Sen. Duffy challenge and Saudi women’s rights activist freed: In The News for Feb. 11 News Staff

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 Feb. 11 …

What we are watching in Canada …

The Senate is urging the country’s top court to dismiss Sen. Mike Duffy’s challenge of a ruling that prevents him from suing the upper chamber for suspending him.

In a submission to the Supreme Court of Canada, lawyers for the Senate say the legislative body’s actions are protected by the time-honoured bounds of parliamentary privilege.

They argue privilege plays a vital role in maintaining the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches considered crucial to Canadian democracy.

The Supreme Court is slated to decide this morning whether to hear Duffy’s appeal.

Duffy is seeking $7.8 million in damages from the Senate, RCMP and federal government following a high-profile investigation of his expense claims, which culminated in the Prince Edward Island senator’s acquittal on 31 criminal charges in 2016.

Duffy was named to the Senate on the advice of then-prime minister Stephen Harper in 2008, but he left the Conservative caucus in May 2013 and now sits with the Independent Senators Group. —

Also this …

Complaints of workplace harassment and violence have risen sharply at several federal departments and agencies in recent years, according to internal data.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) saw harassment complaints jump 82 per cent to 166 between 2016-17 and 2018-19.

The RCMP says it received 1,132 harassment complaints over a five-year period, with numbers increasing by more than 50 per cent between 2015 and 2017 before levelling off.

The RCMP figures follow an independent report in November on misogyny and homophobia in its ranks that called for fundamental change to rid the Mounties of a toxic culture.

At Canada Post, the number of complaints about workplace violence has grown every year since at least 2011, doubling to 641 between 2011 and 2015 and swelling to 870 in 2019.

Harassment complaints filed to Fisheries and Oceans Canada shot up to 66 in 2018-19 from four in 2016-17.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

Prosecutors unveiled chilling new security video in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, showing the mob of rioters breaking into the Capitol, smashing windows and doors and searching menacingly for Vice-President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as overwhelmed police begged on their radios for help.

In the previously unreleased recordings, the House prosecutors displayed gripping scenes of how close the rioters were to the country’s leaders, roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” some equipped with combat gear. Outside, the mob had set up a makeshift gallows.

Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation amounted to a more complete narrative, a moment-by-moment retelling of one of the nation’s most alarming days. In addition to the evident chaos and danger, it offered fresh details on the attackers, scenes of police heroism and cries of distress. And it showed just how close the country came to a potential breakdown in its seat of democracy as Congress was certifying Trump’s election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.

“They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission,” said House prosecutor Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic delegate representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. “His mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”

The stunning presentation opened the first full day of arguments in the trial as the prosecutors argued Trump was no “innocent bystander” but rather the “inciter in chief” of the deadly Capitol riot, a president who spent months spreading election lies and building a mob of supporters primed for his call to stop Biden’s victory.

Though most of the Senate jurors have already made up their minds on acquittal or conviction, they were riveted and sat silently. Screams from the audio and video filled the Senate chamber. Senators shook their heads, folded their arms and furrowed their brows. One Republican, James Lankford of Oklahoma, bent his head, a GOP colleague putting his hand on his arm in comfort.

“On Jan. 6, President Trump left everyone in this Capitol for dead,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a prosecutor.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent political activists was released from prison Wednesday, her family said, after serving nearly three years on charges that sparked an international uproar over the kingdom’s human rights record.

Loujain al-Hathloul, who pushed to end a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to almost six years in prison last December under a broad counterterrorism law. Held for 1001 days, with time in pre-trial detention and solitary confinement, she was accused of crimes such as agitating for change, using the internet to cause disorder and pursuing a foreign agenda — charges that rights groups describe as politically motivated.

“Loujain is at home!!!!!!” her sister Lina al-Hathloul declared on Twitter alongside a screenshot showing a flushed Loujain beaming on a family video call.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi authorities on her release.

Her release this year was widely expected as the judge suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence and gave her credit for time already served, putting her release date sometime in March.

The release Wednesday, earlier than anticipated, comes as Saudi Arabia faces new scrutiny from the United States, where President Joe Biden has vowed to reassess the U.S.-Saudi partnership and stand up for human rights and democratic principles.

“I have some welcome news that the Saudi government has released a prominent human rights activist,” Biden said in a speech at the Pentagon. “She was a powerful activist for women’s rights and releasing her was the right thing to do.”

On this day in 1978 …

A Pacific Western Airlines plane crashed while attempting to land in Cranbrook, B.C. The crash, which killed 43 people, was blamed on a snowplow left on the runway.

In entertainment …

Decked out in his trademark Stetson and plywood-pounding cowboy boots, it’s hard to imagine country-folk legend Stompin’ Tom Connors as a male model.

And yet, a recently acquired artist’s drawing from the 1950s — obtained by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton — offers a revealing glimpse of the troubadour as a lanky, squared-jawed teen wearing nothing but tight athletic shorts and high-topped sneakers.

“It was an innocuous sketch,” John Leroux, the gallery’s manager of collections and exhibitions, said in an interview Wednesday.

“It wasn’t finished. It wasn’t coloured. But as soon as you link it with the origin story, it becomes this fantastic artifact with this really deep resonance …. This would have been just before he hit the road.”

The drawing was among a collection of artworks by New Brunswick artist Fred Ross, recently donated to the gallery.

“I got to choose,” said Leroux. “I was like a kid in a candy store…. (Ross) was a noted figurative painter in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.” The museum is currently closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Leroux says the sketch will be on public display after it reopens.

ICYMI …

The Tragically Hip are suing a Toronto brewery for alleged trademark infringement in the promotion of its 100th Meridian lager.

The legendary Canadian band has filed a suit in Federal Court against Mill Street Brewery, a subsidiary of Labatt, which is owned by Belgian multinational brewer AB InBev.

The Tragically Hip allege in legal documents that Mill Street has tried to “pass off on the fame, goodwill and reputation” of the band.

“Many of you are probably under the impression that we are associated with Mill Street’s 100th Meridian beer — we are not,” the band said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

Mill Street acknowledged receipt of the statement of claim on Wednesday.

“We are disappointed this step has been taken and are confident that the claim is without merit,” said Daryl Minor, general manager and president of Mill Street, who added that the brewer would not offer further comment.

“At The Hundredth Meridian” was a hit single on the Tragically Hip’s 1992 album “Fully Completely.” Its title refers to the line of longitude that marks the beginnings of the Great Plains.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021

The Canadian Press

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