Fomenting war, bribery, treason: The U.S. officials who faced impeachment after leaving office

Portrait of William Blount by Albert Rosenthal.

When William Blount, a United States’ founding father, went into debt on massive land purchases, he cooked up one of history’s more audacious real estate speculation schemes.

The then-senator from Tennessee conspired to help Great Britain forcibly take over Spanish-controlled Louisiana, a plan that would have conveniently fattened his properties’ value.

The House of Representatives did not take kindly to the plot when it leaked and

impeached Blount

in 1797. The Senate separately expelled him, meaning his impeachment trial in the Senate unfolded after he had actually left office.

The senators declined to convict Blount. But he’s now one of a trio of American historical figures whose unique political fates are feeding a hot debate south of the border: Can Donald Trump be tried for impeachment even after he ceases to be president?

The other two test cases involve a 19

th

century secretary of war whose opulent lifestyle was allegedly fueled by bribes, and a federal judge who absconded to the Confederacy during the U.S. civil war. Both faced impeachment after leaving office.

None of the episodes leave a crystal-clear precedent for what can happen once Joe Biden moves into the White House. A wide array of U.S. constitutional experts have offered conflicting opinions in

media interviews

,

newspaper op-ed

articles and

blog posts

.

“It is an open question as to whether a former president can face a Senate impeachment trial,” concluded Scott Bomboy of Washington’s

National Constitution Center

this week.

Meanwhile, though, the debate has turned a rare light on those somewhat obscure characters whose crimes were deemed dire enough to haunt them even after they’d left the building.

For starters, the American constitution’s fairly unique impeachment provision for punishing “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” applies not just to presidents, but also to vice presidents and “civil officers of the United States.” And the constitution says impeachment can result in both removal from office and a ban on holding federal positions in future.

Familiar questions about those laws arose in 1876 when

William Belknap

met his comeuppance.

As secretary of war under President Ulysses S. Grant, Belknap had a salary of $8,000 — about $160,000 in today’s terms — yet lived a lavish existence in Washington that included parties with as many as 1,200 guests.

An explanation for his extravagant ways arrived with evidence that he had taken kickbacks in exchange for approving frontier trading posts. The House of Representatives voted unanimously to impeach him. But before the House vote, and before the case got to the U.S. Senate, Belknap rushed to resign, in tears, to Grant.

That didn’t deter the House or the senators. They ruled that he could be tried “notwithstanding his resignation of said office before he was impeached.” A majority approved all five articles of impeachment but without the required two-thirds margin, Belknap was acquitted.

Then there was

West H. Humphries

, a federal judge in Tennessee who joined the rebel Confederacy as it went to war with the Union. In 1862, the House impeached Humphries and later the Senate voted to convict and bar him from holding federal office again — even though he was long gone from his original post.

Blount, though, gets the prize for committing the most elaborate and creative “high crimes and misdemeanors” of the three men.

A signatory of the U.S. Constitution who eventually became one of

the first two senators from Tennessee

, he also invested heavily in land west of the Mississippi, much of it on credit. Blount was heavily in debt and land prices had already sunk when France defeated Spain in the War of the Pyrenees, raising the prospect that it would take over the Spanish territory in present-day Louisiana. That could potentially impede American merchants’ access to Blount’s lands, making them worth even less.

Undaunted, it seems, Blount worked with Indigenous tribes, frontiersmen and Britain on a scheme that would have the British take over the territory in exchange for ensuring free passage west.

But a letter outlining part of the plot, known as “Blount’s Conspiracy,” got into the wrong hands, and he soon became the first U.S. official ever to face impeachment.

Complicating matters, the Senate expelled him under a different provision before it tried him on the House’s impeachment articles.

It was another issue, though, that saved Blount from undergoing a Senate trial after he’d already left office. Senators ruled 14-11 that he did not qualify as a “civil officer” as set out in the Constitution.

Blount retreated to Tennessee, where he lived out his life a popular local politician.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Nova Scotia embraced rapid testing for COVID-19 months ago. Why have other provinces been so slow?

A swab is taken at a pop-up COVID-19 testing site on the Dalhousie University campus in Halifax on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020.

On Nov. 21 in downtown Halifax, N.S., health officials opened a pop-up rapid testing clinic where almost anyone in the community who wanted a 15-minute test for COVID-19 could get one.

Volunteers, often with no medical background, were trained to run the tests on the Abbott Panbio antigen devices, which had been approved by Health Canada in early October.

It was not meant to be a perfect, mass testing campaign. Positive cases are rare, and the antigen tests are known to miss some. Participants were warned a negative result meant they could still be positive a day or two later.

But it was a proactive, innovative effort to find the virus where it might be circulating undetected, and to get community buy-in for staying vigilant. The pop-up clinics have continued ever since, moving around the province, and in the first month tested about one per cent of Nova Scotia’s population. Last weekend, officials started training people in Halifax’s bar and restaurant industry to run rapid tests.

“People have been far too hung up on the imperfect test, and so perfection has become the enemy of good,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious diseases expert with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and Dalhousie University — and the driving force behind the pop-up program.

Barrett said there has long been a problem with health officials being overly cautious about whether promoting too much testing will encourage risky behaviour.

“When we brought in HIV tests and STI tests way back in the day, people were afraid that if everyone got tested and got a negative, they would just go hog wild and no one would wear condoms and the world would be a very infected place,” she said. “They thought that’s what would happen if we let people get tested a lot. And the word ‘let’ always came into it. It’s a very paternalistic, or maternalistic, model. And that’s what we’re seeing here (with COVID-19).”

It’s not quite that simple, as Barrett is the first to acknowledge. It’s easier right now for Nova Scotia to do surveillance testing in the community because their case counts are extremely low compared to provinces outside Atlantic Canada. When health systems are overwhelmed by a raging second wave, pop-up clinics are of limited use at best.

But over the past few months, many other places in Canada could have been experimenting in this way with rapid testing, but chose not to. Although numerous pilot projects are now underway across the country, in general the rollout of rapid testing in Canada has been tepid, small-scale and very cautious.

At both the provincial and federal levels, public comments from health officials have repeatedly warned that rapid testing is “no panacea,” and could give people a false sense of security.

In some cases, public officials have said they simply don’t see an urgent need for rapid testing. “We have nothing against rapid test but since the beginning, especially in the second wave where we have been able now to test 35,000 to 40,000 a day and even more than that, we don’t need additional tests,” Quebec’s health minister Christian Dubé told reporters on Monday. He emphasized, as health officials frequently do, that the rapid tests are not as accurate as lab-based testing.

This kind of attitude exasperates David Juncker, chair of McGill University’s department of biomedical engineering. Juncker has been one of many experts calling for a greater use of rapid testing to proactively find the disease in asymptomatic people who are spreading it.

 

Juncker compares the attitude Canadian officials had toward vaccines with their half-hearted adoption of rapid testing.

“We started committing resources to vaccines very early on in the pandemic, and at that time there was huge concern that these vaccines will never work, that it’s going to fail, that it’s going to take a long time,” he said. “But lo and behold, they got the fastest-ever vaccine, it’s an experimental vaccine, and it’s being rolled out now. These investments (on rapid testing) early on could have had a huge payoff, but we missed this and we may never be able to catch up.”

Even so, Juncker still urged health officials to make these investments and signal to companies that we’re willing to innovate. “I think we’re not too late,” he said. “I think the best place to start was eight months ago, the second best time to start is now.”

The lab-based PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing used by provinces is incredibly accurate, but many experts argue it will never allow us to get out ahead of the virus’ spread. For one thing, turnaround time for results is at least 24 hours and often longer, taking days for someone to learn whether they tested positive or not.

The PCR test’s incredibly high accuracy can also cause some problems, paradoxically. A person can test positive with only small amounts of active virus left in their system, long after they’ve stopped being infectious. In these cases, even robust contact tracing comes too late to cut off transmission chains.

Rapid tests miss some cases, but they catch the vast majority of people who are chock-full of virus and actively spreading it. Rapid tests are done on location and, depending on the device, typically require much less specialized equipment and medical expertise to operate. When they catch a positive case, a lab test can still be used to confirm it.

 People arrive at a pop-up COVID-19 testing site on the Dalhousie University campus in Halifax on Wednesday, Nov. 235 2020.

There is at least hope that the situation is improving. On Friday, the federal government’s COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel released a report with four priority areas of action. Recommendation number two was “accelerating the use of rapid tests, primarily for screening.” The panel recommends targeting rapid testing at selected groups, particularly in high-risk settings. It’s not a mass testing program as some experts would like to see, but it’s a start.

Health Canada has authorized seven rapid tests and, as of the most recent count, has shipped 14.3 million rapid tests to provinces. Of those, 10.9 million are the Abbott Panbio tests, 1.3 million are the Abbott ID NOW tests, and 2.1 million are the BD Veritor tests.

On Jan. 12, the Ontario government announced it will start providing up to 300,000 rapid tests per week — to cover 150,000 workers — for workplaces in manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain and food processing, as well as additional tests for schools and long-term care homes.

“This volume of rapid tests would support antigen screening for up to 150,000 workers per week over the next 4-5 months in Ontario’s most critical workplaces,” the news release said, adding that Ontario expects to receive 12 million Panbio tests from the federal government in that time and is looking to purchase more for itself.

Most provinces are now — belatedly, but nevertheless — putting rapid testing to increasing use in remote communities and for screening people in hospitals, long-term care homes and schools.

Montreal businessman Sandy White, co-founder of advocacy group Rapid Test & Trace Canada, is hoping to push things further. He plans to submit a proposal next week to the Alberta government for

a mass testing program in Banff

, where he grew up and still owns two small inns. He said the goal is to use rapid tests to screen five to ten per cent of the local population each day, and eventually tourists as well. His plan would see the equipment supplied by the province, but the funding and management of the program by the business community and municipality.

“We think we’ve got a very, very good pilot proposal plan, not just for Banff but really for anyone who wants to run rapid testing pilots,” White said.

Such experiments with widespread rapid testing, if they come to pass, will be important to reopening our society soon — even if vaccinations go as planned.

“Testing is going to be a long-term part of life as we go forward, even with vaccines,” said Barrett, the Nova Scotia doctor. “Sorry to tell people this, but it’s true.”

She said that’s another benefit to Nova Scotia’s pop-up testing clinics: they reach the general population, not just people who are symptomatic or close contacts of positive cases.

“To consider opening up a little bit of our society and world, whether it’s school or going out to get a meal with people, we also recognize the need to make routine and regular testing a part of what people are getting used to doing,” Barrett said.

In an ideal world we’d have at-home rapid testing, Barrett said, though she thinks that’s probably still months away at best. No self-administered test will be 100 per cent accurate, but even a reasonably good one will need to be authorized by Health Canada and then backed by local health officials.

“I think it will take all of that and more before Canadian bureaucracy buys into that idea,” Barrett said. “But I’m hoping that projects like what we’re doing here in Nova Scotia are going to demonstrate that we can do it, and we’re a responsible bunch of humans who should be allowed to do that.”

• Email: bplatt@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Fugitives wanted in Canada for murder, kidnapping found with an arsenal during U.S. traffic stop, police say

Dayne Adrian Sitladeen, 29 (L) and Muzamil Aden Addow, 29 (R) are both wanted for high-profile crimes in Ontario

When a Minnesota State Trooper stopped a pickup truck for speeding on a U.S. highway this week, he not only discovered an arsenal of 67 suspected crime guns inside but two Toronto fugitives — one wanted for murder and the other for the kidnapping of a wealthy Chinese student.

Dayne Adrian Sitladeen, 29, and Muzamil Aden Addow, 29, are both wanted for high-profile crimes in Ontario.

Sitladeen is a popular Toronto rapper known as Yung Lava who appeared in a 2019 documentary with hip hop star Drake and others admonishing gun violence the same year he was at the top of the Toronto police’s Most Wanted list — considered armed and dangerous — until his name and photo were removed after his arrest.

He is one of three men wanted for first-degree murder in the shooting death of Blain Grindley, a 26-year-old Toronto man killed in an Etobicoke home on May 1, 2019, police said at the time. The other two suspects have been arrested.

Addow was named as one of four men wanted by York Regional Police for a bizarre kidnapping that made international headlines in March 2019.

Three masked men grabbed Wanzhen Lu, a 22-year-old student at a private university, from the parking garage of his upmarket condo building in Markham, north of Toronto.

When Lu struggled, he was zapped with a stun gun and forced into a van driven by a fourth man. While a huge search was underway a ransom demand was made, but Lu escaped and banged on a door in cottage country, 200 kilometres north, asking for help.

Lu was known for a lavish lifestyle, including his Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Range Rover. When he was grabbed, he was wearing a $2,000 Gucci Guccify hoodie.

 Sitladeen, a rapper who goes by Yung Lava, appeared in the documentary “Remember Me, Toronto” with Drake, admonishing gun violence the same year he was on the Most Wanted list for murder.

 Sitladeen, a rapper who goes by Yung Lava, appeared in the documentary “Remember Me, Toronto” with Drake, admonishing gun violence the same year he was on the Most Wanted list for murder.

Addow was wanted for seven charges, including kidnapping, forcible confinement and assault with a weapon. He too was considered armed and dangerous. He was also wanted by Toronto police on 15 gun charges.

Their run ended Sunday night.

Shortly after 10 p.m., a Minnesota State Trooper driving east on Interstate 94, near Fergus Falls, MN, passed a pickup truck heading in the opposite direction at a high rate of speed.

He turned around, caught up and pulled over the Chevrolet Silverado with Texas licence plates. It had been rented from Hertz, according to a criminal complaint filed in court.

The driver handed the trooper an Ontario driver’s licence in the name of Zakaria Taajir, according to the complaint. The passenger turned over a Florida identification card.

The pair couldn’t get their story straight, the trooper said.

The driver said he was on his way to Fargo to work for his uncle’s construction company and rented the truck at Minneapolis airport after flying in from Canada with his passenger. He couldn’t tell the trooper the name of the construction company, the trooper said.

The passenger, however, said he lives in Minneapolis and didn’t fly in with the driver but was going to work at the same construction job.

The trooper asked the driver to accompany him to his squad car. There, according to the complaint, he told the trooper he just met his passenger a month ago through his cousin. When the trooper spoke to the passenger, he said he had known the driver for more than a year.

 Three suspects in the kidnapping of Lu Wanzhen, in security images of the abduction released by York Regional Police.

The trooper said he smelled marijuana in the truck. He asked the driver for permission to search it. The driver said he could search the truck but not the content of the bags or himself.

The trooper pat searched both for weapons and told them to stand away while he opened the back door of the truck. He saw several duffle bags and back packs on the back seat and floor.

He opened a bag and saw about a dozen guns and high-capacity magazines inside and he immediate radioed for back up, according to the complaint.

He ordered the pair to put their hands on their head.

The driver at first disregarded the order and tried to make a phone call on his cell and then appeared to have a brief phone conversation on his Apple watch, the complaint says.

When other officers arrived, investigators found the passenger was Sitladeen and wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service at the request of Canada for murder and fentanyl distribution, authorities say.

He was arrested by the troopers.

The driver, thought to be named Taajir, was arrested for carrying a firearm without a permit but after speaking with Toronto police, he was identified as Muzamil Aden Addow. He, too, was wanted in Canada, U.S. authorities were told.

Officers found 67 guns and numerous magazines in four bags in the truck, according to the complaint. One was loaded with live ammunition.

Both men were in the United States illegally. They were found to be Canadian citizens with no record of a legal border crossing. Under U.S. federal law, illegal aliens are not allowed to possess a firearm.

“We are aware of the arrests,” Const. Caroline de Kloet of Toronto police said. “However, we are unable to confirm at this stage whether an arrest has been made in regards to our homicide investigation. This is an active investigation with a lot of sensitivities surrounding it.”

Const. Laura Nicolle, of York police, confirmed their detectives were notified of Addow’s arrest and are working to have him return to Canada to face trial.

Sitladeen and Addow appeared in court in Minneapolis on Thursday. They were ordered to remain in custody pending a detention hearing.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

B.C. raises the interprovincial border issue as tourist hotspots see influx of visitors

People wearing protective face masks, goggles and Tyvek suits who said they traveled from Colombia wait for a car rental company shuttle, after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, December 31, 2020.

British Columbia is the latest province to consider a ban on interprovincial travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with Premier John Horgan saying this week the government is seeking legal advice on whether or not such a policy would be possible.

“I want to put this either to rest, so that British Columbians understand that we cannot do that, and we’re not going to do that, or there is a way to do it and we’re going to work with other provinces to achieve it,” Horgan said Thursday.

At present, British Columbia has asked residents to avoid non-essential travel. But for weeks now, concern has been building in several tourist hotspots along the B.C.-Alberta border, such as Revelstoke, that out-of-province visitors — mainly from Alberta — are flooding ski resorts and backcountry jumping-off points.

Cody Younger, a councillor in Revelstoke, wrote on his Facebook page recently that “it’s becoming increasingly frustrating for many in our community including myself who see the double standards.”

“The majority of people in Revelstoke have been wearing masks, social distancing, sticking to their bubbles and not travelling outside of the community (for non essential reasons). Yet we continue to see people flocking to Revelstoke to come and have a winter vacation,” he wrote, arguing for a mandatory provincial quarantine.

Alberta has recently loosened restrictions, and has confirmed at least five cases of the highly contagious U.K. variant and two cases of the South Africa variant. B.C. has also confirmed cases of the South Africa variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Unlike other parts of Canada that have some sort of travel restrictions, British Columbia’s a tricky one because there are multiple points of entry. There are at least a half-dozen roads between B.C. and Alberta, and at least seven between northern British Columbia and the Yukon.

A number of other provinces and territories have border restrictions, and most have guidelines for visitors, some with significant penalties for violating the rules.

Nunavut and the Northwest Territories both have had travel bans in place for months. The Northwest Territories has, realistically, only one entry point, from northern Alberta, and there are no roads into Nunavut from anywhere in the country. While the Yukon doesn’t have a ban, it does have self-isolation requirements upon arrival.

The  “Atlantic Bubble” has sealed off New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador from the rest of Canada. This bubble has been simple to enforce because the highways into the region are limited. New Brunswick has been able to establish roadblocks to screen anyone trying to enter.

In the rest of the country, travel is discouraged, but not strictly enforced. Ontario is under a stay-at-home order until February and interprovincial travel is not recommended. Ontarians are expected to isolate for 14 days if they leave the province.

Quebec, meanwhile, has a curfew in place that would limit travel between certain hours, but has no specific bans on leaving the province.

Manitoba has orders in place prohibiting travel to the north of the province, and anyone who returns to the province has to self-isolate, except for those who have travel to northwestern Ontario, and all western provinces and the territories.

Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan and Alberta, there are few restrictions: residents are asked to avoid non-essential travel.

All Canadians are subject to the federal government’s advisory not to travel internationally during the pandemic.

Strict travel bans have been controversial and in a number of instances have ended up in court. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has argued that some travel bans are unconstitutional, restricting mobility rights of Canadians that are guaranteed under section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They argue less-restrictive measures should be tried before border closures.

“What’s the specific evidence justifying its necessity?” wrote the civil liberties group on Twitter. “If not, then no way it’s constitutional. If so, are there less intrusive ways of limiting mobility rights, like (a provincial) quarantine?”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

New trial for the man convicted of dousing his girlfriend in gas and setting her alight

Mark Borel, 51 when convicted in 2014 of attempted murder of his girlfriend.

The conviction against an Ontario man found guilty of dousing his girlfriend in gasoline and setting her ablaze has been overturned because significant questions about the evidence went unanswered while inappropriate opinions from police were allowed.

The incident in a Niagara parking lot in 2011 was horrific.

Passersby said it looked “like a zombie movie” when the woman slowly moved towards the road, burnt from her knees to her shoulders.

Mark Borel, 51 when convicted in 2014 of attempted murder, maintained his innocence, and now has a new shot at proving it.

Borel and the woman, who was 13 years his junior, were both married at the time, but not to each other. Their 10-month affair was rocky. He was controlling and sometimes violent and she had a drinking problem, court heard.

In the summer of 2011, they arranged to meet in the parking lot of a community centre in Lincoln, Ont., 40 kilometres west of Niagara Falls.

Sometime after they arrived in separate vehicles, Borel called 911 asking for an ambulance. Emergency crews found a woman on the ground in the parking lot badly burned. Court heard she had serious burns to 60 per cent of her body and smelled of gasoline.

Four days later, Borel was arrested for attempted murder. He consistently denied setting her on fire.

Borel was found guilty by a jury and then sentenced to almost 20 years in prison in 2014 by Ontario Superior Court Justice Linda Walters.

Both the woman and Borel testified at the trial. Each said they were trying to end the relationship. Court read threatening messages from Borel’s email account to her, including one saying “wait till the real fireworks start.” He denied sending them.

The woman told court that in the parking lot Borel said he had a “present” for her and went to his car and returned with a jug of gasoline and started “swishing” gas at her. He then lit a match and threw it at her. He swore at her as he watched her burn, she said.

Borel denied that. He told court they argued in the parking lot because she had been drinking. He told her she shouldn’t drink and drive and if she tried to drive away he would call police.

He said he went to his car to make a call when he heard her screaming. He turned and saw her enter a trail at the edge of the parking lot. He ran after her. He found her burning and rolling on the ground. He said he had no idea how she was burnt.

Court heard that when police arrived at the scene, Borel handed an officer a set of keys, a lighter and matches and said they were hers and were in her hand, court heard.

Police found no evidence of a gas container. Borel’s clothes had no trace of gas on them and his car did not smell of gas. But there was a strong smell of gas in the woman’s car and tests found gas on her driver’s seat, in her purse and in her car’s cup holder.

The appeal court found problems with how evidence from three witnesses were handled at trial.

Court heard from an ambulance attendant who said she spoke to the woman in the back of the ambulance on the way to hospital. She asked who did this to her and offered categories, such as aunt, uncle and husband. The woman shook her head at each option but nodded when she said boyfriend.

The prosecution also led inappropriate opinion evidence from police witnesses: the detective who interrogated Borel and the 911 dispatcher who took his call.

Their testimony should have been curtailed by the trial judge and the jury instructed on what and how it should be used, the appeal court said.

The law can tolerate some errors if a case is so overwhelming the mistakes wouldn’t make a difference. That isn’t the case here.

“The errors here were not harmless nor trivial,” Justice Ian Nordheimer wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel. “I do not dispute that the case against the appellant was a strong one, but it does not rise to the very high level of being overwhelming.

“There are questions that arise on the evidence, with which the jury would have had to contend, in arriving at their verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.”

He asked some himself: Why was there gasoline inside the cup holder of the woman’s car? If Borel threw gas on her, how did he not get any on his clothes or on the ground? What happened to the jug she said he brought the gas in? How did her shoes, blood and burned hair get on the trail across the parking lot?

Those questions may have been enough for at least one juror to have reasonable doubt, the court said.

Borel has been in custody since his trial.

“I’m pleased with the result,” said Philip Norton, Borel’s lawyer. “The Court of Appeal recognized the legal errors that happened and dealt with them.”

Norton said a decision on seeking bail has not yet been made.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Gun-toting Canadian triggers FBI probe of alleged white-supremacist terror plot tied to U.S. election

National Guard troops move along the National Mall the day after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time January 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.

If the 22-year-old Canadian man thought his border crossing into Detroit would be routine, he was sorely mistaken.

First the driver was directed into secondary inspection at the Ambassador Bridge entry point, and then interviewed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s “tactical terrorism response team.”

What they found was troubling: an assault rifle and two other guns, plus extremist white-supremacy material on his cellphone, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit that came to light recently.

Before sending the traveller identified as “E.G.” back to Canada, the border officers concluded he was part of a cell in the planning stages of an extremist attack.

Indeed, further investigation of the man’s teenage contact in Dublin, Ohio, uncovered a plot to disable chunks of the American electricity grid, the conspirators vowing to die for their cause, the affidavit says.

The group was to be “operational” as soon as this past November, in case Donald Trump lost the U.S. presidential election, according to the document, which was inadvertently unsealed and obtained by

The Associated Press

last month, before being put under wraps again.

The conspiracy appears to have popped onto law-enforcement radar thanks to that ill-fated border crossing in Michigan.

The affair marks the second time in the last year that Canadians have been accused by U.S. police of associating with far-right terrorists there.

E.G. tried to get into the U.S. in October 2019. Former army reservist Patrik Mathews of Winnipeg crossed the border a few months earlier, allegedly joining up with members of the Base, a white-supremacist group bent on precipitating a race war. Mathews faces numerous charges and has been in custody since his arrest early last year.

It’s unclear whether any charges have been laid in the E.G. episode.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in southern Ohio, which is overseeing the case, could not be reached for comment Thursday, but previously told the

National Post

it could provide no information about the matter as there were no publicly filed documents.

Asked if Canadian police are looking at E.G., RCMP spokeswoman Robin Percival said the force works closely with its international partners, but does not comment on investigations “by other countries.”

Barbara Perry, an expert on extremism at Ontario Tech University, said the case underscores how violent far-right groups have extended their tentacles into Canada, helped by the Internet.

“It was chilling,” she said of the FBI affidavit. “There are connections between the Canadian and American movements because so much of their activity is online. So those borders mean nothing … It really is a global movement.”

The affidavit, filed last March in U.S. federal court in Wisconsin, supported an application for a search warrant.

It says officers at the U.S. border found an AR15 assault rifle, a high-volume shotgun and a pistol in E.G.’s vehicle, though all had U.S. permits. He said he was planning to visit friends Natalia in Tennessee and Chris in Ohio.

On his phone, they found multiple images of Nazi, white power and anti-LGBTQ propaganda, said the affidavit. Some of it appeared to evoke the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi terrorist organization founded in the southern U.S.

Further investigation indicated that he and Chris, who was just 17, had known each other online for about two months. It appeared to be a recruitment relationship, where the Canadian was trying to “suggest his bonafides” for joining the group, wrote FBI special agent Tiffany Burns. E.G. said at one point he was Italian, but that “they were fascists.”

Chris later told investigators he thought E.G. might be autistic, as he was “so detailed by nature and very focused on rules.”

In a series of texts, the pair discussed taking out student loans to buy a bus and convert it into a motor home. “If we aren’t going to be alive to pay it back, it’s free money,” Chris exclaimed at one point.

When Chris said he didn’t like his Mexican stepmother, the Canadian suggested they “go siege on her,” an apparent reference to the book

Siege

, in which neo-Nazi author James Mason urges followers to commit acts of violence to destabilize the system, according to the affidavit. The book was discussed by the duo and images of it appeared in their texts.

Meanwhile, a former white supremacist acting as an undercover source for the bureau detailed Chris’s plans with other collaborators.

He wanted to create neo-Nazi cells across the U.S. to commit acts of violence, becoming operational by 2024 in the belief the Democratic party would win the U.S. election that year. But he said the timeline would be accelerated if Trump lost the 2020 race, alleged the affidavit.

In late 2019, Chris began discussing a plan, which he dubbed “Lights Out,” to impose a large-scale power outage by firing rifle rounds into electrical sub-stations.

“Leaving the power off would wake people up to the harsh reality of life by wreaking havoc across the nation,” another member of the group told the source.

The same person predicted their efforts would end violently.

“I can say with absolute certainty that I will die for this effort. I swear it on my life,” the FBI’s source quoted him as saying.

“I can say the same,” echoed Chris, Canadian E.G.’s friend.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Provinces to endure vaccine scarcity until millions more of doses arrive in April: Fortin

Pharmacy staff at Kingston Health Sciences Centre receive the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for southeastern Ontario as part of the province-wide vaccination campaign to be administered through the COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

OTTAWA — Canada can expect millions of doses of COVID vaccine to arrive in April but is currently experiencing a scarcity, said the army boss in charge of handling the vaccine rollout.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin said some regions were ramping up to handle extra supplies but there was a limited amount of vaccine available.

“We have been sharing data with provinces and territories who, of course, understandably want more vaccines as they ramp up their vaccination programs. The challenge is we have limited quantities,” said Fortin.

“The rub is right now, as clinics are starting to ramp up, there is perhaps disappointment with the relatively small numbers that are being distributed.”

He added, “We have a scarcity of vaccines in the first quarter.”

The second quarter, beginning in April, would see a “ramp up” phase when Canada would see millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines arrive.

“The quantities of doses arriving in Canada is anticipated to average more than one million doses a week,” he said.

Fortin said efforts were underway to make sure the supplies and storage needs were identified so everything was in place when the bigger shipments started arriving.

Fortin, the vice-president of logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said by the end of this week he expected more than 929,000 vaccine doses to have arrived, with another 417,000 before the end of the month, and 1.9 million doses in February.

Major General Dany Fortin responds to a question on COVID vaccines during a news conference, Thursday, January 14, 2021 in Ottawa.

 Major General Dany Fortin responds to a question on COVID vaccines during a news conference, Thursday, January 14, 2021 in Ottawa.

That will leave 2.7 million doses to be delivered in March to get to the six million doses the companies have promised to ship to Canada before the end of that month.

Canada is aiming to have vaccinated everyone who wants to be vaccinated by the end of September having secured a total of 80 million vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

But two other vaccines are on the horizon — AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. If Health Canada approves those in the coming weeks then Canada would see them “trickling into the country,” said Fortin.

However, Fortin would not go into whether the September timeline would be brought forward if those two extra vaccines were available.

Meanwhile, Quebec announced it will wait up to 90 days before giving a second COVID-19 shot to people who have received a first dose.

That delay goes far beyond the recommendation of vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, which propose intervals of 21 and 28 days, respectively, and is more than double the 42-day maximum delay proposed by Canada’s national vaccine advisory committee.

Health Minister Christian Dube said Thursday that the decision was made in order to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible and to reduce the pressure on the health system.

“In our context, this is the best strategy, because we have to contend with (having) very few vaccines, and we’re in a race against the clock,” Dube told a news conference.

He said the province had discussed its decision with vaccine manufacturers and with federal public health officials. The latter, Dube said, acknowledged that the 42-day recommended maximum can be extended depending on the disease’s progression in a particular province.

He said the high rates of community transmission, hospitalizations and deaths in Quebec justified the change. “In Quebec, we don’t have the same situation a

s in New Brunswick or British Columbia,” he said.

Richard Masse, a senior public health adviser, said the change would allow up to 500,000 seniors who are most at risk of complications — including those in private residences and those aged 80 and up — to receive their vaccine several weeks earlier than originally thought.

Masse said the justification to extend the interval was based on the “experience of working with many vaccines through time,” which shows, he said, that vaccine immunity does not suddenly drop off within a month or two.

He said, however, the province was carefully monitoring the efficacy of the vaccines and would immediately give second doses if authorities saw evidence of decreased immunity in certain groups, such as the elderly.

Dube recognized the federal effort being made to get vaccine to the provinces, but said he wished it would go more quickly because the need was so great.

“We recognize the effort but we’re not satisfied, because we have so many people we want to vaccinate,” he said.

— With files from The Canadian Press

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Head of Radio-Canada spent month of December in his Miami condo despite public health warnings

Michel Bissonnette, CBC/Radio-Canada’s executive vice-president of French Services and the public broadcaster’s second-in-command, went to his condo — located right on Miami beach according to public state records — on December 2 and stayed till December 27.

OTTAWA – The head of Radio-Canada, the French arm of Canada’s public broadcaster, spent nearly the entire month of December working and vacationing in Miami, despite public health advice strongly discouraging travel, the National Post has learned.

Michel Bissonnette, CBC/Radio-Canada’s executive vice-president of French Services and the public broadcaster’s second-in-command, went to his condo — located right on Miami beach according to public state records — on December 2 to “tend to business regarding this property,” Radio-Canada spokesperson Marc Pichette confirmed by email.

“He stayed in Miami from December 2 to 27. He worked from there from December 2 to 17 and was on vacation for the rest of his stay,” Pichette said.

The trip occurred despite a Canadian government advisory that’s been in place since March 14, 2020 that says, “Canadian citizens and permanent residents are advised to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice to limit the spread of COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself, your family and those most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in our communities is to choose to stay in Canada.”

Kim Trynacity, CBC branch president of the Canadian Media Guild, said the trip showed a lack of judgement.

“CBC/Radio Canada’s own policies strongly recommend against personal travel to risk countries during the pandemic. Regardless of their reasons, senior leaders who travel to a sunny destination during a widely observed holiday instead of staying at home, show poor judgement and a lack of respect for the many employees for whom they are supposed to be setting an example.”

On the day Bissonnette arrived in Florida, Miami-Dade County reported 9,890 new COVID-19 cases according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (compared to 6,306 new cases in all of Canada). By Dec. 24, the county was averaging over 11,000 new daily cases.

Florida currently ranks third in total COVID-19 cases per U.S. state since the beginning of the pandemic (1.48 million), behind only California (2.7 million) and Texas (two million).

During his time in Miami, Radio-Canada said Bissonnette followed both CBC/SRC’s internal policies as well as “provincial health requirements.”

“For all the time he was in Miami, he never went to any restaurant or any retail store. Upon his return, he quarantined for 14 days,” said Pichette’s email.

Pichette also said that this was the only time the head of CBC’s French services went to Miami since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

Neither Pichette or Bissonnette responded to questions about if the senior CBC/Radio-Canada executive visited anyone while in Florida.

In the weeks before Bissonnette left for Miami partly to vacation, Canadian authorities repeatedly and clearly warned against all non-essential travel abroad.

“The advice from Global Affairs is very clear. It’s on the website. Everyone can take a look. It was just updated and reaffirmed last week. There is clear advice to all Canadians not to undertake any non-essential travel,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Nov. 23, 2020.

 Condos in the Miami beach area. Michel Bissonnette, CBC/Radio-Canada’s executive vice-president of French Services and the public broadcaster’s second-in-command, went to his condo — located right on Miami beach according to public state records — on December 2 to “tend to business regarding this property,” Radio-Canada spokesperson Marc Pichette confirmed by email.

“What I’m doing right now is telling people not to go out if you don’t have to, not to travel if you don’t have to, that for the coming weeks, we need to flatten this curve,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians during a press conference a few days earlier.

On the same day, Health Minister Patty Hajdu pleaded with Canadians considering non-essential travel to rethink.

“This wave is undeniably harder. We are all tired. We are all lonely, and we all want our lives back. But we can’t give up now,” Hajdu pleaded. “Think about the choices that you’re making carefully, because lives actually depend on it. Is my travel essential?”

Radio-Canada reported on all of those press conferences.

Bissonnette is not the first CBC/Radio-Canada senior executive to have travelled outside the country during the pandemic.

On December 11, CANADALAND reported that CBC President and CEO Catherine Tait travelled back and forth multiple times between her residence in Brooklyn, New York, and her other home in Ottawa.

The report stated that Tait lived in the U.S. in order to take care of her husband.

“Catherine Tait has worked from New York twice this year while she cared for her husband as he underwent medical treatment,” CBC spokesperson Leon Mar told National Post in December. “Ms. Tait did so with the knowledge and full support of the Board of Directors.”

In a following report in Montreal-based newspaper Le Devoir, Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada union president Pierre Tousignant lambasted Tait’s choice to spend part of the last year in Brookyln.

“There is something extraordinaire and very questionable in that decision,” he told Le Devoir, adding that it was clearly a case of double standards for executives compared to employees.

Other public figures have recently been heavily criticized for travel abroad during the Christmas break.

Ontario’s Finance Minister Rod Phillips was forced to resign from his post recently after media reported he’d spent time vacationing on the luxurious Caribbean island of St. Barts.

Tracy Allard, Alberta’s municipal affairs minister, also stepped down from her post in early January after media reported she had spent part of the Christmas break vacationing in Hawaii.

In May, Ontario Premier Doug Ford also apologized after admitting he’d travelled to his Muskoka cottage over the Easter break last spring in order to “check on his plumbing,” despite begging Ontarians to avoid going to their cottage during the long weekend.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Holocaust denier in Alberta defends Florida principal who said, ‘Not everyone agrees in the Holocaust’

Former federal Green party candidate Monika Schaefer refers to the Holocaust as “the six-million lie” and claims 'these things did not happen'.

An Alberta Holocaust denier who was convicted for “incitement to hatred” in Germany has inserted herself into a Florida debate over the firing of a school principal who said, as school board employee, he wasn’t able to confirm the veracity of the Holocaust.

Monika Schaefer, from Jasper, Alta., was convicted in Germany in October 2018 and sentenced to 10 months in jail. She was released on time served, CBC reported.

Now, more than two years later, as president of the Truth and Justice for Germans Society, which claims to counter “the war propaganda regurgitated to this day,” Schaefer has written an open letter to the Palm Beach County School Board in Boca Raton, Fla., urging the reinstatement of the fired principal.

William Latson had been removed from Spanish River High School over an email from the year prior, when he wrote to a parent saying, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.”

“Not everyone agrees in the Holocaust,” the email said, according to local media.

Schaefer — who ran as the Green Party candidate for the riding of Yellowhead in three federal elections — stepped into the fray with an open letter after 

Latson

 was fired for good last October after a court battle and backlash. 

Michal Schlesinger, with B’nai Brith Canada, said it’s “appalling but not surprising” to see Schaefer “spreading her tentacles of anti-Semitic hatred related to Holocaust across our southern border.”

She posted the open letter on the website of the “Truth and Justice for Germans Society.” The letter, dated Jan. 8, said the group is “appalled” that Latson was fired “because he could not confirm the holocaust story.”

According to local news reports, the letter was also sent to teachers and staff of the high school.

“What other event in history is so untouchable, that even a neutral stance on it will have a teacher dismissed for saying they cannot confirm that it happened?” the letter says.

The letter goes on to detail several conspiracy theories about the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust. Historians place the number of deaths around six million members of the European Jewry, with another five million people killed in Nazi death camps.

According to BocaNewsNow, under Florida law, email addresses for school staff are public, and staff and teachers reached out to the outlet last week after receiving the email from Schaefer.

• Email: tdawson@postmedia.com | Twitter: tylerrdawson

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

10/3 podcast: Why Ontario Premier Doug Ford opted against a COVID-19 curfew

Premier Doug Ford announces on Tuesday a state of emergency and stay-at-home order for the province.

Ontario has been hit hard in recent weeks with growing numbers of COVID-19 cases.

In response, Doug Ford has announced a host of new restrictions to try to stem the tide.

But will they work?

Toronto Sun columnist Brian Lilley joins Dave to talk about what’s driving the new measures, why Ontario didn’t opt for a curfew like Quebec, and where the province it at in terms of its vaccine rollout.

BACKGROUND READING:

LILLEY: Is the stay-at-home order worse than the curfew?

What you can — and can’t — do under Ontario’s stay-at-home order

LILLEY: Vaccine shortage hinders Ontario’s COVID offensive

Subscribe to 10/3 on your favourite podcast app.

#distro

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques