Tag Archives: urgent

Olympic champion Kingsbury calls for urgent action to allow sport in Quebec schools

Quebec mogul king Mikael Kingsbury is calling for the return of sport in schools.

In an open letter on Wednesday to Quebec Premier François Legault, the reigning Olympic and world moguls champion says urgent action is needed amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

“I am worried about the situation of young athletes,” wrote the 28-year-old freestyle skiing star. “The health of thousands of young people is at risk.”

Inspired in part by his own experiences growing up, Kingsbury is lending his voice to the efforts of a 16-year-old high school student, Isaac Pépin, who has been urging the provincial government to show flexibility in its approach to sport in schools.

WATCH | Kingsbury writes open letter to Quebec Premier François Legault:

Days before the world championship, the moguls skier writes an open letter to Quebec Premier urging the government to get kids out of their houses. 5:49

Kingsbury told CBC Sports in an exclusive interview on Thursday that the plea is something he understands all too well.

“Having grown up skiing and playing baseball with my friends, sport is a motivator. A source of meaning,” he said, adding that sport was a big part of what helped keep him coming back to class.

For the 28-year-old native of Deux-Montagnes, Que., it’s also a question of mental as well as physical health.

“I am worried that young people are lost. That they are abandoning sport in favour of screens,” Kingsbury wrote in his letter to Legault.

This is why Kingsbury supports Pépin’s calls for the resumption of supervised sport.

‘I got dizzy’

“I stopped this week and wondered what I would do if I was this young man deprived of sport for a year in a period of a pandemic,” Kingsbury wrote.

“I got dizzy! I wouldn’t have had the capacity to survive a full year without my passion. I tell you very simply: I would be adrift. I am convinced that sports clubs, sports organizations and federations have the capacities, the means, but above all the determination necessary to protect young people and their families. Before, during and after sports practice.”

And Kingsbury feels the time to act is now.

“It’s been a year where people across Canada, but especially in Quebec, have not been able to play collective sports,” he told CBC Sports. “It’s like a year the kids are losing and will never get back again.”

WATCH | Kingsbury reflects on consecutive World Cup victories:

A day after winning his 1st event in Deer Valley, reigning Olympic and world moguls champion Mikael Kingsbury from Deux-Montagnes, Que., earns his 2nd straight victory with a win in dual moguls. 1:35

Legault said he understands the frustration, but also the importance of sport on mental health during a COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

“People who know me know that I do a lot of sports,” Legault said. “Sports is important. There’s nothing better to decrease stress levels, and it’s important for mental heath. But we all agree that certain sports, at the very least, we might get too close and bring about contagion.”

While discussions with sports federations are still ongoing, Legault will offer more of an update next week and acknowledged that “as of March 15th, everywhere in Quebec will be able to start outside school activities.”

Meanwhile, Kingsbury — who only recently returned to action in February after fracturing his T4 and T5 vertebrate in November prior to the opening of the freestyle ski season — is in Kazakhstan gearing up for freestyle skiing world championships in Almaty.

He says the passion that Pépin and fellow organizers have exhibited for sport has given him extra motivation to win. 

“[They] are only asking for one thing: to breathe new life into young people by allowing them to reconnect with their passion.”

Kingsbury won’t be able to stand with protestors at a planned rally in front of the provincial parliament on Sunday, but remains hopeful activities will open up when he returns to his home province.

“On behalf of all athletes in Quebec, amateurs and professionals, I hope that when I return home in mid-March, sport will find its rightful place.”

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Alberta child advocate calls for ‘urgent response’ to prevent young adult deaths

The latest report from Alberta’s child advocate reignited calls Monday to reverse a controversial rollback to the cutoff age for a program that helps young adults transition out of the child intervention system.

Del Graff’s report examines the “profound and tragic” deaths of six young people in 2018 who were transitioning out of government care into adulthood at the time. 

The report comes one month after the Alberta government announced its decision to roll back the current cutoff age for the program known as Support and Financial Assistance Agreements (SFAAs). As of April 2020, post-intervention supports will end at age 22, previously 24.

NDP Children’s Services critic Rakhi Pancholi called on the government to reverse the decision.

“You have to remember these are young people who have grown up in care. They don’t have family supports. They don’t have the people there to help them transition at a critical time,” Pancholi said Monday.

Pancholi highlighted two deaths reported last week on the Government of Alberta’s website —  a 23-year-old on Nov. 20 and a 20-year-old on Nov. 17 — who were both receiving government services. 

“We believe that this speaks to the vulnerability of the young people who are transitioning out of care and into adulthood, that they need significant supports to help that transition be successful,” she said.

One of the youth in Graff’s report, referred to as Ian, had a good sense of humour and enjoyed video games and playing guitar. At 14, he was placed in care when his great-grandmother could no longer care for him due to dementia. 

After Ian turned 18, his mental health declined. He became suicidal and was often homeless. Ian killed himself two months before his 23rd birthday.

He is one of six young Albertans in Graff’s report, identified only by pseudonyms, who died last year after aging out of Children’s Services care.

According to the report, two died by suicide, two in car accidents, one from fentanyl poisoning and one from a suspected drug overdose.

Graff investigated the deaths, which happened over a nine-month period, while preparing the 54-page report on young adults who had received SFAAs.

Graff’s report and its recommendations were written in advance of the government rollback but he addressed the issue in an interview Monday. 

“We have concerns about the speed at which young people are going to have to make these changes in their lives,” said Graff, adding that his office played a key role in moving the age up to 24 in 2014.

For 18 to 24 year-olds, Graff said it’s an emerging time of adulthood and development that requires skills these youth may not have developed growing up in care. 

“We’d urge [the government] to find ways to support this population until they’re 24,” Graff said.

185 complaints

Over the same nine-month period, 102 young people contacted the child and youth advocate’s office with 185 issues related to their SFAAs. These agreements are meant to help young people transition out of the child intervention system. 

Their difficulties were similar to those of the six individuals who died, Graff wrote.

“These ongoing, widespread issues with SFAAs tell us that an urgent response is needed,” Graff wrote. “More needs to be done to help young people who have gone through the system as they enter adulthood.”

The most common issues were:

  • inadequate supports and services;
  • financial supports being reduced or denied;
  • concerns with caseworker relationships;
  • SFAAs closed;
  • issues with housing; 
  • and denied health-care and mental health supports. 

Graff makes three recommendations for Children’s Services to help prevent future tragedies.

  • Improve guidelines and provide training and time for staff to support young people ages 18 to 24;
  • Clearly outline supports and services the young adults are entitled to receive and connect young people to adult services before their support agreements are terminated; and
  • Provide young adults with access to adequate and safe housing. 

“We agree with the intent of those recommendations,” said Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz.

She said her department would meet with Graff to go over what the change would look like but defended the decision to roll back the cutoff age to 22.

“Ultimately what we did see in our data as that around the age of 22 … there was a natural drop-off in terms of the young adults who were choosing to use that program,” Schulz said.

Former SFAA recipient Jasmine Nepoose aged out last month. Without the support, she questioned how she would have been able to live on her own, raise her four-year-old and study esthetics; but now she feels ready.

“Without their support I don’t know if I would have been able to make it there without them,” Nepoose said. “Because I’ve had the support since I was 18, they’ve prepared me for this and they’ve prepared me for me transitioning out on my own to be an independent young adult. With that I’m confident with myself and where I’m at.’

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Trump administration blocks ‘urgent’ whistleblower disclosure

The Trump administration plunged into an extraordinary showdown with Congress Thursday over access to a whistleblower’s complaint about reported incidents including a private conversation between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader. The blocked complaint is both “serious” and “urgent,” the government’s intelligence watchdog said.

The administration is keeping Congress from even learning what exactly the whistleblower is alleging, but the intelligence community’s inspector general said the matter involves the “most significant” responsibilities of intelligence leadership. A lawmaker said the complaint was “based on a series of events.”

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday evening that at least part of the complaint involves Ukraine. The newspapers cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. The Associated Press has not confirmed the reports.

The inspector general appeared before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors Thursday but declined, under administration orders, to reveal to members the substance of the complaint.

Fresh questions

The standoff raises fresh questions about the extent to which Trump’s allies are protecting the president from oversight and, specifically, if his new acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is working with the Justice Department to shield the president from the reach of Congress.

Trump, though giving no details about any incident, denied Thursday that he would ever “say something inappropriate” on such a call.

Rep. Adam Schiff,  a California Democrat and the chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he was prepared to go to court to try to force the Trump administration to open up about the complaint.

“The inspector general has said this cannot wait,” said Schiff, describing the administration’s blockade as an unprecedented departure from law. “There’s an urgency here that I think the courts will recognize.”

House intelligence chairman Adam Schiff has issued subpoenas to further investigate the matter, though a senior intelligence official said in a letter it did not rise to the level of being an ‘urgent concern.’ (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

Schiff said he, too, could not confirm whether newspaper reports were accurate because the administration was claiming executive privilege in withholding the complaint. But letters from the inspector general to the committee released Thursday said it was an “urgent” matter of “serious or flagrant abuse” that must be shared with lawmakers.

The letters also made it clear that Trump’s new acting director of national intelligence, Maguire, consulted with the Justice Department in deciding not to transmit the complaint to Congress in a further departure from standard procedure. It’s unclear whether the White House was also involved, Schiff said.

Because the administration is claiming the information is privileged, Schiff said he believes the whistleblower’s complaint “likely involves the president or people around him.”

Trump dismissed it all.

“Another Fake News story out there – It never ends!” Trump tweeted. “Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem!”

He asked, “Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially `heavily populated’ call.”

House Democrats are fighting the administration separately for access to witnesses and documents in impeachment probes. Democrats are also looking into whether Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani traveled to Ukraine to pressure the government to aid the president’s re-election effort by investigating the activities of potential rival Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company.

Among the materials Democrats have sought in that investigation is the transcript of a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on July 25.

This new situation, stemming from the whistleblower’s Aug. 12 complaint, has led to their public concerns that government intelligence agencies and the recently named acting director might be under pressure to withhold information from Congress.

Trump tapped Maguire, a former Navy official, as acting intelligence director in August, after the departure of Director Dan Coats, a former Republican senator who often clashed with the president, and the retirement of Sue Gordon, a career professional in the No. 2 position.

Subpoenaed by House committee

Maguire has refused to discuss details of the whistleblower complaint, but he has been subpoenaed by the House panel and is expected to testify publicly next Thursday. Both Maguire and the inspector general, Michael Atkinson, are also expected next week at the Senate intelligence committee.

Atkinson wrote in letters that Schiff released Thursday that he and Maguire had hit an “impasse” over the acting director’s decision not to share the complaint with Congress.

While Atkinson wrote that he believed Maguire’s position was in “good faith” it did not appear to be consistent with past practice. Atkinson said he was told by the legal counsel for the intelligence director that the complaint did not actually meet the definition of an “urgent concern.” And he said the Justice Department said it did not fall under the director’s jurisdiction because it did not involve an intelligence professional.

Atkinson said he disagreed with that Justice Department view. The complaint “not only falls under DNI’s jurisdiction,” Atkinson wrote, “but relates to one of the most significant and important of DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”

The inspector general went on to say he requested authorization to at the very least disclose the “general subject matter” to the committee, but had not been allowed to do so. He said the information was “being kept” from Congress. These decisions, the inspector general said, are affecting his execution of his duties and responsibilities.

Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the panel, said Atkinson said that the complaint was “based on a series of events.”

In calling the inspector general to testify, Schiff said Atkinson determined the whistleblower complaint was “credible and urgent” and should be “transmitted to Congress.”

The inspector general’s testimony was described by three people with knowledge of the proceedings. They were not authorized to discuss the meeting by name and were granted anonymity.

Several lawmakers suggested the failure to disclose the complaint’s contents amounted to a failure to protect the whistleblower, another violation. However, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Jason Klitenic, wrote in a letter Tuesday to the committee that the agency was indeed protecting the whistleblower.

Andrew Bakaj, a former intelligence officer and an attorney specializing in whistleblower reprisal investigations, confirmed that he was representing the whistleblower but declined further comment.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said on MSNBC that the acting director “broke the law when he decided to basically intercept the inspector general’s report to Congress.”

That’s “never been done before in the history of inspector general reports to the Congress,” Himes said. “And the American people should be worried about that.”

Himes said, “We don’t know exactly what is in the substance of this complaint. It could be nothing. It could be something very, very serious.”

In this July file photo, Rep. Jim Himes testifies before the House intelligence committee on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, Himes stated lawmakers are in the dark when it comes to the whistleblower complaint. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

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Around 550 Nunavut children waiting up to a year for urgent dental care

Nunavut's chief dental officer says there are still hundreds of children in the territory who need urgent dental care.

Around 550 Nunavut children are waiting for dental treatment requiring general anesthetic — meaning they need to be put to sleep while the dental work is done, said Ron Kelly. Approximately 230 to 240 of those children are in the Baffin region.

"It [the wait time] can be up to a year, which is too long," Kelly said. "If a child requires services under general anesthetic in the hospital … they have some serious dental health problems."

He estimated about 90 per cent of children and young adults in Nunavut communities are in need of some form of dental work.

Program aims to reduce wait times

Five years ago, the Government of Nunavut started an oral health program for children that provides them with preventive services. 

The program is now available to young people up to the age of 17 and gives them access to fluoride treatment, oral hygiene instruction, toothbrushes and dental floss, Kelly said.

Parents and children can also take part in one-on-one sessions with dental workers.

Ron Kelly is Nunavut's chief dental officer (CBC)

One reason the program was started was to try to reduce the number of children on the waiting list for dental care, so patients can get treatment within months, Kelly said.

Although dental services are provided to residents for several weeks throughout the year, "the list [for treatment involving general anesthetic] always seems to hover between 400 and 600," said Kelly. "That's very typical."

'Positive outcomes'

Kelly couldn't say how the number of children in need of urgent dental care compares to the previous few years.

However, Kelly said people seem to be more comfortable bringing their children to the dentist these days.

"Many more children see the dentist than did in the past," Kelly said.

"So I think these are all positive, positive outcomes. And I think they will translate eventually into improved oral health for children."

With files from Eva Michael

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Urgent medical evacuations begin in besieged region of Syria

Months of deadlock over medical evacuations from Syria’s biggest remaining siege broke late on Tuesday when a deal between Damascus and a rebel faction allowed an aid agency to evacuate a handful of critically ill patients. 

Four patients were brought out of Eastern Ghouta, where almost 400,000 people have been under siege by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces since 2013, the Syrian American Medical  Society (SAMS) said in a statement. The evacuees were taken to hospitals in Damascus. 

The enclave, a densely populated pocket of satellite towns and farms, is the only major stronghold of anti-Assad forces near the capital Damascus. The military has steadily defeated pockets of armed rebellion in western Syria over the past year, with the help of Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias.

29 of the most critical cases

The Jaish al-Islam rebel group in Eastern Ghouta said it was releasing 29 detainees. In return, the government is allowing the evacuation of 29 of the most critical cases. 

However, one person on the list, a six-month-old baby girl, died before she could be evacuated from the area, Mohamad Katoub, an advocacy manager for SAMS, wrote on Twitter.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had facilitated the deal, which came two months after the United Nations asked Assad’s government to allow the urgent evacuation of the 29 patients. The operation was still in an early phase, it said. 

“Happy that our negotiations reached this important goal. This is a signal of hope for the future Syria,” tweeted Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of the Red Cross. 

A Syrian government spokesperson, Ahmed Mounir, said a deal was struck for a number of sick people to leave Eastern Ghouta in return for the release of what he called kidnapped people. The number of people involved could increase, he said on television.

A Jaish al-Islam political official in Ghouta said the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) mediated between Damascus and the rebels for the swap. 

“We worked to get them out through the Red Crescent, and we are working on evacuating the rest of the nearly 500 cases out,” said Yasser Delwan. But there was no indication of whether more evacuations would be allowed, he added. 

The United Nations has pleaded for the government to allow medical evacuation of around 500 patients, including children with cancer, and has said there was no excuse for not permitting the evacuation to go ahead. 

Although Eastern Ghouta is officially a “de-escalation zone” under Russian-led ceasefire deals for rebel territory, fighting there has continued. The population, including 130,000 children, is suffering the worst malnutrition seen in the almost seven-year war, the UN has said. 


This photo posted by the Syrian Red Crescent shows patients who were transferred from Eastern Ghouta to hospitals in Damascus. (Syrian Red Crescent/Twitter)

Residents and aid workers said the government has tightened the siege in recent months in what they called a deliberate use of starvation as a weapon of war — a charge the government denies. 

On Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was working with Russia, Assad’s ally, on the evacuations. Ankara has backed some rebel factions in the Syrian war. 

The number of people needing urgent evacuation has shrunk because they keep dying while waiting for help, the UN has said. It has a priority list of 494 patients, while SAMS put the number of critical cases at 641, and said 17 had already died. 

The remainder of the 29 patients included in the deal would be evacuated over the coming days, said SAMS, a non-profit that supports hospitals mostly in opposition areas. 

“The list includes 18 children and four women suffering from heart disease, cancer, kidney failure and blood diseases, in 
addition to cases requiring advanced surgery that are not available in the besieged area,” it said. 

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