New Brunswick girl, 10, youngest to discover supernova
Jan 3, 2011
TORONTO — A 10-year-old amateur astronomer from New Brunswick has become the youngest ever to discover a supernova, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada announced in a statement Monday.
The society said Kathryn Aurora Gray of Fredericton, N.B., made the discovery during the weekend under the supervision of other astronomers.
According to a statement,the discovery "of a magnitude 17 supernova in galaxy UGC 3378 in the constellation of Camelopardalis" was made under the watch of astronomers Paul Gray and David Lane.
"The galaxy was imaged on New Year's Eve 2010, and the supernova was discovered on Jan. 2," the society's statement said.
The discovery was then verified by Illinois-based amateur astronomer Brian Tieman and Arizona-based Canadian amateur astronomer Jack Newton, the society said.
It was later reported to the International Astronomical Union's Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams. The society describes supernovas as being stellar explosions that signal the violent deaths of stars.
Canadian priest detained in Belgium
Jan. 5, 2011
Police in Belgium have arrested Canadian priest Father Eric Dejaeger and will hold him in Bruges pending an immigration hearing, Belgian government officials confirmed Wednesday.
Officials told Postmedia News that Dejaeger was arrested Monday and was being held in a detention centre for people in the country illegally. Officials said he is awaiting his eventual expulsion to Canada but were not able to provide a timeline.
Dejaeger, 63, who worked as an Oblate missionary in Nunavut, faces six sex charges related to the sexual molestation of Inuit children in incidents alleged to have occurred in Igloolik in the early 1980s.
After serving a five-year prison sentence on convictions related to sex charges involving children in the Nunavut community of Baker Lake, Dejaeger fled Canada for Belgium in 1995.
The Igloolik allegations were investigated by RCMP Cpl. Tom Power in 1993 and 1994, but Dejaeger never appeared in court to face the charges.
More recently, the Belgian government discovered that Dejaeger lost his Belgian citizenship when he became a Canadian citizen some time after 1977.
This past Sept. 15, the Belgian government issued a statement saying the disgraced priest was no longer a Belgian citizen.
Katrien Jansseune, a spokeswoman for the Belgian immigration department, is quoted on the blog of Joris van der Aa, a Belgian crime journalist, saying that Belgium wants to ship Dejaeger back to Canada.
Art community mourns passing Canadian actor, stage great
Jan. 9, 2011
STRATFORD, Ont. — The arts world and theatre lovers are mourning the death of Canadian “actor’s actor” and stage great Peter Donaldson, who passed away Saturday at age 57.
As the Stratford Shakespeare Festival confirmed the news Sunday, tributes to the actor — who was revered for his stage play and big-screen appearances — started flowing on the festival’s Facebook page.
“It is with great sadness that we have heard the passing of a great actor,” the festival stated. “Peter Donaldson has been a favourite of many Stratford regulars, a lot were looking forward to seeing him grace our stages again this season.”
He died of lung cancer in a Toronto hospital, surrounded by his family and friends, the festival said.
Donaldson was to return to the festival for his 25th season in 2011, playing Buckingham in Richard III and Marcus Andronicus in Titus Andronicus.
“Peter was the finest actor’s actor,” said festival General Director Antoni Cimolino, who worked with Donaldson on many productions. “He was deeply admired for the conviction he brought to his work and the unsparing truth of his portrayals. He was versatile and able to give outstanding performances in modern plays, musicals and classics. But his home was Shakespeare.”
Within hours of the Facebook posting, dozens of people had reacted with words of condolences and recollections of seeing him perform.
“Mr. Donaldson’s portrayal of Atticus Finch a few seasons ago was truly heroic and honestly inspirational,” wrote Bruce Barber, calling his passing “A great loss to us all.”
“His presence in so many plays at Stratford always enhanced the production, and we will miss him greatly,” wrote Mary Van Nortwick.
The Stratford community similarly mourned the loss of the stage veteran.
“He was one of those rare actors who excelled at everything he touched, able to sound the depths of tragic emotion even as he delighted us with his flair for wryly deadpan comedy,” said artistic director Des McAnuff, who directed Donaldson in Caesar and Cleopatra and Romeo and Juliet during his final season at Stratford on 2008. “No one who enjoyed his stellar performances at Stratford and elsewhere could have doubted that even greater triumphs lay ahead of him, and our sorrow is all the deeper when we think of the King Lear or the Prospero we might someday have seen him play but now have lost forever.”
Apart form theatre performances from King Lear to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Donaldson was a presence on the small screen — more recently appearing in the Little Mosque series and the Murdoch Mysteries — and big screen, featuring in movies such as Atom Egoyan’s Sweet Hereafter.
In 1996 Donaldson won "Best Supporting Actor" for Great Performances (Long Day’s Journey Into Night) at the 1996 Genie Awards.
He is survived by his wife, Sheila McCarthy, and daughters Mackenzie and Drew.
Canadian manufacturing on rebound: CIBC
Jan. 12, 2011
A CIBC report released Wednesday says the Canadian manufacturing industry is on the rebound, raising economic activity in the country’s major cities to pre-recession levels.
The CIBC’s most recent Metro Monitor survey, reporting on third-quarter 2010 numbers, finds optimism for the majority of Canada’s 25 largest cities, noting Canada added 65,000 manufacturing jobs in December alone.
Based on the financial institution’s latest Canadian Metropolitan Economic Activity Index — which looks at such things as employment growth, bankruptcy rates and housing starts — Montreal finished at the top with a score of 26.8, followed by Toronto and Vancouver.
Smaller manufacturing cities, meanwhile, showed growth for first time in two years.
“Recent data on manufacturing production and shipments reveal a sector that is on the mend,” said CIBC Deputy Chief Economist Benjamin Tal in the report. “While the over 65,000 new manufacturing jobs created in December clearly overstate the real health of the Canadian manufacturing sector, the direction is clear. The footprints of a recovering manufacturing sector are very evident.”
According to the report “only two of Canada’s 25 metropolitan areas showed negative growth in economic activity during the third quarter of 2010” — Kingston, Ont. and Saint John, N.B.
“This was the smallest number in more than two years and a significant improvement over the third quarter of 2009 when 10 cities were in negative territory.”
It’s the first time Montreal topped the index.
“The economic momentum in the city of Montreal has traditionally been correlated with activity in the manufacturing sector, and the recent improvement in that sector clearly played an important role in placing the city at the top of our cities’ momentum ranking,” Tal wrote.
“Just as we have seen a recent rebound in manufacturing in the U.S. the sector in Canada’s major cities is also showing some life. With more than two-thirds of Canadian GDP generated in Canada’s major cities, the tale of those cities is the tale of the economy.”
Liberals slam Harper's red-tape plan
By Phil Couvrette and Tim Shufelt
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced plans Thursday to battle red tape for small- and medium-sized businesses by setting up a Red Tape Reduction Commission, a move Liberal critics say only creates "a bureaucracy to tackle the growth of bureaucracy."
"Small- and medium-sized businesses are a critical driver of the Canadian economy," Harper said while visiting the Toronto area. "This initiative will help ensure that they can grow, prosper and create jobs without being impeded by unnecessary government regulations."
Minister of State Rob Moore, who joined Harper during the announcement, will head the 12-member commission, which involves other parliamentarians and business owners.
The commission will consult Canadians "to identify irritants that have a clear detrimental effect on growth, competitiveness and innovation" and find solutions to lighten the regulatory load.
It will also consider the business costs associated with federal regulatory requirements and seek to lessen the price of compliance.
"Canadian businesses spend billions of dollars each year adhering to regulations," Harper added. "We need to look at where and how we can reduce these costs and this red-tape burden, especially on small businesses."
But Liberals wasted no time panning the announcement, saying it leaves small business "no better off today than they were yesterday."
"This idea was announced in the last budget but they've taken almost a year to create a bureaucracy to tackle the growth of bureaucracy . . . it's beyond belief," said Liberal small business critic Navdeep Bains in a statement. "They've been in power for five years, if this was so important why didn't they act sooner?"
Bains credited the Paperwork Reduction Initiative started by the previous Liberal government for previous success reducing red tape.
"Before one more piece of red tape is cut, this new commission will take its time travelling the country at great expense but won't report back till next fall," he said. "That's almost another year before we can even start debating what regulations we should be cutting. The government clearly isn't taking this issue seriously."
However, unlike other attempts to reform the country's regulatory regime, this initiative promises permanent changes, said Catherine Swift, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and a member of the commission.
The CFIB's research shows that Canadian businesses currently shell out $30 billion annually in compliance costs, and that 25 per cent of entrepreneurs would have reconsidered going into business in the first place had they known the time and money required to comply with red tape.
The group's members identify the reduction of red tape as their second highest priority, topped narrowly by the tax burden, Swift said.
She identified some of the typical culprits that most aggravate Canadian entrepreneurs: monthly forms, when quarterly or annually would be sufficient, filing the same information to various levels of government, or obsolete regulations still in effect.
In 2007, for example, the Canada Revenue Agency identified more than 8,000 non-essential tax forms and filings, Harper noted.
But the problem goes beyond the government form, extending to the bureaucratic culture itself, Swift said.
"Often, it's uninformed, incompetent, rude, or unresponsive bureaucrats who really don't seem to have any standards of providing decent, courteous, timely service to taxpayers."
Quebec soldier charged after medical exams investigation
Jan. 25, 2011
Military police have charged a Canadian Forces member with breach of trust related to medical exams performed on recruits in Quebec.
A Quebec-based non-commissioned officer has been charged in connection with the way he carried out medical examinations of female recruits.
Sgt. Christian Boudreau has been charged with five counts while carrying out these exams for the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centres at detachments in Montreal and Rouyn-Noranda.
The incidents are alleged to have occurred from July 2007 to September 2009. He faces criminal charges of breach of trust, or alternatively charges of behaving in a disgraceful manner under the National Defence Act.
Both are punishable by up to five years in prison.
Ottawa offers flights as Canadians urged to leave Egypt
By Phil Couvrette and Mike De Souza
Jan. 31, 2011
OTTAWA — Responding to what it called the “highly unpredictable” and “deteriorating” situation in Egypt, the federal government announced Sunday it will start flying Canadians out of the country as early as Monday — a move that comes amid criticism over the government’s efforts to help stranded Canadians.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon announced details of the flights Sunday evening in Ottawa, on the heels of similar action taken earlier in the day by the United States and other countries.
“We don’t want to put Canadians in a precarious situation,” Cannon said. “Rather than bettering itself, the situation seems to be deteriorating from the reports that we are receiving. And, therefore, our primary concern, of course, is the safety and security of Canadians.”
No Canadians have been hurt or injured as a result of the protests, Cannon said.
He said Canadians would be flown to either Paris, London or Frankfurt — where a greater amount of consular staff would be able to assist them — but would have to sign a contract promising to reimburse the government for the cost of their flight out of Egypt.
“Canadian citizens who travel on arranged transport will be expected to make their own onward travel plans from these locations,” he said.
Violent protests swept through the streets of Egypt for a sixth day Sunday, and Canadians trapped in the country say they have been wondering what their government has been doing to help them.
There are believed to be about 6,500 Canadians in Egypt. Cannon said plans were in the works to evacuate as many as 800 as early as Monday. The government didn’t have an immediate figure on the number of Canadians requesting to leave.
Cannon urged those seeking charter flights to contact the Canadian Embassy in Cairo or the emergency operations centre in Ottawa.
“We continue to call on the Egyptian government to state its commitment to strengthening democracy, consultation, dialogue and co-operation,” Cannon said. “We urge the Egyptian government to accelerate the pace of democratic and economic reforms and listen to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
During the riots, the death toll has climbed to more than 100 people, as Egyptians continue to call for democratic and economic reforms, as well as the ouster of embattled President Hosni Mubarak.
Marie-Claude Vigneault said she had been trying to reach Canadian Embassy officials for six days since deadly protests began last week.
She said local police have been nowhere in sight. And while her friends from other countries — such as France, Mexico and the United Kingdom — have all been in touch with local consular officials, Vigneault said she had not received a single response from the Canadian Embassy or government officials.
“I almost feel ashamed to be Canadian,” said Vigneault, who moved to Egypt from Quebec City eight years ago. “We were not even able to contact Ottawa. The emergency number doesn’t work.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs has urged Canadians in Egypt to “consider leaving if their presence is not necessary.” The United States and Iraq have also told their citizens to evacuate and offered flights to take them home to safety.
Vigneault said that when she called the embassy, she was put on hold and eventually transferred to Ottawa with no response. After waiting on hold for 20 minutes, she said she ran out of credit to make calls, spending more than $100 with no one to speak to on the other end of the line.
Dan McTeague, the Liberal party’s critic for consular affairs, said the government’s “knee-jerk” reaction to helping Canadians in Egypt has been “extremely concerning” and showed it was out of touch with international events.
“The Conservatives saw the U.S and their response and what other countries were doing and finally got onto the ball,” he said. “The government has been shamed and embarrassed into reacting.”
Delays in putting an evacuation plan in place and not taking the lead could be placing Canadians’ lives “in jeopardy,” he said.
He said the government had learned nothing from previous evacuation efforts and that the measures announced Sunday “should have been done days ago” instead of leaving Canadians to fend for themselves for days.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar agreed Canada’s announcement came “a bit late” and described evacuation arrangements as “awkward.”
“What the government should have done is said, ‘We’ll make arrangements to get you out if you need help,’ and that’s all they need to worry about. Instead it’s ‘here’s the number to call and by the way you have to sign a contract that you’re going to pay to get out. It doesn’t sound very welcoming.”
While Vigneault and her mother wait for news from Canadian officials in an apartment in the suburban neighbourhood of Maadi, south of downtown Cairo, she’s envious of one of her friends from France who was contacted by the French consular officials who explained the situation and how to prepare for a possible evacuation.
Vigneault said she has heard gunshots and machine guns firing in recent days around her block and has tried to avoid going outside. But she said the situation has stabilized over the past day, mainly because the locals are now carrying guns, knives or blunt objects to protect themselves.
Getting food is also a struggle. She was able to buy some groceries at the beginning of the weekend and has supplies to last her for about two weeks but notes many basic items are becoming very expensive.
“There’s almost nothing left in the grocery store,” she said.
Early on Sunday evening, she said a friend of hers from Quebec had finally heard from Canadian Foreign Affairs officials who said they were trying to reach her but got no response on her phone.
Layton walking and ‘in great spirits’ after surgery
March 6, 2011
OTTAWA — NDP leader Jack Layton was up and walking again Sunday, two days after undergoing hip surgery at a Toronto hospital — initially raising questions about whether he would be ready for an election campaign that could be just weeks away.
“Mr. Layton is doing well and is in great spirits,” the New Democratic Party said in a statement, two days after Layton went under the knife at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
The surgery lasted three hours and went extremely well, the hospital said in a statement earlier. It said he would likely be released early this week.
Layton had been suffering recently from pain in his hip, the party said, but stressed the procedure would have no impact on his ability to perform his job with a budget looming on March 22 and a possible campaign soon afterward.
Layton had spoken to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff before undergoing the procedure, the statement said.
The NDP statement said the party leader had nothing but praise for “the incredible care” he received at the Toronto hospital a “reminder of the great health care system we have in Canada.”
On Sunday the NDP said Layton was able to receive visits from family and close friends, including granddaughter Beatrice, to whom he read a book “and even put some of her colourful artwork up on the wall.”
Layton also thanked Canadians for their well wishes and kind words since he checked in to the hospital.
The NDP said it is confident Layton will be back in the House in time for the budget.
He and his caucus will play a central role in whether Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget precipitates an election. The Liberals and Bloc Quebecois appear likely to vote against the budget.
However, Layton recently met with Harper and presented him with a list of demands, outlining initiatives the NDP would like to see in the budget.
On budget day, the prospects of an election will hinge on whether Flaherty includes enough concessions to gain the support of the NDP.
If the NDP supports the budget, the Harper government will survive and it’s expected the next window for an election won’t open up until after the next budget in the spring of 2012.
If all three opposition parties vote against the budget, the country will be plunged into an election campaign this spring, with the most likely election day being on May 2, 9 or 16.
Eastern Canada smacked with late-season snowstorm
March 7, 2011
MONTREAL — The calendar says spring is around the corner, but Quebecers were digging out Monday after the latest winter wallop dropped more than 70 centimetres of snow in some areas, forcing police to ride snowmobiles to assist emergency crews.
"It's quite a big storm that's moving over the East Coast. This storm already gave 65 centimetres over the Eastern Township Sherbrooke region," said Andre Cantin of Environment Canada, which forecasts the snow will continue to fall on eastern Quebec until Tuesday.
Among the hardest hit was the Eastern Township city of Sherbrooke, paralyzed by more than 70 centimetres of snow, which closed schools, stores and major highways.
Streets were so snow-choked that police officers had to use snowmobiles to ferry people to awaiting ambulances, including one dead body. While there was reason to believe the victim was someone who had been shovelling snow, police were not confirming a death directly linked to the storm in Sherbrooke.
Danny McConnell of Sherbrooke police said the force used four of its snowmobiles and four on loan from Bombardier to assist emergency crews.
Downtown Montreal cars were sliding both up and downhill, and skidding sideways on flat surfaces as drivers struggled with the slick weather conditions.
Compounding the problem of accumulated snow was the ice underneath after residents dealt with rain and freezing rain on the weekend.
City officials were expecting it would take a full week to clear away the mess.
The city of Montreal and its boroughs had 1,000 vehicles operated by 1,000 employees clearing snow from streets and sidewalks as of Monday morning.
In Quebec City the picture was hardly less messy, as strong winds and low visibility made the March storm a horror for drivers.
Some residents managed to remain upbeat despite the city's 25 centimetres.
"I like the snow," said Charles Bussieres. "It's not too cold."
Around the province motorists were met with closed roads and safety warnings, leaving provincial police to bring in extra staff to deal with the flood of emergency calls.
While many regions closed schools for the day, almost all school boards on the Island of Montreal kept schools open, upsetting some parents.
"I think it's a very poor judgmental call," said parent Kirsten Mahar. "I think half the kids won't be there because if you see there are just tons and tons of people who just didn't send their kids in. So I don't see what the point was."
New Brunswick also had to contend with the storm, which left 2,400 homes — mostly in the Bouctouche area — without power Monday evening.
Canada must become world energy superpower: Shell Canada president
By Phil Couvrette
March 20, 2011
Growing world demand for sustainable energy puts a stable producer of oil and gas like Canada in an ideal position to become a global energy superpower — if the country can embrace the right national strategy to make it happen, according to the head of Shell Canada.
Developing such a strategy starts with a cross-Canada dialogue on energy involving Canadians from all walks of life, said Shell Canada president and country chair Lorraine Mitchelmore in an interview with Postmedia News.
Sitting on the second largest oil reserves in the world all the while being “an open market with a deep commitment to environmental stewardship,” Canada has “all the ingredients to be an energy superpower, but it requires a focused effort and a focused plan if we are to realize that,” said Mitchelmore, whose company celebrates its centennial of doing business in Canada Monday.
“How do we develop these resources in an environmentally sustainable way? It needs a much better framework between the provinces and the federal (government) that looks at fiscal, that looks at regulatory and environmental policies and standards that allow us to be more competitive in the world.”
While some will cringe at any notion of a national energy policy, bearing in mind the divisive years of the National Energy Program, Mitchelmore said a distinction needs to be made.
The policy of the 1980s, particularly unpopular in Western Canada, was “something that was created not with the collaboration of a lot of Canadians,” she noted.
Launched by the Liberals in 1980, the NEP sought to increase Ottawa’s control of energy resources at a time the world was going through an oil crisis. The policy sought to insure Canada’s energy security but upset Western provinces by redistributing wealth from oil-rich provinces, notably Alberta, to Eastern Canada.
“We’re looking at this much more as something about having a conversation among Canadians.”
Canada needs “a competitive framework for energy policy” to attain such a goal, Mitchelmore said, one that brings all Canadians — non-governmental organizations, First Nations, producers and everyday consumers — into the conversation.
“It’s really about engaging Canadians all across Canada that affect the energy supply chain, all the way from the extraction to the end user. It’s about having a framework that affects all of these different parts of the energy supply chain with a vision for being able to produce energy and use energy in the most sustainable way.
“That means also looking at a price on carbon, so it’s all really integrated,” she said, adding this would affect all Canadians and raise the need “to change some behaviours.”
If anything such a dialogue with every day Canadian consumers is sure to broach the topic of current high oil prices, but Mitchelmore said this is what is making a national conversation necessary in order to “educate Canadians” on energy, and improve “energy literacy.”
Becoming “an environmental leader” comes at a cost, she said.
The turmoil in the Middle East and in North Africa — where Canada and other nations are involved in enforcing a no-fly zone over the oil-producing nation of Libya — is a reminder that Canada already stands out as “the most stable, the most reliable and the most democratic of the world’s top 10 oil and gas producers” along with Norway, Mitchelmore said. “That’s a distinct competitive advantage.”
Canadian film crew in chopper crash
Postmedia News The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is investigating after a helicopter carrying a Canadian film crew went down in Pennsylvania on Saturday evening, causing injuries but no fatalities. Regional FAA spokesman Jim Peters said they were notified Saturday evening that a helicopter had crashed into a building after receiving a call from a 911 emergency operator in Indiana, a community northeast of Pittsburgh. "We know that three members of the film crew are Canadian," Peters said, adding he was not yet able to determine what part of this country they are from. He said he wasn't sure "whether it was a company based in Canada that was doing the filming." Peters said the Robinson R44 helicopter with four people on board crashed between two buildings "almost flat against the side of one of the buildings." Peters said the incident occurred in a student housing area for a state university. He said one of the passengers was able to get out after impact and contact authorities. Local media reported this person tried to help the others out. Emergency responders eventually got the three others out. They were taken to a local hospital. "We are told the range of injury is from serious to critical," Peters said. He said the chopper was registered to Penn helicopter LLC in Friedens, Pennsylvania. The FAA is doing the investigation for the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the reason for the crash, he said. FAA was waiting to get a green light from health officials to interview the pilot.
More troops coming as Quebec deals with higher flood levels
Postmedia News : Sunday, May 22, 2011 12:00 AM
ST.-JEAN-SUR-RICHELIEU, Que. — As the waters of Lake Champlain and Quebec’s Richelieu River rose to an all-time high on Monday, raising the spectre of more evacuations in the flooded region, Premier Jean Charest said the Canadian Forces presence was being doubled to help citizens deal with the situation in southern Quebec.
“The deployment will take a few hours and double the Canadian Forces presence,” Charest said, adding the extra troop presence “corresponds with the needs we will have in the next 24 hours.”
About 260 army personnel were on site at the time of the announcement, building and reinforcing barriers to protect vulnerable homes from further damage. On Sunday, soldiers reinforced dikes in St. Blaise sur Richelieu, Que., and unloaded sand bags in Henryville, Que., both towns south of St. Jean.
As forecast, strong winds from the south swelled the river by eight to 20 centimetres since Sunday. A further three to six centimetre rise was expected on Monday and another similar swell on Tuesday morning.
On Lake Champlain, the wind whipped up waves that peaked as high as 90 cm, Quebec’s flood forecast centre reported. On the river, waves could reach 30 cm. The latest rise in the water level surpassed the record reached on May 6.
Charest repeated his assessment the flood in southern Quebec was unprecedented, adding it affected neighbouring U.S. states as well. He said the province was working closely states such as New York on the aftermath of the flooding.
“We’ve never seen anything like this. No one would have believed we would go back, today the 23rd of May . . . to levels of May 6. No one could have predicted this.”
U.S. officials told him they were just as surprised by the magnitude of the floods. Charest said the province was co-ordinating efforts with the federal government on a daily basis.
“This challenges us, we must live with it and deal with the changes the weather throws at us,” he said. “We are facing new circumstances every day.”
Charest said only a few new evacuations took place Monday.
Quebec’s civil security agency reminded residents that members of the Red Cross are on site to provide emergency shelter and that mental-health workers can offer psychological support.
A shift in the wind direction and speed on Tuesday is expected to lower the water quickly by Wednesday.
Authorities have started offering tetanus shots for affected residents as a precaution, even though the floods have not spurred any major health risks.
A handout picture released by the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) on June 10 2011, shows residents of Kadugli gathered outside UNMIS sector headquarters waiting to collect water after fleeing fighting in Kadugli town.
Photograph by: PAUL BANKS, AFP/Getty Images
OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird condemned the escalating violence in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan Thursday, saying Canada was "deeply concerned" by its impact on civilian populations.
"Canada condemns the aerial bombings and attacks against civilians that have displaced more than 60,000 people, according to the UN," Baird said in a statement. "Canada calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and urges all parties to ensure the utmost protection of civilians, including by providing full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need."
Fighting between the northern military and southern-aligned armed groups broke out in Southern Kordofan on June 5 and has escalated to include artillery and warplanes.
Both U.S. President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have called for an immediate ceasefire in the north-run oil state, where humanitarian groups fear a mounting death toll.
Thursday former South African president Thabo Mbeki said the parties in the border state have agreed hostilities should cease and that talks should start.
"The issues at stake in South Kordofan must be resolved by consultation and negotiation, and not by violence," Baird said in the statement.
Canada has contributed more than $885 million toward peace, humanitarian assistance, development aid, security and peacebuilding in Sudan since 2006.
Southern Sudan is due to become a separate country on July 9 and a raft of issues remain unresolved between the two sides, including where to draw the common boundary.
"Both sides have agreed that there should be a cessation of hostilities, and that negotiations should begin immediately," Mbeki told reporters in Addis Ababa after visiting Southern Kordofan. "They've said they will discuss on certain modalities. The details can only be done within those negotiations."
Mbeki, who has been helping guide talks between north and south ahead of secession, said he and other officials would begin planning "full-fledged negotiations" between the Sudanese government and representatives of Southern Kordofan.
He did not give a time frame for when any ceasefire would go into effect.
Earlier on Thursday, Sudan's army said it would continue fighting against southern-aligned groups in Southern Kordofan to end what it calls an armed rebellion.
French officials claim a Quebec leader of a religious sect has counselled his followers to commit suicide.
Photograph by: Getty Images, Getty Images
A Quebec man heading a religious sect has been using the Internet to incite his followers to commit suicide, according to a French government agency.
In its latest report to the French prime minister, published in June, the Mission interministerielle de vigilance et de lutte contre les derives sectaires — which monitors groups to prevent abuses related to religious cults — says it had to alert authorities earlier this year when messages to some of the sect leader's followers on social networks came to its attention.
According to the agency, the man — identified only as 'Flot' in the document — frequently suggested that his "divine children" experience "a divine relationship" with him and join him in "an ascent to . . . leave this world for a new universe."
In preparation he asked his followers to undergo a "mental preparation".
According to the agency, some followers were in such a state of preparedness that they had already made arrangements with notaries and funeral homes.
The Mission said it quickly proceeded to contact French and Canadian authorities to intervene in the case.
"This matter, which is the subject of close scrutiny on the part of the Mission and authorities, demonstrates the risks of extreme deviance — fortunately without consequences in this particular case — apocalyptic messages can lead to," the agency said in the report.
As dozens more people were being evacuated from northern Ontario communities threatened by fires and heavy smoke Thursday, officials said hundreds more were under evacuation warnings as flames engulfed over 100,000 hectares. July 6 photo.
Photograph by: Combat camera, Canadian Forces
DRYDEN, Ont. — As dozens more people were being evacuated from northern Ontario communities threatened by fires and heavy smoke Thursday, officials said hundreds more were under evacuation warnings as flames engulfed over 100,000 hectares.
A Canadian Forces plane was expected to transport dozens of residents from the community of Deer Lake some 500 kilometres south to Greenstone, a community officials said had everything to make them feel at home.
"They do have all the necessary logistics in place to welcome a large influx of evacuees," said Brent Ross of the Ministry of Community Safety.
By Thursday evening about 480 people from Deer Lake were expected to find refuge in Greenstone, but more communities were nervously watching the flames progress near their homes.
"It's not direct fire threat that's causing an impact as much as smoke," said Deb MacLean of the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services Program of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The 'Phase 1' evacuation mostly concerned community members at risk, such the elderly, the sick or young children.
Eighteen new fires started Wednesday, some sparked by lightning, for a total of 78 active fires across northwestern Ontario, she said.
"We have fires all across the north and some of the communities in the far north of the Red Lake district . . . are on evacuation alert," she said.
"Any fires that are close enough to these communities . . . direct suppression action is being taken on those fires," MacLean said, everything from fire rangers on the ground to water bombers and helicopters in the air. But it wasn't possible to put bombers on every fire, she added.
"The highest priority goes to anything that's going to directly affect people," MacLean said, saying that in addition to Deer Lake, other native communities such as Sandy Lake, North Spirit Lake and other communities could be affected.
"It depends on wind direction and the fire situation."
One fire alone, southeast of Pickle Lake, accounts for over 70,000 of the hectares facing the flames, MacLean said.
The Deer Lake evacuation was taking place at the request of the Deer Lake Band Council. Smoke from fires burning 3 1/2 kilometres away was threatening the community.
"To quickly respond to this life-threatening emergency, the commander of Canada Command, Lt.-Gen. Walter Semianiw, declared a major search and rescue operation, deploying air assets within two hours of the request for assistance," said a statement from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
"Our government has responded swiftly to an urgent request from the province of Ontario as a result of this serious situation facing the community of Deer Lake."
The statement said two Canadian Forces CC-130 Hercules aircraft from 435 Squadron based at 17 Wing Winnipeg were assisting with the "life-threatening emergency."
A July 6, 2011 handout photo of a firefighter plane battling Red Lake District Fire Number 59 in the Northwest Region of Ontario.
Photograph by: Handout, Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES)
DRYDEN, Ont. — Firefighters from across the country were pitching in to battle the growing blaze covering over 182,000 hectares in northwestern Ontario, prompting another community to prepare for evacuation Sunday.
In all 89 fires were raging across the region Sunday, 12 more than on Saturday, said Deb MacLean of the Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services Program of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
“We’re dealing with an escalated fire situation all across the northern portion of northwestern Ontario,” she said. “A lot of the fires we are dealing with are large fires, over 10,000 hectares, some over 5,000 (hectares).”
A single fire southeast of Pickle Lake covered 79,000 hectares, she said.
“At this point in time there is no direct fire threat to any communities but there are smoke issues all across the northwest and that has prompted some evacuations,” she said. The smoke especially affects people such as the very young, elderly, and people with health problems.
In recent days over 250 people from Cat Lake, about 180 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, were moved to Matachewan and Kapuskasing.
Another 140 were on standby to leave Keewaywin Sunday. Sandy Lake was also on standby.
On the positive side over 540 people who had to leave Deer Lake previously had all returned back home, MacLean said.
Some 2,000 firefighters, both on the ground and in the air, were battling the flames. In addition 360 B.C. firefighters were also pitching in.
Water bombers from Alberta and Quebec were also assisting in the effort.
Western and northern parts of the province were made restricted fire zones, banning outdoor fires.
Postmedia NewsJul 27, 2011 – 4:29 PM ET| Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011 6:59 PM ET
Ontario’s Premier said Wednesday he considered it a “very serious issue” that thousands of cancer test results may have gone missing.
Cancer Care Ontario, the provincial agency charged with improving cancer services, said Tuesday it is investigating whether 15 reports containing the personal health information of 6,490 Ontarians were successfully delivered to family doctors in February and March.
Officials are also investigating whether an additional 11 reports, containing the personal health information of an additional 5,440 Ontarians, might have been lost.
The agency used Canada Post’s Xpresspost courier service to mail the reports, which contained the names, health-card numbers and colon-cancer-screening results for those patients.
Canada Post was supposed to send the packages back to the agency if it couldn’t get a signature on delivery, but the postal service admitted earlier this month that some reports were delivered without a signature confirmation.
“We’ll do whatever that we can to assist in whatever way possible to retrieve this information and assure that there is ultimately no breach of confidentiality, and that this information doesn’t get into the wrong hands,” Dalton McGuinty told reporters Wednesday.
McGuinty said the incident bolsters the case to “move forward with electronic health records.”
“One of the things we’ll be looking at Cancer Care Ontario for is improved and better ways to transmit that kind of confidential information.”
Officials said the reports that are unaccounted for are summaries of test results that have already been made available to patients and physicians. As a result, the mixup won’t cause patients to have to repeat their colon-cancer screening.
The reports are screening results for colorectal cancer for patients aged 50 to 74. The reports are usually sent to patients’ doctors.
A firefighter plane battles a blaze earlier this month in northwestern Ontario.
Photograph by: Handout, Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES)
Ontario is in the process of helping about 400 residents displaced by raging forest fires in the northwestern region of the province return home, officials said Wednesday.
In a statement, the province said residents of Eabametoong/Fort Hope and Sandy Lake would be able to return home, using five planes with 13 flights.
Two additional aircraft were expected to be available Thursday to help return some of the more than 3,600 people displaced by fires.
The blazes have claimed more than 540,000 hectares — a total nearly 10 times greater than the 10-year average.
"The chief of Sandy Lake moved more than 200 Sandy Lake residents from Marathon, with 75 residents going to Thunder Bay and 126 residents going to the Sioux Lookout region," the province also reported.
About 114 fires were still burning Wednesday, according to Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources, and new blazes were expected to start in the coming days.
"As of today, the current hectares burned in Ontario is the third highest recorded since 1917," the department said.
About 2,000 firefighting personnel are helping battle the blaze, including 640 members from British Columbia, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Alberta, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The province said 15 heavy bombers, four light bombers, 97 helicopters and other support aircraft were assisting in the effort.
Emergency workers walk in front of the twisted debris that was an Ottawa Bluesfest stage. The stage collapsed Sunday, July 17, 2011.
Photograph by: Ashley Fraser, Postmedia News
LEVIS, Que. — Stage manufacturer Groupe Berger was on the defensive again Thursday, a day after two lighting towers were toppled by a wind burst during stage assembly at a festival in Levis, near Quebec City.
The incident came weeks after the July 17 Ottawa Bluesfest stage collapse during a windstorm. That collapse injured eight people including the driver of the band Cheap Trick, which was wrapping up a performance at the time.
On Tuesday, the band pulled out of a scheduled performance at Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition because the stage on which they were to perform came from Groupe Berger.
On Thursday, the Quebec-based company said it provided the equipment and manual labour but not its own supervisor to oversee the erection of the towers in Levis, and said organizers made modifications without consulting with it.
Levis Festivent organizers held a news conference Thursday afternoon to stress that Groupe Berger was in charge of providing and installing the towers.
"For Groupe Berger, incidents like that one seem to become a tendency," Festivent promoter Martin Lafrance is quoted as saying in the Journal de Levis, saying their confidence in the company was declining.
The Ottawa show was the second time in the past two years a stage owned by Groupe Berger had toppled.
On June 30, 2009, the roof of one of its outdoor stages buckled and fell at Quebec City's Grand Rire comedy festival after days of high winds and heavy rains.
There were no injuries in that incident. Quebec investigators determined that the collapse was due to a fault during fabrication of the stage.
Mayor could end up in a hard place for dropping off large rock at ex's
POSTMEDIA NEWSAUGUST 15, 2011
ACTON VALE, Que. — A Quebec mayor's idea of a joke could land him in hot water with authorities after he had a large boulder dropped on the lawn of his ex-wife for her birthday, quipping she always wanted a 'big rock'.
Now Quebec provincial police are looking into possible mischief and other charges after receiving a complaint from the woman, who woke up with a 20-tonne problem on her lawn on the weekend in Acton Vale, east of Montreal.
St-Theodore-d'Acton Mayor Dany Lariviere, who also runs a transport company, told La Voix de l'Est newspaper "It's a gift. She'd been asking me for a big 'rock' for years. I found her one."
Reached briefly by Postmedia News Monday, Lariviere said he was meeting with police to further discuss the case.
He told the newspaper police had intercepted him previously on the way to depositing the massive boulder but he was allowed to proceed after the paperwork he showed them seemed to be in order. Police say the matter is in the hands of the Crown prosecutor. Lariviere says the rock is hers now: "It's a gift."
Pictures of the rock on the newspaper's website showed a large purple ribbon on the boulder with "Happy Birthday Isa(belle)" inscribed on one side and "This is for all you're doing to me."
The latter, according to La Voix, is apparently a reference to the heavy legal costs he has incurred since his divorce to Isabelle Prevost.
Tea Party site price music to band's ears Tue Sep 20 2011
Even someone with little interest in U.S. politics is aware of the name Tea Party, it occasionally even creeps into the Canadian political discourse as a number of provinces gear up for the polls.
But web surfers finding their way to the Teaparty. com website may be in for a surprise, it explicitly says: "No politics, just rock and roll."
That's because the site is home to a Canadian rock band that developed a musical style mixing Middle Eastern and other influences dubbed Moroccan roll.
While the name has caused some frustration to the band, more in tune with the hash sessions of famous Beat generation poets that inspired the name than right-wing politics, the website could fetch them a princely sum by some accounts.
"Last cycle, Barack Obama raised $500 million online," Warren Adelman, president of GoDaddy.com, told Bloomberg News. "If you look at the money being talked about this time around - campaigns raising $1 billion - it's easy to expect teaparty.com to go for well over $1 million."
And that could be just what the band has in mind, with bassist Stuart Chatwood telling Bloomberg the name has been the source of much frustration.
"So much damage has been done to our name by the political movement that we're considering selling," he said.
One needn't look very far on the band's official Facebook page to spot fans venting their frustration about the what they're most likely to find by googling "Tea Party."
"Wow! I just found out you guys are back together," Debbie Reed said about a recent reunion tour. "Now I can say 'The Tea Party' without thinking about morons in politics!!! You guys rock!"
Selling the site, with the name hotter than ever after the mid-term election breakthrough and Republicans gearing up for the 2012 presidential vote could seem more appealing than ever.
According to Bloomberg, the offers for the site started pouring in last year, when Tea Party activists made their great stage entry in Congress.
Despite all the tales of dot-com riches, a $1-million sale isn't that common, the news service notes, since only a few have sold in the seven figures or more, including sex.com ($13 million) and vodka.com ($3 million).
This is leaving the band breaking its head about whether to sell, develop the site, or find partners.
Ex soldier continues hunger strike despite collapsing briefly
POSTMEDIA NEWSNOVEMBER 7, 2011
A former soldier on a hunger strike in Quebec since Saturday collapsed from a temporary drop in blood pressure Monday, but Pascal Lacoste said he was continuing his protest in the name of ailing war veterans.
The 38 year old — who is protesting outside the Levis, Que., riding office of Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney — claims he was poisoned by depleted uranium while serving in Bosnia in the 1990s.
He has vowed to stop eating until the government accepted his requests for decontamination treatments.
Blaney — who met with Lacoste Sunday — offered to provide some assistance to the veteran, but says it is unlikely that Canadian soldiers were contaminated by depleted uranium in Bosnia.
In an interview Monday afternoon Lacoste said the medical assistance offered by Veterans Affairs would only apply to him, and called for the ministry to recognize soldiers could have been contaminated.
"I told them in the army there's no 'I', but rather 'us'," he said from outside Blaney's office. "We have asked that (the minister) offer us a written solution . . . for (all) Canadian veterans, not for Pascal Lacoste."
Jean-Christophe de le Rue, spokesman for Blaney, said specialists had contacted the veteran "to offer treatment to help respond to his personal and immediate needs.
"Every veteran has unique needs and appropriate treatment is available for those needs, whatever they may be," he added. "The minister implores the veteran not to endanger his health and to accept the treatments which have been offered to respond to his short- and medium-term needs."
Lacoste, who at the protest site is surrounded by supporters including other veterans, said he has suffered from a degenerative neurological condition, infertility and chronic pain for over a decade.
He said an ambulance was called at the time of the incident but he chose to stay, calling the presence of supporters invigorating. He said the suffering of other veterans is much greater than his own.
No "clear evidence" of foul play in Gatti's death, Que. coroner says
A Quebec coroner's report into the 2009 death of champion boxer Arturo Gatti concludes he died a "violent death" but "clear evidence" of foul play could not be found.
Gatti, a welterweight world champion, was found dead in a Brazilian vacation home on July 11, 2009.
The death was ruled a suicide by local authorities, and coroner Jean Brochu said that while he had concerns about the "standards" of the Brazilian investigation he was not able to dismiss these conclusions. "All the pathologists and the investigators agree that Mr. Gatti's death occurred from asphyxia by neck constriction," he wrote. "I also agree with this conclusion of violent death.
"The conclusion of the Montreal pathologists to the effect that there is no clear evidence of foul play in Mr. Gatti's death means I cannot dismiss the formal conclusions reached by the authorities of the country where it occurred."
Brochu adds an American investigator's conclusion the death may have been the result of murder "has obvious shortcomings."
The circumstances of Gatti's death have taken a central role in the distribution of the late boxer's estate, which is the subject of a major court battle between his wife and members of his family.
Gatti's will left everything to his wife, Amanda Rodrigues.
Gatti's family claims Rodrigues, whom Gatti met in 2006 and married the following year, pressured her husband into signing a will weeks before his death in Brazil in July 2009.
Thus an earlier will, leaving everything to his mother, Ida, and Sofia, his daughter from a previous relationship, should take precedence. No one has a signed copy of the earlier will.
Montrealer 'there for everyone'
Succumbs to injuries from shooting at roadblock in Egypt
POSTMEDIA NEWSNOVEMBER 14, 2011
A teacher from Montreal who was caught in a deadly crossfire between two tribes in Egypt was remembered as an adventurous world-traveller who was determined to stay in the region until he toured all of Africa.
Jean-François Pelland was the vice-principal at the British Columbia Canadian International School in Cairo. To his students, he was simply known as "Mr. Jeff."
"I still can't believe it. I was talking to him just days ago, now he's no longer here," said Magaly Brodeur, a close friend. "This is an incredible ordeal we have to overcome. Life is so unfair. I am so terribly sad."
According to a statement from the school, Pelland was travelling to a temple 90 kilometres outside Luxor, in central Egypt during the religious holiday of Eid when his taxi attempted to go through an illegal roadblock placed by one of the two opposing tribes. Shots were fired, and he was hit twice in the abdomen and was later transported to International Hospital of Luxor where he succumbed to his injuries on Friday, just days after an operation to repair his intestinal tract.
"He was athletic, adventuresome and excited about being in Egypt and getting to know his new country," read the school's statement.
"His love for children, his enthusiasm, his energy and his willingness to do what needed to be done to ensure that every student could be successful was just part of what the students and teachers enjoyed and will miss.
"Mr. Jeff was there for everyone."
Pelland spent time with the Canadian Forces Reserves and worked in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Asia. He began teaching at BCCIS in August.
"I travelled to more than 35 countries in the world, and I am not going to leave Egypt until I finish touring Africa! I might be here for a while," Pelland wrote on the school's website.
An RCMP officer has apologized for her actions in a 2010 shoplifting incident in Vancouver.
Photograph by: Submitted
OTTAWA — A 20-year veteran of the RCMP apologized Thursday and provided some emotional testimony at her disciplinary hearing, which was sparked by her off-duty arrest for shoplifting during the Vancouver Olympic Games.
"I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere apology for my behaviour and misconduct," Staff-Sgt. Suzanne Denise Marie Martel said. "I take full responsibility for my action."
Martel was charged with one count of theft under $5,000 in February 2010, was subsequently relieved of her duties at the Games and sent back to her Ottawa-area detachment. The criminal charge has since been stayed, but she still faces a disgraceful conduct charge under the RCMP Act.
Martel, who broke down on several occasions during her testimony, said she never intended to embarrass the Mounties and painted a picture of her frail state of mind and health in the days and weeks leading to the Feb. 11, 2010 incident, which happened at a Winners store.
The days leading to the incidents were harrowing both at work and away from her 12-hour shifts, she said, listing a series of troubles from dealing with a cold which struck her upon her arrival in Vancouver, to her lack of sleep over several days. Family problems back home also made her experience difficulty, she said, but she insisted she "gave 100 per cent to her work" under the circumstances.
Her Olympic assignment began in late January 2010, and Martel said she first became stressed when she learned she was not sure where she was going to sleep.
After finally being assigned to a hotel for the first few days, Martel was told she would have to move to a cruise ship in Vancouver Harbour — an experience made difficult by her fear of water and constricted spaces, she said.
Tight living quarters shared with a colleague who worked opposite shifts, regular switches from night to day shifts every week and noise from parties on the ship made for a harrowing ordeal, she recalled.
In addition, technical difficulties during her work shifts and allegations of harassment by a member of the force, which up until the hearing had been unreported, left her feeling as if she was about to "hit rock bottom," a place she said she eventually reached.
On the day of the store incident, she recalled a dark state of mind before she made it to the Winners outlet. At one point she came across a highway where she asked herself "what had happened and whether I was dead," she recalled, briefly considering throwing herself in front of some of the vehicles zipping past. "I wanted to walk until I collapsed, and lie there until somebody picked me up," she said.
Once at Winners she said she felt numb and outside her body: "I could not feel reality around me," she said.
During cross-examination she said she could recall little of her time in the store, and that most of the recollection she had was from store video played at her lawyer's office subsequently.
"In my state of mind I could not think ahead or consider the consequence of my acts," she said. Only following her transfer from the police station to the RCMP in British Columbia did she feel "the humiliation" of the incident, she recalled.
A psychologist she consulted in Ottawa after the incident concluded she had suffered from "a major depression with anxiety problems."
When cross-examined by Helene DesGranges as to why she had not sought help during her time in Vancouver, she said she had lodged noise complaints to security and a complaint department on the ship which had gone unanswered and reached out to a colleague who had not responded to what she considered "a plea for help."
But she repeatedly suggested that judging by the experience of people she knew, lodging formal complaints at the RCMP could just land her in more trouble.
"I have never complained about harassment though I have suffered from it in the past," she said. "When we make a harassment complaint we become the problem," she said in response to queries why she had never before brought up the harassment she said she felt from a member of the force on the ship.
The Vancouver assignment followed a period working with a partner with whom she had many difficulties, she said. Making matters difficult was that her superior was good friends with the work partner, she said, leaving her few opportunities to talk about her stressful environment.
"If I had a problem with my partner, I had no one to turn to," she said.
When asked why she had not sought assistance dealing with work-related issues before leaving for Vancouver, she said it would only have meant raising the matter internally.
"You then become the problem and suffer from the process," she said, adding her only recourse would have been to seek assistance outside the RCMP.
When her colleagues, some of whom testified Thursday, heard the news about the arrest they wrongly thought it must have been another woman with the same name.
Her coworkers described her as a kind-hearted officer with a good work ethic.
Two youngsters in Quebec are being credited for possibly saving the life of a Belgian teen they met while playing online video games. They spotted references to suicide on the teen's Facebook page, and informed police in Canada, who contacted police in Belgium.
Photograph by: xx, xx
Quebec police near Montreal are praising the initiative of area youngsters they thank for ultimately saving a man's life in Europe.
Chateauguay police, south of Montreal, said on Sunday night, two Quebec youngsters were playing an online game with a teen living in Belgium, when they came across some disturbing information about their 17-year-old playmate.
Consulting his Facebook site, the Quebecers discovered what police describe as "talk of suicide."
The Beauharnois, Que., youngsters, aged 14 and 15 called one of their mothers, who contacted local police. Provincial police and authorities in Belgium were soon notified, helping locate the teen in his home country, according to a police statement.
Health professionals have since contacted the teen, police say, providing the assistance he needs.
"A life has been saved thanks to the vigilance of the two Quebec adolescents and joint police work," says a release from the Chateauguay police force.
Three youths arrested after 12-year-old doused with gasoline
POSTMEDIA NEWSNOVEMBER 27, 2011
Three Quebec youths were arrested this weekend and have a date with youth court in Quebec after they doused a 12-year-old with gasoline and threatened to light her on fire, Saguenay police said Sunday.
A dispute at a gathering Friday between people who knew each other degenerated and led to the incident, according to Saguenay police Lt. Andre Gagne.
Gagne said that after a 12-year-old girl left the home around 8 p.m. Friday evening following a dispute, three youths, ages 12, 13 and 14, prevented her from returning by emptying a can of gasoline on her following a further altercation.
Gagne said one of the three then brandished a lighter, adding it was hard to determine how much gasoline was involved and whether the person truly tried to set her on fire.
“An act was committed (with the lighter),” he said. “But it’s hard to say whether the lighter was activated or not.”
The girl then fled the party and reported the incident to her parents, who contacted police, Gagne said. The three were briefly arrested and released on a promise to appear.
The three have been referred to youth services while investigators and prosecutors review the incident, Gagne added.
The youths are scheduled to appear in youth court on Feb. 16, 2012.
Saguenay is approximately 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.
Daniel Paille elected Bloc Quebecois leader
BY POSTMEDIA NEWSDECEMBER 11, 2011
MONTREAL - Former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister Daniel Paille has been elected the new leader of the Bloc Quebecois.
``We have work to do,'' he said in his victory speech. ``But that work is exceptional. Imagine, we have a unique chance, as a people, to build our country. I believe this.''
Paille was declared the winner on the second ballot with 61.28 per cent of the vote. Current Bloc Quebecois MPs Maria Mourani and Jean-Francois Fortin placed second and third, respectively.
``On May 2 Quebecers voted for change and they obtained a lot of it, but never did they vote to set the Quebec nation back. Never,'' Paille said.
The Bloc saw its number of House of Commons seats collapse to four in the May federal election.
Paille said the BQ would convince Quebec's federalists that ``to go forward'' sovereignty has to happen, adding the Bloc would ``convince them with respect, with vigour, with vision and passion.''
He said it wasn't possible to bring Quebec's interests forward without talking about sovereignty.
Paille said Ottawa's stance on the long-gun registry and the environment showed how far apart the province's values were from the federal government's.
He criticized the federal government's stance in South Africa, saying it brought the country ``shame''.
In a news conference held after the speech, Paille said he was elected because ``people voted for someone who can help them now, rebuild the party, speak to Mr. Harper . . . and do it right away.''
Montreal Gazette and Postmedia News
Make sure your passport in `perfect' shape going to Mexico
With more and more sun seekers opting for jungle tours and Mayan cultural attractions, there's always a few open chairs along Mexico's Riviera Maya. WestJet is warning Canadians travelling to Mexico they should make sure their passports are in ``perfect condition'' before visiting the popular winter destination.
WestJet is warning Canadians travelling to Mexico they should make sure their passports are in "perfect condition" before visiting the popular winter destination.
"Mexican customs and immigration officials may deny entry to guests who arrive with passports that are damaged in some way — including rips or tears, missing corners or water damage to the cover and inside pages," the airline said in a recent travel advisory to Canadians heading south.
Passport Canada noted on its website individuals with damaged passports could face delays at checkpoints or be prohibited from boarding. It stressed authority lies with the border service of the country in question.
"Passport Canada recommends that Canadians whose passport has been damaged apply as soon as possible for a new passport, as the Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document for Canadians."
Mexican officials, however, said there has been "no change in the policy of Mexican customs and immigration officials regarding passports."
"Passports must be in a generally good condition, normal use is no problem," said Milko Rivera Hope, from the Embassy of Mexico in Canada, in an email to Postmedia News.
"However, any alterations or major damage to the passport will definitely be a problem for any passenger who wants to travel anywhere in the world. Not only to Mexico."