Travellers are directed to take a mandatory COVID-19 test after arriving on an international flight at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on February 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Border reopening to foreign nationals, campaign stays central: In The News for Sept 7

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 Sept. 7, 2021 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Fully vaccinated foreign nationals are once again welcome on Canadian soil

As of midnight Monday night, quarantine requirements were eased for non-essential international travellers who have had a full course of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, also known as Covishield, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson option.

To be eligible, travellers must have allowed at least 14 days to pass since their last vaccine shot and show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 that’s no more than 72 hours old.

They are also required to use the ArriveCAN app or online web portal to upload their vaccination details.

Denis Vinette, vice-president of the travellers branch of the Canada Border Services Agency, says the agency will continue to conduct random tests of travellers at the border, a surveillance program that has been in place since the phased-in process of easing travel restrictions began earlier this summer.

Between Aug. 9 and 26, the positivity rate for randomly selected, fully vaccinated travellers was just 0.19 per cent despite the increase in cases in both Canada and the U.S.

Direct flights from India and Morocco will remain suspended until at least later this month. Travellers from either country who take an indirect route to Canada will be required to produce a recent negative molecular test taken in a third country.

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Also this …

As the federal election enters its fourth week, the main party leaders are in Central Canada.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau starts the day in Montreal with a morning announcement, before travelling to Ottawa to participate in a virtual town hall with volunteers.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is spending a second day at his Ottawa home base, a ballroom in the Westin Hotel.

He’s scheduled to make an announcement in the morning, and hold a virtual telephone town hall with Ontario residents in the evening.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, is campaigning in Toronto, where he’s set to make an announcement on climate action.

Canadians head to the polls on Sept. 20.

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What we are watching in the U.S. …

MINNEAPOLIS _ The Minnesota State Patrol purged emails and text messages immediately after protests over the death of George Floyd last year, according to testimony in a lawsuit that alleges the agency targeted journalists during the unrest.

During a July 28 hearing, State Patrol Maj. Joseph Dwyer testified that he and a “vast majority of the agency” deleted the messages after the protests and riots, according to a transcript published Friday on the court’s docket.

Attorneys for the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the file destruction makes it nearly impossible to track the State Patrol’s behaviour, as courts and investigators are trying to determine whether law enforcement used improper force against demonstrators.

“The purge was neither accidental, automated, nor routine,” ACLU attorneys wrote in a motion asking the judge to order the State Patrol to stop attacks on journalists covering protests. “The purge did not happen because of a file destruction or retention policy. No one reviewed the purged communications before they were deleted to determine whether the materials were relevant to this litigation.”

The lawsuit alleges the Minneapolis Police Department and the State Patrol used unnecessary and excessive force to suppress First Amendment rights to cover the unrest last summer. It’s one of several lawsuits filed against law enforcement for alleged constitutional violations in use of force last summer.

Jared Goyette, a freelancer who covered the unrest for the Washington Post and the Guardian, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which says he was “shot in the face with less-lethal ballistic ammunition” by Minneapolis police on May 27, 2020. In addition to the lawsuit, the Department of Justice is investigating the police response to protests and riots, and Minneapolis is reviewing how its officers handled the unrest.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world …

BEIRUT _ A number of Syrian refugees who returned home have been subjected to detention, disappearance and torture at the hands of Syrian security forces, proving that it still isn’t safe to return to any part of the country, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

In a report entitled “You’re going to your death,” the rights group documented what it said were violations committed by Syrian intelligence officers against 66 returnees, including 13 children between mid-2017 and spring 2021. Among those were five cases in which detainees had died in custody after returning to the country torn by civil war, while the fate of 17 forcibly disappeared people remains unknown.

The report strongly counters claims by a number of states that parts of Syria were now safe to return to. It criticizes Denmark, Sweden and Turkey specifically for restricting protection and putting pressure on refugees from Syria to go home. It also criticizes Lebanon and Jordan, who have some of the highest number of Syrian refugees per capita.

In Lebanon and Turkey, where many refugees face dire living conditions and discrimination, governments have put increasing pressure on Syrians to return. Turkey has reportedly forcibly deported many Syrians in the last two years _ expulsions that reflect rising anti-refugee sentiment in a country that once flung open its borders to millions of Syrians fleeing civil war.

Denmark and Sweden earlier this year started revoking the residency permits of some Syrian refugees, arguing that the Syrian capital, Damascus, and neighbouring regions were now safe.

Few experts agree with that assessment. While the security situation has stabilized in government-controlled areas and many parts of central Syria previously held by opposition rebels, forced conscription, indiscriminate detentions and forced disappearances continue to be reported. Moreover, entire neighbourhoods are destroyed, and many people have no houses to return to. Basic services such as water and electricity are poor to nonexistent.

“Any government claiming Syria is now safe is wilfully ignoring the horrific reality on the ground, leaving refugees once again fearing for their lives,” said Marie Forestier, researcher on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International. She said that while military hostilities may have subsided in most parts of Syria, the Syrian government’s “propensity for egregious human rights violations has not.”

The Syrian government and its chief international backer, Russia, have publicly called on refugees to return home and accused Western countries of discouraging it with claims that Syria is still unsafe.

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On this day in 1860 …

The Maple Leaf was first used as an official emblem during a visit to Toronto by the Prince of Wales.

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In entertainment …

NEW YORK _ Actor Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Monday.

Williams was found dead Monday afternoon by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, New York City police said. He was 54.

His death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, the NYPD said. The medical examiner was investigating the cause of death.

Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.

Williams was also a ubiquitous character actor in other shows and films for more than two decades, creating another classic character as Chalky White in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” from 2010 to 2014, and appearing in the films “12 Years a Slave” and “Assassin’s Creed.” He is up for an Emmy for his role in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.” A win at the Sept. 19 ceremony would be his first in four nominations.

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ICYMI …

KITIMAT, B.C. _ A government seismologist says a magnitude 6.5 earthquake reported in British Columbia on Monday never happened.

Alison Bird of Natural Resources Canada says a computer glitch led to the erroneous report from the United States Geological Survey.

She says there was no earthquake 165 kilometres southeast of Kitimat on Monday afternoon.

Bird says the automated system isn’t perfect at processing data.

She says it’s possible that two small quakes at different locations were detected as one event.

Posts about the false alarm on the American agency’s website have been deleted.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press