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‘It’s none of their business’: The Wet’suwet’en people who want the protesters to stop

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Another day of blockades across the country means more protesters with signs bearing slogans such as “Wet’suwet’en Strong” and “Stand with Wet’suwet’en.”

They’re showing support for the heredity chiefs who oppose construction of a new pipeline through their territory in northern B.C.

The protesters though are drawing the ire of many in the Wet’suwet’en Nation who not only support the project, but see it as a way for the community to flourish.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline would move natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the West Coast for export, while creating jobs and other financial benefits.

It’s why 20 elected First Nations signed their support of the project. Calgary-based TC Energy is developing the $6-billion pipeline.

Overall, the Wet’suwet’en Nation is divided over whether to support a new natural gas pipeline through its territory.

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs block a CN Rail line just west of Edmonton Alta, Wednesday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

A group of hereditary chiefs touched off the national protest by opposing the project, saying it violated their recognized rights over the territory. 

But on Wednesday, about 200 people gave up three hours of their afternoon to pack a movie theatre in the community of Houston, a town of about 3,000 people in northwestern B.C., in the heart of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

Pipeline will create jobs

This was a pro-pipeline event as members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation explained why they support construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The people who came out to the meeting say they want to see the natural gas pipeline built. They say the project will create well-paid jobs that will bring economic opportunities to their communities.

Among the supporters was Robert Skin, who said he was elected to the council of the Skin Tyee First Nation, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, to move the community forward. 

He said the pipeline will mean a better life for the next generation.

“With the benefit agreement that [the Skin Tyee] did sign, I see us being in a better place even within the next five years,” Skin said.

A man holds a warrior flag during the sixth day of the blockade of the CN/VIA train tracks in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont., Feb. 11. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Speaking to the crowd at the theatre, he said protesters “only get one side of the story” and don’t understand the advantages this type of infrastructure project can provide.

Similar sentiments were shared by others who want to see more people working and providing for their families, especially as the lumber industry struggles in the region.

The Wet’suwet’en people at the event said they resent the protests because they aren’t helping their community, which they say already has fractured governance. They say the protests have amplified the conflict in the community and distracted Wet’suwet’en people from resolving their differences.

Others said they want the First Nation to be part of Canada, not separated from it.

The nearby Witset First Nation, which is also part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, is split almost evenly between those who want the pipeline to be built and those who resist it, according to Edward Tom, a community liaison and monitor of construction projects.

Financial boost

Tom sees the project as improving the community’s quality of life. When discussing the protesters, he grew agitated, describing them as liars who are causing more harm than good.

“They’re very pugnacious and overbearing. They’re professional protesters,” Tom said.

Many who attended the meeting said the protestors across the country don’t understand the issue, and don’t realize many of the Wet’sewet’en want the project to be built.

Those who have spoken up about their reasons for backing the pipeline say they have faced intimidation and threats by other community members.

Demonstrators hold signs and banners and block traffic in downtown Kitchener Tuesday afternoon. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

That’s why the event was the first time Marion Tiljoe Shepherd has shared her feelings. She owns her own trucking community in Houston. She’s optimistic the project will be built and the economic benefits will provide a financial boost to her business and many others in the area.

Shepherd said she’s increasingly angered by the protestors across the country. She said they don’t speak for, nor represent her community.

“It’s none of their business,” she said in an interview following the event. “All of these protestors don’t have the right to close down railways and ships. It’s not right. Go away. I want them to leave.”

The pipeline dispute is also splitting families, with some supporting the project and others opposing it.

Chiefs to thank Mohawks

“It’s divided my family. It’s just so sad,” Shepherd said. Her father’s cousin is a hereditary chief. At the Houston meeting Wednesday, he spoke in favour of the pipeline.

On Thursday, four Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are scheduled to travel east to meet and thank the Mohawks of Tyendinaga behind a rail blockade in Ontario. The trip has raised doubts about when proposed talks with federal and provincial leaders could occur to settle the rail crisis.

Currently, those chiefs are refusing to negotiate until RCMP leave the area. 

“The chiefs don’t feel that we can possibly have any meaningful dialogue with any levels of government while there is still a huge RCMP force on our territories,” Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for one of the Wet’suwet’en Nation clans.

On Wednesday, Carolyn Bennett said in an open letter that she and her B.C. counterpart, Scott Fraser, will be available in northern B.C. as early as Thursday to meet with any of the hereditary chiefs who might be willing to talk.

Some provincial premiers are demanding the blockades come to an end either by peaceful resolution or police action.



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Down to Business: Carside To Go helps Applebee’s survive

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The thing I love about covering public companies is the easy access to financials and other information that privately held firms like to keep, well, private.

Public companies, though, don’t have that luxury, and sometimes that gives you a chance to better understand and appreciate their operations.

Take restaurants, for instance, in the age of COVID-19.

When concern over the novel coronavirus began to build in March, eateries faced the prospect of government-ordered reductions in dining room capacity to slow the rate of infection until all were finally told to close – save for takeout and delivery.

For U.S. restaurants, the mandate cost $80 billion in sales from March to April, according to the National Restaurant Association, with 8 million workers furloughed or laid off. For New York, the loss was $5.5 billion in sales and 527,000 workers.

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At the publicly traded chain restaurants, the damage showed up in the quarterly numbers they had to report just as the pandemic descended.

Applebee’s, the casual-dining eatery, saw 10 consecutive weeks of positive first-quarter “comp sales” wiped out. By the last week of March, the numbers – a measure of retail health based on sales at locations open at least a year – were down 80.6 percent.

Other chains saw it, too: Denny’s comp sales were off 79 percent; Olive Garden’s dropped nearly 65 percent; LongHorn Steakhouse’s fell 75 percent.

The carnage would have been even worse had they all not been able to continue selling through takeout and delivery.

At Applebee’s, which already had takeout through Carside To Go, so-called off-premises sales tripled between the beginning of the year and the end of April, running then at $17,700 per restaurant per week.

That wasn’t close to meeting the average restaurant’s annual sales of $2.4 million, though. On the first-quarter conference call of parent company Dine Brands Global in late April, Applebee’s President John Cywinski said the company-owned and franchised restaurants generally were doing only 35 percent of last year’s volume.

But comp sales were improving weekly, even with takeout’s limited menu, he said, and he predicted the off-premises business “will remain robust” as Applebee’s dining rooms begin to reopen. (Some states allowed in-restaurant dining to resume in late April; in New York, it’s slated to occur in Phase 3 of the state’s gradual reopening, which should reach the Capital Region later this month.)

On the quarterly conference call, Dine Brands CEO Steve Joyce suggested a new inverse relationship between dining in and taking out: Sales from the former now will be an incremental add-on to the latter that will slowly help restaurant profitability.

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And how will the reopened restaurants look? Expect gloves and masks, no table condiments, frequent sanitizing and social distancing, he said.

“What we don’t know … is how many people are interested in coming into restaurants at this point, and what’s that number [going to] look like,” Joyce said.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected].



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Business secretary tested for Covid-19 after feeling ill during Commons speech | World news

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Alok Sharma, the business secretary, has been tested for coronavirus after feeling unwell while delivering a statement in the House of Commons.

The cabinet minister has gone home to self-isolate following his appearance at the dispatch box earlier on Wednesday.

The parliamentary authorities are understood to have given the area a deep clean and MPs were at the time sitting at least two metres apart. “This was done as a precaution,” a House of Commons source said.

However, his suspected illness is likely to cause concern about the government’s decision to bring back parliament in its physical form, after weeks of allowing MPs to attend remotely via video link.

Many MPs have protested against the new arrangements, which have resulted in them queueing around the parliamentary estate while complying with the two-metre physical distancing rules in order to vote.

Observers noticed that Sharma appeared unwell and to be sweating profusely while he spoke about the corporate insolvency and governance bill in the Commons.


A spokeswoman for the business secretary said: “Alok Sharma began feeling unwell when in the chamber delivering the second reading of the corporate governance and insolvency bill. In line with guidance he has been tested for coronavirus and is returning home to self-isolate.”

If Sharma does test positive, it will be an early trial of the government’s new contact tracing system. Other MPs and officials who have been in close contact with him will be tested and could be asked to self-isolate.

During the debate, after Sharma was seen wiping his face with a handkerchief several times, his Labour shadow, Ed Miliband, passed him a glass of water. Sharma also appeared sweaty and sounded hoarse on Tuesday, according to one fellow MP, when he voted to abolish hybrid parliamentary measures.

During one vote, the minister voted straight after the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, and immediately before the Labour MP Stephen Kinnock. He was also one of a few ministers who attended full cabinet, a source said.

Kirsty Blackman, SNP deputy leader in Westminster, sent her best wishes to Sharma but said: “[It] does, however, demonstrate just how ridiculous and irresponsible the Tory government’s decision to end virtual participation in parliament was. They must now rectify this serious mistake and reintroduce hybrid proceedings without delay.”

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said the development was “just awful”, adding: “The government stopped MPs from working from home and asked us to return to a building where social distancing is impossible. MPs are travelling home to every part of the country tonight. Reckless doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

Digital voting in the Commons was ended on Tuesday after MPs approved a government motion introduced by the leader of the house, Jacob Rees-Mogg, despite widespread objections.

Senior Conservatives, opposition groups, unions and the equalities watchdog raised concerns that the move would prevent many MPs, particularly the elderly and vulnerable members who are shielding, from being able to vote.

Chaotic scenes unfolded in the Commons when MPs formed a long queue snaking through parliament so they could maintain social distancing while voting on the motion.

The Labour MP Karl Turner said he had asked the Health and Safety Executive to conduct an urgent risk assessment of working conditions in parliament.

He said MPs having to “huddle together” on escalators on the parliamentary estate while lining up to vote were among a number of “unsafe practices”.

A string of cabinet ministers and senior officials have come down with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, including Boris Johnson, who was treated in intensive care.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, Chris Whitty, the chief medical adviser, Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, Dominic Cummings, the senior No 10 adviser, and Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, were also all unwell with coronavirus in late March or early April.

The first MP to fall ill with the virus was Nadine Dorries, a health minister, who tested positive in March.

A House of Commons spokesperson said: “The house’s priority is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated. We have closely followed guidance from PHE on action to take following a suspected case of Covid on site, including additional cleaning. Our risk assessment outlines the measures we have already put in place to reduce the risk of transmission in parliament.”

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As Chicago Enters Phase 3 Wednesday, Some Businesses Will Stay Closed – CBS Chicago

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