Security takes lion's share in Montebello summit costs
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, January 13, 2008
OTTAWA - Last August's Montebello summit cost at least $13.6 million, according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service, and that doesn't include the RCMP's costs, which will likely be the biggest bill of all.
While various government departments and police forces are still tabulating their expenses, the Department of Foreign Affairs - the lead agency for the meeting between leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico - has spent about $3 million and counting, according to receipts obtained by Canwest News Service.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership summit lived up to its name, at least cost-wise.
The Quebec provincial police spent $7 million on summit expenses while police from Ottawa and five other jurisdictions in Ontario spent another $3.6 million to secure the two-day event in the Quebec town some 80 kilometres east of Ottawa.
Costs for Foreign Affairs, which was responsible for many of the logistics of the event, included catering, lodging, transportation and other related fees.
In addition to the cost of lodging at the posh Chateau Montebello and wining and dining guests, the documents show the leaders of Canada, U.S. and Mexico feasted on $95 meals of caribou, duck and quail.
The department's other expenses included compensating people affected by the summit - including local business owners forced to close up shop as a security measure. Marina patrons were treated to either a round of golf or barbecue dinner for their pains. One couple was compensated $10,000 for having to change their wedding plans.
In general few patrons were inconvenienced, the hotel says, because the summit was planned well ahead of the main tourist booking period.
In terms of security costs, a number of local, provincial and federal police forces participated in the security effort on land, water and in the air, but not all of the figures are available. Among them are the RCMP, which had primary responsibility for securing the event.
That hosting international events means an increasingly expensive security bill is certainly no surprise since 9/11 says John Kirton, director of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
"Since 9/11, summits hosted in North America, in particular involving the president of the United States, have required - for understandable reasons - significantly enhanced security expenditures," he said.
"We saw that first in Kananaskis (the 2002 G-8 summit)."
It cost the federal government $25 million to host the leaders of the G8 industrialized nations in Halifax in 1995. The summit in Kananaskis, Alta., ran up an estimated bill of $300 million, most of it tied to security.
This prompted Stockwell Day, then Canadian Alliance foreign affairs critic, to note the budget for the 36-hour event was approaching the size of a $500 million African development fund promised at the time.
One of the ways to minimize security costs is to hold events at "relatively remote locations" such as Kananaskis and Montebello, or somewhere where summits have been held before "so someone doesn't have to invent all of the security and other arrangements from scratch," said Kirton.
But that didn't mean a significantly lower bill in Montebello, which is relatively isolated and had also hosted major events in the past.
The cost of the Montebello summit is upsetting to groups opposed to the gathering.
"The amount of money we're hearing that was spent on summit security is outrageous," said Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians. The Council was forced to change venue, for security reasons, for an event it planned to hold near Montebello.
Patterson added there was also "widespread concern about the secrecy of the summit and the agenda that was taking place that in many ways cost Canadians many more millions in terms of the environmental impact," of decisions made there.
Montebello summit bill tops $27 million
Published: Thursday, January 17
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
OTTAWA - The Montebello summit cost at least $27 million, according to new documents obtained by Canwest News Service.
The documents are the RCMP's expenses to secure the two-day event that brought together the leaders of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. at Chateau Montebello, about 80 kilometres east of Ottawa.
The RCMP, the police force with "primary responsibility for security" at the meeting spent $13.4 million to plan and secure the event according to a financial summary. The Mounties originally estimated it would cost them $15.7 million for the event.
"This estimate included costs for security planning, coordination and logistics as well as salary, overtime and travel costs," the report states.
The amount comes on top of some $7 million spent by Quebec provincial police and another $3.6 million by Ottawa police and five other forces in Ontario. A rough Canwest News Service tabulation of preliminary expenses by the Department of Foreign Affairs to host the leaders ran up another $3 million. This leaves security costs accounting for over 85 per cent of all the summit bills tabulated so far. A few other departments involved in the summit have yet to report their expenses.
The RCMP refused to comment specifically on the figures.
"We don't have to justify how much it costs to host a summit and... an operation and how much personnel is assigned to the event," said Cpl. Elaine Lavergne, spokeswoman for the Mounties.
"What we can say is that we had sufficient personnel to respond to the request (to secure the event) and the costs associated with the event are related to the equipment and all the personnel present on site."
Lavergne did concede that four months to plan the event was little to work with. The RCMP learned in December 2006 the summit would be held in Canada but the site was finalized in April 2007. It was originally planned to be held in Kananaskis, Alta., the site of the G-8 summit in 2002.
"It's not much (time), indeed, it mobilizes a lot of people from different organizations, departments and groups," she said. "People in the area had to be notified, this requires a lot of logistics and preparation and we didn't have a lot of time to do this."
Personnel and overtime costs accounted for the lion's share of RCMP expenses, amounting to some $6.2 million. The RCMP says "the short notice" to plan the event required use of overtime to meet deadlines.
The tally does not include costs associated with the 1,500-metre security fence, a staple at most international meetings, used to isolate protesters from the leaders.
The reports shows the RCMP was concerned protests would degenerate around the site. "The operational resources deployed/utilized during this event were based on the volatility of such major summits, the 'Direct Action' employed by activists during past events, our assessment of the current intelligence and the inherent risks and high threat associated with the presence of the U.S. president," the report states.
The document says that while some outstanding invoices may still be coming in, it was assumed outstanding expenses would not exceed $450,000.
Large security bills to secure events involving the U.S. president are increasingly a part of the post 9-11 reality says John Kirton, director of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
"We saw that first in Kananaskis (in 2002)," he said. That summit was estimated to cost $300 million, some 10 times the amount to host the 1995 summit in Halifax.
Groups which opposed the Montebello summit, such as the Council of Canadians, have called expenses related to securing the event "outrageous."
Researcher preaches snow-making in moderation
Published: Sunday, January 20
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Warmer winters mean ski resorts are more likely to fire up snow-making cannons harmful to the environment, says a Quebec researcher who is preaching that they be used in moderation.
Artificial snow pumped out in large quantities over an extended period of time affects a ski area's flora, fauna, and promotes soil erosion, says Anne-Sophie Demers, who conducted a six-month environmental study at a ski resort in Quebec's Eastern Townships.
"The fact that artificial snow is five times more dense than regular snow affects the forest cover and can break tree branches, allowing pathogens to enter the tree," said Demers, an environment specialist for the town of Orford, Que., 130 kilometres east of Montreal.
"We've noticed effects on vegetation near ski hills as well as cases of erosion. Because the snow is more dense it will drag more of the soil along with it when it melts."
The impact is felt not only on the slopes, where machinery affects the lawn underneath, but in area waterways where sediments washed away by land erosion can have an impact on the fish.
A 2003 study published in the journal Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics also questioned the impact of snow-making on biodiversity stemming from the delay of plant development around ski slopes.
"Snowing increases the input of water and ions to ski pistes, which can have a fertilizing effect and hence change the plant species composition," states a summary of the report authored by the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.
European studies have also looked into the possible environmental impact of additives used to produce artificial snow.
Among them is a commonly-used additive Snomax, which uses an active protein that accelerates the crystallization of water molecules. A number of studies on Snomax have found it environmentally safe but it was banned by some environmentally-conscious German states.
Lavoie says Snomax is widely used in Canada and there is no scientific consensus it hurts the environment in the studies he has read.
But some have expressed concern.
"Although sterilized, additives affected the growth of some alpine plant species in laboratory experiments," noted the Swiss study, which also questioned the use of salts on hills used for competition.
Meanwhile demand for snow cannons is climbing as ski resorts buy into an "insurance policy" to make sure their hills are well-covered for the lucrative Christmas holidays, says Charles Lavoie of snow-making machine maker Turbocristal.
"Curiously, society creates greenhouse gases . . . resulting in climate change that affects snow conditions and produces periods where ski resorts will have to make artificial snow," Lavoie said. "Ironically to deal with this lack of snow it requires plenty of energy and plenty of water."
Demers says ski slope managers should limit their artificial snow production to make up for periods of unusual thawing and ensure a safe snow cover for skiers, but not systematically pile layer upon layer of snow.
We recommend that they adopt a snow management policy that avoids producing snow for just any reason or in conditions they shouldn't be making snow," she said.
Resort operators will sometimes pile up to two metres of artificial snow to expand ski slopes or make up for the roughness of some ski hills Demers says, adding that the hills should be better maintained in the off-season instead to smoothen abrupt terrain.
Warmer winters make the need for "rationalizing snow production" all the more important, she said, in part by imitating European innovation of snow production methods.
Their impact on the environment is reduced by balancing the air-to-water ratio in water cannons, Demers said.
Lavoie says his company is very focused in this area to reduce water consumption that in some cases reaches 800 litres per minute for a single snow machine.
"By reducing the air-to-water ratio one reduces energy consumption, that's what we're trying to do," he said.
Demers says ski resort operators must balance the need to protect the environment with the need to keep their skiers safe.
Boy, 4, dies in backyard snowbank
Published: Monday, January 21
PREVOST, Que. -- Quebec provincial police have launched an investigation into the death of a four-year-old boy whose body was found behind the family home in Prevost, Que. over the weekend.
The boy left his home at 11:30 a.m. Saturday telling his mother he was going to visit a neighbour, said Isabelle Gendron of the Surete du Quebec.
By mid-afternoon his mother contacted police to report him missing after realizing the neighbours weren't home.
Police found his body stuck in the snow in the home's backyard shortly after responding to the call and searching the immediate area around his house.
Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was transported to a hospital in Quebec's Laurentians where he was declared dead.
Police have not determined the cause of death and could not say whether an autopsy would be conducted.
Prevost is 75 kilometres north of Montreal.
In January, a seven-year-old girl suffocated to death after her head got stuck in a snowbank in front of her house near Quebec City. Police said the boy's head was not stuck in the snow when they found him.
Officer against allegiance to Queen rebuffed by Federal Court Tuesday, January 22, 2008 By Meagan Fitzpatrick and Phil Couvrette Canwest News Service OTTAWA - A member of the Canadian military who launched a court case around his refusal to pledge allegiance to the Queen had his Federal Court application dismissed Monday.
Capt. Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh argued that he was subjected to a form of "institutional harassment" by having to pay respect and show loyalty to the Queen or the Union Jack.
He launched a grievance in 2001 with the military which was later rejected by the Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier. He then asked the Federal Court to review Hillier's decision. In the decision released Monday, Justice R.L Barnes wrote that the military was "both correct in law and reasonable" to reject his grievance.
"I cannot think of any Canadian institution where an expectation of loyalty and respect for the Queen would be more important than the Canadian Forces," Barnes wrote in the 27-page judgment. "Whether Capt. Mac Giolla Chainnigh likes it or not, the fact is that the Queen is his Commander-in-Chief and Canada's Head of State. A refusal to display loyalty and respect to the Queen where required by Canadian Forces' policy would not only be an expression of profound disrespect and rudeness but it would also represent an unwillingness to adhere to hierarchical and lawful command structures that are fundamental to good discipline."
Chainnigh, a member of the military since 1975 and an associate professor of physics at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., has "consistently expressed his disaffection for the British monarchy," according to court documents. He claimed that having to sing God Save the Queen, toasting the Queen as the Head of State of Canada, and saluting the Union Jack were all duties he found "politically offensive" and in conflict with his views.
Chainnigh, reached at his office, said "I'm obviously very disappointed and frankly quite surprised as well.
"When the case was presented I felt that many of the issues were presented quite clearly."
He said financial limitations prevented him from appealing the decision and he would have trouble paying costs associated with the present case.
"If there is an interest in the Canadian public to have this taken to a higher level of adjudication, which I feel is absolutely necessary, then I would need some sort of sponsorship," Chainnigh said.
Chainnigh - who legally changed his name from Harold Kenny to its Irish spelling - says he signed up for the Canadian Forces to serve Canada, not a foreign monarch.
In expressing his objection to toasting the Queen, Chainnigh has said that he cannot in good faith toast her as the "Queen of Canada."
"In doing so I would be implicitly declaring the truth of a premise that I believe to be false," he said.
Chainnigh joined the Forces when he was 16, swearing an oath to "be faithful and bear true allegiance to her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada."
He tried to argue that the military protocols infringed on his freedoms of expression and religion under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Barnes rejected that argument and wrote that obeying commands, including saluting the Queen, are part of military life which Chainnigh agreed to adhere to when he joined.
He also said that Chainnigh's refusal to participate in the protocols would "constitute a display of rudeness and disrespect entirely inconsistent with traditional Canadian values and accepted international protocols."
In 2006 the Canadian Forces Grievance Board rejected his grievance, saying his description of the toast to the Queen as "royalist symbolism" showed a fundamental lack of understanding of the way Canada is governed.
He appealed the decision to Gen. Hillier who also rejected it, writing that he saw no reason why "showing respect to our Head of State is anything but proper and lawful."
Canadian cities compete for Monopoly spot
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008
Move over Pacific Avenue, hello Vancouver? Three Canadian cities are among 68, from Amsterdam to Zurich, being considered for inclusion in an international version of Monopoly to be launched this fall. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, are fighting for spots usually held by the likes of Illinois or Pacific Avenue.
Starting this week, fans are being asked to vote on the company's website for the cities that should fill the precious squares on Hasbro's world-famous board game.
The 20 world cities with the most votes as of Feb. 28 will earn a spot on the board better-known for making Marvin Gardens a household-name. They'll be placed on the board "from highest rent property to lowest rent property" according to their voting tallies. That will determine whether Toronto and New York will be the new high-end Boardwalk or Park Place.
But they'll have to earn the votes first. As of Wednesday afternoon Toronto led the Canadian pack with 0.9 per cent of the vote and was in 24th place. Montreal and Vancouver were in neck and neck for 31st spot, leaving all Canadian cities out of contention for now.
Paris and London led the way overall with 2.9 per cent of the vote, followed by New York (2.8 per cent) with Rome and Sydney close behind.
"We looked at cities that had cultural and historic significance and then we also consulted with travel writers around the world to see what cities they thought best represented the world," said Donetta Allen, spokeswoman for Hasbro.
Any visibility is good visibility, the competing cities say.
"Anything that brings the city of Toronto's name to an international audience is a great thing," said Stuart Green of the city of Toronto. "We're obviously incredibly proud of the city and we think more people should visit, so if by having us on a Monopoly board gets more people visiting, by all means we're happy to be on there."
"It would give Montreal terrific visibility not only among gamers but everywhere this game is distributed, so this would be very good news for us," agreed Isabelle Poulin of the city of Montreal.
Monopoly will also hold a vote for other "wild-card" cities that will compete for a spot on the board. Voters feelingsnubbed by the pre-selected lot can nominate their own wild-card city. Only the top 20 among them will be in the race for two spots of the "low rent" Monopoly property group, replacing the likes of Baltic and Mediterranean Avenue.
"Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition" game board will be unveiled in August, going on sale the following month in 45 countries.
This is only be the latest version of Monopoly, which has seen more than 200 editions since 1935, selling over 250 million copies in 103 countries and 37 languages. But the most popular version remains the classic one based on streets in Atlantic City, N.J.
Famous Gimli Glider retired from Air Canada service
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008
MONTREAL -- Air Canada employees gathered in Montreal today to bid farewell to one of their more storied birds.
On its last flight, the Boeing 767 known as the infamous Gimli Glider, made a pass and waved its wings as a salute to the city that was the point of origin of a 1983 trip that wrote a page of aviation history.
It could have been an ugly page about one of the worst aviation disasters in Canadian history.
In July 23, 1983, maintenance crews for Air Canada Flight 143 discovered a shoddy soldering job had knocked out the computer that calculates how much fuel is needed to get the plane from Montreal to Edmonton, with a brief stopover in Ottawa.
Instead of cancelling the flight, the ground crews decided to do the calculations manually, even if none of them had been trained to do this.
The aircraft arrived safely in Ottawa and it was not until a warning signal began beeping at 12,300 metres somewhere over Red Lake, Ont., that the flight crew realized the mistake - imperial measurements had been used to calculate how much fuel was needed rather than metric.
The plane had run out of fuel and both engines soon ran out of steam.
Captain Robert Pearson, a trained glider pilot, had his first officer begin calculating for the optimum gliding speed for an 80-tonne jumbo jet. After determining they would not make it to Winnipeg, First Officer Maurice Quintal suggested taking the plane down at a nearby Air Force base in Gimli, Man., where he once served.
Unbeknownst to the first officer, however, was that one of the airstrips - where the plane would eventually land - had become a drag-racing strip. On that day, crowds of campers had collected along the runway to watch go-cart races.
The plane's nose gear eventually came to a stop just 30 metres from where the group had collected, after its front landing gear collapsed on landing.
The so-called Gimli Glider, having sustained only minor damages, entered back into service just two days later.
Today marked the plane's final journey as it headed to airplane heaven, in California's Mojave Desert, where planes are mothballed.
Pearson and Quintal were among others on the plane's final flight.
Canadians vote like mad for Monopoly real estate
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
It may sound like fun and games, but some people are taking getting their cities into Monopoly's upcoming World Edition rather seriously. Full-blown campaigns on social site Facebook and other Internet sites have boosted the fortunes of Canada's three candidate cities vying for spots on the game board.
Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are among 68 world cities being considered for inclusion in the international version of Monopoly to be launched this fall, competing for spots otherwise occupied by the likes of Illinois or Pacific avenues.
Since last week, fans have been asked to vote on the company's website for the cities that should fill the precious squares on Hasbro's world-famous board game.
The 20 world cities with the most votes as of Feb. 28 will earn a spot on the board known for making Marvin Gardens a household name. And while Canadian cities were at first slow getting out of the gate, all three are currently in the Top 20.
A little bit of online campaigning may be responsible for that as Internet sites such as smartcanucks.ca and specialized groups on Facebook have been calling for Canadians to cast their votes in favour of the three cities.
Familiar rivalries are popping up in the online campaigns. Putting three Canadian cities on the board would "show we are better than the U.S., that's important!" claims William Cloutier on a Facebook site to get Montreal on the map.
Group members also see a message of unity behind the online campaign. "We should also vote for Toronto and Vancouver . . . that would make us the only country with three cities on the game," wrote Jean-Nicolas Beaulieu, also supporting Montreal.
As of Monday afternoon, Canada was the only country with three cities in the Top 20. Montreal was ranked No. 6, behind Paris, London, New York, Rome and Sydney, Australia. Vancouver was No. 13 and Toronto No. 19.
Monopoly will select the top two among "wild-card" cities chosen by online voters. Quebec City, Winnipeg and Calgary are fighting for those spots.
"We can get Winnipeg in there," urged Winnipeg radio host Ace Burpee on his HOT103 online blog.
But Canada isn't alone -- virtually every city from Athens to Zurich has an online campaign to shore up votes.
"Last year, we voted to make Rome's Colosseum one of the new seven wonders of the world. Now you can vote to include Rome in the Monopoly," wrote Martha Bakerjian, on her travel blog.
Kyiv was also getting support from some 1,300 Facebook members on two groups supporting Ukraine's only entry. It was ranked No. 23 as of Monday morning. Much of the campaign was put together by Ukrainian expats with their own axe to grind.
"Take that Moscow!" said Yuri Walkiw, from Edmonton, after the city bumped Moscow in the rankings.
Fans may cast votes for up to 10 of the "candidate cities" each day at www.monopoly.com.
Warrant issued for hockey great Lafleur
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008
An arrest warrant has been issued for Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur over testimony at his son's trial last year, according to his lawyer Jean-Pierre Rancourt.
He said an arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Lafleur for contradictory statements made during testimony in the trial of his son Mark Lafleur.
Mr. Rancourt said Mr. Lafleur, pictured, "was devastated" by the news and feared police would break down his door to cuff him and take him to jail.
"I was shocked by the fact that they chose to issue an arrest warrant rather than a summons or a promise to appear," Mr. Rancourt said. "There was no reason to proceed with an arrest warrant. We don't know why they chose to do this; they wouldn't tell us."
Mr. Rancourt said Mr. Lafleur would present himself to police tomorrow in order to agree on a court date. Mr. Rancourt said he did not expect Mr. Lafleur to be detained.
Mark Lafleur is behind bars until his trial on 22 charges, including sexual assault.
Superior Court Justice Carol Cohen revoked Mark Lafleur's bail last November after the 22-year-old broke his conditions when he spent leaves from a transition house in hotels rather than at home with his parents.
At a hearing last October, Guy Lafleur testified that he had helped his son break his bail conditions while on leave from a hal fway home.
Common flame retardants could hurt unborn children, researcher warns
Published: Saturday, February 02
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Common flame retardants that are supposed to make everyday consumer items safer could adversely affect pregnancies and impede the development of the fetus, according to a Quebec researcher.
Environmental toxicology specialist Larissa Takser says the effects on humans of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are still sketchy but lab tests on gestating animals have had an impact on the fetus that should at least press governments to ban their use.
"This a public-safety concern, and it's urgent," said Tasker, an assistant professor at the University of Sherbrooke's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her studies on rats and sheep have shown that fetuses in animals injected with even small doses of PBDE faced health complications. "Current regulations do not take into account how sensitive the fetus is to the toxicity of polluting agents."
The adverse effects of the flame retardants are well-documented, Takser said, but researchers were stunned to find their effects so visible at low doses.
"It's the first time we observe the same effects at very low dose, at levels we consume every day," she said, stressing the chemicals have been used increasingly over the last 30 years.
Scientific studies, such as her current year-long government-funded observation of 100 to 400 pregnant women, could provide proper evidence justifying the need to ban PBDEs altogether, Takser said.
The chemicals can have an impact on a pregnant woman's thyroid gland, she noted, and could adversely affect the fetal brain.
"It could impede cerebral development and prevent the child from developing its full potential."
Takser said this could lead to problems of hyperactivity, as well as anxiety and attention disorders in children.
Health Canada's latest assessments concluded "PBDEs are harmful to the environment."
"As a result, the Government of Canada will be releasing a proposed action plan for addressing these substances," said Joey Rathwell of Health Canada. "While the assessments did not conclude that these were harmful to human health at current levels of exposure, Health Canada supports limiting the use of PBDEs."
"The scientific assessment found no evidence that current levels of PBDEs in the environment are harming human health at the moment. However, the rapid increase in PBDE levels in the environment over the last several years is cause for concern," Environment Canada writes on its website. The presence of PBDE in maternal milk "does not automatically follow that PBDEs are causing harmful effects in humans. Human exposure in Canada is much lower than levels associated with effects in experimental animals," the department adds.
Last year, U.S. researchers said that PBDEs could also be contributing to a rash of thyroid disease in household cats, and there has been some limited evidence that PBDEs may cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Particularly alarming, Takser said, is that no one can choose to simply isolate themselves from the chemicals, which are used in a range of consumer items from cars and popular electronic products such as computers and stereos, to wire coatings, furniture, carpets and draperies.
According to some British and Canadian studies, many people ingest the chemical additive in their diet, through the food chain, but Takser said most cases in Canada were the result of exposure to ambient air and dust.
According to an October 2004 assessment prepared for Washington State's Department of Ecology, PBDEs have been measured "in a variety of human tissues, such as blood, fat and breast milk in people around the world," but the highest levels of PBDEs in human tissues "have been found in Canada and in the U.S., which is the largest producer and consumer of PBDE products."
"Levels of PBDEs in Americans are 10 to 100 times higher than levels reported for Europe and Japan," the assessment said. According to other studies, PBDE levels in maternal milk have been said to be doubling every five years in North America.
Takser said that's why Canada must match the European standards.
Health Canada's recommendations that consumers seek out products with less PBDEs, limit fatty foods which could increase their intake and clean their houses often - to clear the air - aren't enough, she said.
"Many forms of PBDEs are banned in Europe, and we have observed that their levels were 100 to 200 times lower in maternal milk there," she said. "We can see these regulations have an impact."
But even Europe's tougher standards aren't safe enough, Takser said.
"Some forms of PBDEs are still used in Europe and seemed safe because they were not deemed to be cumulative, but this assessment seems to have been wrong," she said.
Banning PBDEs don't mean their effects will immediately disappear, however, Takser stressed. Some forms of the chemicals have been banned already, but because they remain in the environment and were used in so many consumer items it will take some time for them to be completely removed.
The popularity of recycling also means that the chemicals could survive in items being given a second life, she said.
Criticized and praised, popular TV series leaves few unmoved in Quebec
Published: Sunday, February 10
Phil Couvrette Canwest News Service
A television series about a Quebec family that tore itself apart after a huge lottery win has Quebecers riveted to their TV sets. But it's also sparking complaints from some of those it portrays.
"Les Lavigueur: la vraie histoire" ("The Lavigueurs: the true story") is based on the so-called "true story" of the Lavigueur family, who won what in 1986 was the largest lottery jackpot in Canadian history, only to watch it quickly disappear.
The rise and fall of the Lavigueurs was a soap opera in and of itself that the Quebec media focused on in the 1980s as the family dispute tore them apart and their jackpot melted away within a decade.
The real-life drama needed no embellishment, but that is exactly the charge being levelled against the series. Not everyone believes the series is telling the real story, especially some who played a real-life part in the Lavigueur saga.
Love it or hate it, Radio-Canada, the French arm of the CBC, is scoring big with the series, which is the hit of the winter TV season in Quebec. Nearly one out of three Quebecers - almost two million viewers - watch the show Tuesday nights.
Jean-Pierre Pilon, the lawyer who represented Louise Lavigueur (who didn't contribute to the purchase of the ticket and sued to get her share of the $7.6-million jackpot) is fuming over the series.
He accused the network of slander and filed a complaint against Radio-Canada that prompted modifications to the description of his character on its website. Eventually a disclaimer was added:_"No link must, however, be established between (character) Francois Leonard and the attorney who represented Louise Lavigueur."
The character representing Pilon is depicted as a vile and corrupt lawyer. "The website said the lawyer was 'scum.' That's a pretty harsh word," said Jacques Wilkins, hired by Pilon as a communications agent. "The title says it's 'the true story.' If that's the case, then they should be telling the true story," said Wilkins, who has known Pilon for years and says the character depicted on the show couldn't be more different from the real man.
"His law practice is in a poor neighbourhood and he's always tried to ensure that people have access to all judicial procedures," Wilkins stressed. "He doesn't get paid until the final decision."
Another lawyer who represented the Lavigueurs, Jean Bernier, is also offended about his character, Tom Desuro. Bernier also threatened to go after the network and held a news conference to dispute his portrayal as a money-grubbing shark in the series.
While lauding the six-part series as "probably one of the best shown (on TV) these last years," Bernier questioned the title of "the true story" in a lengthy document explaining his role in the affair.
"To meet the needs of television the scenario strays considerably from . . . reality, with a scenario which allows for all sorts of exaggerations and half-truths," Bernier writes.
Demonstrating huge public interest in the series the Journal de Montreal ran a six-page take out on the program entitled "Far from the truth," collecting criticism by everybody from the real-estate agent who sold the new millionaires their 17-room mansion, to a Loto-Quebec official who denied leaking that the father was on welfare at the time they won.
"It's interesting to see so much passion is being aroused by this series," said Marc Pichette, director of public relations and television promotion at Radio-Canada. "It shows us to what degree it carries a strong dramatic element."
Pichette says even the network was surprised by the number of people tuning in, which exceeded expectations.
"We won't comment on the debate sparked by the series," he said. "In the series' credits it's clearly written that it is inspired by a true story and that there are fictional elements - both people and events - added for dramatic purposes."
At the time the show was launched, a Radio-Canada spokesman said that so much false information had been circulated about the family that it was "our responsibility to rehabilitate them."
But the series is not a documentary, Pichette stressed.
Public reaction has been "very enthusiastic" and the public was "blown away by the quality of the series," he added, while admitting there were complaints from people who found some of the early sex scenes "perhaps a bit too risque."
The real Lavigueurs became aware of their winnings after the wallet belonging to the father, an unemployed widower raising four children and about to receive his first welfare cheque, was returned to him by a 28-year-old drifter. But the rags-to-riches story soon became a legal soap opera and their story became part of modern Quebec folklore.
Compounding the family drama, Louise died from heart complications at 22, patriarch Lavigueur died penniless in 2000 while Michel, the son, committed suicide in 2004. The fairy-tale mansion the family bought was later sold to the leader of a biker gang and ended in a pile of ruins after a fire in 2000.
Man offers bits of pancreas for sale
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2008
A Quebec man with a rare disease he says was a result of gastric bypass surgery is selling parts of his pancreas online for medical research.
Mario Meunier, 36, suffers from nesidioblastosis, an illness of the pancreas which triggers hypoglycemia -- a deficiency of blood sugar -- and was told he would need to have parts of his pancreas removed.
But he refused to sign a waiver turning his organ over to the hospital -- saying he wants to keep any parts of the organ that are eventually removed.
Meunier wants his pancreas to be used for scientific research to show that people who undergo gastric bypass surgery could get his illness in some form.
"I will keep my pancreas for me because if they want to have my pancreas for nothing that is what they tried to do," Meunier said. "If I give my body to a research centre for sure I will help a lot of people."
Meunier says that through his listing he wants people to know about the risks associated with the increasingly popular medical procedure.
Most online auction sites don't allow the sale of organs so Meunier is offering up his body for research. For $75,000 on eBay, researchers can study Meunier for one year.
Wear helmets on slopes, Quebec coroner urges
Published: Wednesday, February 13
A Quebec coroner is recommending more widespread use of helmets on ski slopes after the death of a man that he said could have been prevented by wearing protective headgear.
Pascal Lepitre, 41, died at the Bromont ski resort after falling headfirst into off-trail rocks on Jan. 16, 2007. The experienced skier was going downhill with his partner on a difficult trail without his helmet.
Emergency personnel were unable to revive him.
"In this type of accident the coroner believes he would certainly not have been able to avoid facial injuries, but he could have avoided head trauma, and Mr. Lepitre would perhaps still be alive today," a coroner's statement says.
Coroner Jacques Robinson recommended that health authorities and ski associations "intensify measures encouraging people to wear helmets while skiing or snowboarding."
Robinson said ski resort staff and ski patrols should set the example by wearing helmets themselves.
Flight from Calgary slides off runway on landing
Published: Monday, February 18, 2008
There were no injuries after a Westjet plane carrying 92 crew and passengers slid off the runway after landing at Ottawa Airport on Sunday, officials say.
Flight 846 was inbound from Calgary and was stuck at the end of the runway after the incident said Krista Kealey, an Ottawa Airport official. Passengers were to be transported to the terminal by bus she said.
Airport officials called Ottawa fire and paramedics to the scene.
Reports from the scene suggested the area surrounding the aircraft was extremely icy.
About four millimetres of mostly freezing rain fell on the Ottawa region Sunday, which also caused dangerous driving conditions.
Area police reported 28 accidents between noon and 8 p.m., and the OPP reported 96 for all of Eastern Ontario.
Also, an eight-kilometre stretch of Highway 417 was closed for part of Sunday afternoon due to icy conditions.
Baby recovering after eating PCP
Published: Tuesday, February 19
SEPT ÎLES - An 18-month-old boy was recovering in hospital Tuesday after he was found to have eaten illegal drugs he found in his parents' cupboard, the Sûreté du Québec said.
The boy was takn to a hospital Monday after police responded to a call to the parents' home in Uashat, an aboriginal community near Sept Îles, 900 kilometres east of Montreal.
They found the boy unconscious and having breathing difficulties. He was immediately taken to a hospital centre in Sept Îles, where doctors say his life is not in danger.
An investigation showed the boy consumed PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, which he found in a kitchen cupboard.
The boy's parents were arrested Monday afternoon and released yesterday under strict conditions, according to the provincial police.
The parents could face charges of criminal negligence, possession of PCP with intent to traffic drugs and possession of amphetamines.
The boy was referred to Quebec's youth services.
Residents, businesses urged to clear snow
Published: Tuesday, February 19
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Freezing rain during the weekend hardened the accumulations after a winter of heavy snow, leading to three related incidents, but, fortunately, no injuries.
A storage facility collapsed under the weight of snow and ice Monday evening in Trois-Rivières.
Luckily, the facility was empty at the time. Neighbouring buildings were evacuated as a preventative measure because authorities feared the outbreak of fire or a gas leak.
This came a day after two incidents in Quebec City shook up local residents.
Nicole Begin was watching television Sunday evening when the part of the roof covering her balcony collapsed under the weight of snow.
"I thought it was the entire roof caving in," Begin told French-language news channel LCN. "I'm still shaking from it."
A similar incident happened in the same part of town later, waking up residents in the middle of the night.
Officials in Trois-Rivières and Quebec City were urging businesses and residents to clear heavy snow accumulations regularly to avoid such incidents.
"What worries me particularly are temporary parking shelters," said Const. Michel Letarte of Trois-Rivieres police. "We have seen in some regions that accumulation has led to deadly collapses."
In December, a young Quebec woman died after one of these snow-laden car tents collapsed, burying her alive.
A spokeswoman for the Canada Safety Council said the incident was far from common, but one year ago another man in Granby died after a snow-covered shelter collapsed on him and other workers.
Letarte also stressed the need to clear balconies, but added that urban centres were having a tough time finding room to dump the snow this year.
"Where do we put all this snow? That's the problem of major urban centres," he said.
Soon after the Quebec City incidents, the city also sent an advisory urging residents to be cautious about accumulating snow.
"The abundant snow of the last weeks and the current rain add to the weight on top of the structures and considerably increase the risk of collapse," a city statement said Monday.
Odometer tampering leads to arrests
Published: Friday, February 22, 2008
As used car scams go, this one may have set new standards, according to police.
Five people, aged 22 to 72, were arrested in Quebec Thursday on charges of allegedly selling used vehicles with their odometers rolled back an average 100,000 kilometres.
RCMP Federal Investigation Section investigators determined that among the vehicles were a 1999 GMC Savana and a 2004 Ford F-150, with their odometers rolled back 400,000 kilometres and 395,000 kilometres respectively.
The five, whose places of business have been closed since October 2007, face some 334 charges after allegedly defrauding at least 332 victims. The fraud was estimated at close to $6,115,000.
"The suspects allegedly used three places of business to commit the offences," an RCMP statement said. "The majority of the vehicles had been purchased in Ontario, but some also came from Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the United States."
The investigation was launched after a consumer complaint. An initial search warrant was executed in June 2007 at one of the dealerships, north of Montreal, resulting in the seizure of 53 vehicles, which were suspected of having been tampered with. The total value of the vehicles seized was $635,000.
Quebec RCMP were assisted by Mounties from other parts of the country in the investigation, including Ontario, B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.
Couldn't wait for landing, baby born on medical flight
Published: Monday, February 25, 2008
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
It didn't take a Quebec newborn long to earn his wings.
Nicolas Turgeon was born on a medical flight approaching landing Friday morning near Montreal airport, his mother, Josee Simard, said from her St. Justine hospital room.
"It comes to a point where nature does its work. I looked at the doctor and told him I wasn't able to hold it off much longer," she said. "The doctor was seeing the hair on its head, so he realized he didn't have a choice. It had to happen on the plane."
Thirty-three weeks into her pregnancy, Simard, 25, was told the boy she was expecting could not be delivered in her hospital in Rouyn-Noranda, 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal, because it lacked the facilities to handle a premature birth.
"The policy is that if the baby is under 34 weeks into the pregnancy they must transfer to a major centre in Montreal or Quebec City," she explained. "I was two days short of 34 weeks so the procedure had to be followed and I had to be transferred."
Boarding the flight Friday morning Josee said she could feel contractions. They gradually grew closer together and became more intense as the planet took off for the hour-long flight.
The nurse and doctor told her "breathe" and "don't push" in the hopes of delaying the birth until landing, but Nicolas was born as the plane approached Montreal's Trudeau airport.
Josee said she was relieved there were no complications and the baby, weighing slightly over two kilograms, was breathing properly when he was born, somewhere near Montreal.
While the mother was rushed to hospital in an ambulance after landing, Nicolas' father, Martin Turgeon, was driving somewhere between Rouyn-Noranda and Montreal trying desperately to make it in time to see his son's birth.
Luck wasn't on his side, however, because he was neither allowed on the medical plane, nor able to find a seat on a commercial flight as Quebec colleges let their students go for a week-long break.
"As soon as I could, I got in touch with him to tell him and make sure he took his time on the road," she said. "He was disappointed. He would have wanted to be there for his son's birth."
Josee said she was also disappointed by strictness of the policies.
"It's obvious that everyone would have preferred staying in Rouyn-Noranda to give birth," she said. "Especially since I was just two days short, we find it was a bit ridiculous, that's for sure. But it seems we didn't have the choice."
A professional services director at the hospital said regulations must be respected to the letter in case of premature births.
"We don't know in what state the baby will come out, 10 to 15 per cent of babies can have major complications," said Annie Leger, who added that there were delays before the plane could arrive to pick up Simard.
Canadian cities looking good as Monopoly voting nears end
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Canadian cities were showing their civic pride, and then some, as the battle to earn a spot on the new international Monopoly board game comes to a close on Thursday.
Online voting ends at 7 p.m. ET for cities that will occupy a space on Monopoly's upcoming World Edition and three Canadian cities were in the race to clinch a spot on Hasbro's famous board.
Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are among 68 world cities being considered for inclusion in the international version and Quebec's metropolis was holding the No. 2 spot when the leader board stopped showing the ranking, to add suspense to the last days of voting.
Montreal led the board for much of February. Vancouver ranked No. 13 and Toronto was just short of qualifying at the time, ranking No. 21.
Only the top 20 cities earn a spot on the board known for making Marvin Gardens a household name.
The cities will be placed on the board "from highest rent property to lowest rent property" according to their voting tallies, which leaves Montreal in a strong position to secure one of the valued spots usually occupied by the likes of Boardwalk or Park Place.
Hasbro won't be short on suspense because the final results will not be unveiled Thursday but only in August, said Donetta Allen a spokeswoman for Hasbro.
Nor does all the voting end right away because two more Canadian cities, Quebec City and Winnipeg will be competing in another round of voting to pick the top two "wild card" cities suggested by voters.
As of Wednesday Quebec City was No. 2 and Winnipeg No. 7 among the cities vying for one of these "low rent" Monopoly spots.
The game goes on sale in September in 45 countries. Hasbro says some 4.5 million votes have been cast on the website for the world vote.
What sounds like fun and games was being taken quite seriously by city officials, businesses and media organizations which spread the word of voting for their cities.
Full-blown campaigns on the social networking site Facebook and other Internet sites have boosted the fortunes of Canada's three candidate cities, with one single group boasting 10,000 members. But similar campaigns across the world have made contenders out of unlikely cities such as Gdynia, Poland, which topped in the "wild card" voting Wednesday.
Rose bushes named after missing Quebec girl being sold
Published: Tuesday, March 04
TROIS-RIVIERES, Que. - A collection of rose bushes is being sold in Quebec to raise money for the ongoing search of a 10-year-old girl missing since last summer.
The effort also aims to start a foundation in her name.
Some 2,500 rose bushes are known in Quebec as the Cedrika Provencher rose bush, named after the Trois-Rivieres girl who disappeared on July 31. About 1,000 of them have already been sold at $25 a piece.
"We found a rose bush is representative of Cedrika and other missing children. Like a child it requires care, it's fragile and needs to be looked after," said Claire Lefebvre, who has raised thousands of dollars for the family to help their search efforts by organizing fundraising events such as suppers and hockey games.
She says that even if the hopes of finding the girl are dimming the rose bushes can draw attention to the risks children face, such as kidnapping, she said.
"Yesterday a woman told us her girl was approached by a man who wanted to grab her but (she) broke free and ran away. When her mother asked her why she chose not to follow him she said 'I don't want to end up like Cedrika'," Lefebvre said. "If Cedrika's story... can save lives, we can say we've accomplished something."
Lefebvre says the roses, chosen by Cedrika's father, have a long stem and are a mixture of bright yellow and burgundy red.
"It's a rose bush acclimatized to Quebec's harsh winters," she said. "It represents the girl well and is a colour she would have approved of."
A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the girl's discovery.
Snowmobile explosions in north spark warning
Published: Wednesday, March 05
Canwest News Service
Gentlemen, stop your engines.
Transport Canada and Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. are asking owners of specific Quebec-built snowmobile models to park their vehicles while inspectors determine the cause of three explosions in Labrador this winter, after fires involving the fuel systems.
The models are 2007 and 2008 Skandic SWT V-800 and Expedition SUV SDI 600 snowmobiles.
All the incidents occurred around Rigolet, on the north coast of Labrador, in extremely cold temperatures.
"After the third incident, Transport Canada decided to recommend that the vehicles not be used until we determine the cause for the fires and explosions," Maryse Durette of Transport Canada said.
While she said investigators will be looking into a number of probable causes - including the cold and how the snowmobiles were assembled, and will then focus on local issues such as the local gas supply and use of oil - BRP spokesperson Johanne Denault emphasized yesterday that "no manufacturer defects were found."
The snowmobiles are manufactured at BRP's Valcourt plant in the Eastern Townships.
Denault said a total of 1,000 of those models have been sold across the country. She described them as being used more for transportation than recreation.
"Investigators will look into this as thoroughly as they can, as quickly as they can, keeping in mind that in certain regions of the north (snowmobiles) are essential everyday tools," Durette said.
One of the snowmobiles has been sent to Transport Canada's facilities in Ottawa for examination.
Permafrost may force Quebec town to move
Published: Tuesday, March 11
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Officials in one of Quebec's northernmost communities are meeting with regional, provincial government officials and geologists this week to consider whether change to the permafrost will force the town to move in the near future.
Salluit, home to some 1,100 native villagers, is located in a basin close to the Hudson Strait and has been plagued by landslides, crater-ridden roads and sinking buildings over the years, says Adamie Papigatuk, the town's representative at the Kativik regional government.
"We might move further inland, move to the west or the east (of its present location), or the last-resort option would be total relocation," he said.
These options are going to be on the table at a meeting Wednesday bringing together local officials, Laval University scientists and representatives of Quebec's Municipal Affairs.
"We're doing precautionary measures, there's no immediate danger," Papigatuk said, pointing out further studies will get a two-year mandate, keeping an eventual move from taking place before then.
Some roads in town are in terrible shape with large holes, he said, and unstable ground and landslides have required 16 social housing units and a firehouse to be displaced in the last decade.
Papigatuk said he was hoping to have a clearer picture of the town's options after meeting with the scientists, who have set up instruments across town to measure the temperature of the permafrost.
"The potential problem is the permafrost," he said. "We have a thick layer of ice four meters below (ground level), according to the studies."
A Laval University geologist involved in previous studies on the town says much of the expanding community is on unstable ground.
"The community is located in a difficult physical location (because it sits in a series of valleys), they have development needs because of the growing population, but there is lack of stable ground to build infrastructures on," said Richard Fortier. "Some infrastructures have already been built on potentially unstable grounds."
He says that while climate change in itself can affect the permafrost, the infrastructure itself, such as paved roads which draw sunrays, thus warming the soil, are a threat to the permafrost, making the ground unstable.
Paving roads can seem like a good idea because it can clear the air in communities swirling in the dust during summer, but the methods have to be adapted to the region, Fortier said.
Contractors must have advanced knowledge of the region's particular land conditions to build anything because the rules of the South don't apply, he stressed.
"Using the same methods used in the South guarantees failure," he said.
He cited as example the spanking new firehouse, which was placed directly on the ground but became unstable after it was heated and housed a fire truck, melting the permafrost below. It eventually had to be moved.
Construction in the region, leaving a space between a home's floor and the ground, was adapted to the town's needs with time, Fortier observed. But he said he feared that cost-cutting measures could jeopardize such methods adapted to the permafrost.
Adding climate change to the mix guaranteed a perfect storm of elements hampering the stability of the soil in town, he said.
A deadly avalanche which killed nine people in the northern Quebec community of Kangiksualujjuaq in 1999 sparked a series of province-wide studies on ground stability in the North, Fortier said.
Roof collapse kills three
Canwest News Service
MORIN HEIGHTS, Que. -- All three women pulled Wednesday from the rubble of a building whose roof collapsed under the weight of snow have died.
Barbara Elliott, 54, her fellow employee Sharon Kirkpatrick, 62, and a 46-year-old woman were trapped inside a warehouse belonging to The Gourmet du Village, a food and homestyles company, when the roof fell in just before 1 p.m.
All three were pronounced dead in hospital.
Quebec provincial police had earlier said they had recovered three seriously injured women from the debris of the Quebec bakery but were not able to specify what condition the women had been in when they were found. Footage from a TV helicopter showed rescue crews taking three people from the rubble on stretchers.The town's mayor, Michel Plante, said the families of the three had been notified.
The Gourmet du Village, with a staff of about 150, sells gourmet products around the world, Plante said.He said 45 people worked in the bakery's warehouse, though not all were inside during the time of the collapse. Employers reported the women missing when they did not exit the building with the others.
As the roof collapsed, one of the walls also fell over onto at least six cars parked in the adjacent lot.
"There was a loud crack and then there was a big boom and I saw the roof collapse behind me," Patrick Routhier, an employee of the bakery told Radio-Canada. "I managed to get out. People were screaming and struggling to get out."
He described the missing women as production employees he would run into every day.
"They're good people we work with day in, day out," he said. "This is difficult for us, we're anxious to get some news."
Massive snowfalls have caused a number of roof collapses in Quebec this winter. This week, a shopping mall in the Montreal area was evacuated because of fears over the weight of the snow.
Last week, a pavilion of Laval University in Quebec City was evacuated following similar fears.
Canada Post looking for ways to ward off Fido
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, March 23, 2008
Canada Post isn't sure who let the dogs out, but the Crown corporation says something needs to be done to protect letter carriers from canine attacks.
Dogs sink their teeth into about 300 mail carriers a year, said spokesman John Caines. "Some (attacks) are very serious, some are debilitating, some cause work loss, some require medical attention," Caines said.
The carriers have been told to use their satchels for protection, and they carry pepper spray - but they don't always have time to get it out, and the spray can blow back in their faces, Caines said.
One female carrier in Chatham, Ont., for instance, was mauled by two pit bulls more than a year ago after they rushed through a screen door, knocked her down - breaking both her wrists - and took part of her ear off, Caines said.
More recently, a mail carrier in the West was bitten in the face by a doberman.
"We're going on people's properties and dogs are very protective," said Caines, who notes the corporation engages in a public service campaign every year to remind dog owners to be more responsible.
But it's not just dogs: bears, cats, bees - even two-legged attackers post a threat.
One letter carrier was seriously scratched in the face by a vicious cat last year. And in the summertime, bees' and hornets' nests around houses can be hazardous.
Sometimes the threat stands on two legs:_carriers are occasionally assaulted or held at gunpoint by people hoping to find valuables in the mail.
"We carry cheques, parcels and other things that are valuable to people, that those who aren't so scrupulous might be looking to get," Caines said.
That's why the Crown corporation asked manufacturers last week to submit proposals for the perfect weapon.
"We want to see what technology exists or is in the process of being developed that can help us protect our employees," Caines said.
Canada Post is giving manufacturers until the end of the month to suggest devices that are portable, that can be easily be grasped and activated, and are equipped with a safety feature.
At least four dead in fishing boat mishap off Alaska
Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, March 24, 2008
Four of the crew of a Seattle-based fishing vessel were killed and an another is missing as the ship took on water Sunday off the coast of Alaska, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Efforts to find one member of the crew of 47 with aid of a C-130 plane remained under way late Sunday, said Petty Officer Walter Shinn.
"There is one person missing that the Coast Guard cutter Munro is searching throughout the night for," he said.
The 55-metre Alaska Ranger began sinking 180 kilometres west of Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island around 2:50 a.m. and the crew notified the U.S. Coast Guard it had lost control of its rudder and was taking on water.
"We don't know what the cause (was) but we do know they were having rudder problems this morning," Shinn said. "The Alaska Ranger began talking on water and they abandoned ship . . . into inflatable crafts."
Other crew members were taken aboard the Munro and a local fishing vessel.
Pilgrims trace steps of first Canadian missionaries
Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, March 25
A group of about a dozen pilgrims is on a 64-day 1,600-kilometre trek to Quebec City in the leadup to the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress.
Marchers took to the pavement in Midland, Ont. Easter Sunday carrying the Ark of the New Covenant - a wooden work of art created especially for the congress and blessed by the pope.
The pilgrimage is expected to visit 10 Canadian dioceses and five national shrines and end up in Quebec City on May 25.
"I took a few days to prepare myself physically and mentally," participant Charles Maillot told Église Catholique du Quebec TV before leaving.
"We'll be travelling in the steps of the first Canadian missionaries - it's very motivating."
Participants will travel by foot and occasionally vehicle to complete their trek in time.
Stops will include St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, Notre-Dame-du-Cap sanctuary in Cap de la Madeleine, and Sainte Anne de Beaupré in Beaupré.
Provincial police were working with the group to ensure the safety of marchers.
Cape Breton distillery defends product's name
From Star News Services
Published: Tuesday, April 08, 2008
GLENVILLE, N.S. -- A Cape Breton distiller says it will appeal a Federal Court decision to refuse to register a trademark for its 'Glen Breton' single malt whisky.
Glenora Distillers president Lauchie MacLean said he was "very disappointed" by the ruling but would press ahead in order to keep the name of the product.
The Scotch Whisky Association welcomed the decision Monday because it argues "use of the word 'Glen', which is widely used on Scotch Whisky ... was confusing and misleading to consumers."
MacLean says there is no mistaking the product because the Maple Leaf and word 'Canada' are featured prominently on the packaging.
The Federal Court ruling overturns a 2007 Canadian trademark commission decision to approve the trademark. The decision could have serious economic ramifications for Glenora Distillers, MacLean says. The dispute has been dragging since 2000.
"The Scotch Whisky Association believes that they own the word 'Glen' when it comes to Whisky," MacLean said.
Que. woman sues doctors over unnecessary radiation treatment
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, April 09, 2008
An accountant has launched a $2.5-million lawsuit in Quebec Superior Court against three doctors she claims subjected her to unnecessary brain radiation treatment to combat a cancer she didn't have. Ginette Cloutier-Cabana, 41, was misdiagnosed as having cancer when she checked into a Montreal hospital in 1995 for a chronic headache, and is going after three doctors who handled her case. "This case is about a woman who had aneurysms but she was diagnosed as having brain [cancer] and she received radiation on her whole brain, which she should never have received," said her attorney Annette Lefebvre. "As a result of that she suffers from long-term effects from radiation, which are chronic and progressive with time, that's part of the proof and allegations which we'll be making." None of the allegations have been proven in court. Lefebvre will claim that the radiation left Cloutier-Cabana "more vulnerable to having a stroke, that if she had a stroke the extent of it would be greater and the recovery of the [brain] tissue would be diminished because of the radiation." Cloutier-Cabana suffered a stroke after the second of two surgeries to treat the aneurysms. She had just completed her accounting exams before the ordeal began and "is not working to her full capacity," Lefebvre added. Her attorney is seeking damages related to the "pain, suffering and inconvenience" of the experience as well as dealing with the shock of learning she would have months to live, when she was incorrectly diagnosed as having cancer. The complaint also considers the long-term effects of radiation, which expertise and medical literature has shown creates "chronic and progressive long-term issues. . . such as significantly increased chance of radiation-induced brain tumours and early onset of dementia, among other problems," Lefebvre said. On Tuesday Lefebvre called a medical specialist to testify in the case about the risks of radiation on the brain. Lefebvre says she has had great difficulty finding medical specialists to testify against their peers. "It's a very sad case and this woman has suffered tremendously," she added. Lawyers for the doctors could not be reached for comments. The trial, which began this week, is expected to last 20 days.
Premiers urge ban on seal pick
Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2008
ST. JOHN'S, Nfld -- The premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut Tuesday called for the immediate ban of a traditional seal hunting tool in an effort to avoid a European ban of seal products. The hakapik -- a long stick tipped with sharp hooks that some hunters use to kill seals and drag their carcasses -- is often used by protesters to portray the annual hunt as inhumane. But the hakapik, also became an issue of controversy during a recent sealing advocacy delegation to Europe sponsored by Ottawa. The premiers met European leaders on the overseas tour who expressed concern to both leaders about the use of the tool. On Tuesday, the premiers issued a statement against the use of the hakapik. "There are some images that stick with the general public, and the hakapik is one image that is used continually, and is used to lobby against our hunt, throughout Canada," Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik was reported as saying. "Even though we don't use the hakapik, we are impacted by it." In Nunavut, rifles and harpoons are used. Most hunters use guns during the hunt, while only 5% relied on the hakapik in Newfoundland's leg of the hunt. "I am advised that within each country the use of the hakapik was a dominant issue and continues to be viewed in an extremely negative manner," Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said in a statement. "These are the very countries that are in the process of deciding whether or not to ban the importation of seal products from Canada." However, Mr. Williams said he does not support the view that the hakapik is inhumane. "It's [been] proven to be humane and is an accepted method. However, there's a perception in the public that it appears to be a particularly brutal form of killing," he was reported as saying yesterday. Noting a European Union vote on a possible ban is scheduled for June, Mr. Williams said he and Mr. Okalik were "prepared to move quickly and decisively," on the issue. The leaders said they had written a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressing the matter. "The Canadian delegation was told repeatedly that a ban of this tool may prove to dispel some of the negative opinions regarding the Canadian seal harvest. "Clearly, this is a core issue in Europe and is used as part of the anti-sealing rhetoric that is being put forward to their policy and decision-makers," Mr. Williams said. Banning the hakapik "is an opportunity to disarm them of something that is used negatively against our sealers," he added. "It's a real image problem for our industry that we have to change, so that our industry can continue to survive and hopefully thrive in the future," Mr. Okalik said. Mr. Williams points out a European ban could seriously hurt regional economies that rely on the annual hunt -- a 1983 European ban on the importation of whitecoats and bluebacks "reduced the total Inuit income in Labrador alone by one-third, and it had a tremendous negative impact on aboriginal communities." He noted some 16,000 sealers across Canada depended on the hunt to make a living in areas where other employment was scarce. "Both independent veterinarians and the European Food and Safety Authority have recognized the Canadian seal harvest as one of the one of the most humane harvests of marine mammals in the world," Mr. Williams said.
Don't ban hakapik, say sealers and activists
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Calls for banning the hakapik from the seal hunt have accomplished something unexpected: they've made both sealers and activists agree on something -- that a ban isn't a good idea. Sealers say removing the traditional tool, consisting of a long stick tipped with sharp hooks, could make the hunt less safe, while animal rights protesters say it would only prolong the suffering of dying seals and will do nothing to improve the image of the hunt. On Tuesday the premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut called for the immediate ban of the pick, which is often used by protesters to portray the annual hunt as inhumane. Sealers say they understand the government is sensitive about the image of the seal hunt, as Europe ponders a possible ban on seal products, but say banning the hakapik could make the hunt more dangerous. "The hakapik is a device they use for manoeuvering on the ice and dispatching seals where necessary," said Frank Pinhorn of the Canadian Sealers Association. "So they use the hakapik out on the ice for a safety device to help. . . If you're going to take that away what would sealers use in [its] place?" It could not only impact their safety but would make it hard to follow regulations put in place by veterinarians to kill seals, which he says stress, "crushing the hemisphere of the skull" to bleed them out. Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society of the United States says removing the hakapik would increase the suffering of seals because seals shot during the hunt are often just wounded by the first bullet. If the hakapik is removed from the commercial seal hunt sealers will have to cut open live conscious animals, which she stressed is not only "an extremely cruel act" but a violation of regulations. "The fact [the premiers are] willing to increase the suffering of seals to appease European decision-makers is an extremely disappointing thing," she said. Ms. Aldworth says the ban would do nothing to improve the image of the seal hunt. "Some of the worst examples of cruelty that I've documented out at the commercial seal hunt involve those seals that are shot and wounded and left bleeding on the ice floes. . . it continues for several minutes until the sealers are able to reach the seals to finish them off."
Tensions expected as inmates told to butt out
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
Published: Sunday, April 20, 2008
As the Correctional Service of Canada prepared for next month's smoking ban in its prisons across the country, it met with resistance from regional staff and inmate groups that predict trouble ahead according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service. Officials from Quebec's federal institutions and inmate groups consulted across the country expressed serious reservations about a complete ban, documents obtained through Access to Information show. CSC banned indoor smoking in its prisons in 2006 but the new rules will mean an end to smoking outdoors as well starting in early May. A number of institutions nationwide expressed concerns about the ban, raising fears of rising tensions possibly leading to violence. They feared cigarettes will become a top contraband item or that inmates would move on to harder drugs. A document on regional positions about implementing a total ban stated Quebec institutions were "not ready to support a total ban," stressing regional concerns that inmates would be denied rights enjoyed by the rest of the population. "We can hardly curb access to drugs, how do we think we are going to be able to control access to tobacco, which is a legal substance?" questioned one warden from Archambault Institution in Quebec. Quebec was supposed to completely ban smoking in its provincial correctional institutions this year but has ultimately allowed smoking in courtyards, said Real Roussy, a spokesman for the Quebec correctional system. "(Quebec's) public security minister asked officials to consider reducing potential difficulties faced by inmates related to the fact they could no longer smoke. So a proposal was made to allow inmates to smoke in courtyards," he said. Other concerns were also expressed with regards to inmates with mental disabilities, expected to react negatively to the ban. Officials, however, insist aboriginal religious and spiritual rights would be accommodated for special ceremonies that traditionally required tobacco. Just two of Canada's five correctional regions were in favour of a ban at all levels, two others preferring a "differentiated ban" that would implement a total ban in maximum and medium-security institutions but allow for more liberties in minimum-security institutions. Inmate committees consulted by CSC, meanwhile, were overwhelmingly against a total ban, warning of it would possibly lead to cases of "serious confrontation and possible damage." According to a 2002 study, about 72 per cent of the inmate population smokes. While the indoor smoking ban resulted in no major incidents, according to CSC, officials were reporting some 9,000 offences by March 2007 - about 16 per cent of all disciplinary charges for the period - resulting in over 400 serious charges, all related to the smoking ban. Documents obtained by Canwest News Service refer to the indoor ban as having been "ineffective" since it either failed to improve air quality or created new risks as inmates illegally lit up in their cells by using electrical outlets or wicks, creating noxious fumes and sometimes even sparking fires. Some wardens reported an increase in incidents, some fearing a total ban would be even more disruptive. "Increased tension between staff and inmates is evident on a daily basis," reported warden Floyd Wilson of Bowden Institution in Alberta, last May. "If we maintain this course of action it is only a matter of time staff become apathetic towards the present smoking policy." "Many view the disciplinary system as an ineffective deterrent against an addiction to tobacco and note that tensions have increased between staff and offenders," reported one briefing note to Public Security Minister Stockwell Day, who supports a total ban. In Prairie institutions, there's agreement "that the current policy on the indoor smoking ban has been very difficult, if not impossible, to manage," according to another document listing regional positions. Others warned a total ban would present its own set of problems. "Tobacco would become a new currency of choice. While many inmates are able to abstain or are not attracted to illicit drugs because they are not addicted to it, tobacco products would appeal to the vast majority of inmates incarcerated," wrote the warden for New Brunswick's Westmorland Institution. Atlantic institutions indicated they support a total ban, which they feel would eliminate second-hand smoke, but note initial implementation is "likely to lead to a period of disruptive behaviours with the potential for escalation to riotous behaviour," according to a regional summary prepared for CSC's executive. "We are proceeding with the implementation of a total smoking ban on May 5," said corrections spokeswoman Melanie Carkner. "There are measures in place to assist offenders with smoking cessation aids." Federal officials say implementation issues will eventually die down since most provinces and territories have been able to implement total smoking bans in their detention facilities, but note some of those governments have had to face legal challenges on the restrictions. Unions say a complete ban will end many difficulties created by the indoor ban. Labour unions representing guards, who sometimes refused to work and even threatened to sue CSC due to poor air quality after the indoor ban came into effect, say they've pressed from the beginning for a complete smoking ban to eliminate second-hand smoke. Since 2006 they've complained guards have become the "smoking police," spending too much time babysitting inmates rather than looking out for more dangerous offences. Jason Godin of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said he expected the smoking ban to be gradually phased in starting May 5. He said the union would be prepared to deal with possible tensions but expected the transition to occur smoothly. "We're going to be ready for that with additional staff if required and certainly looking at being able to respond as quickly as possible should there be any problems," he said. But advocacy groups warn the ban will do anything but settle current problems. "You can only push people so far before they won't take it anymore," said Glenn Flett, a former inmate and now director of a prisoners' advocacy group. "Some guys have been smoking for 25 years and they're serving life sentences. They're not going to accept it." Corrections officials say they've already spent some $2.4 million for programs aimed at getting inmates to butt out. But sometimes those remedies have turned into drugs themselves as inmates dissolved nicotine patches in water to extract pure nicotine that was either injected or ingested - when they weren't simply smoking them. In Alberta they were eventually banned.
Canadian man caught in border bind
Thursday, April 10, 2008 By Ken Meaney and Phil Couvrette
Canwest News Service The family of an elderly Canadian man who has to cross U.S. soil to get to his home say an American border crackdown has cut him off and left him in a no man's land.
Nikolaj Pedersen, 85, lives in FourFalls, N.B., but the road to his home cuts briefly through theU.S.
His daughter, Joyce Pedersen, says for years there were no problems making the short jaunt through American soil. She says her father has lived in the same home for over 60 years and she and her siblings grew up with American friends.
Pedersen said the unique situation wasn't a problem until after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. That's when U.S. customs agents started rigidly enforcing rules on border crossings.
It eased up for a while, but just last week, border agents stopped her father's mail from being delivered and put up a roadblock, she said.
``The barricade is down, but we have been informed they would like to close the road off completely and that would leave him ... we don't know. Because if he leaves his property he is entering the U.S. and it would be difficult for him to come into Canada,'' she said.
If the U.S. authorities go ahead with plans to block the road, it would mean a 27-minute detour for her father to leave his land or for anyone to visit him, she said. Even now, visitors have to check in twice - once with the U.S. Border Patrol in Fort Fairfield, Me., and then with the Canadians.
``For a while, when the (U.S.) border patrol were local people, they would know us and it wouldn't be a hassle. But now they're bringing in border patrols from down state and they don't know us and they're there to enforce the law,'' she said.
``There's no flexibility. They're not looking at this and saying `OK, where's the humane component to this?' They're just enforcing the law.''
Pedersen said the situation has caused great stress for her father, who is still active but had major surgery last fall.
``He's having a difficult time eating and sleeping, and it's just another anxiety or stress he doesn't need.''
Pedersen said there has to be a solution that recognizes her father's unique circumstances.
``They could put an American customs stop next to the Canadian one (about a kilometre from his home),'' she said, ``or they could both work out of the same building.''
Another possibility is to build an access road to it across her father's property, she said.
His American neighbour Clarence Clark, who's known the family for decades and says he's surprised he doesn't have the same problems, says U.S. officials are making an example out of Pedersen.
``I can't say the Border Patrol is wrong - this has been going on for 100 years around here - but they want to make a statement and they're dumping it on the Pedersens.''
``They're the best people in the world,'' he added of his neighbours.
The U.S. Border Patrol said that it would not comment on the issue on Thursday.
Le Journal labour strife is 1 year old
PHIL COUVRETTE, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, April 22
Locked-out and striking employees of the Quebecor Inc. tabloid the Journal de Québec were preparing to mark the first anniversary of their labour dispute today with a march on the daily newspaper's offices while union officials conceded negotiations were dead in the water. The lockout/strike began April 22, 2007. The Journal has continued to publish, and the workers have published their own newspaper, MediaMatinQuebec, which is distributed free, and urged readers to boycott the tabloid. Union spokesman Denis Bolduc said negotiations are at an impasse. "Maybe one day positions will be close enough to return to the negotiating table, but it's really not the case," he said. "There's no meeting scheduled for the next days, weeks or month." Quebecor has been asking to extend the newspaper's four-day workweek of 32 hours to five days and 37.5 hours. It also wants more flexibility, requiring reporters to occasionally take photographs, something it deems "not unreasonable in the age of citizen journalism." The conflict raised the issue of media convergence in Quebec as management wants reporters to produce work not just for the newspaper, but also for Quebecor's Canoe website and LCN cable network, and for the TVA network. "It's never been a matter of asking Journal de Québec journalists to do the work of their TVA colleagues," Quebecor said in a statement yesterday. "However management wants journalists to acquire a different rhythm, feeding the Journal's website in real time. This way of doing things has become the norm everywhere else in North America." But the union said Canoe reporters, who would otherwise not be in Quebec City, have been acting as scabs during the labour strife. A complaint has been filed with Quebec's labour-relations board against 17 workers. "We're saying there are people from Canoe and other journalists and photographers doing the job we were doing at the Journal," Bolduc said. Journal reporters would remain the best-paid in Canada under its deal, Quebecor said, but the company has refused arbitration, is already contracting out its classified ads to a call centre, and printing and administrative jobs would be lost over time. Quebecor said declining readership and ad revenues have spurred the need to change its newsroom. But Bolduc argued this didn't apply to Quebec, where the Journal was healthy. "The battle is to maintain quality jobs in Quebec, avoid a transfer of those jobs elsewhere, guarantee quality local news and avoid becoming a carbon-copy of the Journal de Montréal."
Unions slam massive cuts at Quebec broadcaster
Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2008
MONTREAL - The unions representing employees of troubled French-language network TQS denounced as "savage" cuts announced at the broadcaster on Wednesday. Some 270 employees at stations stretched across Quebec are expected to be handed their pink slips, and the network will ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to amend its licence so it no longer needs to produce a news broadcast. The nine unions representing employees say they are shocked they were not consulted during the restructuring process. "The unions have always collaborated with the employer since December, but it never considered an alternate to massive job cuts," said union president Luc Bessette. TQS was acquired by Remstar Corp. from Cogeco Inc. this spring after becoming insolvent last December. "The financial relaunch plan announced today can seem severe but it is a reflection of the severity of the company's financial problems," said management spokesman Tony Porrello. The company says it lost $18 million over the last year, racking up an accumulated deficit of $71 million. It says too many TV channels in Quebec were already producing news programs, up to four times a day, not including all-news channels.
Five more arrested as Montreal gears up for playoff game
Published: Thursday, April 24, 2008
MONTREAL -- Police said they arrested five more people connected to Monday evening's riot downtown Montreal following an NHL playoff hockey game. Security was also being beefed up for tonight's second-round playoff game at the Bell Centre. That brings the total to 28 people arrested, with more arrests expected as police gather information from videos and photos pouring into their offices from spectators. "We got wonderful public support in arresting a lot of the people," said Paul Chablo of the Montreal police. Many of the suspects arrested have already appeared in court and were promptly released with a promise to appear at a later date. Montreal police say they are getting help tonight from their provincial and federal counterparts, the Surete du Quebec and the RCMP, in order to make sure there is no repeat of Monday's rampage. "It's not rare, we work with the RCMP and the provincial police on a regular basis, whether it's in information sharing or operational planning," Chablo said. Police released six more photos of people causing problems Monday night and posted videos of Habs players, on the police's website, asking fans to behave. "When you celebrate make sure you do it the right way, with happiness and respect," Mike Komisarek is recoded as saying. "We can celebrate without causing trouble," Francis Bouillon says in French. Police have been visiting area businesses, some of which were hit by the vandals, to give them prevention tips on how to prepare, but said there are no immediate plans to shut downtown streets when the fans leave the arena. "We tell them [businesses] if you can make sure there are no loose objects in front of the store [that could serve as projectiles] and to, if possible, not put objects of value in the window, and if possible to maybe be present in the early part of the evening" he said. "And if they think anything looks suspicious they should call 911." "Our goal is to reassure them, I believe we have reassured most of them," Chablo added. "Our police presence will be increased. Our message is clear: anybody who wants to make trouble will be arrested."
Three dead after N.S. fishing boat sinks
Published: Sunday, April 27, 2008
LARRY'S RIVER, N.S. - Search and rescue teams recovered the bodies of three young men who had gone missing after their boat took on water on Saturday. "There's one lone survivor and the other three bodies have been recovered," said Sgt. Mark Gallagher of the RCMP. The fishing boat carrying the four had started taking on water at 7 p.m. on Saturday on Fougere Lake. "They took on more water and it became a very difficult situation where they had to abandon the boat and once they did one was able to reach shore but the other three weren't able to," said Gallagher, who added three of the men were aged 25 and the fourth 27. Police said they were waiting to notify next of kin before identifying the dead. The search effort began Saturday evening and Cormorant and RCMP helicopters joined the search effort overnight, the latter being equipped with a heat-seeking device. On Sunday morning a dive team was brought in to join the search and recovered the last bodies at mid-afternoon, Gallagher said. The first body had been recovered late Saturday night.
Inmates getting ready to butt out ... except in Quebec provincial prisons
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2008
OTTAWA - The Correctional Service of Canada says it is going to implement a total smoking ban in its prisons by phasing it in, following the example of many provinces, but in Quebec smoking will still be allowed in provincial institutions. The CSC banned indoor smoking in its prisons in 2006, but the new rules will mean an end to smoking outdoors as well. Jean-Yves Roy of the Quebec branch of the CSC says the ban will begin in maximum-security prisons on May 5, followed by mid-level institutions on May 20 and minimum-security institutions on June 2. Provincially, "it's prohibited to smoke in detention facilities in (the other) 12 provinces and territories," Roy said. In January, British Columbia banned smoking in its remaining provincial institutions. It was supposed to be joined by Quebec in February, but the Public Security Ministry overturned that decision. The reversal occurred shortly after a riot broke out at a Quebec City-area prison but officials deny the disturbance had anything to do with the smoking ban. Smoking rights groups don't agree. "The (public security minister) backed off immediately," said Arminda Mota of Mychoice.ca. "The ban was supposed to come into effect on Feb. 5, but there was a riot during the previous night. ... Of course the minister denied (changing this decision) had anything to do with it." "Tensions weren't necessarily related to smoking that night," said public security ministry spokeswoman Emilie Rouleau. She said, however, that the ban was dropped on Feb. 8 to "reduce tensions in prisons because a total ban raised tensions." Smoking is allowed outdoors in provincial facilities, and Rouleau said there were no plans for a total smoking ban. Internal CSC documents obtained by Canwest News Service reported resistance from regional staff and inmate groups nationwide that predict trouble ahead when the ban comes into effect. In particular, they singled out Quebec federal institutions as being "not ready to support a total ban." Mota said the ban is going to increase tensions, make cigarettes a hot contraband item and is bound to fail because prison guards are already unable to control the flow of drugs. Roy said federal prisons have prepared inmates for the transition. "We've been informing inmates since last summer, they've been told about various cessation methods and have been given products to help stop smoking," he said. "We realize it's not an easy thing (to quit smoking) but (the ban) is a health and security matter to protect our environment."
Boomer the fugitive lion heads to a Que. zoo
Published: Thursday, May 01, 2008
The lion that had been roaming around the bush in western Quebec for two days until his capture Thursday, will now call Quebec's Granby Zoo home. Zoo workers confirmed Boomer, a six-month-old African lion, will move to the facility near Montreal. "Officials quickly wanted to find a place that was safe, where he would be well treated and comfortable," said spokeswoman Catherine Page. "We're very happy to provide this service and accept him."
On Tuesday night, Boomer escaped from its owner, Stanley Dumont-Whiteduck, a resident of an Algonquin First Nation reserve in Maniwaki, about 135 kilometres north of Ottawa. This sparked a search Wednesday, involving officers from the reserve and the Quebec provincial police, as well as a police helicopter equipped with a heat-seeking camera. A woman from the reserve spotted the 70-kilogram cat early Thursday near the highway leading into the town. After the lion was captured, authorities put the animal in a cell block of their local jail and fed it steaks to keep it happy, police Chief Gordon McGregor said. Quebec's Ministry of Natural Resources took custody of the animal around 8 a.m. Thursday. Before Boomer can be placed in the general zoo population, he will be quarantined in a sterilized area and given a medical assessment. Blood and urine tests will be conducted to determine if he has any parasites. Page said it's unclear how long Boomer will be living at the Granby Zoo, of if it will become his new permanent home. The zoo already houses four other lions. Meanwhile, the reserve's police chief said investigators will be looking into whether Boomer's owner had a permit to own an exotic pet, or if any charges are warranted. Dumont-Whiteduck, a member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, had the lion for two days before it broke from a chain on his property and escaped. While the animal was at large, he told police Boomer was not dangerous. Even so, schools and day cares were closed while Boomer was on the loose.
Prisoners butting out but not butting heads
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, May 06, 2008
OTTAWA - Anti-smoking programs and suspected stashes of tobacco are what is helping to keep Canada's prisons quiet so far this week as a smoking ban came into effect in maximum-security federal penitentiaries across the country. The Correctional Service of Canada banned indoor smoking in its prisons in 2006, but the new rules mean no more smoking outdoors as well for maximum-security inmates since Monday. Mid-level institutions follow suit on May 20 and minimum-security institutions on June 2. "There are no incidents to report at this point," said Janine Chown, a Corrections spokeswoman for the region of Ontario. "We're only a day into it so it may be a bit early to assess the full reaction to the ban." Lyle Stewart of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said that inmates may be running on hidden supplies for now. "We think that a lot of inmates have stockpiled their tobacco and cigarettes," he said. "Correctional officers aren't everywhere all at once so unless you catch someone in the act or discover their stockpile cache they're still going to be getting away with it." He added there was concern about fighting possibly breaking out over tobacco but the "concern was if there was anything organized, on an individual basis it's a lot easier to deal with." Chown said the significant advance notice offenders were given and education and other anti-smoking programs in place meant inmates didn't have to go cold turkey. A Corrections spokesman from the Prairies, Jeff Campbell, said there were "no reports of anything unusual" in his region. "We do have precautionary measures in place if there's any incident," he added. "We're implemented things rather gradually and had a lot of information sharing in advance. We've made stop-smoking aides available to the offenders," Campbell added. "They were quite aware that this was coming." Quebec spokesman Jean-Yves Roy said 1,114 of Quebec's 3,300 inmates had taken part in a smoking cessation program at one time or another. There are fears implementation of the new ban could spark resistance in_Quebec where internal Corrections documents described the region as "not ready to support a total ban" and where inmates in provincial prisons can still smoke outdoors. Earlier this year Quebec was supposed to implement a total smoking ban at the provincial level, joining other provinces and territories, but changed its mind. Nationwide some 72 per cent of inmates smoke. On Monday Corrections released a statement stressing it had "emergency plans in place to address any disruption that may arise as a result of this new policy" including special emergency response teams. Corrections "is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for staff and inmates," the statement quotes commissioner Keith Coulter, the head of Correction, as saying. "Eliminating exposure to second-hand smoke in our institutions is an important step forward to achieve this objective." Internal Corrections_documents referred to the initial indoor ban as "ineffective" since it either failed to improve air quality or created new risks as inmates illegally lit up in their cells by using electrical outlets or wicks, creating noxious fumes and sometimes even sparking fires.
Divers remove remains from Que. plane crash
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Quebec police divers launched an operation yesterday to recover the bodies of four passengers who died when a plane crashed into a Quebec lake 50 years ago. The seaplane fell off the radar on Nov. 21, 1957 after returning from a hunting expedition. The discovery of the pilot's dead dog on the shores of Lac Simon, 75 kilometres northeast of Ottawa, led investigators to the area, but neither the wreckage nor the four passengers was found until last Oct. 4 by a diving enthusiast. A coroner then determined the wreckage and bodies had to be recovered so they could be formally identified and in order to prevent the area from drawing recreational divers. Authorities were concerned there could be a repeat of incidents surrounding the wreckage of the Empress of Ireland which sank in 1914 near Rimouski, Que. A number of divers died after getting close to the wreckage of the ship. Police spokeswoman Melanie Larouche said the divers recovered the first body and will need to raise the wreckage today in order to find the remaining ones. "They will first remove the body of the other passenger who was ejected from the plane and then the seaplane will be raised and dragged to the shore where we'll be able to recover the remaining bodies," she said. "We believe they are in the back of the plane." Nine divers were taking part in the 50-metre dive. Because of the depth, divers will be breathing a mixture of oxygen and helium called heliox. Visibility could also be a factor. A forensic team will also have its ensuing identification work cut out for it, Larouche said, noting the divers expected to find little more than the bones of the passengers. They will be sent to a laboratory in Montreal where an attempt will be made to identify them. Provincial police had thoroughly searched the lake 50 years ago, but the effort was limited by the technology of the time, Larouche said.
Second body recovered from sunken plane
Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2008
GATINEAU, Que. - Quebec provincial police divers removed a second body from the wreckage of a 1957 plane crash at the bottom of a lake Tuesday. Four passengers died in the accident shortly after the seaplane disappeared from radar screens on Nov. 21, 1957 after returning from a hunting expedition. The discovery of the pilot's dead dog on the shores of Lac Simon, some 75 kilometres northeast of Ottawa, led investigators to the area shortly after the crash, but neither the wreckage nor the four passengers were found until last Oct. 4 by a diving enthusiast. Provincial police had thoroughly searched the lake 50 years ago, but the effort was limited by the technology of the time, Larouche said. A coroner then determined the wreckage and bodies had to be recovered so they could be formally identified and in order to prevent the area from drawing recreational divers. Police recovered the first body Monday. Surete du Quebec spokeswoman Melanie Larouche said divers would be helped by a specialist to assess the best spots to attach the plane so it could be raised and dragged to the shore. Inside they hope to find the remaining two bodies. The bodies will be sent to Montreal to be identified through DNA analysis.
Mayor vows to continue with prayer recitals
Published: Friday, May 16, 2008
The Mayor of Saguenay, Que., says he intends to continue prayer recitals before council meetings despite the province's human rights commission saying the practice goes against the city's need to be neutral and respect religious rights. In a non-binding decision, the commission said yesterday that Quebec towns still reciting prayers before council meetings should stop doing so as the practice goes against well-established jurisprudence. It cited a 2006 ruling in Laval, north of Montreal, by the commission's human rights tribunal and saw no need for the matter to make its way to the tribunal again. The commission considers complaints and decides whether they should be heard by the tribunal. It is not possible to go to the tribunal without first going through the commission. "The decision was clear and said the recitation of prayer before town meetings ... contravened the need of the state to be neutral in religious matters, and infringed on rights by discriminating," said commission spokesman Robert Sylvestre. Laval stopped the prayers and the matter was never appealed, so the commission found the jurisprudence was clear and other municipalities should be inspired by it rather than wait for the next complaint, he said. Mr. Sylvestre added that the process required time and money not only from the commission but also the municipalities. The decision was in response to a complaint in Saguenay, 460 kilometres north of Montreal, filed shortly after the Laval decision and urging Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay to end the practice. But Mr. Tremblay said he would "absolutely" maintain the practice because the decision is non-binding, adding that if anything, not doing so would hurt the rights of his constituents. "They think this contravenes human rights, I agree ... some 20 people around the table want to pray and to prevent them from doing so would infringe on their rights," Mr. Tremblay said. The Mayor said the two complainants rarely attended the meetings and were opponents on a number of issues besides prayer. "I don't know why we would stop. Prayers are what we have that's most precious. To subject ourselves to the whim of some people, very few of them, just two ... is to kneel down rapidly, and we don't have the intention to stop," he said. Mr. Sylvestre said the Mayor is right that the decision cannot force a ban on prayers, but said that it does leave the complainants with the option of bringing the matter before the tribunal. The commission sided with Laval's complainant in 2003, but the city refused to comply until the tribunal ruled on it. Mr. Tremblay said he hoped the matter would not reach the tribunal. "I can't prevent them," he said. "But if they do, I'll show up." Christian Joncas, who launched the complaint with another individual , said he would bring matters to court if the next town council, scheduled in June, starts with a prayer.
Businessman abducted in Quebec
Published: Tuesday, May 20, 2008
GRANBY, Que. - Quebec provincial police are investigating the kidnapping of a 41-year-old businessman early Tuesday morning in this town southeast of Montreal. "At around 3:30 a.m. Granby police received a call (Tuesday) saying a man had been kidnapped from his home by four individuals," said Louis-Philippe Ruel of the Surete du Quebec. "This is very early in the investigation, we don't have a description of the vehicle or of potential suspects." The man was later identified as Stephane Hardy and photos of him were released in order to obtain help from the public.
Police say he was dragged out of his home by the men and into a car but their destination was unknown. "The motives of this kidnapping are not known," Ruel said, adding that police were going to question possible witnesses around the neighbourhood. They were also going to contact the family of the man. "Police will try to see if someone has seen or heard something, and if someone has any idea why the men would have wanted to abduct him," he added. "We're trying to determine whether he was abducted for a personal or a business-related reason," Ruel said, adding there was no ransom note. The Quebec provincial police were called in to help the Granby police and now the provincial force has taken over the investigation. "This man is not known to police, we don't have priors on him," Ruel said of Hardy. The kidnapping worried neighbour Nathalie Beauchemin, especially as it occurred days after the discovery of the body of political aide Nancy Michaud, who had been kidnapped from her home. "I haven't been sleeping since four o'clock because it worried me," the mother told reporters. "Especially after what we've heard about the minister and the woman who was found dead . . . that one (kidnapping) happened so soon after the other is worrisome." The suspect in that case, Francis Proulx, 29, was charged with first-degree murder Monday. Rejean Roy, member of a diving group Hardy joined, says they used to go diving together often until last year when business trips kept Hardy out of the water. Roy described Hardy as someone owning his own business which he sold before becoming a financial planner, and said having run-ins with the wrong people wasn't his style. "He's a good guy, always willing to help people," Roy said "What happened is incredible, I can't understand what happened." Granby is 80 kilometres southeast of Montreal.
Big house not big enough for Big Mike
Published: Friday, May 23, 2008
Some people call it the Big House, but Big Mike would disagree. A judge has reduced the sentence of a morbidly obese Quebec inmate serving time for drug trafficking by six months because of the painful incarceration experience the 430-pound man has endured since his arrest and detention in a prison that isn't adapted to his needs. Michel Lapointe, also known as "Big Mike," was arrested on drug-related charges in 2006, and since then his weight has ballooned well beyond the 300-plus pounds he weighed at the time. The 37-year-old man has been in prison for 20 months, and in February, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit drug-trafficking, drug-trafficking and gangsterism. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to five years in prison, minus time served, and a bonus six months were shaved off for his particularly painful adaptation to life in a prison not made for the really big and tall. "His health was deteriorating, his weight was such that there were no objects in prison made for someone like him," lawyer Clemente Monterosso said. "His bed is a foot smaller than he is. He can't even sit on a chair." Mr. Lapointe complained to the prison administration about the lack of facilities adapted to his needs, citing an undersized bed and a shower that made washing properly impossible, "but they didn't seem concerned by his grievances," his lawyer said. So Big Mike pleaded his case before the judge. Even with the six months taken off his sentence, Mr. Lapointe will still be incarcerated. "The remaining time is 14 months starting (yesterday)," Mr. Monterosso said. When Mr. Lapointe is transferred to another prison to serve his remaining sentence, he and his lawyer expect the institution "will do what it can to follow the judge's recommendation and try to accommodate him," Mr. Monterosso said. The lawyer said Mr. Lapointe may undergo surgery when he leaves prison, and he may also have to change professions. "He worked all his life as a chef," Mr. Monterosso said. "That may not be the best place to lose weight."
Lion cub's owner wants to charge Granby Zoo with theft
Published: Monday, May 26
Boomer, the lion cub that created a stir last month after escaping from his owners on the Algonquin First Nation reserve in Maniwaki, is about to become the focus of a different kind of commotion. Dennis Day, the cub's former owner, said he plans to have Granby Zoo - where Boomer is currently residing - charged with theft after the zoo didn't respond to a request for the feline's return. Day, who lives in Cobden, Ont., said he sent Granby Zoo, some 80 kilometres south of Montreal, a letter on May 16 giving it 10 days to respond.
"When the 10 days is up on this letter, we're going to have them charged with theft," said Day on Monday, the tenth day since the letter was sent. Day said since he hasn't received a reply from the zoo, he intends to begin legal action Tuesday morning at the courthouse in Pembroke, Ont. He said his "next step" after that will be to take the zoo to small-claims court. "If they want to keep him they're going to have to pay for him," Day said. Catherine Page, a spokeswoman for Granby Zoo, said they had received the letter but could not confirm if a reply was sent. "The letter was received, but I believe we issued a response saying they were knocking on the wrong door," said Page, explaining that the zoo was only acting on the request of Quebec's Ministry of Natural Resources. "We're mandated by the ministry under Quebec law. It's no use sending us (a letter). They should approach the ministry." Boomer, a six-month-old, 44-kilogram cub, escaped during the night of April 29 from the Algonquin First Nation reserve in Maniwaki, about 135 kilometres north of Ottawa. He was captured two days later and transferred to Granby Zoo. It soon emerged that the lion's original owner was Day, who sent the feline to Quebec after Family and Child Services raised concerns about the safety of Day's children. Day said that he has worked out a solution with the agency that includes proper penning for the lion in anticipation of Boomer being returned to him. Meanwhile, reports from the Granby Zoo website show that Boomer is doing well. Marie-Josee Limoges, head of veterinarian services at the zoo, said there are some concerns about how Boomer will react when introduced to other lions for the first time. "Psychologically he certainly has behaviours that wouldn't be typical or normal to a parent-raised animal," she said, citing his high comfort level towards humans as an example. Despite the overwhelming public interest in the lion cub, Boomer will not be available for viewing when the zoo opens it doors May 31 since he's still under quarantine and has contracted parasites, said Page.
Foreign press coverage of Bernier an eyeful
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Like the "gorgeous woman" on his arm when he was sworn in as foreign minister, Maxime Bernier's resignation didn't go unnoticed in foreign news outlets, which seem to gleefully throw his former girlfriend into their coverage.
While the breaking news of the resignation came too late for overseas publications, some did spice up their wire service headlines on websites by playing up the woman behind the fallen cabinet minister.
"Good night and very bad luck," titled Australia's Sydney Morning Herald over a story from the Reuters News Agency, while Britain's Daily Telegraph went with "The minister, the classified papers and a lover linked to Hells Angels."
Few websites didn't run with a photo of the former so-called ministerial couple, including the BBC website which, like many outlets, pointed out that Bernier was under pressure to resign following previous slip-ups such as his suggestion the "Afghan President Hamid Karzai replace the governor of Kandahar province, where Canada has 2,500 troops stationed." Chinese News Agency Xinhua noted Bernier "has been under fire recently for his former girlfriend's links with an organized crime group."
"A calamitous moral affair" put an end to his career, wrote France's Le Figaro - under the banner "A Canadian minister forgets his files at his lover's home" - which added "pretty" to international descriptions of Couillard, which ranged from "gorgeous" and "glamorous" to the "provocatively dressed," used in a widely run Associated Press piece.
The French paper colourfully noted that "the depth of the neckline had reddened the cheeks of royal gendarmes," during the swearing-in ceremony.
India's Hindustan Times also referred to the ceremony: "the gorgeous woman also made headlines in August 2007 when dressed in a plunging neckline she accompanied Bernier for his swearing-in as minister for Foreign Affairs."
Some of the paper's reporting left something to be desired however, as it claimed: "She took active part in the minister's office work."
"When the media blew the cover on her past, she virtually went into hiding and the minister ducked for cover even as the ruling party and the prime minister defended Bernier," the paper added.
"The security slip-up was compounded by the fact that Miss Couillard, 38, has had a string of lovers involved with the biker gang and its criminal activities," wrote Tom Leonard of the Telegraph, noting "glamorous brunette, was once married to an outlaw biker and lived with another who died in a bloody turf war over drugs in the 1990s."
While the reporting may have played up Couillard's appearance, it was far less kind to Bernier.
"Blunder-prone Maxime Bernier resigned after an ugly breakup resulted in Julie Couillard going on TV to accuse him of being 'careless' with classified government papers," summed up Britain's Daily Mail Online in a story entitled 'Minister resigns after leaving files with 'biker chick.'"
New health plan under fire in New Brunswick
Published: Monday, May 12, 2008
In Canada's only officially bilingual province there's concern recent policy changes may be sending New Brunswick back to the days of tension between its francophone and anglophone communities.
Citing the Liberal government's decision to reduce eight health authorities to two and scrap early French immersion in public schools, Opposition Conservative leader Jeannot Volpe said the province is at risk of putting an end to years of mending ties between linguistic groups.
"In a number of areas, the Liberals are stirring up linguistic divisions in New Brunswick," he said.
"It's taken so long to build respect between the communities that we should be careful not to tear it down."
Health Minister Mike Murphy says the province's health authorities needed to be revamped to eliminate inefficiencies by ending duplication of services.
But the decision to create two authorities instead of a single one, or any other number, amounted to forming a linguistic duality, critics have charged.
Doctors at New Brunswick's largest bilingual hospital, Dumont Hospital in Moncton, say the Minister will jeopardize the future of French language health services in the province, noting all of the major care units, such as cardiac and trauma, will be under the control of the anglophone authority.
"The beheading of the administration . . . will leave us with very much difficulty to get the resources we need, the changes we need in the day-to-day administration," argued Dr. Daniel Beaudry.
The president of a medical staff organization representing
doctors in the southern part of the province said: "They divided us along linguistic lines and this has set us back in time," causing concern among francophones and doctors.
"The French feel they have been slighted," Dr. Don Craig said. "The optics of it is that a lot of tertiary services have been left out on paper (in francophone areas), even if in fact they have not."
In a letter submitted to the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal in response to an editorial that said officials "are establishing duality as a governing principle," Mr. Murphy wrote that the government worked to "respect the linguistic rights of all New Brunswickers."
"The creation of two (regional health authorities) with a board of directors functioning in the language of the majority of the population served will in no way establish duality in health care," he wrote.
"Duality refers to two separate systems that each serve a different population, such as exists within the public education system. The education system offers students the opportunity to learn in both French and English through two parallel but separate education systems. This is not the case with health care."
He said a single bilingual authority "would undermine existing language rights and traditions."
The New Brunswick Telegraph- Journal called on the Minister to resign but said both the government and opposition "seem to be engaged in a race to turn back the clock."
Mr. Volpe says that education policies were also driving a wedge between the communities.
"For the first time in New Brunswick history we have francophones and anglophones coming together in agreement saying (early) French (immersion) should be taught at school, why would you want to attack this?" he said.
"When the communities are saying they are ready to lead a united fight to preserve French as a second language, it's a sign New Brunswick has seen a lot of progress."
Meanwhile, the province's ombudsman has launched an investigation into the decision to scrap early French immersion, after receiving more than 200 complaints from parents, who also held protest rallies in front of the legislature.
Both education and health-care reforms are scheduled to be implemented in September, the government said, refusing to budge on the issues.
The matters even seemed to overlap as some doctors said they were considering moving out of the province to make sure their kids could learn French at an early age.
For Mr. Volpe, such policies are a reminder of the province's experiment with the divisive Confederations of Regions Party in the early 1990s.
The party fed on the disgruntlement among some anglophones about the promotion of bilingualism and proposed that French-language services only be provided in francophone areas.
"It's not a good example to follow. We're a bilingual province," Mr. Volpe said.
"We don't need to stir up this old debate. Don't poke the bear -- if it wakes up we don't know what's going to happen."
Daniel Bourgeois, executive director of the Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy and Public Administration, says the health debate will in the end matter little to most New Brunswickers.
"The matter of being served in one's own language isn't in question -- since 2002 this is guaranteed," he said.
"The crux of the matter concerns the working language of various institutions. There are concerns but it's more at the elite level, the average Joe won't care."
But he notes that because the francophone minority has constitutional rights to have its own institutions, "Some interpret these reforms as an attack against this constitutional guarantee."
Coast guard's ability to provide bilingual services questioned
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, May 29, 2008
The aftermath of the tragic towing operation of a sealing ship last March has brought together federalists and separatists anxious to find out if language-based miscommunication played a role in the incident.
They are also questioning the Canadian Coast Guard's ability to deliver services in both official languages.
Today, the coast guard will be appearing before the Commons' standing committee on official languages where the accident is sure to be the focal point. Four of the six Quebec sealers on L' Acadien II perished in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The trawler capsized as it was being towed by an icebreaker on March 29, prompting the coast guard to look into how it tows smaller ships.
But miscommunication has emerged as a major problem during the incident, some say.
A complaint was lodged before the Commissioner of Official Languages by a notorious Quebec separatist, Gilles Rheaume, who looked into whether miscommunication during the rescue of the sealers was language-related.
And Liberal Opposition critic on Official Languages Denis Coderre, who summoned coast guard representatives to appear before the committee, says he's come across a number of incidents raising questions about the service's ability to communicate in French.
Coderre said that when he attended the sealers' funeral he heard from family members they had difficulty getting information in French following the incident.
"Many people pointed out that it was horrible enough to experience this hardship, on top of that it wasn't possible to be served in one's language by a federal institution," he said.
Coderre said he heard from fishermen that coast guard operators weren't always bilingual during certain shifts and that messages sometimes had to be liaised through a number of boats before finding someone who could provide a translation.
"When you talk about the coast guard, I'm sorry but you're talking about a federal institution," Coderre said. "In addition, when you're facing an emergency, you don't want to have to make yourself understood with a dictionary."
"Someone was suffering from phlebitis on a ship and it took four hours to get someone to understand. It makes no sense," he added. "We're talking about search and rescue, about emergencies."
A spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans wouldn't comment on language issues before Thursday's appearance at the committee.
Rheaume meanwhile lodged a complaint on April 20 with the Commissioner of Official Languages regarding the incident in order to get to the bottom of communication problems.
"If there was a linguistic problem, I want to know its nature. I want to know all the circumstances - that's why I lodged a complaint," he said.
Spokesman Robin Cantin said the commission was considering the complaint, adding the commission's annual report will be released Thursday, "so the matter may be raised at the time."
Surprisingly the aftermath of the incident has put the staunch federalist MP and Rheaume on the same wavelength.
"I support Mr. Coderre in his intervention," Rheaume said, noting he had raised the issue of the coast guard's bilingualism in his complaint.
"If separatists like the federalist in me it's a good sign," Coderre mused. "Canada is better off that way."
A francophone group in Nova Scotia says federal departments should suffer the consequences of failing to provide services in both official languages.
The group, Federation acadienne de la Nouvelle-Ecosse, said in a statement soon after the L'Acadien II incident "the federal government must impose more severe penalties on agencies and departments that do not comply with the obligations of the Official Languages Act."
N.S., Ont. prisons face lockdowns over smoking ban protests
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, June 02, 2008
Two prisons in Canada were under either a total or partial lockdown as inmates protested a federal smoking ban, which was officially in effect countrywide on Monday.
The Correctional Service of Canada banned indoor smoking in its prisons in 2006, but the new rules mean no more smoking outdoors as well for all inmates.
Maximum-level institutions imposed the ban on May 5, followed by mid-level institutions on May 20 while minimum-security institutions followed suit Monday.
While the ban went in peacefully in most institutions across the country, inmates in Nova Scotia's Springhill Institution went on strike last week to fight the ban.
A lockdown remained in effect Monday as inmates in the medium-security prison north of Halifax continued a "peaceful" demonstration, with inmates refusing to go to work or to their smoking cessation programs.
In Ontario, Warkworth Institution, near Peterborough, faced a lockdown-like "semi-modified routine" as inmates held similar protests, the union representing prison guards said.
Guy Campeau of Corrections said that apart from these two institutions and isolated cases of inmates refusing to work, the transition to a total ban has been incident-free.
"The inmates are peacefully demonstrating their opposition to the restriction, we're trying to negotiate with them but the days of tobacco (in prisons) are gone," he said. "The health and security of inmates and employees has never been compromised so (implementation) has been successful."
Other regions of the country reported no incidents related to the ban. Corrections officials praised advance notice and the quit smoking programs for the smooth transition.
Meanwhile human rights lawyer Julius Grey is launching a legal fight against the ban on behalf of Quebec inmates in Federal Court, basing his case on charter and inmate rights.
"The penitentiary's act says that a prisoner doesn't lose any rights except those that are intimately necessary for the purpose of his imprisonment," Grey said. "Just like he doesn't lose his right to good medical treatment. . . and doesn't lose his right to be treated with dignity, he doesn't lose this right."
Grey said a hearing on the case would probably take place in the fall, but added he felt the debate could go higher "at least to the Federal Court of Appeal, maybe to the Supreme Court."
Quebec police seek break-and-enter webcam poser
Published: Thursday, June 05, 2008
LEVIS, Que. -- You've heard about your computer bringing weird things into the home, but likely never something like this.
Police in Levis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City, are looking for a man who breaks into homes -- not to steal anything, but to record himself on computer webcams committing indecent acts.
Police say the suspect, a white male aged 20 to 35, may have done this twice in the past few weeks.
On one occasion he was unable to use the webcam of the unsuspecting computer owner but left "traces of sexual acts" on the premises, police say.
Police are confident they will be able to find their man judging by the evidence he has left behind in the form of DNA and photos of various parts of his body.
The detailed description of the suspects notes a piercing on the right nipple, a tattoo of "an animal, like a sea horse" around the right shoulder blade, a silver watch on his left arm and large chain around his neck.
"The odds are pretty good he can easily be identified," said Alain Gelly of the Levis police.
No escape from soaring diesel prices
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, June 08, 2008
While they haven't been rioting over rising fuel prices like some of their European counterparts, Canadian farmers, truckers and fishermen have been feeling the pain at the diesel pump.
Farmers and truckers are among the heaviest users of diesel fuel, and prices have gone up by 30 per cent in some parts of Canada since the beginning of the year, while regular unleaded gas has increased 21 per cent.
In addition, diesel prices have been anywhere between 10 and 15 cents per litre higher than regular unleaded prices across the country even though before 2003 it used to be cheaper than regular gas.
Frustration about fuel costs among fishermen is leading to active protests.
The spokesman for lobster fishermen who used their boats last month to block the entrance to a Cape Breton harbour say diesel prices played a role in the confrontation.
"Of course, that had lots to do with it - guys, their profits are going out the window," said Lawrence MacLellan who said his own fuel costs have risen from $3,500 to $4,500 this year.
"A lot of guys are just fishermen and when they get faced with (high diesel prices) they have no money for their family throughout the year," he said.
It costs more to truck in bait and truck out lobster, for which they're also paid less, MacLellan explained.
"The bait goes up, the fuel goes up, the lobster goes down . . . I think that's what led the guys to block the harbour, because they see it only getting worse."
Things aren't any easier on the farm.
Manitoban Doug Chorney says he joked about asking for a $10 per tonne fuel surcharge after making a recent canola delivery to a grain elevator recently, but says the reality of high diesel prices hurts.
"Everybody had a big chuckle, but every other carrier that's hauling consumer goods in Canada is able to pass on these fuel surcharges," he said.
"We've heard Air Canada putting fuel surcharges on their airline tickets, but farmers are forced to be price-takers - we don't have any market power."
It's a good thing grain prices are high, Chorney says.
"It has been a pretty big hit. Fertilizer prices, which are also linked to energy costs, are also up - so, fuel and fertilizer . . . when they both go up together, it's a double whammy."
"Rising farm input costs on fuel are off the charts," said Bob Friesen, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, noting fuel and fertilizer represent anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent of costs.
That means despite high food prices, farmers are far from making windfall profits this year and they worry about the possibility of grain prices dropping.
"It is absolutely imperative that we have a decent growing season this summer," Friesen said.
To reduce diesel costs, farmers like Chorney have had to become creative.
"I've gone to a single-pass feeding system where I feed, fertilize and till the field all in one pass, and that's reduced the number of times I have to go across my land," he explained.
But with propane prices also rising, sometimes it seems that "everywhere we turn on a farm energy is linked to our cost of production."
Similarly, many fishermen aren't sailing as far or as fast in an effort to conserve fuel, MacLellan said.
The pinch is also being felt on the road.
"It has definitely a big effect," said Brian Fletcher, a heavy machinery hauler in New Brunswick's construction industry, as he was looking at his fifth fill-up of the day, each costing $400. "In time, if it keeps going, I don't know what we're going to do."
David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance said the price of fuel has "put real strain on the industry," causing some businesses to fold as truckers struggle to make ends meet.
"Fuel has become the No. 1 cost (topping labour) so it's had an enormous impact on the cost structures of our business," he said.
"It would run usually somewhere between 15 and 30 per cent, now on the truck load side it is well above 40 per cent of total cost."
Passing surcharges on to customers helps, but it's a challenge in the current "soft market," Bradley said. In addition, carriers trying to improve efficiency need a capital investment hard to get in the current economic environment.
Bradley said getting rid of government excise taxes that amount to four cents a litre may not sound very helpful to truckers, but he added "that could be the difference between make it and break it for some carriers."
Canadian health agency monitoring U.S. salmonella outbreak
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, June 09, 2008
OTTAWA - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said restaurant chains in Canada taking tomatoes off their menu were practising "an abundance of caution" after a U.S. health alert was issued following a number of cases of salmonella poisoning south of the border.
Spokesman Marc Richard said the CFIA was monitoring the situation in the U.S. where the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control were looking into recent illnesses caused by Salmonella Saintpaul "that may be associated with certain types of uncooked, fresh tomatoes consumed in the United States."
"There's definitely an outbreak in the United States, we're definitely following the American investigation," said Richard.
Over the last few months the U.S. has seen a spike of about 140 cases of this variety of salmonella, he said, but stressed Canadian tomatoes don't represent a concern. No illnesses were reported in Canada linked to the U.S. outbreak, which has hospitalized some 23 people since mid-April.
Salmonella poisoning symptoms generally appear within 12 to 72 hours and include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
"We've done preliminary work with the importers to find out where they've been sourcing their material over the last few months, so that once a source is identified we'll be in a position to respond more rapidly," Richard said.
Once U.S. authorities determine the source of the outbreak, health officials here will be able to tell if any of the tainted products made their way to Canada. If this is the case, an appropriate public warning will be issued, Richard said.
"There are a bunch of food stores and retailers that are making their own decisions (removing tomatoes) but that is out of an abundance of caution," he added. "As far as evidence of an outbreak in Canada, there is none."
Over the weekend McDonald's Canada said it had temporarily pulled tomatoes from its menus "as a precautionary measure due to the situation in the U.S."
McDonald's said it had not experienced any "related issues" and the CFIA noted that in Canada reported cases of salmonella overall were below average levels.
"That is a pretty good indication we don't at all have the same problem here," Richard said.
In the nation's capital other fast-food chains such as Burger King, Quiznos and Subway followed suit Monday, posting notices that said tomatoes were off the menu, but it wasn't immediately known whether the same was taking place across the country.
Some media reports said Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants in Canada were also removing tomatoes from their menus.
Tim Hortons had also reportedly stopped serving tomatoes at Canadian and U.S. stores.
The FDA advised U.S. consumers to eat the following types of tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and tomatoes grown at home.
The FDA also recommended consuming raw red plum, raw red Roma, or raw red round tomatoes but only if grown in safe areas "not associated with the outbreak." The safe areas include Canada and other countries and in the U.S. the following states: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Customs protests could mean long waits this summer
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Drivers could face long and galling lineups at border crossings this summer as customs officers involved in a contract dispute guarantee their pressure tactics, currently targeting truckers and commercial vehicles, will "get worse," a union official said.
There are fears that the backlog will increase wait times for vacationers and that the havoc might even extend to airport border crossings.
Customs excise union vice-president Jean-Pierre Fortin says the last offer from the Canada Border Services Agency is a "slap in the face" and "ridiculous." Fortin says border officers have been applying pressure tactics on commercial traffic at various locations across the country. Border guards have been taking more time to process trucks as they try to clear customs.
"The employer is trying to provoke our people," Fortin said. "Our people were so shocked by the offer that they've already started using pressure tactics, we're trying to calm things down.
"Truckers have been targeted and (protesting officers) guaranteed it would get worse."
Pressure tactics have been used on commercial traffic in various large border crossings across the country including Fort Erie, Ont., Niagara Falls, Sarnia, Ont. and in New Brunswick. So far the West has been largely spared, but Fortin said it was likely the movement would extend to major border crossings such as those south of Vancouver.
"I'm sure that's going to escalate, as the frustrations grow," said Dan Leibel, who represents the union in southern British Columbia. "I'm feeling frustrated myself."
Leibel said he suspects several guards have probably already started their own personal protests, "some directed at commercial traffic, some at other travellers, daily shoppers.
"My estimation is that it's going to get very ugly," he said. "I think you're going to see small pockets of rebellion from our members, not instructed by the union but taking it upon themselves. Several people will maybe muster together the troops and say 'let's do something about this'." He suspects this would most likely happen in places where they would have the most impact and "would get noticed."
While the union isn't currently in a legal strike situation, this would likely follow in the fall, Fortin said. The protest movement could extend to ports and airports as well.
The pressure tactics could mean extra wait times in the heart of the summer vacation season for Canadians coming home and tourists coming in from the U.S. But the union says it's not seeking to inconvenience Canadians.
"We tell our people we don't want to inconvenience the Canadian public, they've often backed us on security matters," Fortin said. "Could there be an impact (to ordinary drivers) at some locations? That's possible, but it's not something we want. Honestly we don't want people spending hours in their cars."
A tourism industry already suffering from a slump is dreading any problems at the border.
"If you add on top of the strong dollar a hassle at the border and long delays at the border, that'll be the straw that decides we're not going to come," said Bill Allen, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario. "Perception or reality that border crossings are slow and going to take time," are often as reasons tourists wouldn't come to Canada, Allen noted.
For the first quarter, visits to Canada from the U.S. fell by over three per cent, compared to the year prior.
As of June 21 customs officers will have been without a contract for a year, Fortin said.
Salaries, seniority, job security and arming border guards are among the issues at the heart of the dispute, he added.
"We want to have parity with police and correctional officers," he said, noting that the starting salary is $50,000.
The union is seeking a 29.3 per cent salary increase over three years but the last offer from the CBSA was for less than two percent per year over four years.
Negotiations have broken off and no future talks have been scheduled, Fortin said.
A spokeswoman from the Canada Border Service Agency wouldn't comment on the pressure tactics.
Que. dad appeals ruling that allows girl, 12, to take school trip
Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2008
GATINEAU, Que. - The father of a 12-year-old girl who won a court decision overruling his punishment is appealing the decision, his lawyer said Tuesday.
The girl took her father to Quebec Superior Court after he said she couldn't go on a school trip for disobeying his orders to stay off the Internet.
The man's lawyer, Kim Beaudoin, said the issue is about restoring paternal authority and should have been dismissed by Justice Suzanne Tessier, who told the girl Friday she could make the trip.
"If a parent goes too far there's youth court," Beaudoin said. "I don't think this tribunal was the proper forum for a decision like this one."
In any event, the child had broken a number of house rules, she noted. After the father cut her access to the Internet for chatting on websites he tried to block off, she used a friend's Internet to post pictures of herself in clothing "inappropriate for a child her age," Beaudoin said.
"It's for her protection," she said of the father's disciplinary measures, mentioning the arrest of a Belgian man in Montreal found in a hotel with a 13-year-old girl last weekend.
"If we don't learn at the age of 12 there are rules to follow, when do we?" Beaudoin said.
Living large and proud of it - Que. group says big is sexy
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, June 21, 2008
You don't have to tell Daniel Lafond and Francois Provost big is beautiful - they would add it can be sexy and glamorous as well.
The six-foot, 220-pound childhood friends have launched a unique association that not only promotes self-esteem but proclaims large, overweight men should live their life fully and have a blast.
That's certainly the image depicted in their promotional video. The one-minute clip depicts the two impeccably-tailored large and proud Quebecers in the pleasant company of a number of female companions. "Our association will completely change your life," boasts Provost in the clip. "You know how to dress, you like who you are and you find yourself attractive, these are the foundations of a MEGARS man."
The two, who say they have never felt uneasy about their size as the weight accumulated over the years, say they grew up seeing people with hangups about being overweight. That prompted them to launch an association - MEGARS, a French acronym for "elegant male who enjoys social recognition" - using humour to boost self-esteem.
Don't hide that girth, be in your face about it, they say; the message is that the sky's the limit, even for the big and tall.
"We say that people who are overweight but spirited and proud have as good a chance as any to make it and appear attractive," Provost explains in an interview. "We're lucky enough to take up more physical space than others; it's a privilege, you must look at it positively."
There are, after all, advantages to being big, he stresses.
"When a big person enters a business meeting that person is immediately respected," Provost explains. "And women feel secure with large burly men."
He adds that just as "metrosexual" became a catch phrase, so too should "megasexual" become fashionable: "opulence, comfort, the fondness of food, it's got its advantages," he said.
Even very large people can be healthy if they eat well and exercise, says Dr. Arya Sharma, chairman of obesity research at the University of Alberta, but health considerations must go hand in hand with boosting self-esteem.
"There's no question that many people who are obese have self-esteem issues. A lot of the bias and discrimination that obese people face in their daily lives makes living in a large body quite difficult," he said. "This does not mean that when you are large and have significant medical problems related to your size you don't worry about your size and just take tablets to treat no matter what complication you have."
But Provost cautions his club is not out to promote obesity.
"Surely, if someone has excess weight to the point it's unhealthy, something has to be done about it."
At the same time, MEGARS, which has grown to 750 members in the month since it launched, wants to change the image of groups usually representing the obese.
"We think we're quite unique, there are other obesity groups but when you get to their website you see a wheelchair or crutches . . . it underlines a handicap," he said. "We say 'come and join the gang - we'll give you tips (to lose weight) and we'll have fun!'"
Fun is certainly the operative word in this club exclusive to people more than 90 kilograms that encourages members to "adopt a skinny guy."
The response to the website has exceeded expectations, Provost says.
"Lots of men have written saying, 'finally, an association I can feel comfortable with,' " he said.
With membership taking off, MEGARS is looking to plan outings, in addition to becoming a reference point for overweight people looking for a fun time out.
The group's website will list addresses for big and tall men for anything from specialized clothing stores to restaurants where seats are large and sturdy.
The potential for growth is certainly there.
According to Statistics Canada's latest figures, about eight million adults are overweight in Canada and another four million are obese.
Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest obesity rate by province, at 22 per cent, while B.C. had the lowest with 11 per cent.
"We've seen quite a remarkable increase in obesity over the last two decades in Canada," Sharma noted. "The latest data shows the numbers appear to have stabilized at a very high level."
French-only website: http://unetouchedeplus.com
Quebec police wage war on urban myths
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, June 25, 2008
You really shouldn't be going to movie theatres because some seats have needles sticking out from them and are contaminated with HIV. OK, that isn't true. It's one of many urban myths that is driving at least one Quebec police force to distraction.
The Quebec provincial police have set up a section on their site to debunk the myths and they hope people will check it out first before they call in and use up the valuable time of it's officers.
After fielding a number of calls and e-mails from people concerned with what have turned out to be urban legends, the force is out to set the record straight by becoming the latest myth-busters on the web.
"We're responding to a need, that's why we created this section of our website - to inform the public," said Sgt. Joyce Kemp, spokeswoman for the provincial police force.
"Have common sense, if the story sounds unlikely it probably is," stresses the section of the force's website entitled "urban legends."
Kemp says it hopes the site will become something people will turn into in order to separate fact from fiction.
The site lists 13 urban myths including reports of a computer virus that will paralyze computers and permanently damage a hard drive.
Another myth is that flashing your car lights to warn someone driving with their headlights off at night is a gang initiation rite that will land you in trouble. Then there is the story that if you enter you personal identification number backward at an instant teller then you are telling police that you are being robbed.
The story of a supposedly missing Ashley Flores,13, is listed on the force's site. It is called one of the "hottest urban legends" according to Snopes.com, another website that specializes in debunking myths.
"Most missing child alerts circulating via e-mail fall into one of two categories: genuine reports of missing children that continue to be forwarded long after the child has been found, or hoaxes imploring readers to look for children who aren't missing or don't exist," according to Snopes.com. Hers "bears all the hallmarks of the latter category."
"In general terms, I think what the QPP (Quebec provincial police) are doing is very good," said Philip Hiscock, an associate professor at Memorial University's Department of Folklore in St. John's.
"I doubt it will have a lot of effect directly as contemporary legends really spread because people want to be seen as in the know," he added. "Such legends have a high 'cultural capital' value while debunking sites for the most part are a pooper at the legendry party."
Hiscock points out that after well over a decade of debunking myths, websites like Snopes.com have had "little overall effect on the larger tradition of telling such stories."
Hiscock said the Quebec force's site probably be a little more effective if it were linked to specialized sites like Snopes.
The force became particularly concerned by spreading urban legends when some people were allegedly quoting Quebec provincial police officers in their stories.
"In some cases, in order to make a false story sound important or give it some credibility, the name of an officer or (our) logo was included," Kemp said. "That's not our organization's way of communicating."
Some people may be unwittingly spreading the rumours by sending them to their friends, Kemp added.
"It's important not to send (an urban myth) to all our contacts because you can end up propagating it involuntarily," she said. "If you send it to 10 of your friends and each one sends it to 10 of theirs, this can spread rapidly."
Kemp says people deliberately spreading false information can be charged with public mischief in the more serious cases. And that's no myth.
Bernier breaks silence
Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, June 26, 2008
ST-GEORGES-DE-BEAUCE, Que - Former Foreign Affairs minister Maxime Bernier wasn't aware of ex-girlfriend Julie Couillard's checkered past until he heard rumours about it after they had stopped dating, he said Wednesday.
"Did Ms. Couillard inform me of her past links to people implicated with organized crime? The answer is no. She did not inform me and never has anyone else at any level," he said. "I knew of her past what she would tell me and was only told of rumours concerning her past on April 20, a few weeks before the information became public and at the time we were no longer dating."
Speaking to supporters in his home riding, Bernier was breaking his silence about his side of a relationship with Julie Couillard, which ended up costing him his job after he left secret documents at her house.
Bernier was greeted in the room with a round of applause by supporters and shook many hands as he made way to the podium.
Bernier resigned May 26, just hours before a television station aired an interview with Couillard, whose previous boyfriends have included members of the Mafia and an outlaw motorcycle gang.
In the interview she revealed that Bernier had left classified briefing documents about a NATO meeting at her home for several weeks.
"The briefing notes were not sensitive enough to be bar-coded, which explained why their disappearance did not set off alarms," he said.
"For my part I did not notice they were missing. I do not recall misplacing them."
Bernier said he had gone through "very difficult moments" since the controversy broke out, discovering the fine line between personal and public life the hard way.
To which someone in the crowd shouted, "We're with you!"
Bernier said that after a period of reflection he was as convinced as ever that he belonged in office representing his constituents.
He repeated that he assumed full responsibility for misplacing the documents, stressing he learned they were missing on the evening of May 25, a day before he resigned.
Couillard rejected an invitation to appear before a parliamentary committee looking into the breach that raised national security issues, saying she feared she could face charges.
However she intends to tell her life's story in an autobiography to be published this fall.
Airlines look to allow limited cellphone use on planes
Jack Branswell and Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, June 29, 2008
OTTAWA -- Canadians may soon be able to officially do something that they are already doing furtively - use cellphones while they are on the tarmac on an airplane.
In documents obtained by Canwest News Service, Transport Canada has allowed an exemption to the ban on wireless phones - but only while a plane is taxiing to a gate after landing.
In an advisory circular that Transport Canada sent out to airlines, it tells them that an exemption to the ban on portable electronic devices has been created, although it sets some pretty strict testing conditions before any Canadian airline could allow the use of phones or BlackBerries.
The circular says that Transport Canada was asked "to allow passengers to use PEDS (portable electronic devices) such as cellphones and BlackBerries during the taxi to the gate following a flight. As a result of the request, Cabin Safety Standards (a branch of Transport) conducted a risk assessment."
At least two of Canada's three major airlines, WestJet and the upstart Porter, are interested in introducing this for their passengers while Air Canada is taking a wait-and-see approach.
"We are indeed interested in being able to offer our guests the opportunity to use their cellphones or BlackBerries during the taxi-in portion of the flight," said Robert Palmer, a WestJet spokesman. He said the airline has conducted a number of tests but it can't say at this point when or if it will be able to do it. "But from an interest point of view, yes, we'd like to do it."
Porter spokesman Brad Cicero says his airline is "definitely interested in doing that. We're in the initial stages of exploring that with them (Transport Canada), but we don't have a definitive timeline on when that will be possible to do."
Peter Fitzpatrick of Air Canada said the airline hasn't done any of the testing required by Transport Canada. "We're going to watch what the industry developments are," he said. "The testing is certainly rigorous so it's something that we haven't turned our minds to yet."
Cellphones and other electronic equipment have been banned from use over fears that it would interfere with the plane's electronic and navigational systems and that it would interrupt communications between the cockpit and control tower. The exemption, if it is used, would only apply to taxi-in because Transport Canada figures that while taxiing out there is too much communication between the plane and tower.
"We'll see what the outcomes will be, but right now it is very limited in scope - it's only during the taxiing in phase," said Patrick Charette, a Transport Canada spokesman.
Charette acknowledged that some passengers are already doing this with BlackBerries, when they land, even though it's against regulations. "Based on some of the surveys we conducted, there is no great appetite even among passengers," for using cellphones while on the tarmac.
But he added that "if you look at what is going on in Europe there is definitely some movement in that direction. European carriers are moving towards allowing limited use of cellphones."
A 2003 U.K. Civil Aviation Authority study found that a wireless device can interfere with an aircraft's navigational equipment, but subsequent studies haven't come to the same conclusion. So the jury is still out on the issue.
Part of the problem for Canadian airlines interested in using Transport Canada's exemption is that the department calls for extensive testing before it will approve the use.
For example, one of the conditions is that the airline, which is responsible for testing the devices on its aircraft, has to have cellphones on at least 90 per cent of the seats on the planes and transmitting at maximum power to determine if multiple phones in use would create an interference problem.
National donair strategy sought to make popular meal safer
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The nation's donair safety committee is hoping its call to businesses to make sure the spicy meat is well-cooked will go down as smoothly as the popular meal.
A federal-provincial group on food safety started looking into the spiced meat, which is moulded into a cone, cooked in a vertical broiler and then sliced and often served in a pita, after it caused major E. coli outbreaks in Alberta.
"One of the issues that had come to light was the fact there had been significant food-borne illnesses associated with donairs," said Mike Horwich, director of Food Protection for Nova Scotia Agriculture.
After two years of looking into international research and science on the food, which is a big hit in the Maritimes, Ontario and Alberta in particular, recommendations have been made "that represent a best practice for this particular product," Horwich said.
One of them is that the meat that makes the donair loaf "be inspected and come from approved sources," he said.
Another is that the size of the meat cone be appropriate for the broiler and that the meat go through a "secondary cooking step" after it is sliced off the cone.
"(It should be) cooked in a fashion that would kill bacteria, just to ensure food safety is maintained," such as frying or grilling it, Horwich said.
Recommendations for storage also called for a secondary cooking step on whatever leftover meat there is at the end of the day, before it is frozen and stored for future use such as sandwiches or donair pizza, Horwich said.
It's up to every jurisdiction to choose whether to follow the recommendations, he said, adding that Nova Scotia, home to Canada's so-called "donair capital - Halifax," will do so.
"I don't think it will have a significant impact on the industry because a lot of the industry was already doing these recommendations anyway," he noted.
The province where E. coli outbreaks were the impetus for looking into a national donair strategy says it's fully supportive and has already implemented some of the recommendations.
"The new recommendations are a great step in helping to avoid those kinds of situations in the future," said John Tuckwell, spokesman for Alberta Health. "We have moved forward probably over a year ago with the key recommendation, which is a secondary cook step."
Undercooked donair meat in 2004 led to 43 confirmed cases of E. coli in Calgary. Eight people were hospitalized and two cases of kidney failure occurred. It was believed to be the first documented outbreak of E. coli from beef donairs.
Language watchdog to audit Canadian military training
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, July 03, 2008
OTTAWA - Canada's official languages watchdog is about to launch an audit on the Canadian Forces' training procedures after fielding complaints by francophones who failed to get training in their own language.
The complaints date back to last year's scathing report by the military ombudsman at the time, Yves Cote, who described as "deeply deplorable" the treatment of francophone military cadets at Ontario's CFB Borden.
Some 1,500 francophone cadets go through what is one of Canada's main training bases every year, but many reported they have serious difficulties in getting training and services, such as health-care treatment, in their own language.
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages says it also has received its own complaints
"Each year, we receive a certain number of complaints about the Canadian Forces - people saying the training they need to move forward in their career is not available in their language of choice," said spokesman Robin Cantin. "But instead of treating this one complaint at a time, we want to make an inventory of what's available within the Canadian Forces to see if there's a structural problem and we have the full co-operation of the forces on this."
On Friday, a call for tender ends in the selection of the person expected to lead the audit. The office is eyeing a man with extensive experience in both the official languages environment and auditing at the federal level for the $92,600 year-long contract.
"This audit of the language of individual instruction and education is part of the continuing review of the use of both official languages in the workplace in the CF," the tender reads. "Language of instruction has also been the subject of many analyses by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages over the years. These analyses show that the language of instruction in the CF is a systemic problem, which may have an impact on military members' employment and advancement opportunities."
Cote said last November he had heard rumours that similar problems exist at francophone-dominated bases - such as CFB Valcartier and CFB Bagotville - for unilingual anglophone cadets, but he has not investigated them.
"We work with (the forces) to identify weak links in the training process, if there are any," Cantin said. "We're not targeting one base more than another, we want to look at the process overall."
In its annual report, the language watchdog designated the Canadian Forces with the lowest rating possible for bilingualism.
2 arrested after shots fired near U.S.-Quebec border
Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, July 07, 2008
DERBY LINE, Vt. - Two people were in custody Monday and another was suspected of having fled to Canada after an incident in a Vermont town hugging the U.S.-Canada border.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent was questioning three people in Derby Line suspected of having crossed the border illegally, about 150 kilometres southeast of Montreal, at 2:15 a.m. when he was assaulted "to a point he feared for his life" and shot at the suspects twice, said Mark Henry of the U.S. Border Patrol.
"We have three people who were in the border area that we believe entered from Canada illegally," Henry said.
One person was arrested and was being held in custody in Vermont and another in Canada, he said, not giving details about the suspects or what kind of charges they could face.
A third is thought to have fled to Canada. It wasn't known whether this person was either armed or injured from the shots. The two in custody were not hit by the shots.
The RCMP confirmed they arrested one individual who had fled to Canada but another remained at large. They said the suspects were not Canadian.
Part of TSB report into Air France crash watered down, documents show
Jack Branswell and Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, July 13, 2008
OTTAWA -- The Transportation Safety Board's final report on the Air France crash in Toronto three years ago watered down how the lack of having an extended runway impacted both passenger injuries and damage to the plane, according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service.
Transport Canada is still grappling with whether to require 300-metre Runway End Safe Areas (RESA) as a safety measure - it was a key recommendation of the TSB's report into the crash. The lack of these buffers continues to be an issue at some airports in the country, including some of the biggest like Toronto and Vancouver.
How much of a safety issue is it? Since the Air France crash in August 2005, at least 10 other large aircraft have gone off runways in bad weather around the world.
On the Air France crash, an early version of the TSB's report, shown in a document called "Representations from Transport Canada" noted that if Runway 24L at Pearson International Airport had a safety area at the end of it "the damage to the aircraft and injuries to the passengers would certainly have been reduced."
When the report was published last December that section was changed to read: "the damage to the aircraft and injuries to the passengers may have been reduced."
The document called the earlier version "subjective opinion that makes a few assumptions."
It said an RESA can reduce injuries and plane damage but it also said "the same improvements could result in a longer stopping distance due to reduction in energy transference during deceleration."
But the representation also noted that the earlier statement was accurate, that the plane travelled about 300 metres before stopping, but not before it went through ditches, fences and into a steep ravine and that the injuries and the plane damage "was incurred due to these."
However, at the end of that section of the representation, the document notes that the report was amended but doesn't state why.
Six months after the TSB report was released, Air France announced it was suing the Greater Toronto Airport Authority and NavCanada, which oversees Canadian airports, for "failing to provide a safe environment for the conduct of civil air operations," it said in its statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court. There is also a passengers' class-action lawsuit against the airport, Air France, the control tower staff, Airbus and Goodrich, which made the plane's escape chutes.
All 309 passengers and crew survived the accident but 33 people were taken to the hospital, including 12 who were treated for serious injuries.
Requiring RESAs - 300-metre buffer zones on Code 4 runways, which are used for larger planes - was one of several TSB recommendations out of the Air France crash.
In a memorandum dated a little more than a month after the TSB delivered its recommendations on the crash landing, the Standards Branch of Transport Canada noted that "current airport certification standards are under review with the participation of industry experts."
That position hasn't changed from January of this year, when the memo was written.
"We are still reviewing regulations for runway length and still consulting with industry to ensure the safety of Canadians and passengers from abroad," said Jean Riverin, a spokesman for Transport Canada.
"At the time it would be inappropriate (to talk about) the details of the proposed amendments because we're still in the phase of consultation."
The court cases have appeared to turn the safety issue into a hot political potato.
Trish Krale, a spokeswoman for the Toronto airport authority, said "unfortunately I can't say too much about it (RESAs) because of ongoing litigation. All I can say is that if Transport Canada makes a change to the regulations that we will comply and that at the moment we comply with all current regulations."
Vancouver also doesn't have RESAs because they aren't required, said Brett Patterson, a spokesman for the Vancouver Airport Authority.
Montreal recently refurbished its airport and runways and it brought them up to the most recent standards of International Civil Aviation Organization, including adding RESAs.
The RESAs don't necessarily have to be paved or cemented runways. For example, Edmonton has fields that would simply stop a plane. Some U.S. airports use the Engineering Materials Arresting System, which is material that crushes under the plane's weight and slows its momentum.
Meanwhile, Riverin said that Transport Canada is reviewing studies from ICAO and American FAA on runway design standards and RESAs "and this review has resulted in a recommendation to amend the Canadian regulations and standards," but the department will consult with the aviation industry before finalizing changes.
Trunk release may have played key role in Que. boy's rescue
Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2008
A trunk release mechanism mandatory in the U.S. - but not yet in Canada - may have played a key role in the rescue of an eight-year-old boy who was abducted Wednesday.
The boy was eventually found by police, bound and gagged in an oil drum less than an hour after witnesses first reported his abduction. A number of witnesses saw a man drag the boy into a vehicle and drive it around the Quebec City area before bringing him to the apartment building where the boy was rescued. Among the key witnesses was a man who saw the boy in the trunk of the car of his abductor when it was stopped at a red light and the trunk popped open. The witness, Ryan Murphy, later led police to the building where the child was being held.
The boy's mother told Quebec City's Le Soleil newspaper that her son had pulled the trunk release inside the 2004 Cavalier to open the trunk.
Quebec provincial police said they have yet to determine if that's just what the boy did, but confirm the vehicle was equipped with a release mechanism inside the trunk.
"We don't know if the trunk had problems shutting or (whether it opened) because he had activated this device," said Richard Gagne of the Surete du Quebec.
While Gagne said the device, which is T-shaped and glows in the dark, is increasingly common in vehicles, it is not yet mandatory in Canada, according to the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association.
This hasn't kept vehicle manufacturers from staying one step ahead of the curve.
"Many vehicle manufacturers already have it in place but . . . if you manufacture a vehicle before Sept. 1, 2010, it need not be equipped with an indoor trunk release," noted association president Mark Nantais.
The U.S. has made the device mandatory, and a group which monitors kids' safety around vehicles says the device has had a dramatic impact in reducing trunk-related incidents.
"Every vehicle that's 2002 or newer is required to have the glow-in-the-dark trunk release, and as far as we know there hasn't been a death in any trunk of a vehicle that's 2002 and newer," said Amber Rollins of Kids And Cars. The group previously reported an average of 10 to 20 deaths a year related to people trapped in car trunks in the U.S.
In an interview on French news channel LCN, an older brother of the boy said the moment the eight-year-old opened the trunk was key to his rescue.
"His guardian angel is there looking over him. He was able to open the trunk, to be seen - that's happened for a reason," the brother said.
The suspect in the case, Pierre Defoy, appeared in court in Quebec City Wednesday afternoon, where he was arraigned on three charges - abduction, abduction of a child under 14 and confinement. Police said more charges are possible for Defoy, who remains in police custody.
His bail hearing is scheduled for Friday. Gagne said Defoy had not previously been known to police and did not know the boy socially.
Police feel pinch at the pump
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, July 20
Handcuffed to soaring fuel prices, some of Canada's police forces are parking vehicles and putting more officers on foot patrol.
While there is no consensus on how to deal with the surge in gas prices among police services that fill their vehicles once a day or more, departments are all feeling a pinch that's placing their budgets under arrest.
"It's prompted a review on all our operations dealing with our fleet and expenditures," said Deputy Chief Myles Burke of the Cape Breton Regional Police. "Last year, we were over budget because of gasoline costs, (by) just over $50-60,000 so we put in for an extra $50,000 this year. But early on, it was obvious we weren't going to be on target."
So the force of some 200 members and a fleet of about 70 vehicles has traded in several of its big 4x4s for mid-size cars.
It's also encouraged police officers to step out of their vehicles during the day and walk the beat, a measure that has proven as popular with the public as it may be with city accountants and environmental activists. "It's been incredible. The public loves it, the business community loves it," said Burke.
Quebec's provincial police force is pursuing pilot projects incorporating more hybrid and four-cylinder vehicles into its fleet. "Many vehicles have eight cylinders, so this will reduce gas consumption for vehicles other than patrol vehicles -- in their case there's not much we can do," said Sgt. Michel Brunet of the Surete du Quebec.
The SQ is also increasingly video-conferencing meetings to cut travel costs.
"Instead of requiring investigators or people who have to testify to travel, it saves trips," Brunet said.
Brunet said the force had already made gas-related adjustments following the 1980 oil crisis, encouraging officers to pump with regular gas and use self-serve stations when possible.
The SQ tries to enforce a non-idling policy, but idling is sometimes hard to avoid, notes Sgt. Pierre Chamberlain of the Ontario Provincial Police.
Idling is sometimes necessary to make sure batteries powering onboard equipment are sufficiently charged, he said.
"We've calculated that for every penny increase in the price of fuel it costs us approximately an extra $230,000 a year," Chamberlain said, noting the OPP has 5,600 officers, covers 315 municipalities with some 1,800 vehicles, 130 marine vessels, ATVs, boats, choppers and planes.
An efficiency review in 2007 called for realignment of the fleet, Chamberlain said, but he added the OPP is "not going to allow (fuel prices) to impact our service delivery.
"We're not going to be reducing patrols within the communities or around the highways because ultimately we're in the business of public safety."
Ottawa Police will be saving $100,000 this year after choosing a single fuel supplier, said Deputy Chief Gilles Larochelle, but the budget will still be hit by a deficit of between $500,000 and $1.1 million.
"We had to do a budget freeze," Larochelle said, putting projects on hold involving everything from vehicle replacement to uniforms.
The police force is moving to LED lightbars that can operate for long periods without the need for idling, he said.It also brought its bicycles out for the summer and restarted neighbourhood foot patrols, which are "efficient ways of moving around," Larochelle stressed.
Increasingly, Ottawa police are interested in exploring scientific developments -- such as technology that makes idling less fuel-consuming, said Larochelle, who oversees the department's patrol division.
"It's something we wouldn't have been looking at a few years ago," he said.
In the west, the Vancouver Police Department has also been making changes to its fleet of vehicles to improve fuel efficiency, in part by replacing six-cylinder vehicles with four-cylinder Ford Fusions, according to Const. Jana McGuinness.
While most police departments are adamant nothing they're doing will change how they respond to calls, some have considered trimming patrols.
Police forces are not alone in facing the crunch as emergency services across Canada, from ambulances to fire departments, are caught in the same dilemma. As a result, municipal governments have had to adjust their budgets.
Vancouver estimates it will run a $1.4-million shortfall in its budgets for fuel and electricity -- its police department accounting for the biggest portion of that at $440,000.
"We're all facing the same dilemma or challenge," notes Burke. "There's only so much in terms of budget, there's an expectation that we try our best to live within our means."
Que. woman gets $280,000 for unnecessary radiation treatment
Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, July 22
MONTREAL - A Quebec woman who received unnecessary brain radiation treatment to combat a cancer she didn't have and was told she had months to live should receive $280,000 from the three doctors who handled her, a Superior Court judge has ruled.
Ginette Cloutier-Cabana was seeking $2.5 million from doctors Suzanne Rousseau, Pierre Chabot and Yves Leclerc, but her attorney Annette Lefebvre said Tuesday that the lawsuit wasn't about the money, which will not cover expertise costs alone in the case.
"The defendants spent in the range of approximately $450,000 on expertise," said Lefebvre. "Madame Cabana receives much less than that," she added, noting the couple have had to mortgage their home in the process.
"For them it wasn't about the money but having people know that what happened to her was wrong and shouldn't happen to anyone else," Lefebvre said. "No amount of money can ever give her back her health."
Cloutier-Cabana suffered from aneurysms but was misdiagnosed as having cancer when she checked into a Montreal hospital in 1995 for a chronic headache.
Judge Marie-France Courville ruled neurologist Rousseau made "a hasty diagnosis" while radio-oncologist Chabot "blindly accepted the diagnosis" and surgeon Leclerc "didn't provide a necessary followup."
The judge awarded the sum for her suffering and inconvenience as well as for psychological damage and loss revenue, Lefebvre said.
The doctors have a month to consider an appeal.
Canada to seek bilateral trade talks
Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2008
GENEVA - Canada will push ahead with bilateral trade talks after negotiations aimed at striking a global agreement to bring new wealth to rich and poor countries alike collapsed Tuesday amid acrimony between the U.S. and India over agriculture.
"Unfortunately it is indeed a failure," Trade Minister Michael Fortier said. "Canada came here wishing for a happy outcome, a new accord that would allow our exporters to gain ground everywhere on the planet. And we find ourselves 10 days later with a failure. So, that in itself, it's very disappointing."
Fortier said Canada, like other countries, will now seek trade agreements with individual nations and hopes to begin talks with the European Union later this year.
Brazil Trade Minister Celso Amorim concurred, saying countries may pay lip service to the WTO but will focus their energies on bilateral trade deals.
"Today is certainly a serious setback" in the seven-year attempt of the Doha round of negotiations to slash tariffs, quotas and subsidies, World Trade Organization director-general Pascal Lamy told reporters.
European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson used harsher language, calling the failure a "tragedy" that has cost the world a win-win trade agreement that would have benefited both the developed and developing world. "We all lose" without an agreement, he said.
Lamy and some of the 35 trade ministers said advances here during talks this month could build the basis for a possible future breakthrough in the current Doha round of trade negotiations. But ministers couldn't hide their gloom.
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab complained that the agreement agreed to by all major parties on Friday couldn't "carry the day" Tuesday.
Negotiations stumbled on proposals for so-called special safeguard mechanism (SSM) measures to protect poor farmers that would impose a special tariff on certain agricultural goods in the event of an import surge or price fall.
"They (the United States) have refused to move on SSM. It is an issue of vital importance to us," an India diplomat told Agence France-Presse.
"The United States and India did not accept the compromise proposals, and arrived at an impasse," another source close to the talks told AFP.
Fortier dismissed criticism from some farm groups that Canada's negotiating position at the talks was a disadvantage because of a mixed message from Ottawa.
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, representing export-oriented sectors primarily in Western Canada, said Ottawa shouldn't have been so aggressively defending protectionist policies that help dairy, poultry and egg farmers based primarily though not exclusively in Ontario and Quebec. Those tariffs are well in excess of 200 per cent.
CAFTA president Darcy Davis said that position hurt Canada's ability to argue credibly in favour of bringing down barriers in key target areas for Canadian exporters.
But Fortier said Canada's consistent attempt to protect so-called "supply management" programs didn't hurt Canada's credibility because most countries were pushing for special side deals to protect their own vulnerable sectors.
"We argued for a successful outcome for Canada, for our exporters, and never during the course of our discussions have our arguments on supply management prevented us from advancing the other arguments for all our exporters, whether they be in the agriculture sector or in the aerospace sector or in the auto sector."
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told reporters in a conference call that Canada lost an opportunity for growth as a result of Tuesday's failure.
"There is no doubt this is a significant setback especially for our farmers and exporters, given the economic benefits that they and Canada as a whole set to achieve from a positive outcome," Ritz told Canadian reporters in a conference call. "We will push ahead with our trade agenda and our efforts to find more opportunities for our producers and exporters."
Fortier indicated he wasn't particularly surprised at the failure of an agreement that would have required the ratification of all 153 member countries of the WTO.
"Am I surprised? There was a formidable task at hand," he said. "It is extremely challenging . . . to try to bring everybody on board."
Fortier said he was hopeful WTO talks would eventually start again.
"I'm hoping that in the weeks to come (Lamy) can garner some momentum toward kick-starting these discussions," after officials reach a consensus on key issues, Fortier said.
He noted, however, that this could be delayed by elections in a number of key countries that could change some of the interveners. With files from Phil Couvrette in Ottawa
Jonathan Roy charged for hockey attack
Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, July 31, 2008
SAGUENAY, Que. - The son of former Habs goaltender Patrick Roy has been charged with one count of assault for his part in a brawl during a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff game last March, police said Thursday.
"Jonathan Roy is accused of assault against Bobby Nadeau," said Jean Boily of Saguenay public security. "The investigation is closed and the file has been forwarded to the prosecutor's office today."
The 19-year-old is expected to appear in court on Sept. 16.
Both Patrick Roy, who coaches his son, and Jonathan, who plays goalie for the Quebec Remparts, were suspended following the incident. Jonathan and both teams involved in the game, the Remparts and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, were fined for the brawl which relaunched the debate of violence in junior hockey.
During the second period of the March 22 game, with the Remparts facing a six-goal deficit, the young Roy skated across the ice to deliver a pounding to Nadeau.
Patrick Roy was caught on camera gesturing to his son, but denied he encouraged him to fight.
Rare snow leopard gives birth to twins at Quebec zoo
Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, August 06, 2008
GRANBY, Que. - Two young snow leopards, an endangered species, were born in a zoo southeast of Montreal, the zoo announced Wednesday.
A female leopard called Snowflake gave birth Friday, said Catherine Page of Granby Zoo, stressing the event was rare.
"In the last 12 months two were born in North America, three in Europe and three in Japan," said Page. "It doesn't happen frequently."
The birth came as a surprise to zoo officials who said Snowflake's recent attempts to mate had failed. The public may get a say in naming the cubs, Page said.
Snow leopards live in the hard-to-access mountains and high plateaus of Central Asia, according to the zoo. The highest concentrations can be found in China, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan.
Granby Zoo is where Boomer, a lion cub that escaped from his owners on the Algonquin First Nation reserve in Maniwaki, Que., in April, has been taken care of.
Boomer has ended his quarantine but has yet to be seen in public.
Country's top weatherman faces the heat
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, August 07, 2008
Canada's top meteorologist says he's not afraid to start his car every day, but David Phillips admits he's been getting nasty e-mails and has been accosted by critics in public about his predictions for the summer of 2008.
Philips, a 40-year veteran at Environment Canada, says he understands Canadians are upset that the "warm and dry" weather he predicted may have sounded like a lot of hot air in some parts. And he says a good month of August could still prove his predictions true.
Overall temperatures have been a bit cool, but dry out west, warm and dry in the Maritimes and warmer and a whole lot wetter in Newfoundland. But things have been disappointing in between, especially in the wet and cold Prairies.
Predictions for Saskatchewan and Manitoba have clearly fallen short, he admits. But while people in Montreal may feel the same way, it might only be because the downpours coincided with the province's usual two-week holiday period. Quebec City, however, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary, has been the "wettest spot" nationwide.
As a result, Phillips has been hearing it from Canadians, both in his mailbox and on the streets.
"I can really understand the frustration Canadians have had with regards to the summerlike conditions," Phillips said. "Not that I've had to hire any security guards or anything like this."
"I've been in the business for a long time and accept the fact sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong," he added.
Critics have been pulling out the zingers and one-liners in frustration, he says.
In an e-mail, one critic mused "a weather person is about the only job you can have to be wrong all the time and still have a job the next day."
Another quipped: "Weather people were created to make economists look good."
But the frustration Canadians have felt this summer really hit home when Phillips visited a supermarket on Saturday.
There, he said, a woman blocked his cart and charged: " 'You said it was going to be a warm and dry summer. What happened?' "
Phillips said that after collecting praise for his winter predictions, criticism about summer's forecast has been pouring like Quebec City rain. But the predictions weren't wrong, he added.
"What bothered me is our forecast for temperatures has been correct," he said. "We said precipitations were going to be near normal."
"We still have a month to go."
Temperature-wise June was warmer than normal and July marginally warmer in Eastern Canada, he noted, with cities from St. John's, N.L., to Toronto recording temperatures up to 1.5 C warmer than averages.
But Phillips admits apologies may be in order for the Prairies.
"We were wrong in Saskatchewan and Manitoba," he said. "They have had the toughest of all summers because it's been coolish and wettish. We didn't get that right, and we accept that."
"They endure tough winters, and it's almost as if they're owed good summers," he added. "It's a tough country to forecast the weather; it's a big country, not everybody's going to be in the same situation."
While the Prairies may have an air-tight case to complain, it may not be so for Montrealers who feel they may have been cheated out of a sunny vacation.
"Their construction holiday probably was the worst two weeks of the summer," Phillips pointed out. "So that's what's driving them to think it's been the year from hell."
On the other hand, Quebec City revellers are right to feel the weather has dampened the party, after taking in nearly 400 mm of rain in June and July.
Further east however, Maritimers "got the best news. They both got it warm and dry," Phillips noted.
Some Quebec outdoor businesses have been complaining that weather forecasts have sunk their figures as much as the weather itself, but Martin Roy of Montreal's La Ronde amusement park, which introduced a cut-rate mid-season pass, said the public must make an educated choice about forecasts.
"The public must do its down research, you can't sum up a day's weather in a weather icon," he said. "Seventy per cent probability of precipitation doesn't mean it will rain 70 per cent of the time."
Phillips says some people actually tell him they like cooler and wetter weather.
"They like the greenness of the lawn and cleanness of the air, the coolness of temperatures and the sense there hasn't been a lot of torrid days," he noted. "They're saving money on their air-conditioning bills."
On a rainy day there's fewer people in the park and less wait times, noted Roy.
And even Phillips' detractors are disgruntled up to a point. After raving and ranting, the woman who cornered him in the supermarket had one more question to drill him with.
"What's winter going to be like?"
Protest turns violent in Montreal
Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, August 10, 2008
MONTREAL - Montreal police say a female police officer was injured and businesses and vehicles damaged after a protest Sunday in the northern part of Montreal got out of control.
Police said it was possible the officer was injured after being shot to the leg but was still trying to confirm the information.
A number of vehicles were set on fire including an ambulance and a fire truck. The incident occurred in the area where an 18-year-old was killed Saturday after an altercation between police and a group of youths.
Police say many people were out in the streets acting rowdy and projectiles were thrown at vehicles and buildings.
The Montreal police riot squad was called out, and a local fire station was vandalized, according to a report by LCN television.
Police were not able to confirm any arrests as of 11:30 p.m.
Fredy Villanueva died in hospital Saturday night after a confrontation with officers near Henri Bourassa Park in Montreal North earlier in the day.
A Montreal police statement said officers felt threatened by Fredy, his brother Dany and a number of friends, which is why they reacted with force.
It said the officers were surrounded by youths when they tried to arrest one suspect.
"At one point, the group began to move and a good number of individuals charged toward the police and threatened them," the statement said. "One of the police officers present then fired in the direction of the suspects, striking three of them."
The Surete du Quebec, which has taken over the investigation because it involves the Montreal police, remained tight-lipped about the incident.
"I can't tell you what they were doing, we don't even know how many (teenagers) there were," said Sgt. Gregory Gomez Del Prado, a spokesman for the provincial police.
The SQ would not reveal the reason for the arrest. There were conflicting reports about which officer fired the shots.
TSB draft report in deadly East Coast sinking not released
Ken Meaney and Phil Couvrette , Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, August 14, 2008
OTTAWA - Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board have completed a draft report into the sinking of a Quebec sealing vessel while under a coast guard tow last spring that left four men dead, but will not release their findings until the final report is completed this fall.
However, one witness to the accident is already taking issue with a way the coast guard conducted a simulation of the tow as part of its investigation.
John Eaves, the Transportation Safety Board's lead investigator into the accident, said Thursday investigators observed simulations of the tow carried out by the coast guard using ships that closely resembled L'Acadien II and the Sir William Alexander, the icebreaker that was towing her. The trials were done to simulate the actual towing arrangements as accurately as possible, he said.
Board spokesman John Cottreau said the simulations were valid because the incident occurred in a patch of open water.
"They were going through ice and they came out into an open area of water and that's when the accident happened," he said. "And so what the sea trials that were conducted by the coast guard were to do was to find out what happened with the towed vessel in open water."
But Wayne Dickson, the captain of the ship that rescued two of L'Acadien II's crew, said that from what he heard the simulations, conducted in Halifax harbour in June and Baie des Chaleurs, N.B. in July, didn't duplicate the conditions surrounding the sinking very well.
"It wasn't open water - there were ice conditions and ice cakes all around," he said.
He also criticized the fact none of the witnesses of the incident were there to observe the simulation.
"I can't figure out why did they do that without at least some of us being there to tell them 'yes this is exactly what happened,' " he said.
Eaves said the draft findings have gone to people and organizations with direct knowledge of the accident who would be able to comment on the accuracy of the report.
Neither he nor Cottreau would say who has received copies of the report, citing the need for confidentiality but Dickson said he was expecting his copy any day.
Cottreau said some family members on the Magdalen Islands where the ship was based got it because they, too, have direct knowledge of the accident and their input was sought.
The reviewers have a month to provide feedback.
Eaves would not say what has been determined about the accident, but he said the agency will release its final report as quickly as possible.
"We pulled out all the stops on this one . . . It was an important case in our mind and one that attracted a lot of media attention and a lot of interest certainly in this part of Canada," he said.
Cottreau said any recommendations will be in place for next spring's sealing season.
The sinking of L'Acadien II occurred shortly after midnight on March 29, northeast of Cape Breton Island, as the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was getting underway.
Two of the crew were rescued. Three others, including the father of one of the survivors, died. The fourth man's body was not found.
One of the survivors, Bruno-Pierre Bourque, said last April no one on board the icebreaker, Sir William Alexander, was monitoring the tow in the minutes before the accident. The coast guard says that is incorrect; that the crew were actually watching.
Dickson said if that's the case, "they should have stopped the tow 10-15 minutes before that because the boat almost capsized twice (before it went under)."
An RCMP investigation concluded in the spring that there would be no criminal charges in the sinking. The Canadian Coast Guard is also conducting a probe. Its report is expected this fall.
Six survival suits and a life-raft from the vessel were recovered last month off the coast of a small Nova Scotia fishing village, Cape Forchu.
Eaves said the discovery answered one riddle.
"It actually ate at us - what exactly happened to the life-raft? Well, now that we've found it . . . we know that it in fact did release," he said, although the accident happened so fast the crew were not able to get into it.
Failure to heed airline safety instructions could get passengers sued
By Jack Branswell and Phil Couvrette Canwest News Service August 17, 2008
OTTAWA -- Like most people, you probably tune out as flight attendants give their safety briefing before the plane takes off, but if you’re in an exit row, you might want to think twice about not paying attention.
Transport Canada documents obtained by Canwest News Service question whether there is a possibility that exit row passengers could be sued if they ignore the instructions and someone is injured or dies as a result.
A cabin safety standards inspector with Transport Canada raised that possibility in an e-mail to a colleague, obtained by Canwest News Service.
The e-mail quoted an Air Law and Commerce article from 2003 that suggested that “holding exit row passengers liable for damages resulting from their inattention to safety materials could deter exit row passengers from ignoring safety information and compensate those victims harmed.”
The e-mail also questioned whether cabin crew on the plane, “those responsible for informing exit row passengers of their duties could also become targets for a ‘negligence cause of action.’ In the end, the airline could likely become involved in such actions. Thus, the importance of providing exit row passengers with detailed briefings to prepare them for emergencies cannot be underestimated,” Christopher Dann, the inspector, wrote.
Dann said that the 2003 article by Wendy Gerwick was the only published work that he was aware of on the topic.
Jean Riverin, a Transport Canada spokesman, said his department is not aware of any specific legal action against an exit row passenger resulting from an incident or accident. Transport Canada would not comment directly on the potential for lawsuits.
Canadian airlines are required to brief passengers in exit rows on how to open the emergency door, but the question of when and if they should do it is far more murky and that potentially opens the door to lawsuits.
Transport Canada regulations require exit row passengers to be able to understand the safety briefing, be physically able to open the door, to be able to determine visually if the door is safe to open and that they be of a minimum age, established by the airline. If they don’t meet those criteria, the airlines have to ask them to change seats.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has reviewed the issue of exit row passengers and the results weren’t great. In six cases it looked at, its questionnaire found that passengers had difficulty in knowing when to open the emergency exits. It found that in two cases, exits that should have remained closed were opened. In other case, flight crew ordered an evacuation from the forward exits only, but a passenger still opened an exit over the plane’s wing.
The board also found that passengers had trouble assessing conditions outside the plane. In one case, passengers opened an exit and smoke started flowing into the plane. Two passengers were severely burned as they jumped through fire as they exited the plane.
It also concluded that most passengers don’t read safety information on the plane and that “exit procedures for emergency evacuations are critical and if not followed could lead to tragedy.”
A recent Australian Transportation Safety Board study also found “passenger attention to safety communications were found to be generally low.” It noted that in part that may be because “perceptions that it is socially undesirable to pay attention to safety information.”
In Canada, the question of whether a passenger could sue a fellow passenger, the airline or both is extremely complex because it isn’t necessarily clear what jurisdiction the case would fall under. Where it happens and where the plane was from could be factors. For example, civil suits in Quebec fall under that province’s civil code but in the rest of Canada, common law is used.
In Quebec, retired civil law professor Claude Fabien says it would be difficult to sue someone for damages if they are trying to help others and it ends in injury. Fabien said the code essentially exonerates anyone of blame if they are trying to help someone else.
“The passenger would really have to do something very stupid to not enjoy immunity from this rule. The goal of the rule is to encourage people to help others without having to worry about a civil lawsuit.”
While there is “no initial obligation to help others,” under common law, University of Montreal law professor Stephane Beaulac says, exit row passengers could potentially become liable if things go wrong after “explicitly or implicitly” accepting to help in case of an emergency.
They can do the latter by “listening to the briefing of the crew and acknowledging, giving the impression they accepted the mandate to help.” In that case, Beaulac added, “there must not be negligence and passengers must to the best of their abilities be able to follow the crew’s directives.”
If there is negligence, in theory the passengers could be held responsible and have to pay for damages.
But lawsuits are more likely to target the airlines, which have deeper pockets, Beaulac noted.
“The entire process of delegating, giving a mandate, a responsibility to someone with no expertise in the evacuation of the plane,” could be called into question, he said. The passengers could sue the airline, raising issue with the instructions or the problematic character of the delegation process.
Neither Air Canada nor WestJet would comment on the potential for lawsuits over exit row passenger issues.
Canadian cities score on new Monopoly board
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 Canwest News Service
Three Canadian cities scored much-coveted spots on Monopoly's World Edition, according to a statement by Hasbro Tuesday evening.
Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will all be included in the international version of Hasbro's famous board, which fans voted on last winter.
Montreal will be in the space usually occupied by Boardwalk - the most expensive property on the board of the popular game, which was invented by Charles Darrow in 1935.
The top 20 cities from the Internet voting earned a spot on the board known for making Marvin Gardens a household name.
The winning cities are placed on the board "from highest rent property to lowest rent property" according to their voting tallies.
Monopoly also selected the top two among a number of "wild-card" cities chosen by online voters. The other 68 cities were preselected by Hasbro. The game goes on sale in September in 45 countries.
While the contest sounded like fun and games it was being taken quite seriously by city officials, businesses and media organizations which spread the word of voting for their cities last winter.
This is only the latest version of Monopoly, which has seen more than 200 editions since 1935, selling over 250 million copies in 103 countries and 37 languages.
But the most popular version remains the classic one based on streets in Atlantic City, N.J.
Cellphone-only households growing and youthful: studies
By Phil Couvrette Canwest News ServiceAugust 24, 2008
OTTAWA — Canadians who use cellphones exclusively at home are more likely to be male, young and Internet-savvy, according to a new study.
The survey, by Ekos Research Associates, conducted for Public Works and Government Services Canada found that 68 per cent of people in cellphone-only households are 34-years-old or younger, compared to 30 per cent in the general population. Sixty-nine percent are male, who represent just under half of the Canadian population, and cellphone-only respondents were also likely to spend more time online and made use more frequently of interactive Internet applications.
The results were characteristics of young people more likely to pick up new trends, noted Marc Choma of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.
“The younger adopters are going to be the people that are going to pick up that service first,” he said. “They are a little bit more experimental and at ease in terms of technology.”
Choma said related Statistics Canada figures show the number of cellphone-only homes has been increasing. In 2007, it hit 6.4 per cent, compared to 5.1 per cent in 2006, which is more than a 25 per cent increase.
British Columbia had the highest percentage of cellphone-only households, with 10.2 per cent, while at the other end of the spectrum Newfoundland and Labrador registered 3.9 per cent.
Ontario had 5.3 per cent cellphone-only households while Quebec had 6.3 per cent and Alberta 7.7 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
The Ekos survey found that cellphone-only users are also more likely to report a lower household income and live in smaller homes.
Phone companies are paying attention to the trend, offering services custom-made both for cellphone and Internet hogs.
Rogers’ home services enable customers to make unlimited voice calls over a home-based wireless Internet connection, said Marie-Eve Villeneuve of Rogers communications.
“This enables you to use your cellphone at home in a Wi-Fi zone,” which means customers aren’t using their usual talk time.
“The type of people we’re targeting are youngsters who grew up with their cellphones and when it comes the time to leave the house don’t see the use for a land line,” Villeneuve said.
The object of the Ekos survey for Public Works was to assess the feasibility of conducting surveys with cellphone subscribers, who can’t be reached using current polling methods.
Ekos noted that calling cellphone users could help marketers contact hard-to-reach young responders.
In 2007, cellphone access in Canada was 72.4 per cent in households nationwide, according to Statistics Canada and use is up as well to over 400 minutes per month, or 2.5 times the European average.
“Canadians are one of the biggest talkers in the world,” Choma noted.
Ekos surveyed 203 people and the margin of error was 6.9 per cent. It is considered accurate 19 times out of 20. The survey data were collected over a 15-day period from January 15 to Jan 28, 2008.
U.S. computer glitch could cause delays to Canadian flights
By Phil Couvrette Tuesday, August 26, 2008
OTTAWA - Canada's civil airspace authority said Canadians could expect air traffic communications network problems that grounded planes south of the border on Tuesday to have an impact on flights to and from the U.S.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration reported delays to air traffic at more than two dozen airports across the U.S. because of the problem.
"We're still trying to assess this, but this will have an effect on flights to and from the United States and possibly some of the overnight international flights too. But it's too early to give an accurate assessment," said Ron Singer of Nav Canada, which runs the country's civil air navigation network.
Delays were not immediately noticeable in Canada, where Nav Canada said all air traffic systems were operating normally.
At Toronto's Pearson airport, officials said any delays in the U.S. will obviously affect arrival times at Pearson, Canada's main airline hub. There were some delays in Canadian departures, mostly to Chicago and other destinations in the U.S. Midwest.
Vancouver and Montreal airport officials said it was business as usual with no delays related to the computer glitch.
"It depends how long it continues for, but for the moment travellers don't have to be concerned," said Aeroports de Montreal spokeswoman Anne Marcotte. The FAA said it was hoping to solve the problem by early Tuesday evening.
Air Canada said only one flight was affected in Boston which, along with Baltimore, Charlotte, Atlanta and Chicago, faced major delays.
Singer said it was initially hard to determine whether domestic intercontinental Canadian flights, which often travel through U.S. airspace, would be affected.
Once the system is back up and running in the U.S. there is bound to be a backlog he said, and recommended travellers contact the airlines and airports to check the status of their flights.
He said the glitch affected airports in the Eastern U.S., which could mean delays in eastern Canadian airports from Halifax to Toronto.
"All systems in Canada including radar surveillance systems are working," Singer said.
He said Nav Canada was in contact with both U.S. officials south of the border and Canada's airports.
A problem with a communications link in a system that processes flight plan data in Hampton, Ga., was causing the flight delays, according to the southern region branch of the FAA.
The cause of the failure was not known, and a spokeswoman for the FAA added that radar coverage had not been affected.
The Department of Homeland Security said there was no link to terrorism and the FAA said the computer glitch did not affect safety.
"This is not a safety issue," FAA spokeswoman Tammy Jones said. "It is a problem with the (computer) system that is used to process flight plans." With files from Reuters and the Montreal Gazette
Erosion chewing up Canada's coastlines, researchers warn
By Ken Meaney and Phil Couvrette Monday, September 01, 2008
Rising sea levels and storm surges are taking a bite out of Canada's 243,000 kilometres of coastlines from the Atlantic to the Far North to the Pacific, researchers warn.
The phenomenon is nationwide but affects regions in different ways, notes Jean-Pierre Savard of Ouranos, a consortium of scientists and specialists who study climatology across North America.
Savard, who recently returned from an international conference on coastal erosion in Quebec, says the phenomenon was raised by researchers from coast to coast, and overseas as well.
"The overall picture is that all government organizations involved in the management of coastal zones are concerned because climate change has a global effect that leads to greater erosion and risks," he said.
Across the North the coasts are threatened by the rapid melting of the permafrost, Savard noted, while melting ice in general exposes coastlines.
"This is a big problem across the Gulf and the Arctic because the ice protects the coastline, as it shrinks it becomes an agent of erosion, becoming more mobile and letting more waves hit the coastline, increasing erosion problems," Savard explained.
The manifestations of land erosion vary, he said. "In the Bay of Fundy the problems aren't the same as in British Columbia, which is more exposed to tsunamis and problems of this nature."
In tiny Souris, P.E.I., people who live in houses perched above a sandstone cliff have lost three metres of land in the last decade. Some of those homes are now just three metres from the edge, said Deputy Mayor Denis Thibodeau.
"There's been erosion since the beginning of time, I guess, but . . . there's not much room left in some cases," Thibodeau said.
On British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, the same amount of land is gobbled up annually.
Climate researcher Ian Walker of the University of Victoria says Canada has the longest coastline in the world and over 80 per cent of it is submerging due to sea level rise. But even areas where the sea level is stable are at risk, he says, because of the greater frequency of storms, particularly on the Pacific coast.
"The greatest concern is areas that are highly developed. Richmond is at or below sea level and it's one of the most densely developed and developing areas in greater Vancouver."
"The airport which will serve the Olympics is at or below sea level and is protected by dikes.
"You have the combined increased sea level rise, increased storminess, increased flooding of the Fraser River, increased development causing the sinking of the land, all culminating into one highly developed, economically rich area."
Walker, who authored a study on climate change and sea-level rise on B.C.'s Graham Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands - also called Haida Gwaii - cautions that erosion is a natural process not always linked to climate change. But he adds it tends to accelerate in areas that are already prone to erosion.
On Haida Gwaii, "we're seeing more extreme storm events, more storm surges superimposed on sea level rise that would be accelerating sea level erosion," he said. "There are sites we have been monitoring for 15 years and we have seen rapid rates, averaging one to three metres a year along that coast."
He lists other areas at risk across the country: "The Mackenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, portions of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Halifax harbour, Charlottetown harbour - these are all areas that are subject to fairly rapid sea level rise and in some cases, not all, subject to enhanced erosion," he said.
The problem, says Walker, is that "we've developed a lot of our houses and communities and infrastructure on coastlines or on flood plains for historic reasons, for esthetic reasons, cultural reasons that in the face of climate change put us in increasing hazard and . . . increasing risk of economic losses."
In Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., the rising Beaufort Sea is eating away at the land there, too.
Norm Catto, a geography professor at Memorial University in St. John's, N.L., says the surprisingly delicate North is feeling the combined effects of storms, high sea levels and warmer summers.
"Most of the area affected is permafrost, so you have frozen sediments and lenses of ice (that) have very little resistance when the waves strike.
"When you couple that with the general warming conditions that we see in the area . . . it accelerates erosion. And if the amount of ice in the Beaufort Sea is reduced . . . the wave action is able to act on the coast for a greater period of time."
In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Magdalen Islands Mayor Joel Arsenault worries about the islands' connecting road network, which is built on sand dunes and is being eaten away.
A report on the vulnerability of Gulf communities like Arsenault's was completed by Ouranos last month for the Quebec government.
It found coastal erosion was a growing problem, caused in part by rising sea levels and shrinking ice packs leaving coastlines more exposed. Erosion was also aggravated in recent years by intense precipitation.
Catto cautions that areas that are prone to floods will see worse flooding as sea levels rise.
"We have a number of communities . . . where rising sea levels are going to cause difficulty," he said. "This has happened once; it can happen again. So how are we going to cope?"
Emergency plans come under fire
By Linda Nguyen and Phil Couvrette Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Canada is not sufficiently prepared to cope with serious national emergencies, from natural disasters to terrorist attacks, according to a scathing Senate report released yesterday.
The report by the standing committee on national security and defence criticizes the federal government for procrastinating in implementing and maintaining disaster readiness programs across the country, leaving Canadians vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.
"We raised a number of issues four years ago and the government has been brain-dead ever since," Liberal senator and committee chairman Colin Kenny said yesterday. "They have not moved forward on any of the main issues and their attitude is wrong."
The report, lightheartedly titled Emergency Preparedness in Canada: How the Fine Arts of Bafflegab and Procrastination Hobble the People Who Will Be Trying to Save You When Things Get Really Bad, follows up a similar report tabled in 2004.
"Seven years have elapsed since Sept. 11, 2001. Yet, despite all the bureaucratic promises from three successive governments, progress is still 'just around the corner'," the report said. "And Canada's emergency preparedness capacity is clearly still thin and fragmented."
The report cites the 1985 Air India bombing as the "first national wakeup call," and urges the government to become more prepared in light of terrorist threats and natural disasters, such as flooding in Quebec, the E. coli water contamination problem in Walkerton, Ont., forest fires in B.C., the mad cow scare in Alberta, and SARS in Ontario.
The committee noted that many of the 12 recommendations in yesterday's report were identified as "long-standing weaknesses" in the previous Senate report, Canada's Fragile Front Lines.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day called the report "irresponsible."
"Our government's first priority is protecting the safety and security of all Canadians," he said in an e-mail. "The senator's report, from the title on down, is irresponsible and does not reflect the true picture of how much progress has been made in protecting Canadians since the last elections."
Mr. Day argued that the current government has done much more than the previous Liberal government, with which the senator is associated.
"We did not have to wait for Senator Kenny to tell us that the Liberals neglected emergency management for 13 years. After all, we already knew of their appalling record on security and national defence. However, what we found alarming when we formed government was just how little the Liberals had actually done to keep Canadians safe," he said. "We have made significant progress to close the legislative, financial and planning gaps in Canada's emergency plan."
In contrast, the report concluded that the current "top-down" funding system for emergency planning, in which federal and provincial governments provide money without consulting frontline workers, needs to be overhauled.
Ron Kuban, president of Pegasus Emergency Management Consortium Corp., said the government has gone in the wrong direction with emergency preparedness since 9/11.
There is "lack of focus" on disaster readiness at a grassroots level, he said.
Low-income parents struggle to save for education
By Phil CouvretteSeptember 2, 2008
OTTAWA - While low-income parents have high hopes for their children’s post-secondary education and recognize the need to save early to pay for it, many are having a hard time doing that, according to a study.
The parents who were surveyed for Human Resources and Social Development Canada primarily cite lack of money as an issue for not saving for education but they also aren’t always aware of financing options.
On the surface parents seem to be aware of various savings plans and grants to finance their child’s higher education, but few can accurately describe them, says an Ekos Research Associates study released recently by the government.
The survey interviewed 901 parents reporting a household income of $38,000 or less with children under 18.
Among the means of financing post-secondary education Registered Education Savings Plans were often recognized, with 83 per cent of parents saying they had heard of them. But only half could describe what RESPs were accurately while some confused them with other products such as Canada Education Savings Grants. Only one-third of low-income parents had heard about CESGs and just half of those could describe them accurately. Four in 10 low-income parents were saving for post-secondary education in some fashion, according to the survey, two-thirds of them choosing an RESP.
“Low-income parents’ expectations of their children attending post-secondary institutions are very high . . . (most) agree that parents should begin saving for their child’s (post-secondary education) before they are teenagers,” the survey noted. “Despite this a significant number do not know what steps to take or to whom to speak to open an RESP.”
The study noted 90 percent agreed it is worthwhile to begin saving for their children’s post-secondary education even if it means only putting away $10 a month. But only forty percent of those who expect at least one of their children to attend post-secondary education were currently saving money.
Partly explaining this is that three in 10 of low-income parents polled do not believe that saving for higher education is at all feasible at their income levels.
One of the authors of a recent study on equitable access to Canadian universities says she is glad something is drawing attention to the difficulty low-income families have of financing higher education.
“I wonder if a larger sample size might produce a somewhat more damning picture of how difficult, and increasingly so, it is for low-income and middle-income families to see their children get into and through a university education,” noted Valerie Ashford, a research coordinator at Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy.
The survey underlined a need to promote the financing options. Most people learn about them from banks, the survey said.
People not contributing to an RESP indicated they were more likely to do so after learning about the impact of the CESG. “If parents knew that they would receive a grant of $4 for every $10 they contributed to an RESP, seven in 10 said they would be more likely to open an RESP,” the study noted. CESGs can provide 20, 30 or 40 cents for every dollar saved for a child’s education depending on income.
There is no shortage of barriers to higher education for low-income households, Ashford stressed, pointing to the 11 per cent of parents who didn’t report having a bank account.
“That’s actually a significant number of low-income Canadians, if the data is taken to be representative,” she noted. “Further, anyone who’s dealt with the bureaucratic minefields of welfare in any of its forms simply may not have the spirit to approach RESP providers, which is why I like the automatic enrolment possibility so much.”
Parents responding to the Ekos survey were told the government is considering changing the enrolment process for Canadian Learning Bonds. An RESP would be automatically opened and $500 deposited in a child’s first year, income permitting. While seven in 10 liked the idea, a quarter were concerned about invasion of privacy.
“If implemented, I’d certainly like to see a concerted effort made to assuage the anxieties about privacy felt by some parents,” Ashford said.
But putting money away for RESPs is daunting enough for average Canadians who sometimes have to decide between contributing, or increasing their own RRSPs.
“I try to tell people they are going to be looking at facing the costs of their children’s post-secondary education before their retirement costs,” said Peter Lewis, vice-president of operations of Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation.
The survey says there is no single identifiable group of RESP savers but they tend to be younger, have young children and are likely to have post-secondary education themselves. Further, if they aren’t committing funds for post-secondary education early on, they are unlikely to do so later on.
The Ekos survey was completed between December 10, 2007 and January 29, 2008 with an error margin of 3.3 per cent and is accurate 19 times out of 20.
With files from the Financial Post
Computer chips could keep gamblers off machines, inventer says
By Phil CouvretteSeptember 3, 2008
A Quebec businessman has developed a device that he says would effectively turn off compulsive gamblers from electronic gambling machines and he’s upset the province’s lottery corporation seems itself turned off by the device.
Chantal Audet, a Saguenay businessman who worked under contract for Loto-Quebec for 13 years, says tests have shown his technique to keep problem gamblers away from machines such as video lottery terminals does work.
The fruit of two years of labour, it works by implanting a tiny computer chip on people who voluntarily submit to the procedure. A similar chip would then be installed on all of the province’s VLT machines, making them go blank as the patron approaches them. The same technique could be used at the entrance of casinos to block access to someone at the turnstiles.
But Loto-Quebec, which helped finance a small part of the project, now seems cool to the idea, says Audet.
“They told me they didn’t want to go forward with the project,” he said. “It was developed especially for them. We would have to adapt the module, but the same principle could work anywhere.”
“At first they said, because it was a chip going into the skin, I should get in touch with the Health Ministry . . . and (health officials) were blown away,” Audet said, adding that they thought it was a great idea.
Loto-Quebec then raised the matter of ethics, an issue the health ministry is still debating, but Audet stressed an ethics professor he consulted said it wasn’t an issue because the procedure would be done on a voluntary basis and the chip could be removed.
For its part, Loto-Quebec said it hasn’t turned down the project, but was waiting to hear from health officials.
Because the procedure involves surgery “it’s not nothing,” and raises “health and civic rights issues” said Marie-Claude Rivet, a spokeswoman for Loto-Quebec.
“It’s not for us to make this decision; other authorities must first make them,” she said.
But Audet says because he also suggested the use of a bracelet to avoid surgery, Loto-Quebec was stalling.
“Loto-Quebec’s decision wasn’t surprising, because according to health officials most of the revenues coming from electronic games come from people struggling with problem gambling,” said Alain Dubois, an expert on addictions.
But Audet said the device could actually boost Loto-Quebec’s revenues.
“Ironically, this is advantageous — it puts (Loto-Quebec’s) conscience at ease and would prevent them from having to remove VLTs,” he said.
Audet said his conversations with problem gamblers made it clear VLTs had to go. “The chip means that for a compulsive gambler the terminal doesn’t exist anymore.”
He adds it also helps in the case of compulsive gamblers who avoid therapy because of fear that their family, friends and colleagues might find out.
In contrast to lengthy therapy, the surgical procedure would take little time, he said, and be a lot cheaper.
“They wouldn’t be cured, but it would be a first step that could be monitored afterwards.”
It would cost some $8 million to $10 million to equip the province’s VLTs, he estimated.
“Mr. Audet’s proposal warrants more attention and perhaps more experimentation ... under scientific supervision,” Dubois said.
Quebec Liberal candidate resigns over Oka comments
Thursday, September 11, 2008
QUEBEC - A Quebec City Liberal candidate has resigned after proposing the army should have used lethal force to end the Oka crisis.
"I have asked for and received the resignation of Simon Bedard as the Liberal Party of Canada's candidate in the riding of Quebec," said Liberal Leader Stephane Dion Thursday. "Clearly, Mr. Bedard agrees that the statements he has made regarding First Nations people are not compatible with the beliefs and values of the Liberal Party of Canada."
Bedard, a former radio host, proposed at the time of the 1990 Oka crisis that the army use force to lift Mohawk Warrior barricades, even if that meant as many as 150 deaths.
This week he told Quebec City's Le Soleil daily newspaper that, "maybe we should have done it because 17 years later, it's still the same."
Bedard withdrew the remarks on Wednesday, and the party announced a news conference on Thursday where, it said, he would explain himself. But reporters who arrived for the news conference in a suburban mall were informed it had been put off to an unspecified future date.
Hours later, Dion announced Bedard's resignation.
"While Mr. Bedard has clearly indicated that he no longer holds those views, the Liberal Party of Canada's proud tradition of support for our aboriginal communities must not be overshadowed by these comments."
Quebec City-area native chief Max Gros-Louis, who had called for Bedard's resignation and previously compared him to Hitler, said repeating comments he had made years earlier only showed he was digging in his position.
"Someone who makes comments of this nature on a nation doesn't deserve to be a candidate," he said. "When you write 'you go in there with the army and clean all that up' it doesn't make any sense." With files from Montreal Gazette
Que. hospital reports new C. difficile
Thursday, September 11 2008
ST. HYACINTHE, Que. - The Quebec hospital at the heart of a major 2006 C. difficile outbreak that killed 16 people has reported five new cases of the infection.
The patients were housed in the geriatric ward at Honore-Mercier Hospital, 60 kilometres east of Montreal. Five were found to have been infected last week while a sixth was under observation, said Claude Dallaire, a spokesman at the hospital. He said the situation was under control and no other cases were expected. Patients have been placed in isolation as a number of preventive measures were put in place.
"When this sort of thing occurs it is important to ensure it is under control and there isn't a spread of cases," Dallaire said. "Our vigilance is all the more increased because it's a geriatric clientele, which includes very sick people, quite vulnerable to any sort of infection."
Relatives of patients who either were infected or died from C. difficile during the 2006 outbreak recently launched a class-action suit against the local health authority for up to $10 million in damages.
The outbreak was one of the worst in the province. In total, 70 patients contracted a virulent strain of Clostridium difficile while being treated there.
A coroner's report blamed slipshod infection control and hospital cutbacks in maintenance for causing the outbreak, but it also noted the situation improved following a change in administration. With files from the Montreal Gazette
Jonathan Roy pleads not guilty
Tuesday, September 16 2008
SAGUENAY, Que. - The son of former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy, Jonathan, says he's not guilty of assault.
That was his plea Tuesday after the goalie for the Quebec Remparts of Quebec's Major Junior Hockey League was charged after an on-ice fight at the end of last season.
In a playoff game against the Chicoutimi Sagueneens on March 22, Roy skated the length of the ice and delivered a pounding to opposing goalie Bobby Nadeau, who was standing in his crease.
The footage was shown across the globe and sparked calls to restrict violence in junior hockey.
Both Patrick Roy, who coaches his son, and Jonathan, who plays goalie for the Remparts, were suspended following the incident. Jonathan and both teams involved in the game were fined for the brawl.
If found guilty of simple assault Jonathan Roy faces up to six months in jail - and a $2,000 fine.
The case returns to court in November.
Global News with files from Canwest News Service
East Coast battens down hatches
By Tobin Dalrymple and Phil Couvrette Monday, September 29, 2008
Emergency and power crews in parts of Atlantic Canada were at work early today trying to restore electricity as tropical storm Kyle swirled into the Maritimes, its high winds toppling power lines.
Kyle went ashore just north of Yarmouth, N.S. at around 9 p.m. Atlantic Time as a marginal Category 1 hurricane, according to the Canadian Hurricane Centre, based in Dartmouth, N.S., downing trees and causing power outages.
As it moved north toward New Brunswick and was downgraded to a tropical storm, winds with gusts up to 110 km/h over exposed areas could still cause damage, the Hurricane Centre warned.
Nova Scotia Power said as of midnight AT some 24,000 customers were without power while another 10,000 had seen their power restored.
"We're seeing trees bringing down lines, whole trees topple over, we're seeing high winds," said Glennie Langille of Nova Scotia Power.
"We are doing as much work as we can within the conditions that we have," she said, mentioning that work had to stop whenever winds topped 90 km/h. "We've been working throughout the storm when it is safe to do so."
Dennis Kelly of Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office said damage from the storm was not as widespread as had been feared.
NB Power meanwhile was reporting some 700 customers without power across New Brunswick as the storm moved toward the province.
The storm was expected to bring significant rainfall to most of New Brunswick where rainfall advisories have been posted, warning of 50 to 100 millimetres of rain falling in a short period of time, threatening to cause some flooding. As of 11 p.m. AT the Hurricane Centre said tropical storm warnings were in effect for several southern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia regions, including Moncton, Saint John, Lunenburg, Shelburne, Yarmouth and Digby counties and the Bay of Fundy area.
Nova Scotia Power had put its crews on alert "right across the province" and had enlisted extra contract crews to help out in the event of widespread outages, said spokeswoman Margaret Murphy.
"The forecast shows a large severe weather system headed our way," she said. "Certainly experience shows it's best to be prepared, so we prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
Murphy said the company had been putting particular emphasis on beefing up crews in the southwestern shores of Nova Scotia, where Kyle was forecast to hit land, with wind speeds roaring at up to 130 kilometres an hour.
New Brunswick power authorities were making similar preparations.
Kyle reached hurricane strength late Saturday as it swept through and soaked New England.
Vandals target Liberal supporters in Toronto, Halifax
By Phil Couvrette Monday, October 06, 2008
Liberals condemned on Monday a growing number of vandalism cases that appeared to target party supporters in Toronto and Halifax.
At least 29 homes or vehicles in Toronto were defaced or damaged over the weekend, with reports of cut brake lines, the letter L keyed into cars and spray-painted graffiti.
In a press release Monday morning, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said he was stunned by the reports of "hateful and dangerous acts".
"Everyone - all Canadians and political parties - must speak out against what is happening in Toronto. It is an obscene violation of the principles of democracy, where Canadians are entitled to express their political opinions without repercussion," he said.
"The cutting of brake lines on people's cars is clearly not a simple mischievous act - it is putting people's lives at risk and raises some very serious questions."
Toronto Police Const. Wendy Drummond confirmed police had received 18 complaints in the riding of St. Paul's, located in mid-Toronto, and another 11 in the west-end riding of Parkdale-High Park.
A large number of the victims had signs supporting the local Liberal candidate in their front lawns. The vandal or vandals struck Friday night in St. Paul's, and Saturday night in the west-end neighbourhood.
"We've had two sets of similar types of criminal offences taking place. Whether or not it's by the same suspect, we can't speculate,"' said Drummond. "It would appear they are targeting the (Liberal) supporters."
The Liberal Party of Canada said there were similar acts of vandalism against their supporters during the byelection campaigns in August in Guelph, Ont. and in the Toronto riding of Willowdale back in March.
There were also reports Monday of vandals targeting overnight the offices of local Conservative and Liberal candidates in Halifax, according to campaign officials.
Vandals threw "fist-sized" rocks through thick plate-glass windows at the offices of Conservative candidate Ted Larsen, campaign manager Jordi Morgan said Monday.
Graffiti was also spray-painted with messages such as "scum" or "politics suck" but no one tried to enter the office, Morgan said.
At the headquarters of Liberal candidate Catherine Meade, one of five "handful-sized" rocks was thrown so hard it travelled through double-paned glass and across the room where it punched a hole in the wall, said Liberal spokeswoman Nancy Sheppard.
"Nothing was stolen and no entry was made," she said.
"Maybe someone saw it on the news and thought 'why don't we do that here' but we don't know that for sure," Sheppard added.
For fringe parties, it's not about winning but 'ideas'
By Sikander Hashmi and Phil Couvrette Wednesday, October 08, 2008
MONTREAL - Looking at election signs in most Canadian cities, it's clear there are at least five parties vying for your vote. But on election day, the list on the ballot will be almost twice as long, in many ridings.
There are nine confirmed candidates in Montreal's downtown riding of Westmount-Ville-Marie but if the previous general election in 2006 is any indication, the four "other" candidates could end up with less than one per cent of total votes cast - collectively.
Yet, such stark odds, not to mention two previous defeats with a combined vote count of 217, haven't discouraged Bill Sloan from running in next week's election as one of four Montreal-area candidates for the Communist Party of Canada.
The reason: he's just doing it to bring a couple of issues on to the street, literally.
"I picked this riding because I wanted posters on Ste. Catherine St.," said Sloan, an immigration lawyer. He put up 100 posters voicing disapproval for the Afghan war and Canadian support for "apartheid" Israel, the latter of which have mostly been torn down. He doesn't have time to campaign nor does he have high hopes for election night.
"I don't think anyone in my party thinks we're going to get elected," he said. "None of us are foolish ... we're running because we want to put forward certain ideas."
Meanwhile, artist Judith Vienneau is also running in the riding and she too knows she won't win. The visibility she gets from being a candidate and the opportunity to take part in the political discourse is worth the $1,000 her candidacy has cost her so far, along with the long hours spent on making commercials for her party, neorhino.ca.
Although her party, the successor to the Rhinoceros Party of Canada, is supposed to be a joke, Vienneau believes it allows disenfranchised voters to take part in the political process by giving them an alternative that resonates with them.
"If 40 per cent of the population doesn't vote, it means it's a problem of identification," she said. "They don't recognize their identity in mainstream politicians."
Abbotsford, B.C. Marijuana Party candidate Tim Felger, who runs in local elections at all levels and garnered about 400 votes in the 2006 federal election said it isn't getting any easier scrambling to collect the 100 signatures needed to officially register on the ballot.
"I live in a very Christian town and a lot of people don't comprehend all the issues," he said, adding he has been threatened in the past while canvassing and repeatedly has to put back up signs that are either removed, torn or defaced.
He says his job is not over after an election and immediately starts working for the next. "I got a lot different approach than everybody else. I am a lot more serious candidate than other fringe parties," he said. "If I ever get elected I would change a lot of things."
Being a Communist Party candidate in the Conservative bastion of Edmonton may not seem promising either, but Alberta party leader Naomi Rankin says that opposition to the war in Afghanistan and the financial crisis is making her fringe party resonate with some voters.
"This is what we hear a lot, people are concerned about the war and recently people have become concerned about the economy," said Rankin, who has run in every federal and provincial election since 1981. "When we get our ideas across people recognize them as being good ideas because we have policies in the interest of working people."
Rankin says limited resources mean contact with voters is direct rather than through mass media.
"As a party of the working class we don't get a lot of donations from corporations or wealthy people so it's always a problem just to have the funds for any kind of publicity," she said. "What we do is mostly face-to-face, on a small scale."
But the current electoral system is penalizing for fringe parties, Rankin stresses.
"People who agree with us are not necessarily voting for us," she said, blaming the current electoral first past the post system for encouraging people to vote for major parties as people vote more and more strategically.
Brooke Jeffrey, an associate professor of political science at Concordia University and an expert on political parties, says it should be harder for independent candidates to run in elections, since they often run to highlight or promote single issues.
"If you look at the nature of independent candidates associated with no party over time and the issues they raise, probably there are way better venues for them to raise it," she said. "But maybe they wouldn't get the media coverage they inevitably get by participating in these kinds of debates."
Jeffrey ran as a Liberal candidate in the British Columbia riding of Okanagan-Shuswap in the 1993 federal election. While she supports political parties, whether they are mainstream or fringe, she is less supportive of independents who she says often run for publicity and clog up the debate in the process.
Harper pledges $100 million for developing countries
By Phil Couvrette Sunday, October 19, 2008
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the closing news conference of the Francophonie summit Sunday that Canada would spend $100 million to help developing countries adapt to climate change issues.
The funds would be destined "almost exclusively to countries that are not necessarily major contributors to climate change or major sources of greenhouse gas emissions but will nevertheless be affected, in particular small insular and vulnerable states" Harper said. "Those are the groups of the countries we are looking to help."
"Countries like Canada understand that least developed countries do not have the same resources as developed countries to manage climate change and adaptation," Harper said.
A statement on the announcement singled out "small island developing states, particularly in Africa, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific."
Harper said the funds are money provided for in the most recent budget, although a formal announcement had not been made before Sunday. He said most of funds would be distributed through international organizations, including the World Bank.
"We anticipate most of this money from the Government of Canada's perspective to be distributed to international organizations in this fiscal year," Harper said.
The news conference brought to an end the summit of the Francophonie, a 55-member organization of governments with significant French-speaking populations.
The meeting was often overshadowed by the financial crisis, which forced French President Nicolas Sarkozy to shorten his visit Friday in order to meet with U.S. President George Bush to discuss the crisis.
Participants said the summit however gave a voice to poorer countries often forgotten during the financial crisis.
"While the international financial crisis continues to resonate for each of us, our discussions here at the summit will contribute to international cooperation on this issue," Harper said. "This meeting has provided the first major forum for developed and developing states and governments to exchange views on the international crisis."
Bloc slams think-tank report on party financing
By Phil CouvretteOctober 23, 2008
OTTAWA - The Bloc Quebecois slammed the report of a Winnipeg-based think-tank Thursday that said the party was rescued in the last election by public money due to its weakening financial situation.
The Frontier Centre notes that since 2000 taxpayer subsidies to political parties are estimated at $313 million - with $290 million of that paid out since 2004.
It also says that for the 18-month period ending June 30 the Bloc raised just over half-a-million dollars but received almost $6 million in quarterly "allowances" from Elections Canada.
Since 2000 the Bloc is the party most dependent on public financing to survive, the centre stressed. The party received $31.8 million dollars in public financing but raised just $5.7 million from individuals, giving the Bloc a high ratio of public dollars to individually donated dollars. This year, it noted, the Bloc raised just $73,704 in the first six months but received over $1.5 million in public financing.
"Whether one supports or opposes the use of tax dollars to fund political parties, an unintended consequence of public financing for political parties is that the Bloc Quebecois' finances were greatly helped out by such schemes," said Mark Milke, author of the report and the Frontier Centre's director of research. "Without federal financing, the separatist party would likely have been unable to mount a serious campaign in the 2008 election."
But Bloc spokesman Frederic Lepage said party finances were healthy and the study doesn't take into consideration where the Bloc gets most of its financing.
"At the BQ, donations are for the most part recorded by riding associations, so they don't appear in the quarterly report they refer to," Lepage said. "When the election was launched there were over $2.5 million in the coffers of the constituencies and ... they were all donations."
The fact that the centre looks at donations in the first half of the year also fails to provide a clear picture of financing because financing campaigns are held late in the year, he added.
"October to December is when people provide the brunt of financing both to ridings and the national party, sometimes five to 10 times more (than earlier in the year)," Lepage said. "(The study) reveals little in terms of our financing; our financial situation is very healthy."
As legislative changes since 2004 in the Canada Elections Act disallowed corporate and union donations, individual donations have become critically important for political parties, the Frontier Centre notes.
"The magnitude of the public money/private money ratio (5.6) for the Bloc is surprising to me, but the fact that they would be primarily reliant on public money is not," notes Scott Bennett of Carleton University.
"Starting under Chretien and continuing under Harper, the possibility of large organizations funding political parties has been closed off. This hurt some parties much more than others," he said. "The Conservatives have been excellent at raising a lot of small donations from individuals and, of course, getting their share of public funding. The Liberals have done a poor job of playing the new funding game. The Bloc seems to have done worse in terms of the private money aspect. It would appear as though they have done an increasingly poor job of raising money from ordinary individuals."
The centre says the trend lines reveal that in recent years the Bloc has garnered progressively fewer individual donations as individual donors dropped to 4,486 in 2007 and just 1,070 in the first six months of 2008.
"They're all being financed to a great degree by the public purse, some are more than others, the Bloc in particular," Milke said of political parties. "What's interesting is the trend line since 2004 is down in individual donors and the Bloc's excuse that people donate to riding associations is irrelevant."
N.L. premier apologizes to victims of botched cancer tests
By Ken Meaney and Phil CouvretteOctober 28, 2008
A contrite Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams told breast cancer patients Tuesday that he was truly sorry the province had botched their tests.
"We sincerely apologize and take full responsibility," he said at the end of his testimony before the inquiry looking into the faulty cancer testing results.
He also thanked all the witnesses who have testified, calling the patients and the families who have spoken at the inquiry graceful.
"We will never be able to give you back what you have lost," Williams added.
"We've hurt these people in some way. They've suffered," he said. "I can assure these people it was not deliberate."
As the inquiry winds down - it is expected to end its hearing at week's end - Williams's testimony has long been anticipated. What he knew and when have been key questions for the inquiry and observers.
Williams also acknowledged that he should have been told sooner and given more details about the problem.
"The buck stops here," Williams said.
The inquiry, which began hearings in March, is looking into how nearly 400 patients received the wrong results on their tests, which are used to determine treatment options.
Williams told the inquiry that in July 2005 his government had received an e-mail from the Department of Health saying there was a major health problem, but later that day another message came in saying "no action required." He said at that point his government left it in the hands of health officials and that his staff never informed him of the issue.
"This was considered to be a non-issue at the time," said Williams.
"We have now gone from major to no action required; this matter is, for a lack of a better word, dormant," he said about the two e-mails. "A no action required statement is exactly that. Stand down, no action required.
"That's not for one minute to downplay the seriousness and importance of improper testing on patients and its effects on their lives," Williams added.
In the past Williams has complained about the tone of questioning by commission lawyer Bern Coffey and even called the inquiry a witch hunt. But Williams, known more for his aggressive style and bombast, showed a different side on Tuesday, answering questions directly and showing contrition.
He said the first he heard of the faulty tests was when he read about it in the media in October 2005, three months after the initial message had been sent to his office.
"The fact I was not notified about this in hindsight, I find this to be disappointing," Williams said of John Ottenheimer, health minister at the time, not speaking to him about it.
But Williams said Ottenheimer was being bombarded by medical advice not to go public at that time because senior Health Department managers and doctors advised against it, fearing full public disclosure would put already stressed patients under greater duress.
"At a certain time I would have liked to have known about what was going on with this issue," Williams said.
He said the number of contacts of all sorts that come through his office is between 125,000 to 150,000 a year. "That is overwhelming volume," he said adding that there is a fine line between what should be escalated to his attention and what isn't.
Peter Dawe, a spokesman for the Canadian Cancer Society, has been critical of the Williams's government handling of the issue, but he had praise for the premier on Tuesday.
"He seemed to be very sincere and very straightforward in all his answers to all the questions that were posed to him," Dawe said.
"The premier went out of his way to say directly that as far as he was concerned Eastern Health authorities were deliberately trying to minimize the impact of the situation... and that while he wasn't looking to point fingers or apply blame it was quite obvious from his testimony that the process didn't work properly."
Williams testified that procedures have been changed in regard to serious health matters and that he has told his senior staff to come directly to him instead of relying on briefing notes. He added senior government officials "are on red alert" now over health issues.
"I've said if you have matters that you think are urgent, that need to be brought to my attention, then you need to come and tell me directly."
Despite defending his government's practices, Williams said he isn't trying to downplay the seriousness of the botched exams. He said everything has changed.
"There is a heightened awareness," he said. "When you are dealing with life safety there is no question," he said.
The inquiry was expected to last 40 days, but commissioner Justice Margaret Cameron was granted an extension to conduct hearings. She is to file her report by early next year.
A class-action suit against the health region on behalf of more than 300 of the affected women and their families is also underway.
With files from St. John's Telegram
No rule says stranded passengers must deplane: Documents
By Jack Branswell and Phil CouvretteNovember 3, 2008
OTTAWA — Passengers who spent 12 hours last March on the tarmac of an Ottawa airport with no food, water or toilets have inadvertently exposed a regulatory black hole in Canada’s aviation system, documents obtained by Canwest News Service show.
“There is indeed no law or regulation that requires passengers to be deplaned,” say Transport Canada briefing notes obtained through access to information. “There is a gap.”
“Currently, if an airline or its ground handlers don’t intervene, nobody appears to be responsible for an aircraft full of passengers on the ground. What if there is a crisis, e.g. sickness, terrorists?” the notes ask.
Transport Canada has been studying the case of two Cubana flights that were stranded on the tarmac at Ottawa airport to try to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The flights last March 8 were headed to Montreal but redirected to Ottawa because of a snow storm, which was also hitting the nation’s capital.
But a combination of the storm, Cubana having no relationship with local baggage handling companies and lightning meant the 300-plus passengers sat for 12 hours within eyesight of a gate.
They were eventually bused back to Montreal, but not before spending about another eight hours in the Ottawa airport.
The Transport Canada notes, which refer to the Cubana case as “the operational night from hell,” also viewed the problem within the optics of a passengers’ bill of rights, a motion that was already before Parliament at the time.
“Terms of carriage have been silent as to the number of hours a passenger could or should be left sitting in a plane on the tarmac,” the documents say. “I would think passengers would think not being locked up in a plane within sight of the terminal for 12 hours as a right worthy of inclusion in a passengers’ bill of rights,” they added.
But the unsigned notes also said:_“I believe there are safety and security concerns here.”
Passengers who were on the flights were irate. In letters sent to the government, people referred to the ordeal as a “surreal mess,” and said they were being “held hostage by other Canadian citizens and bureaucrats.”
One writer complained that once they finally got into the terminal and were desperately trying to get information, a police officer reportedly told them they wouldn’t have had the problem if they had flown Air Canada.
“Regrettable???? How about outrageous?” one fired back in response to a form letter from the government.
Still another, in a blog-like running account of the long night on the tarmac wrote: “Maybe they will find us one day when the snow melts. A phantom plane forgotten there with passengers dehydrated and abandoned by the bureaucracy and technocracy.”
Some passengers were so frustrated by the wait that they ended up calling 911 for help.
Transport Canada said it is still looking into the case and the lack of regulations to deal with similar situations. But the documents note it is: “far from certain anything could have saved (the) situation on that particular night, the night from hell.”
It noted there was only one ground crew working at the time.
It also said there were problems between Cubana and the Ottawa Airport Authority.
“The lack of communication and some miscommunication, that night was a particular concern. Things could have been ‘less bad’ with communication.”
Cubana has not returned repeated phones calls over the issue, but its general manager for Canada, Ramon Valdivia, wrote to Transport Canada after the incident. “We consider that even taking the exceptional circumstances into account, this situation is highly irregular,” he wrote while asking for an official inquiry into the matter.
Krista Kealey, Ottawa Airport Authority spokeswoman, said the airport tried to help Cubana. It found a ground crew, brought in cots to the terminal and arranged for the buses back to Montreal. “We agree that airlines leaving passengers on airplanes for that long is unacceptable,” she said. “Unfortunately, in a situation like that the relationship is between the airline and the passengers.”
But she said no water or food was brought to the plane because they didn’t ask for it.
“No one asked. We had no contact from them at all.”
Suzanne Kearns, an aviation expert at the University of Western Ontario, said the airline industry “tends to view passengers more as cargo or payload than as actual human beings. The anger that materializes on-board an aircraft is often the result of people feeling that they have lost their humanity.”
But she said passengers also have to take some responsibility.
“For example, if we are the ones choosing travel exclusively based on which is least expensive do we really have the grounds to argue that it’s uncomfortable?”
International Air Transport Association spokesman Steve Lott says extra regulations wouldn’t have been helpful because of the number of variables involved in the incident, but there should be contingencies to deal with such scenarios. “The airport and the airline do share some responsibilities to come up with a contingency plan,” he said. “People stuck on aircrafts for 12 hours is simply not acceptable.”
Aviation lawyer Robert Donald agrees there is no need to further regulate one of the most regulated industries in Canada, but added carriers, airports and consumer organizations should be involved to develop responses through “voluntary codes of conduct.”
“I’m concerned all the focus on a passenger bill of rights is directed at the airlines when sometimes they don’t have control of the situation.”
6 protesters arrested at barricade: Que. natives
By Phil CouvretteNovember 19, 2008
Members of the Barriere Lake Algonquins slammed as 'a shame' and 'disgusting' the arrest of protesters by the Surete du Quebec Wednesday.
They also said that the arrests stand as the province's response to their long-standing native claims.
Police intervened twice Wednesday to bring down barricades blocking a highway in Western Quebec. The Algonquins were protesting their treatment at the hands of the provincial police during an earlier demonstration.
Barriere Lake spokesman Norman Matchewan accused the SQ of using "excessive force" during the arrests and said one of the officers had drawn his gun during the intervention.
"One (arrested protester) was bleeding very bad ... another was slapped to the ground and her face hit the concrete," Matchewan said. "We were being pushed into our community, people were being pushed off the highway."
Matchewan said Chief Benjamin Nottaway, author of a letter to Quebec Premier Jean Charest on Monday condemning the action of the police during a previous barricade protest, was among six people arrested.
"This is the response, it's a shame and disgusting what they did," he said, adding the community was discussing future non-violent protest and supporting those who had been arrested and who were expected to appear in court Thursday.
Early Wednesday the SQ arrested a 31-year-old spokeswoman for the Algonquins when they dismantled the natives' log barricade on Highway 117.
Protesters then erected a "human barricade" formed by a few dozen people and vowed to continue the blockade until the arrival of negotiators to discuss their claims but were removed after the arrival of SQ officers in riot gear.
The SQ confirmed their tactical unit moved on the group at 2 p.m. but could not immediately confirm the number of arrests.
The 31-year-old was arrested for "for obstructing the work of police" and police said they expected others to face similar charges.
Traffic resumed on the highway at 2:30 p.m., SQ spokesman Marc Butz said. He called claims that an officer had drawn a weapon "unfounded."
The band wanted to bring attention to police actions during a highway protest last month.
Nine people were arrested and charged with mischief after the previous incident, during which provincial police fired canisters containing a chemical irritant to disperse the crowd.
The earlier blockade, set up about 300 kilometres north of Ottawa, was organized by members of the native community in an attempt to pressure the federal and provincial governments to back a new leadership selection process. They also wanted the governments to honour a signed deal giving the community a say over the development of 10,000 square kilometres of territory they claim.
"All we want is our agreements to be honoured ... so our community will have a decisive say in the management of our territory," Matchewan said Wednesday.
Supporters of the Barriere Lake Algonquins also held a rally in front of Charest's office in Montreal Wednesday. Police said about a dozen people were peacefully demonstrating at the location.
Forces watch Quebec test of Taser-cam
By Phil CouvretteNovember 22, 2008
Police departments across the country will be looking on as Quebec conducts tests to determine whether a camera-equipped version of the controversial Taser stun gun is suitable for its police forces and provides greater accountability.
But critics of the device, which discharges 50,000 volts when fired, say adopting such a model, which both records video and sound when it is triggered, will not eliminate their concerns about its use.
In late October, a subcommittee of Quebec's Public Security Department obtained the go-ahead to conduct studies and tests on the camera-equipped electroshock weapon, according to Andree Dore of Quebec's Ecole Nationale de Police.
The decision followed the recommendations of a Quebec coroner who concluded police forces should videotape the use of such devices.
Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier was at the time submitting a report on the death of Quilem Registre, who died four days after being struck by Taser on Oct. 18, 2007. The coroner said although the weapon was not directly responsible for the death, the fact the intoxicated Registre had received six discharges in 53 seconds during his arrest may have contributed to his deteriorating condition.
In all, over 20 people have died shortly after being shocked by the weapon in recent years in Canada, prompting groups such as Amnesty International to call for use of the device to be suspended. Most of those deaths occurred within hours of the Taser incident.
Camera-equipped versions would "provide enhanced accountability for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve," said Steve Tuttle of Taser Inc., who stresses no death has ever been directly linked to the device.
Tuttle noted a 2006 International Association of Chiefs of Police report "showed statistical data indicates that 96.2 per cent of the time, the recording of the event exonerated the officer of the allegation or complaint."
He said the camera-equipped version, which was launched in August 2006, was available to 1,871 law enforcement agencies as of March this year.
But this greater accountability doesn't go far enough, according to Amnesty International.
"It's helpful to have new accountability measures - it certainly doesn't hurt to have them. But in terms of addressing our main concern, it certainly doesn't," said spokeswoman Hilary Holmes. "This is a device that was deployed prior to enough independent study to really be able to assess, 'Is this a reasonable risk?' Particularly with vulnerable groups, there needs to be more study in order to make that assessment."
In the meantime, Amnesty wants use of the weapon suspended or, failing that, brought to "highly restricted use." By Amnesty's count, 25 deaths have occurred in Canada following the use of a Taser since the introduction of the device.
Videotape of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski being shocked by a Taser at the Vancouver airport in October 2007 was broadly distributed. That tape, showing RCMP officers using a Taser on the agitated man, who spoke no English, and then pinning him to the ground, drew outrage from around the world.
Dziekanski's was perhaps the highest-profile death in Canada following the use of the device.
Some police forces do see an advantage in obtaining the camera-equipped version of the Taser.
Such a device "would be interesting because it enables light to be immediately shed on events during the intervention," said Marc Parent of Montreal Police.
Other forces, such as Vancouver's, have considered camera-equipped devices, but decided not to add them to their arsenal.
"The VPD does not currently use Taser cameras. Our Force Options Section has studied the information, and the cameras do not meet our needs at this time," wrote Const. Jana McGuinness in an e-mail.
The Calgary Police Service has also looked into the device, but have yet to implement its use, said Darren Leggatt, who looks after use-of-force training for the department. "We're certainly looking to explore new and different things . . . a variety of different products," he said.
The Ontario Provincial Police says it doesn't use the camera-equipped model, but notes provincial regulations require that all uses of force, including the Taser, be documented.
The RCMP did not respond to requests for information on whether it uses or has considered using the device.
Ill-fated vessel not fit for ice, says report
By Ken Meaney and Phil Couvrette November 26, 2008
Magdalen Islanders reacted angrily Wednesday to a Transportation Safety Board report on the capsizing of L'Acadien II while under tow last March that found, in part, that the aluminum-hulled sealing vessel was not fit to operate in ice.
In its final report on the sinking, which claimed four lives, the TSB recommended all fishing vessels operating in ice should be built for the conditions. It also urged the federal Fisheries Department to develop new guidelines for towing operations in "ice-infested waters," saying small vessels participating in the seal hunt often require assistance, "especially . . . those unsuited for navigation in ice."
However, islanders like Dorina Cummings, a friend of Claude Deraspe, one of two survivors of the disaster, pointed to the tow itself as the cause.
"For them to say the boat wasn't properly equipped or didn't have a reinforced hull, that's fine, but it didn't cause the boat to capsize," Cummings said. "It's really about how they towed the boat."
L'Acadien II, a 13-metre boat from Quebec's Magdalen Islands, went down last March 29, some 30 kilometres northeast of Cape Breton Island.
The vessel's rudder had been damaged and it was unable to turn toward the starboard side. While under tow, L'Acadien II's clutch became engaged and it veered into the path of a block of ice, the report said. The crew of the L'Acadien II tried to break through. Instead, the vessel ran up onto the ice and capsized.
Lookouts on the coast guard vessel saw the danger and cut the tow line, but not in time to prevent the mishap, the report said.
Two L'Acadien crew, Deraspe and Bruno Pierre Bourque, were rescued, while the bodies of Bruno Bourque, Gilles Leblanc and Marc-Andre Deraspe were recovered. The body of a fourth man, Carl Aucoin, was never found.
The report, made public at a news conference in Halifax as family and friends of the sealers watched by video conference from the islands, addressed lingering questions from sealer Wayne Dickson, whose vessel was following L'Acadien II and picked up the survivors, about whether the crew of the coast guard ship, the Sir William Alexander, was monitoring the tow.
TSB chief investigator Don Eaves said two of the Alexander's crew watched the operation, ready to cut the tow line if necessary. He said they may not have been visible to the other ships because of the Alexander's intense flood lights.
He also acknowledged the Alexander had received radio warnings from Dickson to stop the tow as L'Acadien II struck the ice pan. But he said the ship's crew was too busy dealing with the emergency to respond.
Dickson has also said the tow line to L'Acadien II was too long, but Eaves said the distance between the coast guard ship and L'Acadien II was only 22 metres.
Contrary to another of Dickson's claims, that the coast guard ship turned off its flood lights, Eaves said: "At no point were the Sir William Alexander's floodlights turned off."
On Wednesday, Dickson stood by his claims and disputed the board's finding that L'Acadien II, like many sealing ships, was not suitable for ice.
"What was wrong with the boat - the structure, the size of the boat - had nothing to do with the fact that the coast guard ship towed her (until L'Acadien II went) upside down. It had nothing to do with what the boat was made of, built with, shaped, or anything else. It's just crazy smoke they're throwing in front of everything to blind everybody to what actually did happen," he said.
Eaves said two TSB personnel were on the Magdalen Islands Wednesday to brief the families on the findings, but the news conference itself was held in Halifax.
"The accident happened in Nova Scotia, so logically, the conference could be held in Halifax. On top of that, it was a media event and only media were invited," he said.
Magdalen Islands Mayor Joel Arseneau, who said he was "very disappointed" by the report, stressed that it creates more questions than it answers and doesn't let the community and families turn the page.
Family members were "disappointed, some even furious," that the report was released in Halifax and not on the islands as the people who could help them interpret it weren't on hand, he said.
"When people left the meeting they said they remained in the dark about many things and said it's hard for them to make their peace with what happened, to try to understand what truly happened, and today's report doesn't help us in any way."
Arseneau characterized the report as a "lazy one . . . recycled from an earlier report," which suggested extra precautions concerning small boats patrolling icy waters, which on top of it "was absolutely not pertinent in the current case."
"Federal officials said the government had a responsibility in this tragedy and light would be shed on the issue, we're very far form that at this time."
Eaves said the TSB was not blaming the crew of either vessel for the accident. Asked what could have been done to prevent it, he said the two recommendations, if implemented, would reduce the risk of such accidents happening again.
The Fisheries Department and Transport Canada have 90 days to respond to the report. Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said the department is reviewing it. She said another review, by a retired Canadian admiral, is expected shortly and will be given to families and survivors before its public release.
Sealer fears TSB report on sinking threatens annual hunt
By Phil Couvrette and Ken MeaneyNovember 29, 2008
A recommendation in a Transportation Safety Board report on the sinking of a sealing ship last March threatens the future of the hunt, an outspoken critic of the report says.
The TSB report found that L’Acadien II — a 13-metre, aluminum-hulled vessel — was, like most ships that take part in the annual hunt, “not designed, constructed or adequately modified to navigate in ice.”
In its final report on the sinking, which claimed four lives, the TSB said all fishing vessels operating in ice should be built for the conditions.
But sealers like Wayne Dickson, who rescued the ship’s two survivors, said following the recommendation would dramatically reduce the number of ships taking part.
“This is just something to eliminate smaller-sized vessels from the seal hunt, as far as I can say,” said Dickson. “How do you reinforce a fibreglass boat for ice?”
L’Acadien II capsized while being towed by a coast guard ship off Cape Breton. The report, which did not assign blame for the accident, also addressed the towing operation, saying the coast guard crew followed standard procedures. But it also noted there are no comprehensive rules on towing small ships in ice.
The ship had sought the tow when heavy ice damaged its rudder, preventing it from turning to starboard.
The TSB report said the damage could have been prevented if the ship had been “ice-strengthened.”
The report by the TSB, a federal Crown agency, angered many in the vessel’s home port on the Magdalen Islands. However, Magdalen Islands Mayor Joel Arseneau, another critic of the report, doesn’t see it the same way as Dickson. He said Ottawa has consistently defended the hunt. “So I am not seeing here a will by the government to distance itself from the hunt.”
Seal hunt opponent Paul Watson, of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said the Canadian government has been sending sealers out for years in boats that it knows aren’t safe in ice.
“Those vessels, those longliners, have no business in those ice conditions. ... We have an ice-class vessel and they’re constantly saying, ‘your vessel is not safe, you can’t go into this area,’ but they send these aluminum and wooden-hulled vessels into these treacherous ice conditions and lose them every year,” Watson said from Perth, Australia where he was getting ready for Sea Shepherd’s anti-whaling campaign.
TSB investigator Don Eaves said a vessel’s safety in ice depends on how it’s constructed.
“There’s a lot of things to go into ice-strengthening a vessel: a thicker hull, increased frames, a bigger-diameter propeller shaft, bigger-diameter rudder stock, heavier (and) more robust steering gear. There’s many, many things you’d have to do to make a boat suitable to operate in ice.”
The cost to make a vessel suitable for ice-filled waters would vary depending on the size and type of vessel, the area of operation and shipyard, said Transport Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette.
If implemented, the recommendation could well be costly for the sealing industry.
In 2005, the TSB report noted, 1,800 vessels participated in the hunt, all of them under 20 metres. It says a similar number are estimated to have participated during the 2008 season.
“Most are constructed of wood, fibreglass-reinforced plastic, or fibreglass over wood,” the report said.
“Intended for open-water fishing and outfitted temporarily for participation in the hunt, their hulls, shafts, propellers, and rudders are seldom strengthened for navigation in ice-infested waters. In addition, without sufficient power and mass to navigate in ice, these vessels are susceptible to being beset and damaged.”
Figures in the TSB report show 227 “occurrences” involving fishing vessels in ice-filled waters were reported between 1990 and 2005. Most involved hull damage, but 21 ships were lost.
A 2000 coast guard report also points to the dangers of the hunt, and the economic cost, noting that, in some instances, risk factors associated with sealing preclude insurance coverage. It said vessels engaged in the sealing industry “are finding that standard policies require as much as a $100,000 deductible.”
At the time of the L’Acadien II sinking, there was no requirement for the boat to be ice-strengthened.
But a Transport Canada review now underway, would require fishing vessels more than nine metres to be designed and constructed to handle ice.
The TSB said while it is encouraged by the proposed new regulations, it is “concerned that this will not include all existing vessels; in 2005, for example, 58 per cent of vessels involved in the seal hunt were under 10.7 m.
“Given that these existing vessels are likely to make up the majority of the sealing industry, the current risk level will persist,” it said.
It’s not always safe to go out in icy waters, Cape Breton sealer Shane Briand told the Cape Breton Post newspaper, but sometimes the boats have to take risks to meet their quota. “The seals were in heavy ice last winter and that’s where the boats had to go. You got to go where the money is at,” said Briand.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada have 90 days to respond to the TSB report.
A DFO official declined to comment last week, saying they needed time to review the recommendations.
Transport Canada has also received the report and will review it.
Coast Guard towing rules need review: Report
By Phil CouvretteDecember 1, 2008
OTTAWA - A new report on the capsizing of a sealing vessel while under tow last March said the Canadian Coast Guard should conduct a full review of its towing operations in ice, and reconsider its policy of leaving crew members on board a ship while being towed.
The report recommends "arriving at a single, common, and very clear towing policy that is understood and applicable across the (coast) guard," said retired rear admiral Roger Girouard, who issued his report Monday into the capsizing of L'Acadien II on March 29, which claimed four lives.
Among his recommendations, Girouard said the coast guard may want to "minimize the crew" on board a vessel being towed, should the conditions permit their removal, all the while informing the crew of the risks involved.
"The policy to date suggests, in fact, that crews not be moved for want of risking them as you do move them, so, in this case (the coast-guard vessel), Sir William Alexander, acted in accordance with the policy," said Girouard, who retired in August 2007 as Commander Maritime Forces Pacific after a 33-year naval career.
"One of the recommendations includes a default, in particular, with small vessels, such as we had with L'Acadien II, that you go to minimum manning," he said. "What that minimum might be depends on the circumstances: if it's an easily towable vessel without anyone on board, it's zero; if there's a particular reason to leave some crew on board, it's no more than two."
"If the conditions for moving the crew are too dangerous, you have to leave them aboard; (they) would then be cognizant of the risks that represents."
Lack of communication about the risks involved in a towing operation may have come into play in the L'Acadien II incident, the report suggests.
"The decision on board L'Acadien II to allow four of the crew to be asleep in the accommodation below does suggest that the potential for a sudden incident was not well-recognized," the report noted. "A more complete conversation about the tow, and the risk to consider, may well have delivered a different scenario altogether."
Girouard further suggested the coast guard may want to upgrade current towing technology.
The coast guard should "take a look at the equipment that's in play now on board, look at what technologies exist out there that towing companies are using, and look to modernize some of that equipment and the capability to use some automated systems to react more quickly."
Girouard noted that while current regulations prevent towing in ice, the coast guard should prepare for the eventuality when this will be necessary over the winter.
"They have a zero-towing-in-ice rule at this exact moment. . . . I recommended that they should look at . . . how they are going to cope with this coming year's ice season.
"While nothing can reduce the risks of life at sea-to-zero, the advice offered is meant to enhance operations and mitigate these risks," said the report released by Girouard, who was appointed by the minister of fisheries to lead an independent investigation in the wake of the accident north of Cape Breton as the seal hunt opened.
His report is the second on the sinking in less than a week. Last Wednesday, the Transportation Safety Board released a report on the same incident that said the coast guard lacks comprehensive policies on towing small vessels in ice.
The TSB report also found that L'Acadien II, as most sealing vessels, was not suitable for operating in ice.
That provoked a harsh backlash on the Magdalen Islands, the sealers' home, where people said the report appeared to unfairly blame the sealers for the incident.
Sealer Wayne Dickson, who rescued the ship's two survivors, says families who joined him in a meeting with Girouard over the weekend were "a little bit more at ease, a bit more comfortable" by this new report, in part because Girouard had personally met with the families before releasing the report.
"He was able to answer a lot of their questions," he said.
While Dickson said he took exception with some of Girouard's findings, he acknowledged the former admiral "did a more thorough investigation."
In particular, Dickson said the report reinforced some of his suspicions, noting it states that at one stage, "Sir William Alexander lost control of the tow."
The report said this happened "at a critical moment, whatever the reason, allowing the L'Acadien II to come into contact with a dangerous ice cake."
The vessel's rudder had been damaged and it was unable to turn to the starboard side, according to the earlier TSB report. While under tow, L'Acadien II's clutch became engaged, and it veered into the path of a block of ice. The crew of the L'Acadien II tried to break through. Instead, the vessel ran up onto the ice and capsized.
Dickson said he agreed with recommendations that coast guard ships be equipped with a quick release to cut tow ropes in case of trouble.
Gail Shea, minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced Monday the creation of a "dedicated team to analyze the recommendations offered in all federal reports on L'Acadien II." Besides the TSB report and Girouard's, the RCMP, which concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing in the incident, also investigated the incident.
On Monday a fourth report by the Department of National Defence Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax made its own set of recommendations after the incident.
It called for better co-operation between the coast guard's search-and-rescue and ice operations programs, as well as more training for the coast guard in rescue operations where a vessel has capsized. A need for equipment upgrades was also raised, recommending "the investigation, evaluation and purchase of suitable equipment to assist crews with a capsized rescue operation."
The report cited a number of communications problems between the coast-guard ship and search-and-rescue aircraft and the co-ordination centre, citing a need to "improve communication reliability."
Ice cleaners can make hockey players sick, doctor warns
By Phil CouvretteDecember 3, 2008
A Quebec public health doctor says hockey-loving communities across the country should be wary of air poisoning related to the use of ice-surfacing machines after dozens of people became ill after attending hockey games last Sunday.
Some 35 people either checked into hospitals or saw doctors after suffering form symptoms of nitrogen poisoning related to a faulty ice-surfacing machine at Saint-Ubalde arena, west of Quebec City.
Quebec health authorities said Wednesday they wanted to make sure participants of a minor hockey tournament played earlier in the day get in touch with them if they experienced similar respiratory problems. They said that sometimes symptoms appear later.
Participants of a garage league tournament Sunday evening started feeling ill hours after playing, said Dr. Henri Prud'homme of the Quebec City-area public health agency. One of the players was still reported to be in intensive care Wednesday.
Prud'homme said the arena's ice-surfacing machine malfunctioned, leading to nitrogen pollution, something that was made worse by the fact a tournament was held at the arena over the weekend, which meant the machine was in regular work.
"We didn't have to check the ice-surfacing machine, the fact that players were describing a yellowish smoke in the air and their symptoms told us it was a problem related to nitrogen poisoning," pointed to the machine, Prud'homme said.
The players reported respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, some even coughing up blood, and one experienced a buildup of liquid in his lungs. In the worst cases, Prud'homme said individuals could potentially develop asthma-like long-term problems that can require regular use of medication. But most people usually recover easily.
Prud'homme, who in the 1990s helped write a provincial health report which raised the issue of air poisoning related to the use of the ice cleaners in areas, says there may be a need to refresh the memory of communities not only in Quebec but across the hockey-playing world, about the need to look out for problems that can lead to air poisoning.
"We probably all need to send a reminder... or a letter to arena managers to remind them of their duties," said Prud'homme.
Prud'homme said over time, sometimes due to management changes at arenas or for budgetary reasons, people may have forgotten how important it is to consider all the measures necessary to prevent various types of either nitrogen or carbon poisoning.
He said it was important to check the machines for proper calibration every 50 hours and stressed arena doors be kept wide open when the ice is being cleaned.
He acknowledged this isn't always popular, because people often complain of the cold, but it was nonetheless necessary to clear the air.
He also stressed the need to equip arenas with functioning air quality meters.
Search for crew of capsized ship to end Thursday
Thursday, December 04, 2008
HALIFAX -- The prefect of the French island of St-Pierre-Miquelon says the search for a ship that capsized off the southern coast of Newfoundland earlier this week will end at the end of the day Thursday. Meanwhile, Yves Jego, France's Minister for Overseas Territories, issued a statement Thursday thanking search crews for their efforts and saying he would travel to the French island to offer his condolences to the families. The search entered its third day Thursday. The Cap Blanc capsized sometime Monday evening en route from Argentia, N.L., to the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. It was carrying road salt when it flipped over south of Marystown, N.L. Military spokesman Mike Bonin said the Cap Blanc did not issue a distress call, so a search was not launched until Tuesday morning, hours after the 37-metre ship's scheduled arrival in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Search and rescue crews found the capsized ship around 11 a.m., but were unable to extract anyone from it before it sank. Mr. Bonin said Coast Guard ships, RCMP vessels, military aircraft and civilian crews are all in the cold waters of Placentia Bay searching for the crew. "We are still searching, we are hopeful," he said, adding that they would not continue operations if they did not think the crew could still be alive. But a Halifax woman told the Halifax Chronicle-Herald she had lost all hope for her nephew, who went missing in the incident. Thierry Duruty, 52, was aboard ship when it capsized, the paper said.
Axe-wielding N.L. man faces charges
By Phil CouvretteDecember 21, 2008
A 29-year-old Newfoundland man was in critical condition is hospital Sunday and was facing a number of charges after allegedly threatening family members with an axe before being subdued by police Taser.
RCMP Sgt. Wayne Newell said the incident happened late Friday in the central Newfoundland town of Sandringham and a man had to be restrained after striking a police vehicle with an axe.
“At one point he took the axe, waved it over his head and struck the front of the police truck,” he said.
The man had called authorities himself to say he carried an axe and a shotgun, Newell said.
At one point a family member tried to intervene but “the matter escalated to the point that the conducted energy weapon was deployed,” he said.
After being hit once with the weapon, the man feel to the ground and was then cuffed and arrested, he added.
The man remained violent throughout his arrest and had to be restrained on his way to hospital in Gander and during his hospital stay, Newell said.
“He had to be restrained in hospital.”
His name has yet to be made public as the suspect, because of his condition, is not yet aware of the charges against him.
They include assault-related charges, assault with a weapon, uttering threats, possession of a weapon for a purpose dangerous to the public, mischief and seven breaches of undertakings, Newell said.
RCMP hope the man would be able to appear before the courts Monday, possibly by teleconference.
No other person was hurt in the incident.
Towns hope fake ice can extend outdoor skate season
By Phil CouvretteDecember 21, 2008
After fake Christmas trees, Astroturf and graphite hockey sticks, is Canada ready for synthetic outdoor ice rinks?
Warmer winters and tight city budgets are making some small town mayors consider replacing the iconic public outdoor ice rinks with a synthetic ice that its Canadian distributors say feels like the real thing and can keep running all year long with little or no maintenance.
Francois Bilodeau president of Montreal-based Glace Synthetique du Canada Inc., says that once skaters get past the initial 15 per cent extra effort needed to skate on the surface made of synthetic polymers, the rest is smooth skating.
“The advantage of plastic is there’s no maintenance, no refrigeration needed, no chemicals or ice-cleaning machine, so the energy costs are zero,” he said.
The technology has existed in the U.S. for decades and has made great strides since but has only become available in Canada recently, says Bilodeau.
EZ-Glide 350, which is available in some training and sports centres, was originally developed to accommodate touring skate shows which had trouble setting up shop in various locations such as malls. Earlier versions of the material were twice as hard to skate on and more difficult to install, Bilodeau says.
“You can pick up and go, it takes about two to three hours to set up artificial rink,” he added, likening the experience to completing “a jigsaw puzzle.”
The surface requires more frequent sharpening but doesn’t nick or damage blades, just dulls them, Bilodeau says. The surface is also softer to land on, the company boasts, describing it as “more forgiving than conventional ice.”
The math is also a plus: At $17-21 a square-foot plastic panel, installation costs much less than a regular rink and doesn’t require thousands of dollars in annual upkeep, Bilodeau says.
“For $10,000 per year (over a lifespan of 20 years) they can get a synthetic outdoor rink open 12 months a year,” Bilodeau said. “Kids in a park in shorts in the middle of summer playing hockey, that’s pretty incredible!”
Some mayors already like the idea.
Dorval, Que. Mayor Egdar Rouleau says his suburb of Montreal is seriously considering synthetic ice to extend increasingly melting skating seasons.
He said nearby communities complained they were down to 25 days of outdoor rink operation last year, a short period for such high upkeep costs.
Rouleau pointed out that one week before Christmas rain was crushing hopes to have the outdoor rinks open for the busy holiday period, when kids are out of school.
“For communities like us the most important thing is for the rinks to be open for the holidays,” he said.
“We have a rink just outside town hall and when I look out I can see the kids out there having fun. But your need the (right) weather to make ice.”
While the longtime hockey-playing mayor says synthetic ice may wear hockey players out faster because of the added resistance, it could be a viable option for recreational skating.
“It’s something we’re considering,” Rouleau said. “If we can’t open our rinks before mid-January, synthetic ice becomes increasingly interesting.”
“The weather is getting to the point it’s becoming very difficult for us to reliably maintain natural ice rinks,” agreed Bob Benedetti, mayor of Beaconsfield, another Montreal suburb. “Our residents want an outdoor skating experience.”
Benedetti said several hundreds of his citizens tried out the synthetic rinks in December and raved about them. One of the reasons is that they could finally hit the ice.
“The largest number of complaints I get come if our rinks aren’t ready on time,” he said, which made the availability of rinks a greater factor than cost in the town’s recreational decisions.
Benedetti said the city wanted to add an artificial rink to the city’s 16 outdoor rinks, which cost $150,000 annually in upkeep, but is now willing to consider going synthetic.
“What was an easy decision (picking an artificial rink) is now more difficult because there are some advantages to this synthetic ice surface,” he said. “The kids certainly loved it.”
In Ottawa, where outdoor rinks were a hot topic in the capital’s most recent budget, city officials say they are aware of synthetic rinks, but not considering them at this time.
“It’s not something that’s on a radar in terms of capital expenditure. There would be capital costs involved with that,” said Barry Campbell of the City of Ottawa.
But Ontario and other provinces are wide open to synthetics says Steven Mai, whose company, Strong Hockey Innovations, is the distributor for synthetic ice in Ontario.
Synthetic ice was well-received by people in North York sampling it over the summer he said. He has also received active inquiries from the Waterloo region and London.
Mai says a combination of factors is making people consider synthetic ice including the development of women’s hockey which has created “a shortage of ice” time.
Not enough hockey arenas have been built to accommodate the growing number of hockey players, he also noted. “There is a shortage of ice as far as availability in terms of practising and the economy itself is another contributing factor. There’s a capital investment to put down but very low overhead cost in terms of maintaining it.”
“It’s not a replacement to ice, it’s an alternative that’s more economical.
Canada ponders following U.S. on school bus safety
By Phil CouvretteDecember 27, 2008
Transportation officials are looking into whether Canada should emulate new U.S. rules that have equipped small school buses with shoulder and lap seatbelts.
However, one Toronto coach company has decided not to wait for changes to the Canadian regulations and has already outfitted its buses with belts.
Whether school buses should have seatbelts is a long-standing debate, with some arguing the devices could actually make the vehicles more dangerous for students.
The new U.S. federal rules will require school buses to raise seat backs. Buses under 4.5 tonnes will have to be equipped with three-point restraints.
Some U.S. states have also made seatbelts mandatory on larger buses.
Transport Canada said it is studying the U.S. initiative to determine "whether adopting this rule would provide better protection for Canadian children."
"Presently school buses are not required to have seatbelts," said spokeswoman Maryse Durette.
"Protection is provided by way of compartmentalization, (which) relies on high-back seats that are padded and closely spaced to protect children."
The idea is that the close rows of seats actually secure kids in a confined space.
This has proved effective, she said, stressing that adding seatbelts could "interfere with compartmentalization."
The U.S. advocacy group, National Coalition for School Bus Safety, says that while the new U.S. regulations are protecting the children that are the most vulnerable - those travelling in small buses that face a higher chance of rollover - they still fall short.
"The regulations are an improvement but in my opinion they don't go far enough," said Alan Ross from the advocacy group. He noted the changes still leave thousands of larger buses without seatbelts.
A number of reports, the latest by Alberta's Ministry of Transport, have raised the issue of possible injuries resulting from adding seatbelts to buses.
In November, a provincial safety review in the province ruled against making seatbelts mandatory on school buses, pointing out that no Canadian province requires the restraints and mentioning studies, including Transport Canada's, that suggest they could, in some circumstances, cause injuries.
"The way buses are designed today, just to add seatbelts to them, you could actually create more of a danger (due) to injury than less," Alberta Transport Minister Luke Ouellette said recently.
That argument doesn't sit well with the U.S. advocacy group.
"For years the industry would bad-mouth safety belts and tell you, kids would be torn in half ... while common sense dictates these are simple appliances that save lives," said Ross.
Ross disputed claims by some experts that crash dynamics were different in large buses and said the cost of retrofitting buses was the real hang up.
"The laws of physics are not suspended because of the vehicle."
The U.S. is not alone in adding belts to buses. The European Union and Australia have had seatbelt rules for buses for years.
A Toronto motorcoach company decided it wasn't going to wait for the long-standing debate to be settled before installing seatbelts on all its buses.
Pacific Western, which bills itself as "safety obsessed," boasts it is the "first bus company in North America to have their entire fleet outfitted with seatbelts" after outfitting all its 50 coaches with belts.
"We feel they make our motorcoaches safer and we didn't feel the need to wait for regulation or legislation," said owner Dean Wright. "We're federally regulated as a company, so we took it upon ourselves to be at the fore-front."
But enforcing the use of the belts is another matter.
In a 1998 review of bus safety issues, Transport Canada noted that in Etobicoke, Ont., where school buses are equipped with seatbelts, "very young children will use them as instructed but that use diminishes into the secondary school age."
"Who would enforce that? The driver is busy driving," said Ray Marchand, general manager of the Canada Safety Council, a non-profit safety advocacy group.
"And why should we put the onus on children to wear their seatbelts? Imagine telling little Suzie's mother, 'It was your daughter's fault. She took off her seatbelt.' "
Fatalities resulting from school bus crashes are always dramatic and headline-grabbing, but are in fact rare. There was one recorded case this year and two in 2007 according to Transport Canada.
In a 1998 report, the agency says, "There are few instances where seatbelts would prevent injury in school buses" but notes there have been "individual instances where seatbelts could have prevented injury."
Elementary school principal Baher Morcos says he was thankful a school bus ferrying some of his students had seatbelts earlier this year when it was involved in an accident with a pickup truck in Toronto.
While stressing that the jury is still out on the effectiveness of seatbelts, he says they mattered that day.
"In this case, (seatbelts) made a difference because a student was sitting right where the impact took place, she wasn't wearing it appropriately, but without it she would have been projected further," said the principal of Academie de la Moraine in Richmond Hill, Ont.
Freezing rain, flooding and power outages follow thawing temperatures
By Tiffany Crawford and Phil CouvretteDecember 28, 2008
Days of heavy snowfall over the holiday in Canada turned into a big thaw on the weekend as temperatures rose above zero in some areas, causing fears of flooding while high winds knocked out power to thousands in Ontario and Quebec.
Winds became so strong in some parts of Ontario they caused power poles to topple onto the nation’s busiest highway, the 401, interrupting traffic until Monday.
Winds were gusting at up to 100 kilometres an hour throughout the day across Ontario, the system moving from Windsor up and east of the province, where over 30,000 outages were reported later in the day, said Daniele Gauvin of Hydro One. In all at 9 p.m. over 180,000 people across Ontario were without power, down from 235,000 earlier but up from 90,000 in the morning. Hydro One said it could take up to three days to restore power to all customers. Power outages in the Ottawa area even delayed games at the Bell Canada Cup junior hockey tournament.
“This is not going in the direction we would like to see,” said Gauvin, mentioning winds were so strong they were keeping the utility’s choppers on the ground and preventing power crews, out in large numbers, from doing their work. “There will be some customers out overnight, the winds are not due to let up until late evening so there’s more poles coming down and more wires.”
A bridge connecting Ontario to New York State was temporarily shut down when a truck was blown to its side as it was coming off the U.S. end, said the Ontario Provincial Police, which however reported no major injuries from wind-related incidents. Freezing rain was a factor in more than 200 collisions in Eastern Ontario.
The high winds in some areas of Ontario forced Environment Canada to issue a wind warning for the West Nipissing, Ont., Sunday where winds were knocking trees onto power lines and causing power outages in the region, about 400 kilometres north of Toronto.
Hydro-Quebec reported some 56,600 people in the dark early Sunday evening, down slightly from 71,000, as Quebec dealt with high winds and freezing rain. Ten thousands of these customers were in the Outaouais region and another 9,000 around Montreal.
NB Power said most of 800 customers who had lost power in the Moncton area earlier had seen it restored by early evening.
Police in the Waterloo Region of Ontario meanwhile expanded a flood warning, saying they expected waters to rise in the Nith River Sunday with a potential for flows to hit 350 cubic metres per second. The Nith River, which snakes around New Hamburg, Ont., southwest of Toronto, normally has flows of 1.5 cubic metres per second. The water starts to flood the banks at 140 cubic metres per second.
“These are the kind of flows you might see every 20 or 30 years, although it has been twice this year, it is really unusual,” said Dave Schultz, a spokesman with the Grand River Conservation Authority.
Officers knocked on doors late Saturday night warning residents to be on alert to leave their homes if waters flood, Waterloo Regional Police said on Sunday.
The expanded alert affects about 70 properties. Some roads were closed and residents there were advised to clear their basements.
“Snow melt will increase river levels across the watershed today and into Monday,” said Schultz. “We are going to see fairly high levels.”
Schultz said Sunday afternoon that flows and levels in the Grand River through Cambridge, Ont., southwest of Toronto, were expected to peak in the evening and may force the closure of Highway 24.
The rainfall and melting snow prompted officials to remind Canadians how dangerous the rising rivers are during such a fast melt and to stay clear of them.
“The banks will still be very slippery with ice and the water temperature is 1 C or less,” said Schultz. “People see the (rising) rivers as an attraction but it is very important not to go near them. We don’t want people falling in.”
Residents with seasonal trailer homes in Brantford, Ont., and Dunville, Ont., were also told to keep an eye on the swelling rivers and Schultz said they may have to move their mobile homes.
The authority also said ice jams were possible as flows push the river ice through.
The Grand River Conservation Authority manages water for 38 municipalities and 925,000 residents in southwestern Ontario.
Meanwhile police in Toronto said they were monitoring the situation after record temperatures of 10 C melted a massive dump of snow, leaving deep puddles on the streets, but said officers had received no complaints of flooding overnight.
City spokeswoman Francine Antonio said there was a high water safety bulletin issued for the city to remind people to stay away from fast-moving creeks and rivers.
“We did get less rain than expected so the gradual thaw is ideal because we will be getting more snow next week,” she said, adding that crews have been working hard to clear the city’s catch-basins of water.
Antonio said the problem was more to do with high winds than floods.
Environment Canada predicted rain for much of southern Ontario Sunday and even some thundershowers in Montreal.
In Western Canada, the snow was melting rapidly in the Vancouver area and on Vancouver Island as temperatures rose to above 6 C, said Environment Canada. Both areas were unusually hit hard with snowstorms in the past week.
In Vancouver, city crews have been working overtime trying to drain water from flooded streets. Some side roads were covered in slush and cars were stuck waiting about four hours in some instances for a tow truck because of the backlog.
Besides flooding, there was also concern in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland about heavy snow on rooftops. In Surrey, B.C., east of Vancouver, about 20 carports collapsed under the weight of the snow.
The treacherous weather over the holiday period in Vancouver forced Air Canada to ground many planes causing many passengers to be stranded in the airport on Christmas Eve.
Slightly warmer temperatures were on the board for the Prairies as well Sunday. That area of Canada has been in a deep freeze for the past couple of weeks, with people in cities like Winnipeg, Edmonton and Regina experiencing temperatures of -30 C.
In Quebec, the national weather agency warned of two to 10 centimetres of freezing rain affecting the Manicouagan River and several areas north of the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River. The heavy rain is expected to cause the rivers to rise there as well.
Atlantic Canada will continue to see more snow however, with Environment Canada predicting 20 to 35 centimetres along with blowing snow expected through Monday in some of areas of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Areas of New Brunswick were subject to a freezing rain warning.
Crown seeks appeal in Que. assisted suicide case
December 29, 2008
ALMA, Que. — A Quebec Crown prosecutor says he is appealing the case of a man recently found not guilty of helping his disabled uncle commit suicide.
Stephan Dufour, 30, was found not guilty by jury on Dec. 12 in the death of Chantal Maltais, 49, who contracted poliomyelitis when he was four years old and was confined to a wheelchair.
Crown prosecutor Denis Dionne said he is raising two issues of law in his motion of appeal.
Dufour told the court during his trial that Maltais had asked him to help put an end to his life every day for several months.
He testified that he finally gave in to the pressure and the verbal abuse from his uncle, tying a choke chain to a rope and installing it on a pole in his uncle's bedroom. Two days later, on Sept. 9, 2006, Maltais was found hanged.
In court the Crown alleged Dufour knew what he was doing when he set up the device and that he was aware of the possible consequences.
Dionne said his appeal will stress that Dufour had opportunities to dismantle the device after it was installed but that the court limited its focus to the installation of the device.
The following day "he could have neutralized the device," Dionne said, stressing the crime of assisted suicide went beyond the installation.
During trial the defence said Dufour was under his uncle's spell and that his limited intellectual capacities prevented him resisting Maltais' multiple requests to put an end to his life.
Dionne is also raising issue with the use of this defence.
Defence lawyer Michel Boudreault says however both matters were already raised in court.
"The Crown is invoking an old motive of appeal," he said. "These two arguments are frankly not convincing."
"I have the impression the Crown is appealing matters without conviction."
Both say it could be months, perhaps even the fall, before any appeal makes it to court.
Dufour was the first person in Quebec to face a jury trial on charges of assisting suicide.
In other provinces, cases of assisted suicide that have made it to the trial phase ended with an acquittal or reduced sentences.
Assisting a suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years behind bars.
Que. town council told to cut out prayer time
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Trois-Rivieres became the latest Quebec town to be told to refrain from holding prayers before council meetings.
In a non-binding decision, the province's human rights commission said Trois-Rivieres and other Quebec towns still reciting prayers before council meetings should stop doing so as it constitutes a religious act which goes against the principle of neutrality of the state.
When issuing a similar ruling on Saguenay earlier this year the commission cited a 2006 ruling in Laval, north of Montreal, by the commission's human rights tribunal and saw no need for that matter to make its way to a tribunal again. The commission considers complaints and decides whether they should be heard by the tribunal. It is not possible to go to the tribunal without first going through the commission.
The commission's ruling this week was in response to the complaint of a citizen filed in 2007. The commission said people attending public meetings should not be subjected to beliefs they did not share.