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Conversion therapy bill, another storm for BC: In The News for Dec. 1


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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. 1 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole will once again allow his caucus to have a free vote on a government bill seeking to ban conversion therapy.

The so-called therapy is widely discredited as a harmful practice, aimed at trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Earlier in the week, the Liberals introduced legislation for a third time in the House of Commons to criminalize the practice.

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The first bill died when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament in 2020.

A second version introduced not long after didn’t pass the Senate before the legislative agenda was cleared by Trudeau’s election call last summer.

It was passed by the House of Commons, however, where 62 of O’Toole’s 119 MPs voted against the bill, despite the leader’s efforts to demonstrate a more progressive stance on LGBTQ issues.

At that time, numerous Conservative MPs complained the wording of the bill was overly broad and could criminalize conversations about sexuality between children and their parents or with religious leaders.

The vote prompted a backlash, with critics charging that O’Toole had failed to live up to his more progressive rhetoric on LGBTQ issues.

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Also this …

More than two dozen weather warnings remain in effect across southern and coastal British Columbia as another storm hits the province where people are still cleaning up from previous flooding and mudslides.

Environment Canada says the central coast and the west coast of Vancouver Island could see up to 150 millimetres of rain, with up to 120 mm in the Bella Coola area, while the flood-soaked Fraser Valley east of Abbotsford could get up to 100 mm. Strong winds gusting to 90 km/h are also forecast.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has issued an evacuation order for properties near Birken due to a landslide hazard at Neff Creek. The city of Abbotsford has also issued evacuation alerts and orders for properties along Florence Drive, Sumas Mountain Road, Lower Sumas Mountain Road, Glencoe Drive and North Parallel Road.

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Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the province is doing everything it can to make sure people and communities have the resources and supports they need.

He says Emergency Management B.C. along with troops, local government staff and community volunteers were making sure shelter, food, medication, emergency kits, fuel and other resources are available.

A travel advisory has been issued and maintenance crews have been dispatched to stretches of Highway 20 between Bella Coola and Williams Lake in response to heavy rainfall in the forecast for the central coast. Travel advisories are also in place for sections of Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 7.

The British Columbia River Forecast Centre has issued flood watches for the central and south coasts, Lower Fraser and all of Vancouver Island.

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Environment Canada says the rain should mostly ease on Thursday and Friday, though a smaller system is expected to affect the south coast late on Friday.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

It’s the moment conservatives have been waiting for as the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in a potentially precedent-upending abortion case.

The case represents the best opportunity leaders on the right have had in decades to gut the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which codified a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb.

If they are successful, it could validate years of often painstakingly granular work that ultimately remade the Republican Party from an alliance of business-friendly leaders into a coalition of cultural conservatives and evangelicals who turned the issue of abortion into a national flashpoint. Even if the justices don’t explicitly overturn Roe, they could open the door to a flurry of new restrictions that would please the right.

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Buoyed by a court that is now dominated by a 6-3 conservative majority, some leading Republicans were already expressing confidence on Tuesday.

“We are asking the court in no uncertain terms to make history,” former vice-president Mike Pence, who has been laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2024, said during a speech in Washington. “We are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v. Wade and restore the sanctity of life at the centre of American law.”

The justices will weigh whether to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks, with limited exceptions — well before the current established point of “viability,” at around 24 weeks. The court is also weighing challenges to a Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks — before many women even know they’re pregnant.

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The court could decide to uphold current precedent, could let the law stand, effectively doing away with the current viability standard, or could overturn Roe entirely.

“This is the first time that they have clearly had a majority of pro-life-leaning justices,” said Columbia Law School’s Carol Sanger, an expert in reproductive rights. “So they have the votes if they choose to use them.”

The court’s decision, which is expected by late June, could dramatically shift the contours of next year’s midterm elections, providing a new animating force for Democrats, who largely support abortion rights and have struggled to rally around a unifying issue this year.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

LONDON — Britain says it will offer all adults a booster dose of vaccine within two months to bolster the nation’s immunity as the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads.

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New measures to combat variant came into force in England on Tuesday, with face coverings again compulsory in shops and on public transport. All travellers returning to the U.K. must also take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

So far 22 cases of the omicron variant have so far been identified across the U.K, and the number is expected to rise.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the aim is to give everyone 18 and up a third vaccine dose by the end of January.

The reintroduction of mandatory face masks brings England closer in line with the rest of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — which had kept some restrictions in place after England lifted all mandatory measures in the summer.

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Jenny Harries, who heads the U.K. Health Security Agency, said that while there was still uncertainty in understanding the omicron variant, officials hope that the expansion of the booster shot rollout will “to some extent counter the potential drop in vaccine effectiveness we might find with this variant.”

She also urged people to be cautious and reduce socializing over the festive season if possible.

When asked if he agreed with Harries’ advice for the public to change their behaviour, Johnson told reporters “it’s always sensible to be careful,” but his government had no plans to change the “overall guidance about how people should be living their lives.”

On this day in 1919 …

Millionaire Ambrose Small sold his Canada-wide chain of theatres and then within 24 hours disappeared without a trace. He sold his interests to Trans-Canada Theatres for $1.7 million. After receiving a down payment of $1 million, Small disappeared from his Toronto office. He is thought to have been murdered but the mystery has never been solved.

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In entertainment …

Tennis star Bianca Andreescu has penned a children’s book about tennis, meditation and perseverance that she says is inspired by her own life and experiences on-and-off the court.

The 21-year-old Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., says she wanted to create a story that can help kids support their mental health when they face challenges.

“Bibi’s Got Game” is about a young athlete who learns to work through a setback with inner strength and help from an energetic little dog.

Tundra Books says publication is set for May 31.

The book was written with Toronto writer and editor Mary Beth Leatherdale and features illustrations by Vancouver artist Chelsea O’Byrne.

It centres on an energetic girl named Bibi who discovers she has a talent for tennis, but is devastated by an injury. With help from her mother and dog Coco, she learns to push past self-doubt and negativity.

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“I started thinking about writing ‘Bibi’s Got Game’ a few years ago, when I first had the idea to pass along the advice and tools that helped me as a young athlete,” Andreescu said Tuesday in a release.

“I hope my picture book is not seen as just one tennis player’s personal story. I really wanted to create something that feels classic and shares timeless messages about the importance of family (both human and furry animal) and draws attention to your own mental health when facing challenges — whether in sports competitions or elsewhere.”

ICYMI …

VANCOUVER – A progress report on a plan to address racism in B-C’s health-care system says Indigenous patients continue to disproportionately die from the impacts of racism amid the health emergencies of the pandemic and overdose crisis.

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Retired judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is the author of the original In Plain Sight report and released an update today.

She says that progress has been made on 10 of the 24 recommendations but fundamental issues remain, with many recommendations seeing minimal or no movement since the report was released last November.

She says little has been done to realign relationships between provincial and Indigenous governments or put Aboriginal leaders in decision-making positions within the health-care sector.

Earlier this year, the province released a draft of its five-year action plan to implement the recommendations under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Turpel-Lafond says she understands change takes time but some of the recommendations, like passing whistleblower legislation in the health-care sector, could have been completed in the first year.

B-C Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province has more work to do and is committed to following the report’s recommendations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021

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