Oxford-AstraZeneca shots and deliberations in Chauvin trial: In The News for April 20

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 April 20, 2021 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting today, those aged 40 and over in Ontario and Alberta can get the shot.

Previously, the minimum age to receive AstraZeneca was 55 because of a slightly elevated risk of an extremely rare blood clot disorder.

British Columbia and Manitoba also dropped the age requirement to 40, starting yesterday.

Quebec says it will be lowering the age for AstraZeneca, although it's not clear what that age will be.

Quebec's director of public health says a recommendation from the province's immunization committee is expected soon and could be put into effect this week.

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Also this ...

MONTREAL --Quebec's Superior Court is expected to rule today on a challenge to the province's law that bans certain public sector workers from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Four separate lawsuits challenging Bill 21 were merged into one trial, which was held over several weeks at the end of 2020.

The Quebec government says Bill 21 is moderate and supported by a majority of Quebecers, while the bill's critics say it targets racialized minorities who choose to practice their religion.

Bill 21 was adopted in June 2019 and bans public sector workers who are deemed to be in positions of authority, including teachers, police officers and judges, from wearing symbols such as hijabs or turbans at work.

The law makes pre-emptive use of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms' notwithstanding clause, which shields legislation from court challenges over violations of fundamental rights.

In a bid to get around the notwithstanding clause, the plaintiffs invoked the sexual equality guarantees in Section 28 of the Charter, which they maintain are not covered by the notwithstanding clause.

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

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- The jurors who sat quietly off-camera through three weeks of draining testimony in Derek Chauvin's murder trial in George Floyd's death moved into the spotlight, still out of sight but now in control of verdicts awaited by a skittish city.

The jury of six white people and six people who are Black or multiracial is set for its first full of deliberations today. The jury, anonymous by order of the judge and sequestered now until they reach a verdict, spent just a few hours on their task Monday after the day was mostly consumed by closing arguments in which prosecutors argued that Chauvin squeezed the life out of Floyd last May in a way that even a child knew was wrong.

The defence contended that the now-fired white officer acted reasonably and that the 46-year-old Floyd died of a heart condition and illegal drug use.

Chauvin, 45, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, all of which require the jury to conclude that his actions were a "substantial causal factor" in Floyd’s death and that his use of force was unreasonable. The most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.

With the case drawing to a close, some stores were boarded up in Minneapolis. The courthouse was ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire, and National Guard troops were on patrol. Floyd's death set off protests last spring in the city and across the U.S. that sometimes turned violent.

The city has also been on edge in recent days over the deadly police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, in a nearby suburb on April 11.

About 300 protesters marched in the streets outside the courthouse shortly after the jury got the case, lining up behind a banner reading, "Justice 4 George Floyd & all stolen lives. The world is watching."

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

LONDON -- Now that the Royal Family has said farewell to Prince Philip, attention will turn to the Queen's 95th birthday on Wednesday and, in coming months, the celebrations marking her 70 years on the throne.

This combination of events is reminding the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations that the reign of the Queen, the only monarch most of her subjects have ever known, is finite.

That has triggered speculation about how long she will remain on the throne, what the monarchy will look like in the future and, for some, even whether it should continue to exist.

While most observers say the queen is unlikely to abdicate given her lifelong commitment to public service, she has already started to turn over more responsibilities to Prince Charles, 72, her eldest son.

That process is likely to accelerate following Philip’s death. Charles’ increased role began gradually, when the queen began cutting back on long-haul flights, resulting in Charles taking her place at a 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka.

Then in 2017, he represented the queen at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony marking the end of the First World War, laying the monarch’s wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph in London. It was the first time the Queen hadn’t performed the solemn ritual, other than when she was pregnant or out of the country.

Since then, Charles has taken on an increasing number of public engagements and been named the Queen’s designated successor as head of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 nations, including Canada, with links to the British Empire.

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On this day in 1968 ...

Pierre Trudeau was sworn in as Canada's 15th prime minister, two weeks after winning the Liberal party leadership. He went on to win a majority government in a general election that was swept by the "Trudeau-mania" craze. Trudeau was Canada's third-longest serving PM, behind William Lyon Mackenzie King and John A. Macdonald.

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In entertainment ...

Organizers of the country-fuelled Boots and Hearts music festival are pulling the plug on this year's summertime event.

Republic Live announced Monday that ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario made it impossible to move forward with their plan to hold massive concerts less than four months from now.

Boots and Hearts is one of the province's biggest music festivals and was set to be held over the Aug. 5 weekend at the Burl's Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ont., about 30 kilometres north of Barrie.

Country music stars booked to perform included Dan + Shay, Sam Hunt and Eric Church.

Summer music festivals have been in a tough spot as COVID-19 cases surge across the country, making it uncertain whether any crowds will be able to gather by July and August.

Many of Canada's music festivals opted to forgo planning a 2021 season while others have dropped off the schedule, including RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa, and Country Thunder festivals in Craven, Sask. and Calgary.

A few festivals still remain on the schedule, among them the Calgary Folk Music Festival, which said it will be "cautiously optimistic and adaptable" this year, and Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival which said last week it was "too early to talk about our summer festivals at this moment as Montreal is still in a red zone."

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ICYMI ...

An online fundraiser launched over the weekend aims to provide support for essential workers in Ontario who need time off due to COVID-19 and don't have paid sick leave.

Organizers say the fund will pay out $160 per day for up to five days to those who need it, distributed on a first-come, first-served basis as long as money is available.

They say the program operates on the honour system, trusting that only essential workers in financial need will apply.

The fundraiser website says the project was launched by three women, two of them registered nurses.

The fundraiser has collected nearly more than $20,000 of its $80,000 goal.

The Ontario government has faced mounting calls during the pandemic to implement paid sick leave.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021

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