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Rogers outage committee meeting, BC ruling on private care : In The News for July 15

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 July 15 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

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 July 15 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The House of Commons industry and technology committee is set to meet today to discuss launching an investigation into the Rogers Communications Inc. outage.

Last Friday's outage lasted more than 15 hours, affecting mobile and internet users, knocking out ATMs, shutting down the Interac payments system and preventing calls to 911 services in some Canadian cities.

After calling the outage "unacceptable," Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne directed the country’s major telecom companies to reach agreements on emergency roaming, assisting each other during outages and a communication protocol to better inform Canadians during emergencies.

The telecommunications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, is also investigating the Rogers outage. 

Conservative MP and former industry critic Michelle Rempel Garner wrote to the committee last week requesting it hold an emergency meeting.

The NDP has also called for bringing Rogers, Interac and Champagne to committee.


Also this ...

British Columbia's highest court is expected to deliver its ruling on the appeal of a lower court decision to dismiss a lawsuit from a Vancouver surgeon advocating for patients' right to pay for private medical care.

Dr. Brian Day had challenged the province's Medicare Protection Act, which bans extra-billing and private insurance for medically necessary procedures.

The lawsuit argued wait times in the public system are too long and claimed it's a violation of patients' constitutional right to life, liberty and security of person to stop them from paying for services outside the public system. 

Lawyers for the B.C. and federal governments argued a two-tier system would favour those who can afford to pay privately and erode Canada's universal system.

After a four-year trial, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that lawyers for Day and other plaintiffs failed to show patients' rights are being infringed by the provincial act.

The B.C. Court of Appeal decision is expected to be released this morning.

Day opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996, saying he wanted to create more operating-room time for surgeons who couldn't get it in hospitals. He launched his Charter challenge in 2009 and the case landed in B.C. Supreme Court in 2016 with support from four patients as co-plaintiffs.


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

WASHINGTON _ The House on Friday is expected to vote on two bills that would restore and guarantee abortion access nationwide as Democrats make their first attempt at responding legislatively to the Supreme Court's landmark decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The legislation stands almost no chance of becoming law, with the necessary support lacking in the 50-50 Senate. Yet voting marks the beginning of a new era in the abortion debate as lawmakers, governors and legislatures grapple with the impact of the court's decision. By overturning Roe, the court has allowed states to enact strict abortion limits, including many that had previously been deemed unconstitutional. The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

Already, a number of GOP-controlled states have moved quickly to curtail or outlaw abortion, while states controlled by Democrats have sought to champion access. Voters now rank abortion as among the most pressing issues facing the country, a shift in priorities that Democrats hope will reshape the political landscape in their favour for the midterm elections.

Ahead of House voting, Democrats highlighted the case of a 10-year-old girl who had to cross state lines into Indiana to get an abortion after being raped, calling it an example of how the court's decision is already having severe consequences.

"We don't have to imagine why this might matter. We don't need to conjure up hypotheticals. We already know what's happened,'' Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Thursday on the Senate floor. "Should the next little 10-year-old's right or 12-year-old's right or 14-year-old's right to get the care that she desperately needs be put in jeopardy?''

In the House, Democrats are bringing two abortion bills to the floor on Friday, one of which would prohibit punishment for a woman or child who decides to travel to another state to get an abortion. It specifies that doctors can't be punished for providing reproductive care outside their home state.

The Constitution doesn't explicitly say travel between states is a right, though the Supreme Court has said it is a right that "has been firmly established and repeatedly recognized.'' Yet the court has never said exactly where the right to travel comes from and that could leave it open to challenge or elimination, as the right to an abortion was.

The second House bill, which first passed in September but stalled in the Senate, would enshrine abortion access as protected under federal law. It would also expand on the protections Roe had previously provided by banning what supporters say are medically unnecessary restrictions that block access to safe and accessible abortions. It would prevent abortion bans earlier than 24 weeks, which is when fetal viability, the ability of a human fetus to survive outside the uterus, is generally thought to begin. The bill allows exceptions for abortions after fetal viability when a provider determines the life or health of the mother is at risk.


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

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka _ Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka's interim president Friday until Parliament elects a successor to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who resigned after mass protests over the country's economic collapse forced him from office.

The speaker of Sri Lanka's Parliament said Rajapaksa resigned as president effective Thursday and lawmakers will convene Saturday to choose a new leader. Their choice would serve out the remainder of Rajapaksa's term ending in 2024, said Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana. He expects the process to be done in seven days.

That person could potentially appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by Parliament. With Rajapaksa done, pressure on Wickremesinghe was rising.

Opponents had viewed his appointment as prime minister in May as alleviating pressure on Rajapaksa to resign. He became the acting president when Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka on Wednesday.

Rajapaksa arrived in Singapore on Thursday and his resignation became official on that date. The prime minister's office said Wickremesinghe was sworn in Friday as interim president before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya.

Sri Lanka has run short of money to pay for imports of basic necessities such as food, fertilizer, medicine and fuel, to the despair of its 22 million people. Its rapid economic decline has been all the more shocking because, before this crisis, the economy had been expanding, with a growing, comfortable middle class.

Protesters cooked and distributed milk rice _ a food Sri Lankans enjoy to celebrate victories _ after Rajapaksa's resignation. At the main protest site in front of the president's office in Colombo, people welcomed his resignation but insisted Wickremesinghe also should step aside.

Protesters who had occupied government buildings retreated Thursday, restoring a tenuous calm in the capital, Colombo. But with the political opposition in Parliament fractured, a solution to Sri Lanka's many woes seemed no closer. The nation is seeking help from the International Monetary Fund and other creditors, but its finances are so poor that even obtaining a bailout has proven difficult, Wickremesinghe recently said.


On this day in 1986 ...

Explorers from an oceanographic institute in Massachusetts used a small submarine to reach the site of the wreck of the "Titanic.'' They launched a robot camera that gave them a view of the interior. The luxury cruise ship, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, had been discovered off Newfoundland in September 1985.


In entertainment ...

TORONTO _ New projects from some of Quebec's most cutting-edge musicians have landed spots on the Polaris Music Prize short list.

Pop provocateur Hubert Lenoir, Congolese-Canadian Pierre Kwenders and electronic orchestral composer Ouri are among the 10 contenders for this year's $50,000 award for best Canadian album.

They join London, Ont. rapper Shad whose "Tao'' became his fifth album to be shortlisted for the Polaris, the most of any artist since the prize's creation in 2006.

Among the Quebec nominees, Lenoir takes a spot with "Pictura de Ipse: Musique directe,'' also known as "Picture of Myself,'' a concept album that set recorded conversations of his daily life to musical compositions.

Kwenders, who was born Jose Louis Modabi in Kinshasa, Congo before moving to Montreal, is recognized for "Jose Louis And The Paradox Of Love.'' The album captures the dance floor energy of Afro-Latin beats and features a collaboration with Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Regine Chassagne.

Ouri is the stage name of Ourielle Auve, whose album "Frame of a Fauna'' was inspired by her classical training in France and the electronic music she discovered upon moving to Montreal.

First Nations hip hop act Snotty Nose Rez Kids picked up their third nod for "Life After'' while Indigenous duo Ombiigizi landed on the list for their debut "Sewn Back Together,'' produced by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew.

Other Polaris-nominated albums include Toronto singer-songwriter Charlotte Day Wilson's "Alpha,'' Rosaireville, N.B.-raised Lisa Leblanc's "Chiac Disco,'' St. John's-based musician Kelly McMichael's "Waves'' and Vancouver rock band Destroyer's "Labyrinthitis.''

The Polaris Music Prize names the best Canadian album of the previous year _ irrespective of genre or sales _ as chosen by a group of journalists, broadcasters and bloggers. The winner will be announced Sept. 19 during a gala presentation at Toronto's Carlu.


Did you see this?

OTTAWA _ Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the provinces, territories and municipalities have now received more than $2.85 billion promised months ago for health care, transit systems and classroom ventilation.

Most of it is a $2-billion health transfer top-up the federal government pledged for provincial and territorial governments in March mainly to help relieve surgical backlogs.

Freeland says the funds can now be transferred because the budget bill that contained them passed June 23.

But the transfer also comes days after premiers were heavily critical of the federal Liberals for not shouldering enough of the weight of health-care costs.

Thursday's transfer fulfils a Liberal election promise to give provinces and territories another $100 million to improve air quality in classrooms.

It also includes the $750-million pledged in February for municipal governments to manage plunging public transit revenues as a result of the pandemic.

The transit funding requires provinces and territories to provide matching dollars, and is also contingent on them building more homes to address rising housing costs.

The one-time top-up to health funding was promised by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos March 25, and he and Freeland co-sponsored a bill to enable that spending the same day. But that bill was never debated and instead the Liberals included the funding in their budget bill, which was introduced a month later.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press