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In The News for June 2 : Provincial fire bans spark campfire alternatives

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 June 2 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
A crew works to cut trees and make fire barriers for the wildfires in Drayton Valley, Alta. on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Fire bans began rolling in early in the season after the hot, dry weather took over most of Canada -- starting in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, now expanding to the Maritimes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

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 June 2 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

As fire bans continue in many provinces, businesses selling camping gear and firewood are seeing a shift in demand. 

Fire bans began rolling in after hot, dry weather took over much of Canada early in the season — starting in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, now expanding to the Maritimes. While Saskatchewan and Alberta have lifted the bans in some regions, people in the Prairies have been monitoring the wildfire season closely.

Companies that supply camping enthusiasts have been seeing trends change.

Alberta-based Smart Firewood Products Managing Director Jade Najam says demand usually picks up around mid-April and continues until mid-October, but things are different this year. 

"This May, I'm not even at five per cent of what I did last year in sales," he said.

One outdoor outfitter, meanwhile, is seeing a jump in sales for propane gas outdoor firepits.

"People have to look at things a bit differently when planning their camping trip due to fire bans," said Mike Eerkes, general manager at a Mountain Equipment Company store in Edmonton.

The biggest advantage to propane fire is that "you can have it," he said. "They're fully compliant with the fire bans."

A private campground about 100 kilometres southwest of Halifax has been getting cancellations since the fire ban and camping bans in wooded areas of Nova Scotia earlier this week.

"When fire bans are in place, it's the private campground's choice to follow the fire ban to not," said Minseo Kim, manager of the Little Lake Family Campground in Lunenburg, N.S. "But for this fire ban, private campgrounds have to listen as well.  

"This has never happened before. We never faced this issue." 


Also this ...

Pierre Poilievre is off to Manitoba to rally Conservative supporters ahead of a byelection that Maxime Bernier is hoping will send him back to Parliament.

The far-right People's Party of Canada leader lost his Quebec seat in the 2019 federal vote and lost again in the 2021 election. 

The riding of Portage—Lisgar came up for grabs after longtime Conservative MP Candice Bergen, who served as the party's interim leader before Poilievre took over, decided to resign. Bernier will test his luck in the rural Manitoba riding that delivered his fledging party its best result in 2021, with slightly more than 20 per cent of the vote. 

Bernier stood vehemently against COVID-19 health restrictions, while then-Tory leader Erin O'Toole struggled to strike a position on vaccine mandates that satisfied anyone the party's base.

Now with Poilievre at the helm, the federal Conservatives are facing a rematch and supporters are looking for a victory that quashes the idea that the PPC poses a real threat. 

Poilievre plans to host a "special meet and greet" rally Friday evening in Winkler, a city roughly an hour-and-a-half south of Winnipeg. MPs have also visited the area, including House leader Andrew Scheer, whose razor-thin defeat of Bernier in the Conservatives' 2017 leadership race paved the way for the former Quebec MP to strike out on his own. 

Poilievre will be the latest federal Conservative to visit the riding, which is set to elect its next member of Parliament June 19th. 


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

HARLINGEN, Texas _ U.S. Border Patrol medical staff declined to review the file of an eight-year-old girl with a chronic heart condition and rare blood disorder before she appeared to have a seizure and died on her ninth day in custody, an internal investigation found.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said the Panamanian child's parents shared the medical history with authorities on May 10, a day after the family was taken into custody.

But a nurse practitioner declined to review documents about the girl the day she died, CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility said in its initial statement Thursday on the May 17 death. The nurse practitioner reported denying three or four requests from the girl's mother for an ambulance.

A day before she died, Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez showed a fever of 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius), the report said.

A surveillance video system at the Harlingen, Texas, station was out of service since April 13, a violation of federal law that prevented evidence collection, according to the Office of Professional Responsibility, akin to a police department's office of internal affairs. The system was flagged for repair but wasn't fixed until May 23, six days after the girl died.

Still, the report relied on interviews with Border Patrol agents and contracted medical personnel to raise a host of new and troubling questions about what went wrong during the girl's nine days in custody, which far exceeded the agency's own limit of 72 hours.

Investigators gave no explanation for decisions that medical staff made and appeared to be at a loss for words.

"Despite the girl's condition, her mother's concerns, and the series of treatments required to manage her condition, contracted medical personnel did not transfer her to a hospital for higher-level care,'' the Office of Professional Responsibility said.

Mabel Alvarez Benedicks, Anadith's mother, said she informed staff of her child's conditions, which included sickle-cell anemia, and repeatedly asked for medical assistance and an ambulance to take her daughter to a hospital but the request were denied until her child fell unconscious.


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

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka _ Debt-stricken Sri Lanka, which declared bankruptcy last year, is showing signs of economic improvement but its recovery still faces challenges, the International Monetary Fund said Friday.

The Indian Ocean island nation declared bankruptcy in April 2022 and said it was suspending repayment of its foreign debt. It reached an agreement with the IMF in March on a nearly $3 billion bailout program over four years.

"Sri Lanka's economy is showing tentative signs of improvement, in part due to the implementation of critical policy actions. But the economic recovery remains challenging,'' said IMF deputy managing director Kenji Okamura after concluding a visit to Sri Lanka, where he met with the country's top leaders and officials.

Okamura said he welcomed Sri Lankan authorities' "strong commitment to implement their ambitious economic program, which is supported by the IMF.''

IMF previously said Sri Lanka's economy is expected to resume growing in 2024 after contracting three per cent this year. The expected economic growth of 1.5 per cent next year hinges critically on the economic reforms Sri Lanka has agreed to undertake.

Sri Lanka's foreign debt exceeds $51 billion, of which $28 billion must be repaid by 2027. Sri Lanka has now started negotiations with its creditors on debt restructuring.

Sri Lanka's economic crisis and resultant shortages of essentials sparked riots last year, forcing then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and later resign.

Unsustainable debt, a severe balance of payment crisis on top of lingering scars of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the government's insistence on spending scarce foreign reserves to prop up the Sri Lankan rupee, led to a severe shortage of foreign currency and essentials such as fuel, medicine, cooking gas and food.

Although there are some signs of progress _ with shortages reduced and day-to-day functions restored _ under current President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the government is still struggling to find money to pay its employees and conduct other administrative functions.


On this day in 1953 ...

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in London's Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth was 27 when she assumed the throne 16 months earlier upon the death of her father, King George VI. She had married Philip Mountbatten in 1947 and at the time of her coronation, they had two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Elizabeth's coronation was the first to be televised.


In entertainment ...

Nunavut filmmakers and videographers say construction of a large-scale TV and film production studio in Iqaluit will be "game changing" for the territory's film industry.

Iqaluit-based production company Red Marrow Media, co-founded by Stacey Aglok MacDonald and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, is leading the project. They're currently developing a yet-untitled comedy series, commissioned by CBC, APTN and Netflix. 

"It'll be the biggest show that's ever come out of Nunavut," Arnaquq-Baril said, adding she could not yet share many details.

"We're excited to spend time in our communities on screen making people laugh, which is not something we get to do on the global stage very often."

CBC said in a news release the series will centre on a young Inuk mother trying to build a new future for herself in a small Arctic town where everyone knows each other's business.

The studio will help make the show possible, as housing and infrastructure shortages can make finding places to shoot in Nunavut challenging, Arnaquq-Baril said. She said they have permission to film the series in the city's curling rink as a backup, but have promised to only do so for one season so as to not have a long-term impact on community programming.

The Indigenous Screen Office recently announced it would provide $1 million in capital to support construction of the studio, which it said will cost more than $4 million. Inuk entrepreneur Cody Dean, who will be building the studio, will also contribute $1 million to the project.

The Indigenous Screen Office said the studio, which will take up 11,600 square feet of floor space, will have two sound stages and shared office space for up to four arts and culture organizations or companies. 

Construction is expected to start later this summer. 


Did you see this?

OTTAWA _ Meta is preparing to block news for some Canadians on Facebook and Instagram in a temporary test that is expected to last the majority of the month.

The Silicon Valley tech giant is following in the steps of Google, which blocked news links for about five weeks earlier this year for some of its Canadian users in response to a controversial Liberal government bill.

Bill C-18, which is currently being studied in the Senate, will require tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.

Meta said it's prepared to block news permanently on Facebook and Instagram if the bill passes, which the government said could happen this month.

Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, said this first temporary move will affect one to five per cent of its 24 million Canadian users, with the number of those impacted fluctuating throughout the test.

Randomly selected Canadian users will not be able to see or share news content in Canada either on Instagram or Facebook.

She said that could include news links to articles, reels _ which are short-form videos _ or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. However, the experience won't be the same for every user who is subject to the test.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday evening that the fact that Facebook is still refusing to work with Canadians shows how deeply irresponsible the company is.

"When a big tech company, whatever the size is, the amount of money and the powerful lawyers they have, they come here and they tell us, 'If you don't do this or that, then I'm pulling the plug,' _ that's a threat and that is unacceptable,'' he said in the statement.

"I never did anything because I was afraid of a threat, and I will never do it.''


This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press