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Truth and Reconciliation, more COVID rules and an NHL first: In The News for Dec. 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 Dec.

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 Dec. 30 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Murray Sinclair says there was something he found difficult after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its final report into the history and legacy of residential schools.

It was the ongoing resistance some people still had to believing what had happened in those institutions, he said, even after the six-volume report was released in December 2015.

Six years later, the former chair of the commission says he has noticed a change in the response.

"I can't say that it’s disappeared, but it’s certainly been overwhelmed by those who are now saying, 'This should never have happened.'"

Sinclair, like so many other Indigenous leaders, says the discovery by First Nations of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites has led to more people learning, and accepting, what survivors of these institutions experienced.


And this …

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to propel record-breaking numbers of the virus, several provinces are revising health restrictions in an effort to keep hospitals open and the economy moving.

Despite protests from Quebec's largest health-care union, vaccinated health-care workers in that province who test positive for COVID-19 can go back to work after seven days if they have no symptoms.

Ontario and Manitoba are considering similar measures and British Columbia's provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said the idea is "on the table" to ensure "continuity of care."

B.C. is also extending the holiday break by one week for elementary and secondary school students and will bring back most students in a phased approach starting Jan. 10, while parents in Ontario hope clearer direction about back-to-school plans for their kids will be released at a briefing set for later today.

Ottawa-area parent Laura Jackson said the wait for firm word about in-school or at-home learning has made the winter break difficult.

"It’s making me really anxious. I feel like all week I've been noticing my stress levels have been going up," Jackson said from her South Mountain, Ont., home.

Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia set new case records Wednesday as did Quebec, which reported more than 13,000 infections, and Alberta also doubled its active case count in a week, setting its highest single-day increase of new infections.


Also this …

An NHL scouting job came to Brigette Lacquette at a time when she needed it.

She's the first Indigenous woman to scout for an NHL team, working for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Lacquette became the first First Nations woman to play hockey for Canada in a Winter Olympics in 2018. 

The defender earned an Olympic silver medal, but was left off Canada's Olympic roster for 2022.

Lacquette saw a seemingly random message on her Facebook page in May from Blackhawks assistant general manager Ryan Stewart, who oversees pro evaluation.

"I had to Google him because, to be honest, I didn't think it was real," Lacquette said.

The Blackhawks were looking to replenish their scouting staff after a COVID-19 contraction, Stewart said.

"We were looking for more diverse . . . just more opinions, more different people to bring into the fold here," he said. "So doing a lot of research and doing different things, her name just popped up and I kind of dove deeper into it.


What we are watching in the U.S. …

CHICAGO — More than a year after a vaccine was rolled out, new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average. 

The surge has been driven largely by the highly contagious Omicron variant. The previous mark was 250,000 cases per day, set in mid-January, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 is running at around 60,000, or about half the figure seen last January.

With New Year's Eve approaching, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, says there is no need for Americans to cancel small home gatherings among vaccinated and boosted family and friends. But he is strongly recommending against 40- and 50-person parties with lots of hugging and kissing.

The fast-spreading mutant version of the virus has cast a pall over Christmas and New Year's, forcing communities to scale back or call off their festivities just weeks after it seemed as if Americans were about to enjoy an almost normal holiday season. Thousands of flights have been cancelled amid staffing shortages blamed on the virus.

The picture is grim elsewhere around the world, especially in Europe, with World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying he is worried about Omicron combining with the Delta variant to produce a “tsunami” of cases. That, he said, will put “immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse.”

WHO reported that new COVID-19 cases worldwide increased 11 per cent last week from the week before, with nearly 4.99 million recorded from Dec. 20 to 26. But the UN health agency also noted a decline in cases in South Africa, where omicron was first detected just over a month ago.


What we are watching in the rest of the world …

U.S. President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin will speak Thursday as the Russian leader has stepped up his demands for security guarantees in Eastern Europe. 

In announcing the call, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said the two leaders will discuss “a range of topics, including upcoming diplomatic engagements." 

The talks come as the U.S. and Western allies have watched the buildup of Russian troops near the border of Ukraine, growing to an estimated 100,000 and fuelling fears that Moscow is preparing to invade Ukraine, which it denies. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “reiterated the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders.” Price said the two discussed efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia.

Putin said earlier this week he would ponder a slew of options if the West fails to meet his push for security guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.

The U.S. and its allies have refused to offer Russia the kind of guarantees on Ukraine that Putin wants, citing NATO’s principle that membership is open to any qualifying country. They agreed. however, to hold talks with Russia next month to discuss its concerns.


On this day in 1981 …

Wayne Gretzky became the first NHL player to score 50 goals in fewer than 50 games in one season. In just his 39th game, Gretzky notched his 50th goal on an empty-netter that capped a five-goal night as the Edmonton Oilers downed the visiting Philadelphia Flyers 7-5.


In entertainment …

NEW YORK (AP) — Amanda Gorman is ending her extraordinary year on a note of hope with a new work and accompanying video to mark the end of 2021.

The 23-year-old poet, whose reading of her own “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration made her an international sensation, has released “New Day’s Lyric,” a 48-line resolution with themes of struggle and healing known to admirers of “The Hill We Climb” and of her bestselling collection “Call Us What We Carry.” 

Poets rarely enjoy the kind of attention Gorman received in 2021, but in an email to The Associated Press she reflected less on her own success than on the state of the country. Gorman wrote that the “chaos and instability” of the past year had made her reject the idea of going “back to normal” and instead fight to “move beyond it.” She mentioned Maya Angelou's poem “Human Family” and added, “To be a family, a country, doesn’t necessitate that we be the same or agree on everything, only that we continue to try to see the best in each other and move forward into a shared future. Whether we like it or not, we are in this together.”

Gorman offered an alliterative response when asked what inspired “New Day's Lyric,” saying she “wanted to write a lyric to honor the hardships, hurt, hope and healing of 2021 while also hearkening the potential of 2022.”

“This is such a unique New Year’s Day, because even as we toast our glasses to the future, we still have our heads bowed for what has been lost," she wrote. "I think one of the most important things the new year reminds us is of that adage: This too shall pass. You can’t relive the same day twice — meaning every dawn is a new one, and every year an opportunity to step into the light.”



BEIJING — China is urging the United States to protect a Chinese space station and its three-member crew after Beijing complained that satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX nearly struck the station. 

The foreign ministry accused Washington of ignoring its treaty obligations to protect the Tiangong's crew following the incidents in July and October. The Chinese government said in a complaint to the United Nations that the Tiangong performed “evasive manoeuvres” on July 1 and Oct. 21 to “prevent a potential collision” with Starlink satellites launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. 

The foreign ministry said the United States should “take immediate measures to prevent such incidents from happening again."

Spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Washington of failing to carry out its obligations to “protect the safety of astronauts” under a 1967 treaty on the peaceful use of space.

The American embassy in Beijing didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk also is chairman of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla. The company opened its first factory outside the United States in Shanghai in 2019.

The Tiangong, however, is a prestige project for the ruling Communist party, making it unlikely Beijing would tolerate disruption even by a major foreign investor in China.

The main module of the Tiangong was launched in April. Its first crew returned to Earth in September following a 90-day mission. The second crew of two men and one woman arrived on Oct. 16 for a six-month mission.

SpaceX plans to launch some 2,000 Starlink satellites as part of a global internet system to bring internet access to underserved areas. In its 34th and latest launch, SpaceX sent 52 satellites into orbit aboard a rocket Dec. 18.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2021

The Canadian Press