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Anger over new NACI advice, calls to revamp Liberal gun bill: In The News for May 4

Last Updated May 4, 2021 at 4:24 am EDT

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 May 4 …

What we are watching in Canada …

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered.

NACI said Monday that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are “preferred” and that Canadians should weigh the risks of waiting for one of them before deciding whether to take a more immediate jab of either of the other two approved for use in Canada.

The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines have been linked to a new and extremely rare blood-clotting syndrome.

NACI’s advice appears to contradict Health Canada’s long-standing recommendation that the best vaccine is the first one available.

Also this …

The Liberal government’s firearms legislation is “an offensively hollow bill” that should be completely revamped, say family members and colleagues of those who died in tragic shooting sprees at Montreal’s Dawson College and Concordia University.

In a letter sent to Liberal MPs, they add their voices to a chorus of opponents who say federal Bill C-21 will not rid Canada of the scourge of deadly shootings.

“We will not mince our words. Bill C-21 is an insult to all victims of gun violence,” the letter says.

“It looks like it was designed by public relations consultants, rather than by public safety experts. It looks like its sole purpose is to provide tough-sounding sound bites that belie the total lack of substance behind the ‘measures’ they purportedly describe.”

The bill tabled in February proposes a buyback of many recently banned firearms the government considers assault-style weapons, but owners would be allowed to keep them under strict conditions, including registration and secure storage of the guns.

The letter says this would allow “tens of thousands of fully functional killing machines to remain in private hands.”

What we are watching in the U.S. …

SAN DIEGO  – Four families that were separated at the Mexico border during Donald Trump’s presidency will be reunited in the United States this week in what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calls “just the beginning” of a broader effort.

Two of the four families include mothers who were separated from their children in late 2017, one Honduran and another Mexican, Mayorkas said, declining to detail their identities. He described them as children who were three years old at the time and “teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years.”

Parents will return to the United States on humanitarian parole while authorities consider other longer-term forms of legal status, said Michelle Brane, executive director of the administration’s Family Reunification Task Force. The children are already in the U.S.

Exactly how many families will reunite in the United States and in what order is linked to negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union to settle a federal lawsuit in San Diego, but Mayorkas said there were more to come.

“We continue to work tirelessly to reunite many more children with their parents in the weeks and months ahead,” Mayorkas told reporters. 

More than 5,500 children were separated from their parents during the Trump administration going back to July 1, 2017. The Biden administration is doing its own count going back to Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 and, according to Brane, believes more than 1,000 families remain separated.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

European Union officials are proposing to ease restrictions on visitors as air travel in the United States hit its highest mark since COVID-19 took hold more than 13 months ago.

The improving pandemic picture in many places contrasts with the worsening disaster in India.

In the U.S., the average number of new cases per day fell below 50,000 for the first time since October. And nearly 1.67 million people were screened at U.S. airport checkpoints on Sunday, says the Transportation Security Administration, the highest number since mid-March of last year.

Las Vegas is bustling again after casino capacity limits were raised Saturday to 80 per cent. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City’s subways will begin rolling all night again and capacity restrictions for most businesses will end statewide in mid-May.

EU officials also announced a proposal Monday to relax restrictions on visiting the 27-nation bloc this summer, though the final decision is up to its member countries.

“Time to revive EU tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle — safely,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors and those from countries with a good health situation.”

In Greece, restaurants and cafes reopened their terraces on Monday after six months of shutdown, with customers flocking to soak up the sunshine. In France, high schools reopened and a ban on domestic travel was lifted.

A surge in India has overrun crematoriums. As the U.S. and other countries rushed in aid, India reported nearly 370,000 new cases and more than 3,400 deaths Monday — numbers that experts believe are vast undercounts because of a widespread lack of testing and incomplete reporting.

On this day in 1971 …

A landslide eliminated the Quebec village of Saint-Jean Viannay, killing 31 people and destroying 38 houses. The area was later declared unfit for habitation.

In entertainment …

NEW YORK – PBS Kids is releasing a new puppet-led series called “Donkey Hodie,” inspired from characters in the original Fred Rogers TV show.

“Every part of it seems to be infused with joy and heart and humour,” says Adam Rudman, who co-created and co-produced the show with his brother, David. “And I think that’s something that Fred Rogers would appreciate.”

The whimsical series for children ages three to five starts airing Monday and centres on the adventures of Donkey Hodie, an enthusiastic yellow donkey with a bright magenta mane. She’s the granddaughter of the donkey puppet Rogers created back when TV shows were in black and white.

“This is a show about a little donkey with big dreams. It’s about persistence, it’s about resilience and it’s about frustration and things going wrong,” says Ellen Doherty, chief creative officer of Fred Rogers Productions.

During each 15-minute episode, Donkey Hodie learns lessons, like why following a recipe step-by-step makes sense and the importance of making a plan before tackling a big project.

She’s helped by a colorful gang of friends — Purple Panda, Bob Dog and Duck Duck, each of whom brings something to the table.

If Donkey is the one who comes up with an idea, Panda is the supportive friend, telling her she can do it. Bob Dog is the enthusiastic helper and Duck Duck is the practical pal, asking how they’re going to succeed.

The new series is metaphorically connected by cobblestone path to both the animated “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and the mother ship, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

ICYMI …

CALGARY – Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the justice system needs to take breaches of COVID-19 as seriously as police do and should be holding violators accountable.

At a council meeting on Monday, Nenshi said he’s frustrated to hear that tickets given to people for breaking health orders are being thrown out in the courts.

Calgary Police Commission chairwoman Bonita Croft told council that officers are doing their best, but the level of accountability from convictions and fines has not been enough to deter people bent on violating orders.

Nenshi said people need to understand the rules for gatherings, mask wearing and other measures aren’t just guidelines. 

“Even though the premier sometimes doesn’t sound firm on this, this is actually the law,” he said. “And it’s important that everyone follow the law because we live in a democratic society.” 

On Sunday in a series of tweets, Premier Jason Kenney scolded attendees of a “No More Lockdowns” rodeo near the community of Bowden .

“If we do not begin to bend the curve, our health care system could very well be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks,” Kenney wrote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021

The Canadian Press