Regina committee debate on conversion therapy to resume Monday – Regina

After 16 delegations took up all of the time allotted for the April Community Wellness Committee meeting Wednesday, a second day will be required to hear all interested in speaking about a contentious agenda item involving conversion therapy.

The report before the committee, which was drafted by city administration after the city of Saskatoon approved a bylaw banning conversion, recommends Regina Mayor Sandra Masters write a letter to the federal government voicing support for Bill C-6.

Bill C-6, which has passed its second reading, aims to criminalize the practice that it defines as “to seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviours, or to change an individual’s gender identity to match the sex they were assigned at birth.”

The remaining delegates will get the chance to speak Monday at which point the committee will also debate the report.

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Read more:
Regina woman shares decades-long journey recovering from conversion therapy

The delegates that spoke Wednesday expressed dramatically different opinions.

Several Regina faith leaders spoke in support of the recommendations, and some said they’d like to see the city go a step further and implement a bylaw ban similar to what was done in Saskatoon.

“I have friends, who because of their Christian upbringing, have undertaken these so-called therapies. Some spent tens of thousands of dollars. In going through this harmful and painful practice they realized their issue is not with their identity but with society and the Church’s attitude towards them,” said Eastside United Church Pastor Russell Mitchell-Walker.

“It is these negative perspectives towards LGBTQ2S people that cause the most harm and leads the sexual identity and gender identity change efforts which need to be banned for the health of our community.”

Queen City for All member Kent Peterson expressed the same opinion to the committee.

“So-called conversion therapy is a cancer in our community. No matter the form, these practices are always violent, abusive, manipulative and based on deep-seated hatred and homophobia. Conversion therapy happens in our city, operating in the shadows,” Peterson said.

“A ban would send a powerful message to queer and trans young people. Supporting Bill C-6 isn’t good enough. Let me be clear – we must have a bylaw in Regina to ban this disgusting and archaic violence and abuse.”

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Peterson went on to say he doesn’t see a ban as an attack on religious freedom or parental rights.

“Banning conversion therapy does not prevent people from seeking counselling. I’d be interested in a dialogue about how we can increase the availability of affirming counseling and support for queer and trans people to help them through the trauma of discrimination, homophobia and transphobia,” he added.

Speaking Thursday, Committee Chair Andrew Stevens suggested that the idea will be discussed when the meeting resumes.

“I think you’re going to see amendments and a more committed position, and I think you’re going to see requests from members of the committee for an actual municipal ban,” said Stevens.

Read more:
Discussion about banning conversion therapy in Regina moves forward

A summary look at the government Bill C-6 which passed its second reading in October.

Several other delegates voiced concern with the report’s recommendations.

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Emmanuel Sanchez shared his own story growing up with sexual identity struggles and implied that a ban on conversion therapy may prevent others from receiving valuable counseling in a church setting.

“I was around five years old the first time I noticed I was attracted to the same sex. As I grew older I began to notice it more and more. I endured a lot of bullying in school at the hands of other boys. I was called ‘fag, queer and girly’. This bullying really belittled me and caused confusion. I began to question my sexual orientation and gender identity. At the age of 12 years old I severely hated myself and regretted being alive,” Sanchez said.

He said that as he grew up exploring his identity, he received support from his family, friends and faith communities.

“Though not everybody in my life agreed with the decisions I was making, they were all loving, caring and supportive of me as an individual.”

Click to play video: 'Tory MP uses term ‘unclean’ during conversion therapy debate'

Tory MP uses term ‘unclean’ during conversion therapy debate

Tory MP uses term ‘unclean’ during conversion therapy debate

Sanchez said that as a teenager he sought out counseling for his struggles, and also attended an “LGBTQ+ affirming church” but said those experiences didn’t give him “the support he needed”.

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He said he then sought out counseling from a church pastor. He said that experience “restored his heart” and that “depression, anxiety, fear and suicidal thoughts began to lift off of me.”

He said since then he has “ceased to engage in same-sex relationships and instead sought to live my life in a way that was consistent with my faith and belief.”

“I’m not asking you to agree with our decisions. I’m simply asking that you acknowledge that people like me exist. I stand with you in your efforts to see LGBTQ+ individuals protected and loved. Therefore I ask that if you do proceed with a bylaw please create one that is well-written and truly bans coercive and abusive methods while respecting the individual’s freedom at any age to choose the type of support they want and their desired goal.”

A lawyer, Wayne Bernakevitch, suggested the issues should be left to the House of Commons to debate.

Read more:
‘Historic moment’: Conversion therapy officially banned in Saskatoon

“I don’t think you need to get into it at all. The feds have it at criminal law. I don’t think the city should be engaged in getting into the family area.”

He also called Bill C-6 a “huge overreach”.

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“Endorsing it in its current form – I don’t think that’s the way to go,” he said.

Speaking to Global News Thursday, committee member Terina Shaw suggested she thought the debate on a ban should remain in Ottawa as well.

“I don’t feel that we, as a municipality, should get involved with that whether we support it or don’t support it,” she said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Alberta to lower minimum age for AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from 55 to 40

Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta will now be administering AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to people age 40 and over.

The premier made the announcement Sunday evening via social media.

This decision is based on growing scientific knowledge about the vaccine and is based on Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s advice,” Kenney tweeted. “Details will follow tomorrow (Monday) morning and bookings will open for Tuesday.”

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The province’s move comes after Canada’s federal health minister, Patty Hajdu, said provinces and territories were “free to use” AstraZeneca’s vaccine on any groups aged 18 and above, despite the country’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendation to not give the vaccine to those under 55.

READ MORE: Alberta reports first AstraZeneca-linked blood clot

The NACI first recommended the vaccine to not be given to those below 55 in late March, citing concerns over reports of blood clotting then.

While this has heightened hesitancy towards the vaccine, experts have since pointed to female birth control and smoking as being more likely to induce blood clotting.

Click to play video: 'Eligible Albertans encouraged to receive AstraZeneca vaccine'

Eligible Albertans encouraged to receive AstraZeneca vaccine

Eligible Albertans encouraged to receive AstraZeneca vaccine

Both the European Medical Association and Health Canada have both maintained that the benefits of using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any of the risks.

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“Reports of blood clots with low platelets in people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are very rare,” the Public Health Agency of Canada previously told Global News in a statement.

READ MORE: Alberta confirms 1,516 new COVID-19 cases, 3 more deaths on Sunday

Two walk-in clinics opened on Saturday in Alberta, one in Calgary and one in Edmonton, which offer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The clinics are located at Calgary’s Southport Clinic and at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

Alberta Health said as of Friday, Alberta had received 270,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and had administered about 98,000 doses with about 171,000 doses remaining.

— With files from Global News’  

COVID-19: Montreal protesters denounce 8 p.m. curfew as unscientific, harmful to vulnerable

A group of masked protesters marched through the streets of Montreal on Sunday evening to denounce Quebec’s COVID-19 curfew that many described as unscientific and harmful to society’s most vulnerable.

The group stretched across several city blocks as they marched through the Plateau Mont-Royal waving signs, chanting anti-curfew slogans and occasionally booing the police who escorted them on bicycles.

Unlike some previous protesters, the ones gathered on Sunday said they supported wearing masks and adopting other health measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, but are against the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in place in parts of the province.

Scott Weinstein, an intensive care nurse, showed up in scrubs to protest the provincial government’s approach to the pandemic, which he described as “anti-science.”

“Outside is the safest place for people to gather,” he said.

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“There is no data to show that any of the COVID is being transmitted outside.”

People take part in a demonstration opposing the Quebec government’s 8pm curfew in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021.


People take part in a demonstration opposing the Quebec government’s 8pm curfew in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021.


Rather than preventing people from going outside, he said the government should be working to make indoor workplaces safer through better ventilation and protective equipment for staff.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Quebec reports 9 more virus-related deaths, new cases below 1,350

Several others in the crowd argued the curfew disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable, including sex workers and drug users, and opens them up to excessive policing.

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Chantal Montmorency, a representative for a group that advocates for the health of drug users, said her group is considering taking legal action to contest the curfew, which she says prevents people from accessing safe injection sites.

“These people are already stigmatized because of consuming drugs, so they’re already victims of profiling,” she said.

Quebec originally imposed an 8 p.m. curfew in early January. It rolled the measure back to 9:30 p.m. in March, but chose to reimpose the earlier start time in some cities in response to rising COVID-19 cases.

One previous protest against the measure turned violent last week as demonstrators smashed windows and burned garbage cans.

Earlier Sunday, Quebec reported 1,344 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, including two in the past 24 hours.

Hospitalizations in the province declined slightly for the first time since early April, falling by nine to 683.

The number of patients in intensive care units remained stable at 175.

Health Minister Christian Dubé highlighted the province’s vaccination effort, which included an average of 66,000 doses per day administered over the last seven days.

The province has been pushing eligible residents to get vaccinated, including by sending trucks with loudspeakers in hard-hit Montreal neighbourhoods to announce the presence of mobile clinics offering Oxford-AstraZeneca shots to Quebecers 55 and older.

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Quebec also announced Friday that it would close its border with Ontario on Monday in order to limit the spread of more contagious virus variants, shortly after Ontario’s premier made a similar announcement.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Alberta confirms 1,516 new COVID-19 cases, 3 more deaths on Sunday

Alberta Health reported 1,516 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths from the disease on Saturday.

The province said the deaths involved a man in his 70s in the South zone linked to the outbreak at Trinity Reformed Church in Lethbridge, a man in his 60s in the South Zone and a man in his 70s in the Edmonton zone. All three cases included comorbidities.

Read more:
Kenney shouldn’t say things he doesn’t know: Athabasca mayor on COVID-19 birthday comments

The new cases came from 15,343 tests, which means a provincial positivity rate of 9.8 per cent, according to Alberta Health.

The government said 451 people are hospitalized, with 103 of them in intensive care.

The 1,516 new cases include 800 new variant cases. The active variant case total is at 9,768, representing 54.5 per cent of all active cases.

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Read more:
Alberta reports first AstraZeneca-linked blood clot

The province has 17,935 active cases, 150,820 recoveries and 2,040 deaths.

As of Saturday, the Calgary zone had 7,879 active cases, the Edmonton zone had 4,788, the North zone had 2,441, the Central zone had 1,849 and the South zone had 905. There were 73 cases in unknown zones.

As of April 17, Alberta Health said 1,147,048 vaccine doses had been administered.

Health officials said traffic has been increasing at Alberta’s two largest vaccination sites in Edmonton and Calgary.

There was a steady stream of traffic outside Edmonton’s Expo Centre Sunday, which is open for walk-ins for those aged 55 to 64. The AstraZeneca vaccine is available at the centre.

As of Friday, about 97,000 doses of AstraZeneca were administered in Alberta out of the 280,000 doses the province received.

On Saturday, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said discussions have been taking place about expanding eligibility for AstraZeneca to other age groups.

READ MORE: Alberta reports first AstraZeneca-linked blood clot

Alberta Health also announced Saturday a man in his 60s had the first confirmed case of a blood clot connected to the AstraZeneca vaccine in Alberta and the second in Canada.

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The man’s identity was not released to protect patient confidentiality, but Alberta Health reported he is receiving treatment and is recovering after being diagnosed with a case of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Doug Ford contacting consulates to try and get more COVID vaccines for Ontario, spokesperson says

A spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford says he has begun contacting consulates in a bid to get more COVID-19 vaccines for Ontario.

Ivana Yelich said Sunday that Ford began reaching out to international allies after news of cuts to upcoming Moderna shipments, and as the province awaits a possible recommendation on lowering the age limit for the AstraZeneca shot.

“Ontario has the capacity to vaccinate more people, but we are lacking the supply to do it,” Yelich said in a statement.

“Vaccines are our only way out of this pandemic and the premier will exhaust every avenue he has in order to get more needles into arms of Ontarians sooner.”

Read more:
Canada adds millions more Pfizer doses over spring, but Moderna cuts back

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Procuring vaccines is normally the responsibility of the federal government.

Global News has reached out to Procurement Canada and Health Canada, but didn’t hear back by time of publication

Ford has repeatedly said that Ontario has the capacity to administer more vaccines than it is currently receiving from the feds, and in late March, lashed out at the federal government’s procurement process calling it “a joke.”

Ontario is currently in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19, with cases and hospitalizations rising to record levels in recent days.

The province has administered a total of 3,837,881 doses as of 8 p.m. Saturday, marking an increase of 86,565 over one day. Over the past several days, Ontario had been administering more than 100,000 doses each day.

Read more:
AstraZeneca vaccine still safe despite ‘stronger link’ to blood clots, Health Canada says

So far, 345,310 people in the province are considered to be fully vaccinated.

According to the federal government, Ontario has received 4,852,885 doses thus far.

Earlier this week, the federal government said that while Canada was due to receive 1.2 million Moderna doses this month, that had been cut down to 650,000. At the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would be receiving millions additional Pfizer shots, beginning in May.

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The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is also discussing the current recommendation that AstraZeneca only be given to those 55 and older due to blood clot risks.

Health Canada has approved the shot for everyone 18+.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

‘Be together and support one another’: Nova Scotia marks 1st anniversary of deadly mass shooting

NOTE: A memorial ceremony will be streamed live at this link beginning at 2:45 p.m. AT. 

One year ago, Nova Scotia was filled with terror.

One year later, the province continues to heal as a small rural community remembers the 22 lives lost in the country’s deadliest rampage in history.

Read more:
One year later: How the Nova Scotia mass shooting shook and changed a province forever

“It feels like it was just yesterday, doesn’t it? Time goes by so fast,” said Bill MacEachern, as he readied himself to take part in a memorial marathon.

“Life feels so precious. We got to be like this, be together and support one another.”

The sombre day began with the memorial run, which began in the Colchester County community of Portapique and wound its way to Victoria Park in Truro.

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Like so many others who decided to run or volunteer during Sunday’s event, MacEachern knows some of the victims of last April’s deadly shooting.

Greg and Jamie Blair were his friends.

“When we were just driving here thinking about how beautiful it is here, and that this could happen here. It’s just kind of so sad that such a tragic thing could happen,” he said.

“So many lives lost that didn’t need to be.”

MacEachern says he’s always found running to be therapeutic — a sentiment echoed by other participants. Money raised from the event will go towards a permanent memorial for the victims.

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“It’s surreal,” said Jillian Arany, who wrote the names of each victim on paper hearts and wore them on her back as she ran the marathon.

“It felt surreal that it happened and every time that I come through this way, it’s always hard.”

Scott and Mindy Miller knew several of the people killed during the shooter’s two-day terror spree, and chose to volunteer at the event as a way to show their support.

“This is our community, so it just feels like we need to do something to pay it back to those who have lost their lives,” said Scott.

A memorial service will be held at Truro’s First United Church this afternoon, and will include a province-wide moment of silence as the ceremony begins.

The anniversary was also expected to be marked by a peaceful march to the RCMP detachment in nearby Bible Hill, where some of the victim’s relatives planned to express their dismay with the Mounties’ response to one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history.

— With files from Graeme Benjamin and The Canadian Press 

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Alexei Navalny’s team calls for massive protests amid reports of failing health – National

Activists for imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Sunday called for massive protests in the heart of Moscow and St. Petersburg as Navalny’s health reportedly is deteriorating severely while on hunger strike.

Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, said the demonstrations were called on short notice for Wednesday because “his life hangs in the balance. … We don’t know how long he can hold on.. But it is clear we do not have time.”

Read more:
Alexei Navalny goes on hunger strike in Russian prison over medical care

The 44-year-old Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most visible and persistent critic, started a hunger strike more than three weeks ago to protest prison authorities’ refusal to allow him to be seen by a private doctor for diagnosis of severe back pain and loss of feeling in his legs; the Russian penitentiary service says he is getting adequate care.

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On Saturday, a doctor said test results that he received from Navalny’s family showed sharply elevated levels of potassium, which could lead to cardiac arrest, and signs of kidney failure.

“Our patient could die at any moment,” said the doctor, Yaroslav Ashikhmin.

There was no immediate comment from police or government officials about the call for protests, but the response is likely to be harsh. Police arrested more than 10,000 people during nationwide protests in January calling for Navalny to be freed.

Click to play video: 'Russia promises response after U.S. levies sanctions over Navalny detention'

Russia promises response after U.S. levies sanctions over Navalny detention

Russia promises response after U.S. levies sanctions over Navalny detention – Mar 2, 2021

The Wednesday protests have been called for symbolically resonant locations _ Manezh Square in Moscow, just outside the Kremlin walls, and St. Petersburg’s sprawling Palace Square.

Navalny was arrested on Jan. 17 when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from Soviet nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian officials have denied any involvement and even questioned whether Navalny was poisoned, which was confirmed by several European laboratories.

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Navalny was ordered to serve 2 1/2 years in prison on the grounds that his long recovery in Germany violated a suspended sentence he had been given for a fraud conviction in a case that Navalny says was politically motivated.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

One year later: How the Nova Scotia mass shooting shook and changed a province forever – Halifax

It has been described as horrific, terrorizing, unimaginable.

On April 18, 2020, a gunman dressed as an RCMP officer driving a replica cruiser assaulted his common-law spouse in Portapique — a small rural community outside of Halifax — and embarked on a shooting and arson spree.

Read more:
‘Come out with your hands up.’ Witness describes Nova Scotia killer’s disturbing ruse

Thirteen hours later, the events of those two days would give Nova Scotia a distinction no one wanted: Canada’s most deadliest rampage killing.

In total, 22 people were killed at 16 separate crime scenes as the gunman drove through backroads and rural communities.

He shot people he knew, targeted complete strangers, and set fire to homes.

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The 51-year-old shooter slipped away from police repeatedly, as RCMP sporadically updated their Twitter and Facebook accounts but delayed in issuing a public alert.

Click to play video: '‘13 Hours: Inside the Nova Scotia Massacre’ on the unanswered questions one year later'

‘13 Hours: Inside the Nova Scotia Massacre’ on the unanswered questions one year later

‘13 Hours: Inside the Nova Scotia Massacre’ on the unanswered questions one year later

It wasn’t until the shooter had stopped to refuel a vehicle he had stolen from a victim in Enfield — and after killing RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson,  that police happened across him and fatally shot him.

In the days and weeks after the attack, a picture of the shooter began to emerge as a manipulative and paranoid man who longed to be an officer and had stockpiled weapons and replica police paraphernalia.

There was a lot of criticism against the RCMP and their handling of the shooting, specifically why an emergency alert wasn’t sent out during the attacks.

In the mass confusion during the events, two RCMP officers fired at the Onslow fire hall because they saw someone dressed similarly to the gunman standing near a cruiser and mistook him for the shooter.

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A review by SiRT, the province’s police watchdog, later found no charges were warranted.

“The investigation found that based on everything the officers had seen and heard since coming on duty and what they had observed at the time, they had reasonable grounds to believe that the male was the killer and someone who would continue his killing rampage. They discharged their weapons in order to prevent further deaths or serious injuries,” the report read.

Read more:
Nova Scotia to restrict possession of police gear almost year after mass shooting

The tragedy also forced governments to enact change. Nova Scotia announced plans to restrict access to used police gear, and the Mounties in Nova Scotia set nearly 7 tonnes of surplus gear ablaze.

The federal government put a moratorium on the sale of decommissioned RCMP cruisers, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada would be banning the sale, transportation and importation of assault-style firearms.

Read more:
Brother of N.S. gunman’s common-law spouse pleads not guilty to providing ammo

In December 2020, the shooter’s common-law-spouse — Lisa Banfield, her brother and brother-in-law were charged with providing him with the ammunition used in the rampage. According to the RCMP, an investigation concluded that the three “had no prior knowledge of the gunman’s actions on April 18 and 19.”

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A lawsuit has been filed against the shooter’s estate by the relatives of victims, and was later amended to add Banfield, her brother and brother-in-law as defendants.

A separate lawsuit has also been filed against the RCMP and province, while Banfield also has a lawsuit against the shooter’s estate.

Click to play video: 'Three charged with providing ammunition to Nova Scotia shooter'

Three charged with providing ammunition to Nova Scotia shooter

Three charged with providing ammunition to Nova Scotia shooter – Dec 7, 2020

Families of the victims demanded a public inquiry, which was finally announced in July 2020 by federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. The inquiry will look into the RCMP response, as well as gender-based violence, and is slated to deliver an interim report by May 1, 2021.

In the year since the attacks, more attention has been placed on mental health support and gender-based violence prevention.

In the days leading up to the first anniversary, 10 psychologists began offering up their service to help people cope.

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A legacy society set up by the victims’ families and community members is raising money to create a permanent memorial to the victims.

But for families, healing is a long road that is made more difficult as the first anniversary of the tragedy draws near.

“It’s agonizing. We are re-living the immediate pain that we felt,” Jenny Kierstead, the sister of victim Lisa McCully, told Global News.

“That grief will be something I live with forever.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Indianapolis’ Sikh community calls for U.S. gun reforms after FedEx shooting – National

Members of Indianapolis’ tight-knit Sikh community joined with city officials to call for gun reforms Saturday as they mourned the deaths of four Sikhs who were among the eight people killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx warehouse.

At a vigil attended by more than 200 at an Indianapolis park Saturday evening, Aasees Kaur, who represented the Sikh Coalition, spoke out alongside the city’s mayor and other elected officials to demand action that would prevent such attacks from happening again.

“We must support one another, not just in grief, but in calling our policymakers and elected officials to make meaningful change,” Kaur said. “The time to act is not later, but now. We are far too many tragedies, too late, in doing so.”

The attack was another blow to the Asian American community a month after authorities said six people of Asian descent were killed by a gunman in the Atlanta area and amid ongoing attacks against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

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About 90% of the workers at the FedEx warehouse near the Indianapolis International Airport are members of the local Sikh community, police said Friday.

Read more:
9 dead, including gunman in shooting at Indianapolis FedEx facility: police

Kiran Deol, who attended the vigil in support of family members affected by the shooting, said loopholes in the law that make it easier for individuals to buy guns “need to be closed now,” and emphasized that anyone who tries to buy a firearm should be required to have their background checked.

“The gun violence is unacceptable. Look at what’s happened … it needs to be stopped,” Deol said. “We need more reform. We need gun laws to be harder, stronger, so that responsible people are the ones that have guns. That’s what we want to bring awareness to.”

Satjeet Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s executive director, said the entire community was traumatized by the “senseless” violence.

“While we don’t yet know the motive of the shooter, he targeted a facility known to be heavily populated by Sikh employees,” Kaur said.

Click to play video: 'Indianapolis deputy police chief says 5 injured in FedEx facility shooting transported to hospital'

Indianapolis deputy police chief says 5 injured in FedEx facility shooting transported to hospital

Indianapolis deputy police chief says 5 injured in FedEx facility shooting transported to hospital

There are between 8,000 and 10,000 Sikh Americans in Indiana, according to the coalition. Members of the religion, which began in India in the 15th century, began settling in Indiana more than 50 years ago.

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One of the victims of Thursday night’s shooting was Amarjit Sekhon, a 48-year-old Sikh mother of two sons who was the breadwinner of her family.

Kuldip Sekhon said his sister-in-law began working at the FedEx facility in November and was a dedicated worker whose husband was disabled.

“She was a workaholic, she always was working, working,” he said. “She would never sit still … the other day she had the (COVID-19) shot and she was really sick, but she still went to work.”

In addition to Sekhon, the Marion County Coroner’s office identified the dead as: Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.

Kuldip Sekhon said his family lost another relative in the shooting — Kaur, who was his son’s mother-in-law. He said both Kaur and Amarjit Sekhon both began working at the FedEx facility last year.

Read more:
Former FedEx worker behind Indianapolis mass shooting was on FBI’s radar last year

“We were planning to have a birthday party tonight, but now we’re here instead. This … this is tough for us,” Sukhpreet Rai, who is also related to Kaur and Sehkon, said Saturday. “They were both very charming.”

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Komal Chohan, who said Amarjeet Johal was her grandmother, said in a statement issued by the Sikh Coalition that her family members, including several who work at the FedEx warehouse, are “traumatized” by the killings.

“My nani, my family, and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere. Enough is enough — our community has been through enough trauma,” she said in the statement.

The coalition says about 500,000 Sikhs live in the U.S. Many practicing Sikhs are visually distinguishable by their articles of faith, which include the unshorn hair and turban.

The shooting is the deadliest incident of violence collectively in the Sikh community in the U.S. since 2012, when a white supremacist burst into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and shot 10 people, killing seven.

Click to play video: 'Authorities trying to determine motive behind Indianapolis FedEx facility shooting'

Authorities trying to determine motive behind Indianapolis FedEx facility shooting

Authorities trying to determine motive behind Indianapolis FedEx facility shooting

In Indianapolis, police said Brandon Scott Hole, 19, a former worker at the FedEx facility killed eight people there before killing himself. Authorities have not released a motive.

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Hole was in possession of two assault rifles, which he purchased legally in July and September of 2020, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Police said Hole was witnessed using both rifles during the assault.

Hole’s family said in a statement Saturday they are “so sorry for the pain and hurt” his actions caused.

Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned Hole last year after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop.” He said agents found no evidence of a crime and that they did not identify Hole as espousing a racially motivated ideology.

Samaria Blackwell, of Indianapolis, was a soccer and basketball player who last year graduated from Indy Genesis, a Christian competitive sports organization for homeschooled students. Her parents said Saturday in a statement that she was an outgoing “people person” who will be missed “immensely” by them and her dog, Jasper.

Click to play video: 'Indianapolis shooting at FedEx factory leaves at least 9 people dead, including gunman, several injured'

Indianapolis shooting at FedEx factory leaves at least 9 people dead, including gunman, several injured

Indianapolis shooting at FedEx factory leaves at least 9 people dead, including gunman, several injured

“As an intelligent, straight A student, Samaria could have done anything she chose to put her mind to, and because she loved helping people, she dreamed of becoming a police officer. Although that dream has been cut short, we believe that right now she is rejoicing in heaven with her Savior,” they said.

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Matthew Alexander, of Avon, just west of Indianapolis, was a former Butler University student and a 2007 graduate of Avon High School. Relatives and several of his former teammates on Avon’s baseball team attended a game Saturday in his memory. They carried his former uniform, No. 16, onto the field, where they hugged and cried.

Albert Ashcraft, a former FedEx driver, said Alexander dispatched drivers to locations for deliveries, prepared their paperwork and was well-liked because he looked out for the drivers, even making sure they got treats.

“People would bring doughnuts in and he was always sticking doughnuts back for his drivers,” he told The Indianapolis Star.


Associated Press reporters Michael Balsamo in Washington and Pat Eaton-Robb in Connecticut contributed to this report. Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Experts say more evidence COVID-19 is airborne, that we need to rethink indoor spaces – National

The authors of a new paper that found increasingly concrete evidence that COVID-19 is “predominately” airborne say that we need to be focusing on preventing infections in indoor settings, and rethinking how ventilation systems either help spread or dissipate the virus.

A Lancet report published Thursday from epidemiologists and experts across both Canada, U.S. and the U.K. found an overwhelming amount of evidence that the disease was spread through aerosols — tiny airborne particles that come from people’s mouths when they breathe, talk or cough.

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According to University of Toronto Professor Dr. David Fisman, one of the authors of the study, the results of the report come as an important implication for experts and governments to consider more stringent measures public health control measures in indoor spaces.

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Public health guidance on the spread of COVID-19 has, for the most part, been widely focused on direct contact with others and transmission via water droplets. The evidence from Fisman and his colleagues’ review, however, points to aerosols as potentially being the main mode of transmission for the virus.

“So there’s a lot of lines of evidence leading up to this final nail in the coffin of this contact droplet idea,” said Fisman. “And this is good news in a sense — it explains a lot about the epidemiology of this disease.

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“That explains why we have these huge explosive outbreaks in places like church choirs and karaoke bars and spin studios, where people are vocalizing and creating a lot of aerosols.”

New or refocused measures to address the spread include a focus on breathing fresh air either through ventilation or moving activities outside, said Fisman. Other measures could also include using more air cleaners equipped with HEPA filters or better respirators — particularly in high-risk, essential and healthcare workplaces — in order to prevent people from inhaling aerosols.

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Several of Fisman’s co-authors on the paper also shared their thoughts on the evidence they found.

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University of Colorado professor Jose-Luis Jimenez cited several pieces of evidence he and his team used for the report on Twitter Saturday.

“Transmission is 20 times more efficient indoors than outdoors,” wrote Jimenez, who cited a review from The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Zeynep Tufekci. a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that because the disease was “predominately airborne,” it doesn’t mean masks and social distancing were useless, but that now they have better ways at mitigating infections now that they have a stronger grasp on how the virus is transmitted.

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According to Fisman, the issue of pre-symptomatic transmission of COVID-19 — how the virus is spread before a patient starts to exhibit symptoms — also “strongly implies” aerosol.

“The way this ties to pre-symptomatic transmission is you’re not coughing when you’re symptomatic by definition, right? You may feel well enough to go to your choir, practise at a karaoke bar and be singing — and that creates orders of magnitude more aerosol than just quiet breathing,” he said.

In January, hundreds of doctors, scientists and experts from across Canada all called for more aggressive measures to stop the airborne spread of COVID-19.

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In an open letter address to the country’s top doctor, health minister and all of the provincial premiers and medical officers, the experts urged public health messaging to more strongly warn of the risks of being in enclosed spaces. They also called for more stringent inspections and upgrades of ventilation systems in areas like schools and long-term care homes, as well as essential institutions.

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The World Health Organization and Public Health Agency of Canada have recognized the possibility that COVID-19 can spread by aerosols, though those experts and doctors — including Fisman — have all said that Canada needs to be acting more proactively to prevent such spread.

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