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Understanding anti-Asian racism and 'Heavy Sun' drops: In The News for March 19


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 March 19 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Asian Canadian advocates say Canadians need to better understand the racism they face on a daily basis, as condemnation of the killings of six Asian women in the United States on Tuesday grows.

Amy Go, the president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, says many Asian Canadian women have experienced hatred or violence in their daily life.

Federal Trade Minister Mary Ng says she was horrified to hear about Tuesday's attack, and says she's faced discrimination and has been targeted for speaking out about racist incidents across the country.

Police forces across Canada say there has been an increase in hate crimes, largely directed at Asian Canadians, in 2020.

In Vancouver, police reported a 717 per cent increase of hate crimes targeting Asian Canadians.

Henry Yu, an associate professor in the University of British Columbia's history department, says Asian Canadians are often scapegoated for wider societal issues.

Yu says the racist stereotype of Asians being poor at driving, or anger directed at Chinese Canadians investing in real estate in Vancouver, is a way he and others are targeted on a regular basis.


Also this ...

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole will address thousands of members of his party today at their policy convention. 

It's the first speech he's made directly to them since he won leadership in August. 

It comes as the party seems stuck in the polls and the grassroots are expressing some concerns over the state of party affairs ahead of the next election. 

Four hours of debate over party governance yesterday centred around the tension between those who run the party and the thousands of volunteers and donors who keep it humming. 

But the real meat of the convention will be the policy debate today that will see discussion of foreign affairs, climate change, ethics, privacy rights and government accountability.

The Conservatives policy document is supposed to guide the creation of the party's next election platform though the leader is not bound to its contents.


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

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden's goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus vaccinations is expected to be reached today, which is weeks ahead of his target date.

The White House has also announced that he nation is now in position to help supply neighbours Canada and Mexico with millions of life-saving shots.

The Biden administration revealed the outlines of a plan to “loan” a limited number of vaccines to Canada and Mexico as the president announced the U.S. is on the cusp of meeting his 100-day injection goal "way ahead of schedule."  

"I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met our goal," Biden said. He promised to unveil a new vaccination target next week, as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.  

Ahead of Biden's remarks, the White House said it was finalizing plans to send a combined four million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of shots. 

Press secretary Jen Psaki said the details of the "loan" were still being worked out, but 2.5 million doses would go to Mexico and 1.5 million would be sent to Canada.  

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been authorized for use in the U.S. but has been by the World Health Organization. Tens of millions of doses have been stockpiled in the U.S., waiting for emergency use authorization, and that has sparked an international outcry that life-saving vaccine is being withheld when it could be used elsewhere. 


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

DANDONG, China — China put on trial one of two Canadians detained for more than two years in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior Chinese telecom executive. 

Canada said its consular officials were refused permission to attend the proceedings against Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur with North Korea-related business, who is accused by China of stealing state secrets.  

Jim Nickel, the Canadian Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, said he was told by Spavor’s lawyer that the hearing ended at noon Friday after two hours. No verdict was announced. 

Nickel declined to give other details, citing rules on protecting Spavor’s privacy.  

In a statement posted on its website, the Intermediate People’s Court of Dandong in the northeastern province of Liaoning Province said it had held a closed-door hearing against Spavor on charges of spying and illegally sending state secrets abroad.

It said Spavor and his defence lawyers were present for the proceedings and the court would pronounce a sentence at a date “determined in accordance with law."

A hearing for Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, has been scheduled for Monday.

Outside the courthouse, Nickel said Canada still held hope that Spavor and Kovrig could be released through joint efforts with the U.S., whose Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan are holding their first face-to-face talks with China's top diplomats in Alaska. 

“So we're hopeful that, in some measure, this trial may too lead to their immediate release," Nickel said.


On this day in 1937 ...

The House of Commons passed a bill banning Canadians from enlisting to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Many Canadians did so anyway.


In entertainment ...

Daniel Lanois says he hopes his new gospel-fused album "Heavy Sun" offers listeners "some kind of refuge" in these "troubled times" we're living in.

The seven-time Grammy-winning producer and musician, who's worked with U2, Bob Dylan and Brian Eno, reflected on the violence, racism and pandemic anxiety that's gripped the world over the past year.

And he says he thought society would've "evolved past all that" hatred at this point in history.

The 69-year-old Lanois says "Heavy Sun," recorded in the months before the pandemic, captures a sense of community and resilience that's just as needed today.

The album was a collaborative effort between Lanois and his bandmates in the Heavy Sun Orchestra, whom he affectionately calls "the Four Musketeers."

The group is led by vocalist Johnny Shepherd, an organist and choir director from Louisiana-based Zion Baptist Church. Lanois co-produced the album, and he also sings and plays guitar on it.



FREDERICTON — New Brunswick health officials are alerting the province’s doctors, nurses and pharmacists about a growing cluster of people with a neurological syndrome of unknown origin.

Symptoms of the condition are similar to those of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative brain disorder, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell told reporters Thursday.

There are 43 cases under investigation in the province, with 35 confirmed and eight suspected cases, Russell said.

"It most likely is a new disease. We haven't seen this anywhere else," she said. The condition has largely been detected by doctors in the Moncton region and the northeastern part of the province, she said.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of trying to determine the cause, so it's too early really to say very much more," Russell said.

News of the unknown syndrome first emerged through a March 5 memo from deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Cristin Muecke to the province's various medical professional associations. The note asks anyone who suspects they may have come across a patient with the illness to refer them to a specialized clinic.

"We are collaborating with different national groups and experts; however, no clear cause has been identified at this time," Muecke said in the memo.

The memo said the first known case dates to 2015 but was identified later. Eleven more were found in 2019, 24 were detected in 2020 and four more had been identified in 2021 at the time the memo was written. A Health Department spokesperson said three more cases have since been flagged for investigation.

Five people with the unknown syndrome have died, the memo said. Symptoms include rapidly progressing dementia, muscle spasms, atrophy and a host of other complications.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2021

The Canadian Press

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