Monthly Archives: December 2018

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Senior Alberta Health staffer fired over Calgary Flames’ queue-jumping vaccinations

EDMONTON – Alberta’s health superboard has fired the most senior staff member involved in releasing H1N1 vaccine to the Calgary Flames and their family members.

“Like most Albertans, I am deeply offended that this circumstance has occurred,” reads a statement signed by Ken Hughes, board chairman of Alberta Health Services, and Stephen Duckett, CEO and president.

“AHS board and management have a fundamental commitment to serve all Albertans according to their needs, in medical priority. This circumstance was a clear departure from that principle. We set the expectation that this should not have happened and should not happen again.”

The name of the senior staff member was not released.

The investigation is continuing to determine exactly how the Flames managed to jump the queue and get their H1N1 vaccinations before those at risk of becoming dangerously ill.

Further disciplinary action may still come.

“The special treatment for the Flames and their families is unacceptable to us and contrary to all of our existing protocols and processes,” said Duckett in the statement. “I apologize for this breach of our duty to Albertans.”

Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services, said he believes the Flames’ faux pas was the only such incident of queue jumping in Alberta.

“We’re reasonably certain (the incident was isolated), but nothing is 100 per cent,” Predy said. Only Alberta Health Services receives doses from Alberta Health and Wellness. The provincial health authority then dispenses it to clinics and hospitals across Alberta.

“It’s a deplorable situation,” said Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

Neither is involved in the investigation.

On Wednesday, Predy and Corriveau reiterated the province’s new plan to reopen vaccination clinics Thursday for kids between six months old and under five.

Unadjuvanted shots – doses without a specific additive – will be available for pregnant women beginning Friday, but if pregnant mothers arrive at a clinic Thursday and want the regular shot with the additive, it will be made available.

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UWO Student will sue police, university for violent arrest: lawyer

A student whose arrest at the University of Western Ontario was caught on tape and sparked allegations of police brutality intends to sue the school and police, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Irnes Zeljkovic has indicated he will file a lawsuit against the university and the police service in London, Ont., likely for assault and battery, said Phil Millar, a lawyer with Cohen Highley LLP.

"Our primary concern right now is to deal with the criminal charges that have been laid against him," said Millar. "And then the civil action will come after that."

Zeljkovic, a 22-year-old fourth-year student at the university, was arrested on the evening of Oct. 14 after campus police and city officers responded to calls of a "disoriented and threatening individual" who had barricaded himself in an office.

After a verbal exchange with the six officers, Zeljkovic allegedly came out of the office and charged at them, according to the university.

The video, which has now been viewed more than 370,000 times on the YouTube website, shows the officers piled on top of Zeljkovic, throwing punches and hitting him with batons while telling him to "Stop resisting" and "Give us your arms."

Zeljkovic faces charges of resisting arrest, assaulting a peace officer, mischief under $5,000 and escaping custody. He is to appear in court Nov. 19.

He is in hospital for psychiatric assessment, Millar said.

A rally in support of Zeljkovic was to be held at the university Wednesday evening.

With files from Linda Nguyen, Canwest News Service


Prince Charles and Camilla visit St. John’s war memorial.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – After two days of wind and rain, the sun shone on Prince Charles and Camilla Wednesday as they visited a St. John’s war memorial and mingled with onlookers, before departing Newfoundland for Toronto and the rest of their Canadian tour.

Their day began, however, with a private meeting with former federal cabinet minister John Crosbie, now the province’s lieutenant-governor, who greeted the royal couple outside his official residence in a gleaming, full-length sealskin coat.

Crosbie later told reporters he wore the coat "to make a statement" to the royals about the importance of the seal hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador, despite the controversy it generates in parts of Europe.

"I think they rather liked the coat," Crosbie said. "They took it in their stride. I don’t think they were upset by it."

The royal couple then attended their final public event in Newfoundland: a short service of remembrance at what residents here call their "national" war memorial in downtown St. John’s.

Built into a hill overlooking the city’s sun-splashed harbour, Charles laid a wreath at the monument and then, with Camilla, walked past their security guards into the waiting crowd of about 500 people.

St. John’s resident Brian Flynn was there, holding a large, black-and-white photograph of his father, a First World War veteran of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The photograph showed him and other veterans meeting Prince Charles’ grandparents – King George VI and the Queen Mother – during their historic visit to Canada and Newfoundland in 1939.

For several minutes Charles studied the picture and reminisced with Flynn about their common connection.

"He told me his grandmother had often reflected upon that visit here in 1939," Flynn said afterwards. "He was very interested in the photo. I think he’s more interested in speaking to the ordinary people than the politicians. That’s my impression you know."

Judy Facey was one of dozens who managed to shake hands with Camilla.

"Her glove was just like a cloud," Facey said afterwards. "And her hand was so tiny. She seemed happy to be with us. I think it’s just wonderful they came to spend time here in Newfoundland."


Abdullah rules out joining new Afghan government

KABUL – Technocrats and some existing ministers will be appointed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s new government, a spokesman said on Wednesday, but his main rival branded his re-election illegal and ruled out taking any part.

Karzai, returned to power after a needless presidential run-off vote was abandoned on Monday, has received stern warnings from U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others in the West that he must recruit credible figures to root out corruption that tainted his previous administration.

The run-off, triggered after widespread fraud marred the first round in August, was cancelled after Karzai’s only rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew citing serious concerns about the vote.

That decision came after weeks of political uncertainty, while Obama also weighs whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to fight a resurgent Taliban, who had threatened to disrupt the poll and branded Karzai’s return as a farce.

Karzai has committed himself to an inclusive government, but Abdullah ruled out taking any part despite pressure for a power-sharing deal.

"I have no interest in the future cabinet of Karzai’s government and I will pursue my agenda, which is change," Abdullah told a news conference at his Kabul home.

Abdullah branded the government-appointed Independent Election Commission (IEC) decision to cancel the Nov. 7 run-off as illegal and said Karzai would not be able to deliver on promises of reform.

"A government which is derived from such an illegal decision will not be able to deliver," Abdullah said in his first public comments since the IEC’s decision, also urging his supporters to maintain peaceful opposition.


An Afghan policeman shot dead five British soldiers at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the British Ministry of Defence said, underlining security concerns and certain to fuel debate in Britain about its presence.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said six British troops and two Afghan police were also wounded. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Taliban may have infiltrated the police.

The flawed electoral process and climbing death tolls have undermined support for the war in the United States, Britain and other Western countries with troops in Afghanistan. Western leaders say they expect Karzai to root out corruption and appoint more competent and credible figures to his new government.

"The government the president has in mind is one that will have special places for experts, educated and professional people," Karzai spokesman Siyamak Herawi told Reuters.

"It will have new figures and some of the old ministers who have done well," he said.

Herawi said Karzai would announce his new government within three weeks. Washington and others have expressed concern Karzai would give prominent places to regional chieftains and former guerrilla commanders who backed him in the election.

Ethnic chiefs and regional power brokers threw their weight behind Karzai in the weeks leading up to the poll, making it difficult for Abdullah to challenge him but at the same time opening Karzai to accusations he would be in debt to warlords.

Karzai retains broad support among Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group.

On Wednesday, dancing supporters took to Kabul streets, chanting his name, banging drums and playing native flutes.

Obama and European leaders have backed Karzai but have also said he must work harder on good governance, respect for human rights, economic development, battling the drug trade and training Afghan security forces so that foreign troops can leave.

"Given what the international community is emphasizing on the eradication of drugs and corruption, all these issues will be taken into consideration," Herawi said.

Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of opium, used to make heroin, a trade that helps fund the Taliban-led insurgency.

There are nearly 110,000 Western troops in Afghanistan, two-thirds of them American. The White House has said a decision by Obama on future troop levels is still weeks away.


Mousavi supporters clash with police in Tehran

TEHRAN – Police clashed with supporters of Iran’s opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in Tehran on Wednesday when a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the storming of the U.S. embassy turned violent.

Reformist website Mowjcamp said police opened fire on protesters at Haft-e Tir square, but there was no independent confirmation of the report. "Some people were injured," Mowjcamp said, reporting other protests in the cities of Shiraz and Rasht.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and their allied Basij militia had warned the opposition not to try to hijack an annual anti-U.S. rally to revive protests against the clerical establishment after June’s disputed presidential election.

"Police clashed with hundreds of protesters. They were chanting: ‘Death to dictators’. Police used batons to disperse them," a witness said. People traditionally chant, "Death to America" at the annual state-organized rally.

By early evening the crowds had dispersed, but police and Basij maintained patrols on the streets.

The crackdown showed no compromise from the leadership, underlined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s recent comment that it was a crime to question the June 12 vote which secured the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Defeated presidential candidates Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who are committed to reform, had urged supporters to take to the streets on Wednesday to protest against the government despite warnings from the security forces about "illegal gatherings".

Karoubi, who joined the protests on Wednesday, was attacked by plainclothes officers, his website Tagheer said. "One of his bodyguards was hospitalized." There were no further details.

Police fired teargas at the crowd and arrested at least five protesters, one witness said. Mobile phone networks were shut down to try to prevent protesters from organizing while Basij militia on motorbikes drove at crowds and used batons.

"There are hundreds, chanting ‘God is greatest’. Police and Basij militia are outnumbering the protesters," one witness said. "Hundreds of police, riot police, Basij militia and plainclothes officers are in the main squares," another said.

The turmoil after the June vote was the worst in Iran since protests which led to the ouster of the U.S.-backed Shah three decades ago. Authorities denied vote-rigging and portrayed the unrest as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic state.

Iran has been rocked by the street protests which have also exposed serious rifts over reform in the clerical leadership, already under international pressure over its nuclear program.

Washington fears Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb and has threatened more sanctions through the United Nations. Tehran says its nuclear program aims to generate electricity.

In September, opposition protesters clashed with government backers and police at annual government pro-Palestinian rallies.

Thousands of people gathered in front of the former U.S. embassy for the latest state-organized rally where influential lawmaker Gholamali Haddadadel criticized the opposition leaders.

"I don’t know how they (opposition leaders) are going to answer to the great Iranian nation. They claim they are followers of the revolution but issue statements that are in the interests of Iran’s enemies," he said in a speech.

Haddadadel said the U.S. administration should change its policy towards Iran’s nuclear energy program: "No one in Iran can make a deal on Iran’s obvious right to nuclear technology".

U.S. President Barack Obama used the anniversary of the hostage crisis to urge Tehran to make concessions over its nuclear program, saying it needs to turn the page on the past and forge a new relationship with the United States.

"Iran must choose," Obama said. "We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for."

The nuclear question and relations with the West have also caused deep divisions alongside the political furor.

"There is real domestic turmoil in Iran," said Mark Fitzpatrick, senior non-proliferation fellow at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Protesters at the official rally carried banners saying "We are ready to sacrifice our blood for (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei," and "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" before they dispersed.

Anti-Western rallies take place annually outside the embassy – now called the "den of espionage" in Iran – to mark the anniversary of the day in 1979 that the building was seized.

During the Iranian revolution, militants stormed the embassy on Nov. 4, 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Protesters also targeted the Russian embassy in Tehran, where they chanted "The Russian embassy is a den of spies" and "Death to Russia", in an apparent protest at Moscow’s swift recognition of Ahmadinejad’s re-election.

Another witness said dozens of police were walking around the British embassy in Tehran.