Hi there Passengers,

It’s Thursday again, don’t forget to put out your garbage for tomorrow morning. (I don’t know when you need to put out your garbage, why are you looking to me for reminders?) It’s Robert (@robert_hiltz) here again with some tales from the fun old world around us.

Today we’ve got stories on: Alberta’s request for Red Cross field hospitals; a sit-in at Hamilton city hall having defund the police demonstrators thrown out by police; another Ontario public servant being fired as part of alleged fraud scheme; the Indigenous Services minister not backing away from calling a brutal RCMP arrest “dehumanizing.”

So, here’s some things.

Alberta’s COVID-19 Nightmare Gets More Nightmarish

Things are not going well in Alberta.

Despite the efforts of Premier Jason Kenney to put as much of the burden for preventing the spread in his province on individuals, case counts are hitting daily records. Nearly 1,700 Albertans tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.

Masks aren’t mandatory throughout the province, and Kenney isn’t keen on making the eventual vaccine mandatory either. Hospitals in the province are having to ration oxygen — oxygen! the stuff we breathe! — as beds and ICUs fill up with COVID-19 patients, straining the health system.

So, what’s a province to do?

The answer is pretty grim, I’m afraid. Alberta has asked the federal government and the Red Cross for field hospitals to be at the ready.

In an internal document obtained by CBC News Edmonton, the province lays out its request for 750 field beds. Officials have been scouting locations — university sports complexes mostly — since November 24, the day Kenney imposed a limited series of restrictions on the province.

Kenney frames this as prudent planning. Hospitals are filling up, so extra capacity has to come from somewhere.

Kenney told reporters, “The reality is we have and can continue to create capacity as we expect, quite bluntly, the hospitalization numbers to go up, given the new cases in the last few weeks.”

But this avoids the obvious problem with Alberta’s approach. There were off ramps the provincial government could have taken that would have avoided this scenario.

The frustrating thing with all of this, like with much of the pandemic, is how preventable so many of these deaths are. How possible it would have been to prevent people from living with COVID’s life-long consequences.

It was only when things became obviously catastrophic that Kenney took any action to impose any restrictions. Responsible planning? Hardly.

Defund The Police Protesters Tossed From Hamilton City Hall

  • Hamilton, Ont., police led protesters out of city hall yesterday after an indoor sit-in to defund the police was turned away. 
  • Mayor Fred Eisenberger had invited protesters, who’d been camped out front of city hall for more than a week, to a meeting, but insisted it be private. After receiving the invitation, demonstrators moved their outdoor encampment to an indoor sit-in within city hall.  In total, about 20 people were led away by police from and off city property, many of them given tickets.
  • “We said from the beginning that we want to include the community in this conversation, we are also members of the community. We will not stand for a private meeting with the mayor so that he dodges accountability.” — Koubra Haggar, Defund Hamilton Police Service activist
  • Demonstrators want money to be stripped from the city’s police budget and put toward housing.

Second Alleged Participant In COVID Relief Scam Fired By Ontario Government

  • A second person from the same family has been fired from the Ontario government as the result of an ongoing investigation into a fraud scheme. The fraud allegedly saw millions of dollars of COVID relief funds redirected away from families with disabled children, and into the pockets of the civil servants.
  • Shalini Madan was fired about a month after her husband Sanjay Madan for their alleged roles in the scheme. In court documents, the government also implicates their sons, Chinmaya and Ujjawal, in the alleged fraud, estimated at about $11 million.
  • Context: The Madans are alleged to have diverted the money from a COVID fund for parents that was supposed to provide them with $200 per child under 12, and $250 if their child had special needs. About 95 per cent of the siphoned funds were supposed to go to parents with special needs. None of the claims have been proven in court.

ICYMI: Indigenous Services Minister Says He Stands By Criticism Of Brutal RCMP Arrest 

The Indigenous Services Minister, Marc Miller, has stood by his pointed comments about a brutal RCMP arrest of an Inuk man earlier this year in Nunavut. 

“I saw what I saw,” Miller told the press yesterday.

What he saw was a man on foot being chased by an RCMP officer in a truck. The officer used the truck door to hit the man while the vehicle was still moving. In June, when the arrest happened, Miller called it “dehumanizing” and “disgraceful.”

Despite this, the Ottawa Police, who investigated the arrest, have found that the RCMP officer in question didn’t intentionally bash the man with his truck door.

“We will continue to hold those who serve and protect Canadians to account, making sure that we reform the RCMP,” Miller told reporters. “We do need to get to the bottom of these things. It further undermines the trust that, [in] Indigenous communities in particular, is still quite thin in respect to our police services.”

While the minister’s stance on policing is at least some cause for optimism, don’t get your hopes too high. Millar was speaking to the press because his government was once again unable to meet its targets to get clean drinking water on all remote Indigenous communities, a promise first made five years ago when the Liberals were elected.

That’s all for today, friends. If you like what you’re reading, share it with your friends, get them to subscribe to Passage, too. Threaten to sign them up to fast casual dining newsletters if they don’t.

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