tear gas, he explained apologetically, as he got his report across between coughing bouts.

Despite the pressure of years of constant deadlines, Rakobowchuk managed to find a puppy-like joy in his work.

“To say he was enthusiastic is a bit of an understatement,” said Nelson Wyatt, a long-time colleague and friend.

During one protest, Rakobowchuk came across looters in a store and jumped right in to shoot video. When voices behind him yelled, “Move!” he responded to the officers poking him in the back with their batons: “In a minute!”

Rakobowchuk was known for asking questions others were reluctant to ask, such as when he tackled then-premier Jean Charest about the curls he had just had shorn, or grilled former premier Robert Bourassa on sovereignty. Despite groans from francophone media, they invariably led their reports with the response.

Despite his willingness to engage pointedly with newsmakers, he was seldom angry or mean.

He did once get under the skin of Bob Gainey, then coach of the Montreal Canadiens, when he cited Enborg as wondering why Gainey was sticking with goalie Carey Price. “Carey Price is a thoroughbred maybe your wife doesn’t recognize it,” Gainey retorted, before adding that she didn’t bake bread very well, either.

Rakobowchuk took great pride in adding print to his journalism skills, and continued working after taking sick leave in 2015 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

He also developed a keen interest and expertise in stories about space exploration.

“His passion and enthusiasm never waned,” said former Montreal bureau chief, Donald McKenzie. “Never was that enthusiasm more pronounced than when he was writing about the space beat.”

One of his greatest joys was getting to go down to Florida to cover the final space shuttle launch in 2011.

“He practically bounced off the ground to be able to go down there and cover it,” Enborg said.

Besides Enborg, Rakobowchuk is survived by his son Alex and daughter Lisa, as well as Giselle, a daughter from a previous marriage. His five siblings predeceased him.

In his final post on Facebook less than a week ago, he urged people to get tested for the coronavirus after his came back negative.

“A great stress reliever,” he said. “Worrying about whether or not you’re positive is not good for your state of mind.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the family will be holding a private service Aug. 12 at Collins Clarke MacGillivray White Funeral Home in Pointe-Claire, Que.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 5, 2020.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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Feds look to finalize deal with airlines amid contact-tracing concerns

OTTAWA — As Ottawa and airlines talk about contact tracing, federal officials are trying to sort out how much information companies should provide, and how the data should flow.

Concerns about the level of detail airlines provide have been greatest in British Columbia, where the provincial health officer has lamented a lack of movement from federal officials.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday there could be improvements to the data that airlines provide as part of efforts to trace the potential spread of COVID-19.

A federal government official tells The Canadian Press the issue revolves around information collected for domestic flights, with one of the hurdles being finding an agreement that satisfies all parties involved.

The official wasn’t authorized to speak on the record because efforts are being headed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The federal health agency already requires airlines to provide information on travellers arriving on international flights who are subject to strict quarantine rules and Tam says there hasn’t been a confirmed case of in-flight transmission.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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