Admiral Art McDonald steps down and a butter controversy: In The News for Feb. 25

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. 25 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Admiral Art McDonald has voluntarily stepped down as chief of the defence staff as he is investigated on unspecific allegations.

Sajjan said in a release late Wednesday that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is doing the investigation.

Sajjan said he takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and continues to take strong action on any allegation of misconduct that is brought forward "no matter the rank, no matter the position."

Sajjan said as of Wednesday he has appointed Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre as acting chief of the defence staff.

He said he will have no further comment at this time due to the ongoing investigation.

Military investigators are probing allegations of sexual misconduct against McDonald's and Eyre's predecessor, Gen. Jonathan Vance.

Global News has reported that Vance allegedly had an ongoing relationship with a woman he significantly outranked, and that he made a sexual comment to a second, much younger soldier in 2012, before he was appointed chief of the defence staff.

Vance has denied the allegations raised by Global and The Canadian Press has not verified them independently.

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Also this ...

OTTAWA — A new poll suggests months of controversy has not dampened Canadians' strong support for expanding access to medical assistance in dying.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents to the Ipsos web-based poll, commissioned by the advocacy group Dying with Dignity Canada, favoured removing the provision that allows assisted dying only for people whose natural deaths are "reasonably foreseeable."

That provision was struck down as unconstitutional in a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.

The Trudeau government has introduced Bill C-7 to bring the law into compliance with that ruling. It would expand access to intolerably suffering people who are not nearing the natural end of their lives. Dying with Dignity, a charitable organization, is in favour of expanding access to the procedure.

The bill has been strenuously opposed by disability rights groups who maintain removal of the near-death requirement devalues the lives of people with disabilities, some of whom they fear could be coerced — either directly or indirectly through societal attitudes and a lack of support services — into ending their lives prematurely.

But the poll found equally strong support for removing the foreseeable death requirement — 68 per cent — among respondents who identified as having a chronic physical or mental disability that has a substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

Just eight per cent with disabilities were strongly opposed, another 24 per cent were somewhat opposed.

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

With its long-term facilities for immigrant children nearly full, the Biden administration is working to expedite the release of children to their relatives in the United States.

U.S. Health and Human Services on Wednesday authorized operators of long-term facilities to pay for some of the children’s flights and transportation to the homes of their sponsors.

Under HHS’ current guidelines, sponsors can be charged for those flights and required to pay before the government will release children.

Those costs can sometimes exceed $1,000 per child. An internal memo sent Wednesday authorizes facility operators to use government funding for transportation fees if a sponsor can't afford the commercial airfare.

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

Members of a group supporting Myanmar's military junta have attacked and injured people protesting against the army’s Feb. 1 seizure of power that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The chaos complicates an already intractable standoff between the military and a protest movement that has been staging daily large-scale demonstrations.

At least several people were injured in the attack Thursday in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. Fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are urging Myanmar's military to make some concessions to help ease tensions.

Social media giant Facebook announced it was banning all accounts linked to the military following the army’s takeover, saying the ban was precipitated by events including "deadly violence."

Facebook already has banned several military-linked accounts since the coup, including army-controlled Myawaddy TV and state television broadcaster MRTV. The bans also apply to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

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On this day in 1998 ...

Canadian author and humorist W.O. Mitchell died at age 83.

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In entertainment ...

The Tragically Hip will be toasted with this year's humanitarian award at the 2021 Juno Awards.

The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences says it selected the Kingston, Ont. rock band for its "timeless music and philanthropic pursuits" that affected generations of people around the world.

Known to many Canadians as the musicians behind "Bobcaygeon" and "Ahead By a Century," the Hip have helped raise millions of dollars for various social and environmental causes.

Among them, they've supported several charities, including Camp Trillium and the Special Olympics, and most recently sold face masks that raised more than $50,000 for the Unison Benevolent Fund, which provides counselling and emergency relief services to the music industry.

The Hip's late lead singer Gord Downie was also part of the band's final Canadian tour, which helped raise more than $1 million for the Canadian Cancer Society and the Sunnybrook Foundation. Downie died of brain cancer in October 2017.

The Hip will be presented with the honour as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Junos, which will broadcast from Toronto on May 16.

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ICYMI ...

A Quebec dairy farmers group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter.

The Quebec Dairy Producers says it will follow the recommendations of Dairy Farmers of Canada's new working committee examining the use of palm oil supplements in cow feed, while insisting that the common practice doesn't raise health or safety concerns.

The inquiry comes in response to consumers' concerns that butter has gotten harder, but some experts question whether spreadability is a widespread issue.

Calgary food writer Julie Van Rosendaal posits that butter has become firmer as farmers have added palm fat supplements to livestock feed to keep up with pandemic-fuelled demand for baking ingredients.

Alejandro Marangoni, a food science professor at University of Guelph, says while components of palm oil found in milk fat can affect the melting point of butter, there's no data to support "sensationalist" claims of a great hardening.

David Christensen, a professor emeritus of animal and poultry science at University of Saskatchewan, says Canadian farmers have used palmitic acid products to increase milk fat production for about two decades.

Christensen says if the consistency of butter has changed, it could be related to the palmitic acid content, or changes to the methods processors use to produce butter.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021

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