The News Rundown
- Alberta is open and all COVID related restrictions have ended. The pandemic is still technically going on but for the most part life can now return to normal in Alberta.
- Provincial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw gave her last COVID update on Tuesday with cases hanging persistently below the 100 case marker.
- We have said that the pandemic would end sooner than most think and here we are. Yes, the pandemic still is officially a thing as per the WHO but the days of concern are behind us.
- We transition into a phase where COVID becomes a manageable illness with vaccines similar to other diseases that we vaccinate for.
- There was tons of celebration for Canada Day and moving out of the pandemic despite the shadow cast by the dialog and in some cases violence spurred by more unmarked graves being found at numerous residential school sites and churches being burned across Canada.
- Despite all this the show must go on and we celebrated Canada Day this year with these facts in mind as we move forward.
- Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro were at a Canada Day parade in Calgary when it was interrupted by protestors.
- The first thought is that these would be protestors taking issue with the celebration of Canada Day given the grim discussion over the last 2-3 weeks related to the residential school program.
- It turns out that these were protestors who were angry at the UCP government for their COVID response and purported “lockdown” of the Alberta economy.
- Protestors repeatedly yelled “Lock Shandro up” and involved his children, one of them saying, “sorry buddy your father is a war criminal.”
- Minister Shandro was able to get his children off the scene but in the aftermath both him and his wife were visibly shaken.
- The Premier was also interrupted when speaking by similar chants.
- It is suspected that the protestors were supporters of Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston.
- Our podcast is about removing bias and sensationalism. Those who engage in protests like this with chants of “lock him up” or equate the UCP government to war criminals are horribly misguided.
- They’ve fallen victim to either sensationalist media on the right or candidates who use similar rhetoric.
- If you believe that the Premier and his ministers should be locked up or have committed war crimes, this is not the podcast for you. Stop listening now.
- As we’ve said many times in the past, the main way online media drives interaction today is with sensationalist headlines. Alternate media often takes this to a whole new level putting their viewership numbers ahead of whatever they claim to be fighting for.
- Just like the extreme left, the extreme right thrives on division. That division can be anything from pitting Albertans against the Health Minister and Premier to raising outrage that could very well get the NDP elected come 2023.
- Taking a fact for fact look at the Alberta pandemic response anyone will see that we have had probably the most open economy outside of places like South Dakota in the United States.
- Aside from the first spring shutdown last year which the government has apologized for, retail was never shut down, restaurants could do take out or delivery, and we never had a lockdown or curfew as some would have you think.
- A lockdown or curfew means that you can’t leave your house except for essential purposes. That never happened in Alberta.
- In talking with those from jurisdictions who experienced lockdowns (like Australia or the UK) they’re quite honestly amazed when I show them the graph of COVID cases going down without harsh restrictions and allowing retail to remain open.
- There is always room for discussion and debate when it comes to government policy.
- The squeeze on movie theatres, libraries, and gyms probably didn’t make much sense but overall Alberta’s approach was the most measured in Canada and probably one of the most measured in the entire world.
- Western Context is here to show the bias and sensationalism that occurs on all sides of the media, not just the mainstream media.
- Minister of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation Doug Schweitzer said it best, “agree with us… disagree with us. Vote for us or don’t vote for us. What happened to Minister Shandro and his family was disgusting and wrong.”
- It's been a really tough week for BC. In the time since our last episode was recorded, Much of BC and Alberta (as well as much of the rest of Western North America) has been trapped under what was called by meteorologists as a "heat dome", with temperatures soaring into the low to mid 40° C. For any Americans listening to us, welcome! That's around 110°F.
- For some parts of the world, this temperature is regularly seen. For a lot of Western Canada, it is unusual for temperatures to reach into the mid 30s, let alone into the 40°s. Lots of homes and businesses in Coastal BC, where much of BC's population is located, would not even bother having air conditioning, as temperatures past the high 20°s would be only seen one or 2 days out of the year.
- As of an hour before recording on Friday, the BC coroner's service has announced that the heat wave was the cause of 719 sudden deaths, almost 4 times the usual number, the provincial coroners service said Wednesday. That's a huge loss of life in a year where we have had much more of it than usual, due to Covid, overdoses, suicides, and other reasons. To compare, the total number of covid deaths in BC is 1754.
- BC's Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said many of the people who died lived alone and were found in residences that were hot and not ventilated. Lapointe said B.C. had seen only three heat-related deaths in the past three to five years before the heat wave, and said that "this, frankly, took many of us off guard."
- Lapointe went further: "Many of our health services, our first responders, we haven't experienced anything like this in the province previously. It took a bit of time for us to ramp up our response. There were some delays in reaching the coroner and there were some delays in responding to scenes."
- Lapointe said the agency will look at patterns in the deaths, including regions where they occurred, the age and sex of the person, any underlying health conditions they might have had and their type of dwelling. The report will also study best practices in other jurisdictions and provide recommendations to the province. Lapointe said it will take a couple of months to complete.
- The small village of Lytton BC, has undoubtedly had the toughest week by far. At the start of the heat wave, the village of around 250 people recorded a temperature of 46.6°C on Sunday, breaking Canada's all time temperature record. On Monday it broke its own record, reaching 47.5°C, and on Tuesday, broke it again for the 3rd time, reaching 49.6°C.
- Prior to the recent heat wave in B.C., the previous all-time high of 45°C was documented in Yellow Grass and in Midale, Sask., on July 5, 1937. The previous B.C. record of 44.4°C was set in Lytton in 1941.
- The bad times weren't over for Lytton though. On Wednesday, a wildfire swept quickly through the area, and into town. By the end of Thursday, 90% of the entire town had burned down. More than 1000 people living in the area had to evacuate, and efforts are still underway to account for everybody who has been displaced, with several people still missing.
- Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman signed the official evacuation order at 6 p.m. PT on Wednesday. He said the village was overcome by flames before officials had the chance to coordinate a place for people to go, so many just started driving.
- "The town burnt down. I noticed some white smoke at the south end of town and within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole town was engulfed in flame."
- Scott Hildebrand, chief administrative officer with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, said officials have a suspicion as to how the fire started. "It's still not confirmed, but it appears a train may have sparked the blaze." CN Rail did not report any issues to the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) related to a train incident in Lytton, and has not confirmed that the Lytton fires were started by a train.
- On Tuesday, John Horgan spoke about the heatwave, and its deadly and catastrophic consequences on the province: "The public was acutely aware that we had a heat problem. And we were doing our best to break through all of the other noise to encourage people to take steps to protect themselves."
- The premier said he was waiting for further details on the recent deaths from the provincial coroner adding, "fatalities are a part of life" and that the causes of them "are examined by officials." He also emphasized there was a "level of personal responsibility" for residents to look after themselves and each other.
- Many took to social media to voice their disappointment in Horgan's comments. Shortly after the news conference, a statement was put out on Horgan's Twitter saying his comments "didn't reflect" the fact that "mourning families deserve our compassion."
- "Nothing can ease the pain of losing a loved one, whether it's from the unprecedented heat wave or any other cause. Please continue supporting one another and checking on your neighbours."
- It's not the first time that Horgan has had to walk back callous remarks. BC, and Canada as a whole is going through a tough time right now, and now more than ever, we need to support each other and help everyone get through this crisis.
- On Wednesday night 10 churches were vandalized in Calgary.
- The Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth statues outside the Manitoba Legislature were toppled. A statue of Captain Cook in Victoria, one of the first British explorers to map the coast of BC, was also beheaded and the statue was thrown into the Inner Harbour.
- Over the last weekend four more churches were burned down in the interior of BC and one in BC’s north.
- The arson is not confined to the west, in Nova Scotia police have also deemed a church fire on the Sipekne’katik First Nation suspicious.
- And to top it all off the St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alberta was burned down early Wednesday.
- Police are investigating the fire as it has been deemed suspicious.
- Indigenous leaders and politicians are on the record saying that church burning is not the answer.
- The string of arsons and vandalism comes after more remains of Indigenous children were found at residential schools in BC and in Saskatchewan. More investigations are underway including in Alberta.
- The police hate crime unit is investigating in Calgary.
- They were also very clear to point out that while the efforts of reconciliation need to be considered in policing, vandalism only creates more division.
- Premier Jason Kenney has been vocal in condemning these acts of violence.
- In the case of the Calgary vandalism he pointed out that one of the vandalized churches was an African Evangelical church that has its congregation made up almost entirely of new Canadians, many who came to Canada hoping to practice their faith peacefully.
- With regards to the church in Morinville though, he did not mince words. He said, “It is nauseating, that level of description, of violence. It is so wrong on so many levels, burning down the spiritual and historic heart of a community and risking human lives to make, apparently, some kind of a perverse political point.”
- He also said that these acts are designed to install fear and that is what terrorism is about.
- It was also made very clear that had a mosque or temple burned down he would be there in the same capacity.
- There are those who are asking questions as to why this is the reaction of Jason Kenney painting him as some defender of the Catholic faith despite everything most Canadians have learnt in the recent weeks.
- The reality though is that it is the Premier himself, who as Immigration Minister, brought many of these new Canadians to Canada in the early 2000s who built and are a part of the communities many are suggesting the Premier is ignoring.
- Online discussion has taken the view that the Catholic church and Catholics themselves had this coming since it was their schools after all that were so brutal.
- Every Prime Minister through 1997 bears some responsibility as the last residential school only shut down in 1997.
- How much responsibility does Sir John A. MacDonald or Wilfred Laurier bear? How about Diefenbaker or Trudeau Sr. or even Jean Chretien who was Trudeau’s Indian Affairs minister?
- Assembly of First Nations national Chief Perry Bellegarde said, “to burn things down is not our way.”
- I opened this story by running through a list of vandalized monuments or churches. We have to ask: where does it end?
- When does the violence go too far and become an endemic problem within our society?
- The current political discourse on this matter lacks a strong national leader who can speak to both sides.
- Those on the political left engaged in activism as they see it or high in the sky moral truths will claim that this was the natural endgame. Violence should never be the end target.
- Those on the political right engaged in activism as they see it will use this to drive a wedge between them and the state painting the state as the ultimate problem.
- The very fact of the matter lies in the middle, burning churches is criminal at least and unCanadian in that it goes against the values of law and order that this country is based on.
- If these church burnings are confirmed to be motivated by faith and they are designed to instill fear in the Catholic community then they should absolutely be called terrorism.
- There is a huge opportunity for one of our leaders to put forward a plan that brings all Canadians together and implements a system that allows for the correction of injustices of the past.
- We’ll close by echoing the words of the Premier, “we must all reject hateful acts of violence whenever and wherever they occur.”
- As we continue the saga of the two dismissed Chinese scientists from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, startling new information has been released, which begs the question: just what else is our federal government covering up?
- The RCMP are investigating whether two scientists dismissed from Canada’s top-security infectious-disease laboratory passed on Canadian intellectual property to China, including to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
- The investigation centres on the possibility that materials such as plasma DNA molecules, which could be used to recreate vaccines or viruses, were transferred to Chinese authorities without the approval of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
- The RCMP have also been informed that Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, recently relocated to China after they were fired in January from the National Microbiology Laboratory.
- As part of the criminal probe of the couple, the source says the RCMP investigation has expanded to determine how two People’s Liberation Army scientists gained access to the Winnipeg lab, a Level-4 facility equipped to handle some of the world’s most dangerous viruses. The probe began in July, 2019, when the couple and an unknown number of students from China lost their security clearances and were escorted out of the Winnipeg facility.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada has described the reasons for their departure as an “administrative matter” and “possible breaches of security protocols” at the infectious-disease lab. It has declined to say more, citing privacy and security considerations.
- After opposition MPs passed a motion to obtain unredacted records on why the two scientists were fired, the Liberal government said it could not release the information because it contained sensitive national-security matters. The government has since gone to the Federal Court of Canada to block the information from being provided to Parliament.
- The House Speaker, Anthony Rota, ordered the government to produce the documents, after a vote in Parliament, and the government vowed to take Rota to court to block the release. Just what are they trying to cover up?
- Dr. Qiu was the former head of the Vaccine Development and Antiviral Therapies section in the Special Pathogens program at the Winnipeg lab, and travelled frequently to China, including repeated visits to the Wuhan Level-4 lab. In late May, The Globe revealed that she and her husband collaborated with Chinese military scientists on experiments and co-authored papers on deadly pathogens such as Ebola, Lassa fever and Rift Valley fever.
- One of the Chinese researchers, Feihu Yan of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Medical Sciences, worked for a period of time at the Winnipeg lab. In a December, 2018, paper co-authored with Dr. Qiu, he listed an affiliation with NML and the department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Manitoba. The university recently told The Globe that they had no record of him being registered there. The source said the RCMP have since learned that a second PLA scientist worked at NML.
- No new collaborations on research projects have been initiated with China, and all co-operation with the Wuhan Institute ended in the summer of 2019, when the couple’s security clearances were revoked.
- In related news, harassment campaigns are being orchestrated in Canada by the Chinese Embassy and Chinese foreign agents have threatened Canadian citizens here, according to Commons committee testimony.
- Cabinet wrote in a letter to a Commons foreign affairs subcommittee that “The government has warned Chinese authorities against interference activities, raised concerns directly over attempts to intimidate Canadians from freely expressing their views, and will continue to do so.”
- “The Government of Canada is aware that foreign states, including the People’s Republic of China or its proxies, may attempt to harass, threaten and intimidate Canadians, persons residing in Canada or their families in Canada or abroad, particularly Chinese diaspora or ethno-cultural communities,”
- That letter was in response to a recommendation from a subcommittee that federal agencies “systemically track cases of harassment by Chinese authorities.” Official estimates suggest the RCMP receives on average 120 tips daily alleging covert activities by Communist Party agents in Canada.
- Rukiye Turdush, a Uygur-Canadian, testified at a Special Commons Committee on Canada-China relations at May 31 regarding 2019 incidents such as McMaster University’s ban of a campus club, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, suspected of hectoring Uygur Muslim students on campus.
- “The Chinese Embassy told these students and instructed them in what to do,” Turdush testified, adding she was covertly videotaped while giving a speech at McMaster’s Muslim Students’ Association.
- “This was clearly intelligence gathering. This is not an issue between me and the international Chinese students. This is China’s influence on Canada. Governments should deal with it.”
- Chinese influence in Canada extends far. Independent Senators Group (ISG) Leader Senator Yuen Pau Woo said Canada should avoid criticizing China for its human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims because our country has mistreated Indigenous peoples.
- Echoing an argument made by Chinese officials at the UN last week, Woo said China's policy toward the Muslim minority in Xinjiang province is similar to the colonialism directed at Indigenous peoples in this country, and that condemning the Asian country in harsh terms would be "gratuitous" and "simply an exercise in labelling."
- Citing allegations of China's mass arrest of Uyghurs on "terrorism" charges, the forced sterilization of Muslim women and the relocation of their villages, Woo said Canada "did all of those things, and we did them throughout our short history as a country, most appallingly to Indigenous peoples, but also to recent immigrants and minority groups who were deemed undesirable, untrustworthy or just un-Canadian."
- Woo, who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016, urged senators to reject a Conservative-led motion in the upper house that would denounce China's genocide against the Turkic minorities, arguing such a statement would be a "distraction" that would further damage already strained Canada-China relations.
- Senate motion no. 79, which was introduced by Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos and seconded by Independent Sen. Marilou McPhedran, calls on the Senate to "recognize that a genocide is currently being carried out by the People's Republic of China against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims." It also proposes calling on the International Olympic Committee to deny Beijing the 2022 Winter Olympics by relocating the Games to another country "if the Chinese government continues this genocide."
- Woo said that while there may be legitimate concerns about the conditions the Uyghurs face, parliamentarians should avoid passing motions on sensitive issues like this because it would needlessly embarrass China or suggest Canada believes it is morally superior. He said that Canadians may be concerned about the Uyghurs, but our criticism should be made in the spirit of friendship and "out of a desire for China to succeed as a nation of many ethnicities," he said.
- This is disgusting behaviour from a senator meant to represent Canadian interests. It's clear that the Chinese government has far reaching influence in Canada, from businesses, to universities, and even in our political apparatus. It's clear our government needs to do something, and it needed to happen much sooner than now.
Word of the Week
Heat Dome - a mass of hot air rooted stubbornly in one spot, trapping those within it at ground level in a lengthy heat wave, caused by a sharp rise in ocean temperature, which then warms the air, and wind then pushes the air over land.
Quote of the Week
“Agree with us… disagree with us. Vote for us or don’t vote for us. What happened to Minister Shandro and his family was disgusting and wrong.” - Minister of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation Doug Schweitzer on the verbal assault of Tyler Shandro and family.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Heated Discourse
Teaser: Alberta’s Health Minister is persecuted by anti-lockdown protestors, Lytton BC burns to the ground a day after breaking Canada’s heat record, and dozens of churches and statues are burned down on Canada Day. Also, Chinese influence extends far in Canada.
Recorded Date: July 2, 2021
Release Date: July 4, 2021
Edit Notes: Defector
Podcast Summary Notes