Ferries given federal security grant Canwest News Service January 09, 2009 B.C. Ferries will get a share of $7.4 million announced yesterday by the federal government to make ferries safer. The funding is to provide security enhancements such as surveillance equipment, dockside and perimeter security, command, control and communications equipment, and training. The announcement was part of the federal government's Marine Security Contribution Program, a $115-million initiative to improve security enhancements at ports and other marine facilities. Transport Canada said the operators targeted were those in the "higher risk" category. British Columbia was singled out as part of security measures in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Games. "We're very pleased to learn we're part of the Marine Security Contribution Program," said B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall. B.C. Ferries had submitted a proposal for federal funding for security upgrades on things such as perimeter fencing and closed-circuit television. Marshall said B.C. Ferries is still awaiting the final word on how much has been earmarked for them. In all, the funds will help cover 43 different security projects. "Many Canadians rely on ferry services every day. Our government is getting things done to improve the safety and security of those who work and use our ferries," said Transport Minister John Baird. "In addition to strengthening the security of Canadians, this investment encourages more travel on our domestic ferries, helps stimulates the economy, supports tourism and promotes the creation of new jobs." Funds were announced for ferry operators in Quebec, Nova Scotia and B.C. Transport Canada said Toronto would also receive funding. A complete provincial breakdown was not available.
Que. group launches complaint over TV show
MONTREAL — The Black Coalition of Quebec said Wednesday it has asked Canada's public security minister to look into a controversial year-end TV show which has generated a number of complaints the program was at best, tasteless and at worst, racist.
One segment of Radio-Canada's highly controversial Bye Bye New Year's Eve special lampooned U.S. president-elect Barack Obama and featured a slew of jokes about blacks, including one reference to assassination.
Coalition president Dan Philip told a news conference his group wasn't only concerned about the use of racist terms but fears the program could trigger attacks against the black community, and was therefore requesting "criminal investigations" into the matter.
"We were outraged because in a society such as ours, these types of words disguised as 'humour' can only promote hatred and contempt and are unacceptable," said the Jan. 7 the letter addressed to Public Security Minister Peter Van Loan.
The group said it also filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission to obtain "a minimum of justice."
Last week, the show's producers, Veronique Cloutier and Louis Morissette, delivered an emotional apology, saying they misjudged how the public would react to the program.
The Black Coalition describes itself as a group that defends against all forms of discrimination against Quebec's black community.
Town may enforce winter no-bicycle rule
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
A small Quebec community will vote on enforcing a rare ban on two-wheel vehicles in winter after a man was killed riding his bike in the new year.
Regulations banning bicycles and motorized bikes, when roads are partly or completely covered by snow or ice, have been in place in La Tuque, 275 kilometres northeast of Montreal, for a decade, but have never been enforced.
But the death of 45-year-old man on Jan. 6, after he was hit by a truck while riding his bike in the snow, has caused concern and has prompted the town to remind residents about the law. The municipal council will consider next week whether the ban should be enforced by police.
"This is being done to protect people and make the city safer," city spokesman Alain Michaud said.
"As soon as there is snow or ice, these vehicles can't circulate."
A provincial police spokesman said he wasn't aware such fines had ever been handed out.
Special unit to patrol Que.-U.S. border
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service, Feb. 3
A special border-patrol unit consisting of RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency agents will soon take shape in Quebec under a pilot project which could herald a new nationwide efforts to beef up border security.
The patrol will monitor Quebec-U.S. crossings and combat criminals taking advantage of the boundary, said Jean-Pierre Fortin, vice-president of the Customs and Immigration Union.
The initiative comes from a Conservative party platform to enhance security by creating “a border patrol that can patrol the many unguarded roads and the border in between official entry points,” Fortin said.
He added talks were underway between the RCMP and CBSA and that details were expected soon on where the Quebec project would take shape. RCMP said they couldn’t confirm anything about the project pending an official announcement.
Fortin said Quebec was chosen because it represents the area with the most unguarded roads to the border in the country.
“The government must think this will be a good laboratory to go forward and create this patrol,” he said.
The region has also been affected by RCMP cutbacks, he said, noting the closure of nine detachment.
The initiative is taking place as the U.S. is about to have drone planes patrol the border and Homeland Security reviews vulnerabilities along the world’s longest undefended boundary.
The U.S. Border Patrol is testing the readiness of the drones which were expected to begin regular patrols by the official opening of the North Dakota station housing them, on Feb. 16, according to a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman.
In the meantime Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano singled out the U.S.-Canada border in one of her first action directives days after being sworn in.
“As we have designed programs to afford greater protection against unlawful entry, members of Congress and Homeland Security experts have called for increased attention to the Canadian border,” says the department’s directive, which was issued days after President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Que. man auctions 'world's oldest stick'.
QUEBEC - A Quebec man has put up for auction - at $1 million US - a hockey stick that he claims is the oldest in the world.
The stick went up on eBay at 7 p.m. ET Monday and those interested in purchasing it will have to deposit $10,000 US just to be able to place a bid in the 10-day auction. Unsuccessful bidders will have their money refunded.
Bobby Rouillard - a sports collector and son of a Quebec City antique dealer - says the hockey stick sheds new light on the early origins of the game but Canadian sports historians aren't so sure. They expressed doubts about the stick, insisting the oldest existing hockey sticks were carved in the 1850s.
Rouillard, 35, said he was hoping to list the stick for a 30-day period but had to settle for 10. He says he won't be disappointed and will keep it in his collection if the stick isn't sold.
According to a carbon-dating laboratory in California, where samples of the stick were sent for analysis, the artifact is made of yellow birch or cherry wood dated between 1633 and 1666. The analysis showed the stick was carved in one piece.
Two hours after the item went up on eBay there was yet to be a bid. While the stick comes with a price tag, shipping is listed as free.
Drone to patrol Manitoba border
Canwest News Service, February 17, 2009
The U.S. is scheduled to start flying an unmanned and unarmed drone over the U.S.-Canada border today, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman has told Canwest News Service.
Juan Munoz-Torres of U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the Predator drone will survey a 370-kilometre stretch of the Manitoba-North Dakota border at about 20,000 feet.
The drone will fly no closer than 15 kilometres from the border, said Munoz-Torres. A single drone will be surveying the border at first but "in the future we may have more, it will be determined as we move along with this operation," he added.
The drone is equipped with hi-definition sensors that can spot an object as far as 35 kilometres away, he said.
To date the Border Patrol had been testing the readiness of the drone, which will be flying out of Grand Forks, N.D.
The launch of the drone flights is taking place as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has asked for a review of vulnerabilities along the world's longest undefended boundary.
Family seeks info about Canadian's death in Madagascar
Canwest News Service, Feb. 25
GUELPH, Ont. — Family of a Canadian killed in Madagascar said Wednesday they hoped the man's body will be returned in time for his memorial service, but were frustrated by the lack of information about the incident.
Mark Alessio, 43, was killed Monday, said his brother, Michael, who has praised officials for being able to process the paperwork quickly to have the body repatriated to Canada.
But he said he wasn't happy little information was available about possible suspects in his brother's death. Michael said he was told by Canadian officials his brother was murdered in the capital, Antananarivo, while he was vacationing.
"They got all the paperwork done fast, I don't know how they did that. My only thing is that my brother didn't just die, he was murdered. I haven't heard anything about that yet," he said. "I realize it's only been a couple of days . . . things don't get solved in a couple of days, but I haven't heard anything about whether they have anybody in custody. I guess that's where my frustration is."
He said Foreign Affairs had contacted the family but "nobody knows for sure what happened."
Foreign Affairs "has been advised that a Canadian citizen has been murdered in Madagascar on the early morning of Feb. 23," said Emma Welford from the department. "Consular officials are providing assistance and support to the family as needed."
Mark Alessio had previously worked as a teacher for two years in Madagascar and loved international travel, his brother said. Michael said a visitation is being held on Sunday.
The island nation off Africa's southeast coast has been marked by political violence this year. Close to 100 people died in political unrest there last month.
Quebec may require ski helmets, at request of emergency doctors
Canwest News Service, Feb. 27
QUEBEC - Quebec's government says it is seriously considering requests by the province's emergency room doctors to make helmets mandatory on ski slopes.
"Emergency doctors say we could prevent trauma involving ski accidents if the helmet is made mandatory," said Jean-Pascal Bernier, the spokesman for Education and Sports Minister Michelle Courchesne.
It is first necessary to talk with industry partners to see how to proceed and what the impact would be, he said.
Mr. Bernier said a change of habits is already taking place on the hills, with 92% of children under 12 wearing helmets. He noted Quebec ski areas already require helmets in snowboard areas.
The Association of Quebec Emergency Room Doctors made the request yesterday, stressing studies have shown "60% of head trauma could be avoided by wearing a helmet" while participating in winter sports.
Vessel involved in Gainey accident considering Canadian registration
Phil Couvrette, Canwes News Service, Feb. 28
Officials of the sail training ship Laura Gainey was working on when she was swept to her death in a storm in 2006 are heeding her family's advice and looking into registering the ship in Canada.
Days after the Transportation Safety Board released its report on the incident, which claimed the daughter of Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey, owners of the Picton Castle wrote Transport Canada to inquire about registering the ship in Lunenburg, N.S., where it is based, according to a document obtained by Canwest News Service.
"Any help and guidance you can give us in this pursuit would be greatly appreciated," reads the letter dated Nov. 9, 2008 and obtained through Access to Information.
"We are researching what is involved in registering at this point," said Susan Corkum-Greek, a spokeswoman for the Picton Castle, adding, "I wouldn't want to make it sound like it's further along than it is."
The ship is registered in the Cook Islands but the family asked that the ship revoke the registration for a Canadian one soon after shortcomings were unveiled in the investigation of the incident undertaken by authorities on the South Pacific island group.
An initial, critical report on the accident, commissioned by the Cook Islands, had been quietly replaced by another that painted a rosier picture of the ship.
In its own report, the TSB found serious safety deficiencies - since remedied - on the ship at the time of the incident on Dec. 8, 2006.
Clear onboard communications were lacking, and safety nets and harnesses were not in use that night. The report also noted Gainey was tired, but felt she could not sleep because of her duties, and it said the decision to set sail with a long-range forecast of bad weather was flawed.
"Given the mystifying and disappointing action of the Cook Islands registry over the last 20 months, (we ask) that the Picton Castle terminate this relationship and register the ship under a Canadian flag," the Gainey family said the day the TSB report was released, Oct. 30, 2008.
"It was a request we made and they sent me an e-mail in November and said they were taking steps to change the registry," Bob Gainey told Canwest News Service. "We realize that this presents some difficulties for them but I think this shows that they want to be good citizens."
The registry of the ship was raised during the drafting of the TSB report, documents obtained through Access to Information show.
Transport Canada suggested the title of the report be amended to underline where the ship was registered. This was turned down, but Transport Canada did get the TSB report amended by changing a line which referred to the "home port of Lunenburg," which it felt suggested that the ship was Canadian-registered.
"Transport Canada met with the Canadian Sail Training Association in January 2009 to discuss a policy being developed (including the use of safety management systems) related to Canadian-registered sail training vessels," said Maryse Durette of Transport Canada. "The policy will also address issues related to foreign sail training vessels in Canadian waters."
Transport Canada said it is also updating its standards relating to design, construction and operational safety of sail training vessels and will take into consideration the TSB report.
Documents show Transport Canada officials were sensitive to the TSB recommendations. One Transport Canada official, in an e-mail two days before the report's public release, said he was going over the TSB report in detail to "amend (Transport Canada's) draft policy on Sail Training Vessels to cover the safety concerns highlighter in the report."
At one point, Transport Canada considered reviewing the requirement for wearing safety harnesses.
Further, Transport Canada's review of the TSB report questioned the length of time - 30 minutes - it took the ship to return back to the point where crew members had thrown a life-ring into the water, after the alarm was sounded.
"Under power, it should have been quicker, even given the weather," the review suggested.
The Picton Castle website notes the ship has undergone an independent extraordinary safety audit and a Port State Control inspection by Transport Canada since the incident, but Corkum-Greek adds more inspections will be needed to obtain Canadian registration.
N.B. brew launch leaves bad taste for some
Canwest News Service, Mar. 13
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's decision to launch a provincial brand of beer to counter years of drop in the sale of suds isn't going down well with some of the province's microbrewers.
NB Liquor says that with its Selection brand of lager and light beer it becomes the first liquor board in the country to offer a private label beer, its main selling point being a price tag of $18.67 for a 12-pack of suds.
The liquor board says it is losing $8 million to $12 million annually as New Brunswickers in part make it a habit of driving into Quebec to pay as little as $1 a can for beer, a price that remains lower even after the initiative.
"Over the past couple of years, we have seen a steady decline in volume in the domestic beer category and part of that is poor summer weather, lower tourism numbers and some pricing in other liquor jurisdictions," said Nora Lacey, a spokeswoman for NB Liquor. "This has been an ongoing issue for us."
While NB Liquor president and CEO Dana Clendenning says her board is "proud to launch these premium-quality, low-cost brands, which are brewed for New Brunswickers by New Brunswickers," the government's foray into the beer business is leaving some local microbrewers foaming at the mouth.
"I think it's kind of a foolish little thing to be doing but they're the bosses, I guess," said Shaun Fraser, CEO of Pump House Brewery in Moncton. "I don't think the government, when it has a monopoly, should be competing against it own citizens."
The liquor board says it consulted the four major domestic brewers — Labatt, Molson, Moosehead and Sleeman — in the process of developing the brand, but not microbrewers.
"It's unethical really . . . that not everybody gets to have the same kick at the can," Fraser said.
NB Liquor decided to launch the brands with Moosehead Breweries in Saint John. Thursday the brands were being promoted with tastings held in over a dozen stores across the province.
Lacey said the microbrewery category was a separate matter, one doing quite well in the province.
"The issue has nothing to do with microbreweries and import breweries. This is specific to the domestic beer category," she said. "We're not looking to create something unique and completely out there, we're looking for something comparable to other products."
But Fraser says he's not worried about his clientele — which he described as being more "value-driven" than "price-driven" — opting for the cheaper brew, and predicts the brands, like long exposed suds, will ultimately fall flat.
Around 200 arrested, one officer hurt, in Montreal protest
Canwest News Service
MONTREAL — Police say around 200 people were arrested Sunday following an annual Montreal protest against police brutality some feared would become violent after a teenager was shot and killed by police last summer.
By early evening 48 people had been arrested for a variety of criminal violations and one policeman was slightly injured when he was struck by a brick. Some 150 others faced charges related to municipal bylaws. Most of them were rounded up, circled by officers in riot gear and led one by one onto awaiting buses in a single sweep downtown.
Police said protesters committed acts of vandalism, throwing projectiles against buildings and targeting officers in the course of the afternoon.
Eight people were arrested as a preventive measure, police said, before the protest even got underway, mostly for possessing items police feared could be used as weapons or such projectiles as sticks and rocks.
The 13th annual march, organized by an umbrella organization of groups opposed to “police brutality” began after 2 p.m.
Traffic was blocked on several downtown streets after an estimated 400 demonstrators gathered earlier at the Mont-Royal subway station and then walked south randomly in groups, meeting blockades of officers along their paths.
Police cordoned off the streets around the subway station. The subway line was shut down for an hour when someone pulled an emergency stop alarm.
Marchers started tossing firecrackers in the air and throwing vegetables at police. Organizers were using a loudspeaker to rev up the crowd of protesters, many of whom are masked. Organizers did not release a route for the march but told protesters not to provoke police officers.
Police asked businesses near the area of the initial gathering to keep garbage cans and other objects inside in case they might be used as projectiles.
Last year, 47 people were arrested and about 10 restaurant windows were broken. One car was firebombed.
Sunday’s march comes after the fatal police shooting last August of Fredy Villanueva, 18, who was not armed when he was shot and two others were injured during a parking-lot melee.
A public inquest into Villanueva’s death is set to begin May 25. Lawyers for two police officers involved in the shooting have asked for a publication ban for their clients.
An analysis by the group last August noted that 42 people have died at the hands of police in Montreal since 1987. Of those, 28 per cent were visible minorities. And in 86 per cent of those cases, police were exonerated.
Those figures do not include the Villanueva case.
Suncor deal to acquire Petro-Canada close: Source
Canwest News Service
TORONTO — A major oilpatch move may be in the works as Suncor Energy Inc. is close to acquiring Petro-Canada a source told the Wall Street Journal.Although no details could be confirmed on the valuation of such a deal Sunday evening, a statement was expected before markets were to open Monday morning.
Sunday the Wall Street Journal reported that the acquisition would be valued at $15 billion US in stock, citing people familiar with the matter.
Spokespeople for the companies declined to comment to the paper, which said an announcement was expected to come as early as Monday.
The paper said the price tag “would represent a roughly 30 per cent premium for Petro-Canada” and the deal would allow the companies to merge while conserving cash.
This development would form one of the largest companies in Canada and the nation’s biggest energy company with a market value of $35 billion.
But any agreement to acquire Petro-Canada would require the approval of the federal government because of legislation preventing anyone from holding more than 20 per cent of the former Crown corporation.
A merger of the two companies would combine Petro-Canada’s extensive retail gasoline and refining business and its international operations with Suncor’s extensive operations in the oilsands.
In January Calgary-based Petro-Canada reported it suffered a loss in the fourth quarter as the price of crude plummeted and deferral charges related to the Fort Hills oilsands project weighed.
Petro-Canada, the fourth-largest energy producer in the country, reported a loss of $691 million, or $1.43 a share, compared with net earnings of $522 million, or $1.08 a share, in the year-earlier period.
Last year, Petro-Canada booked a profit of more than $3.1 billion, or $6.47 a share, or 15 per cent more than fiscal 2007.
With oil prices depressed as the global economy continues to weaken, Petro-Canada then said it has lowered its production forecast for this year to between 345,000 and 385,000 barrels per day.
Suncor Energy Inc. announced its first quarterly net loss in 16 years in January and a $3-billion capital budget cut to go along with the mothballing of its $20.6-billion Voyageur oilsands expansion.
Fugitive featured on America's Most Wanted arrested in Montreal
CanwestNews Service, Mar 24
MONTREAL — U.S. authorities say a fugitive on the lam since 2001 was arrested in Montreal Tuesday by agents of the Canada Border Services Agency.
In a statement Tuesday the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Russell Victor McCollum, 30, was arrested on a number of warrants after barricading himself in a Montreal apartment.
The bureau said it been working the Canadian lead on McCollum after he appeared in an episode of the TV show America’s Most Wanted in February 2008.
The trail led authorities from Nashville to Philadelphia, Ottawa and finally Montreal.
McCollum was wanted for four counts of aggravated sexual battery of a child, failure to appear and flight to avoid prosecution.
The original warrants were taken out for McCollum 10 years ago but he’s been on the lam ever since he failed to appear for trial in March 2001.
The bureau says he faces an extradition hearing while it pays $5,000 US for the tip that led to the arrest.
Raise Internet threats, Que. authorities say
By Phil Couvrette March 25, 2009
THETFORD MINES, Que. - Authorities in Quebec stressed the importance of raising threats made on the Internet after the vigilance of two web surfers led to arrests in Canada and overseas.
This week a 12-year-old boy faces charges of uttering death threats against personnel and students at his school in Thetford Mines, about 240 kilometres east of Montreal. Police say the mother of a girl at the school learned of threats to shoot people at the facility on an Internet posting and contacted police.
The boy was arrested Monday but no weapons were found at the home, police said.
The arrest came days after a student at Montreal's Concordia University was widely praised for helping prevent an attack on a school in England after having seen a threat posted online.
``We need to circulate the message that if someone comes into contact with this sort of discussion they should report it to police,'' said Yves Simoneau of Thetford Mines police.
Simoneau said people spotting threats on the Internet shouldn't be afraid of betraying people they know because the consequences of someone acting on threats are too devastating. ``If ever they had acted on their threat, imagine how those friends would have felt,'' he said. ``It's not about stooling someone but preventing a tragedy and perhaps helping someone if they're having problems. ''
Simoneau said the 12-year-old, who appeared in youth court Tuesday and was released in the custody of youth protection services, was not known to police but had previous difficulties obeying rules at the school.
Police praised the intervention of the parent while the school board said assistance would be available to people requiring any at the school.
``We encourage parents to remain vigilant and not hesitate to flag any threats,''a statement from the school board said.
The boy's next court appearance is on April 21.
U.S. grounding choppers until mounting studs replaced
Canwest News Service
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued an emergency directive that effectively grounds helicopters such as the one involved in a fatal crash off Newfoundland until the mounting studs are replaced.
"This unsafe condition is likely to exist or develop on other helicopters of the same type design," the FAA noted. "Therefore, this (Emergency Airworthiness Directive) requires, before further flight, replacing titanium studs with steel studs."
The FAA said the move — announced late Monday — was prompted by the crash of the Sikorsky S-92A helicopter, which was transporting workers to offshore oilfields.
A total of 17 people were killed.
The lone survivor, Robert Decker, remains in hospital in critical, but stable condition.
The FAA said prior to the March 12 accident the manufacturer was investigating a July 2008 incident that also involved broken studs and noted that "in both cases, the broken studs resulted in rapid loss of oil." The FAA said the failures were "tied to fretting and galling of the original titanium studs" and therefore recommended the removal of all titanium studs and replacement with steel studs.
"We are issuing this Emergency AD to prevent failure of a stud which could result in rapid loss of oil, failure of the main gearbox, and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter."
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said that since its discovery Friday of a broken main gearbox filter bowl assembly mounting stud on the Sikorsky S-92A, more than half of the helicopters worldwide have had the defective studs replaced.
The remaining studs are expected to be replaced in a timely fashion, the TSB said in a statement.
While the discovery of the broken mounting stud doesn't eliminate other possibilities as to the cause of the accident, which occurred 55 kilometres off Newfoundland's east coast, the loss of oil pressure in the main gearbox was reported by the pilot prior to the crash.
The TSB released photos of the wreckage Tuesday and planned to release more information at a news conference in St. John's Thursday.
Too dangerous to intervene in caribou hunt, N.L. says.
Tue Mar 31 2009 By Phil Couvrette Canwest News Service
Newfoundland's government says it's struggling to save a Labrador caribou herd from extinction, and that it's too dangerous to stop Quebec Innu hunters and their families from taking part in an illegal hunt.
``This is the most serious incident in the last number of years because they've destroyed 40 from approximately 100 animals,'' said Newfoundland Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale in a phone interview, adding she deplores the losses in the threatened Joir River herd and that the situation ``very volatile.''
About 45 hunters were ``shooting (at the caribou) from the handlebars of the snowmachines,'' with women, children and elders around them, the minister added.
She also reported surveillance helicopters monitoring the hunt had been prevented from landing because various articles had been thrown at them.
``As important as these animals are they are not worth the life of one of my conservation officers,'' Dunderdale said.
Conservation officers seized two snowmobiles and a number of sleighs belonging to the hunters.
``Because they're threatened, to hunt them is illegal . . . This is an issue of conservation only, with tremendous availability of other animals.''
But the encounters are viewed differently by the hunters, who say they have been intimidated by low-flying helicopters and only brought their families to join the hunt as a protest against the incidents.
During one of the hunts, ``one helicopter came so close from behind that one hunter had to turn sharply (on his snowmobile) to avoid it, lowering his head, '' said Pascal Mark, a communications officer for the Quebec-based Pakua-Shipu Innu band.
``The helicopter was flying eight to 10 feet above their heads. That's too close.''
Mark, a former band counsellor, said the Innu have respected a five-year deal with Newfoundland authorities not to hunt woodland caribou but that the deal had expired, and they were later directed to areas where there were no caribou.
Mark said the hunters are just protesting to be able to keep hunting where they always have, hoping to bring back some 25 caribou to feed their families.
He said tensions were rising as Innu band members have been critical of a camp erected by conservation agents on their territory and what he called a lack of will by the Newfoundland government to hold talks.
Meanwhile, Dunderdale said her government has done everything it could to keep the communication channels open.
``Since 2004 this government has had numerous meetings with Innus both inside and outside Labrador, in Quebec as well,'' to talk about threatened herds, she said, adding one meeting was held with hunters this week.
Dunderdale said the Innu will have to answer for the dwindling herd and charges could be laid where the evidence warrants it.
Despite seemingly heightened tensions, Remi Savard, a retired Quebec anthropologist who's had numerous contacts with the Innu, said the tone isn't as harsh as it use to be, but an agreement between the two parties is long overdue.
``The tone of the parties in this conflict (suggests) they are looking for common ground, while in the past there was much verbal confrontation,'' he said.
Savard noted one of the reasons the problem has been longstanding is because the Quebec-Labrador border is cutting across Innu land. He said the fact that the herd is threatened could add extra impetus to possible talks between the parties, but the issue has been persistent throughout his career.
The Joir River herd is protected by the provincial Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.
Dunderdale said the Newfoundland government is doing what it can to get the hunters to return home and has been in touch with the Quebec government since the hunt started.
A spokeswoman for Quebec's minister of Natural Resources says there's little the province can do while the hunters are outside their jurisdiction, but says the government has been active making native communities aware of the problems related to threatened herds.
Flooding forces more evacuations in Manitoba.
Sun Apr 12 2009 By Phil Couvrette Canwest News Service
The evacuation of dozens of residents continued Sunday as heavy floodwaters threatened two communities north of Winnipeg, sometimes leaving people stuck on rooftops and stranding the rescuers themselves.
St. Clements and St. Andrews, communities along the flood-swollen Red River about 60 kilometres north of Winnipeg, were inundated with water and large chunks of ice overnight Saturday and early Sunday morning.
St. Clements Mayor Steve Strang said some 45 to 50 people were evacuated by Sunday from homes that were flooded or had their foundations washed out, as rescuers moved in to pull out people sometimes waiting for help on the roof of their vehicles or on top of furniture in flooded homes.
Strang praised rescuers who went in and found themselves stuck but kept trying to help flooded residents.
St. Andrews mayor Don Forfar said 120 people in the affected area of his community have been evacuated. A voluntary evacuation started on Thursday but overnight into Sunday is when ``everything hit, ice jammed in that area'' making the evacuation mandatory as homes started to flood.
``We had stories of people who were up on the roof who had to be brought out and we had our volunteer firefighters in boats who were going door to door to door,'' he said.
Some people in St. Clements could have the opportunity to visit their homes to assess damage Monday, Strang said, but it was hard to estimate when the flooding would subside.
``It gets a little much, we've been doing this since the 23rd and I'm hoping it's going to be over soon,'' Strang said. ``Mother Nature hasn't totally let it all go, we still have one more block at the very north end of the river.''
Forfar said people surveying the zone by helicopter reported homes ``severely damaged by the ice and even some looked like they had been physically relocated, moved off their foundations.''
He said the power was cut off to the area but there were no reports of injuries.
``That's about the only good news,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the province closed more than a dozen highways north and south of Winnipeg Sunday morning due to flooding.
Highways near St. Adolphe, Selkirk and Lockport were closed because water was covering the roadway.
Water levels were dropping in Winnipeg, but in Selkirk, 50 kilometres north of the city, huge chunks of ice in the Red River ripped out mature trees and partially flooded the city's golf course over the weekend.
Don Brennan, the acting executive director of Manitoba's Emergency Measures Organization, is warning people to stay away from flooded areas.
Brennan said on Friday emergency crews had to be redeployed away from fighting the flood to rescue a man whose vehicle became inundated by overland flooding.
``People should stay off the roads,'' said Brennan.
The Red River is expected to crest in Winnipeg Thursday, and officials are watching to see what an expected five to 10 millimetres of rain, predicted for Sunday and Monday, will mean for the flood forecast.
With files from the Winnipeg Free Press
Students return to school with 'Tori' still missing
Posters of Victoria Stafford, 8-years-old, missing since last Wednesday have been put up throughout the town of Woodstock.
Photograph by: Jordana Huber, CNS
WOODSTOCK, Ont. — The whole town is talking about Tori. In coffee shops and corner stores, the little blond eight-year-old, now missing for a week, is on the minds of many.
Victoria Stafford, or Tori to her friends, was last seen last Wednesday in a blurry surveillance video, walking without a struggle with a mystery woman after school let out.
With no clues, and little to go on, the tight-knit town of Woodstock — about 150 kilometres southwest of Toronto — is waiting for word. In the absence of any news, speculation is running rampant.
"Everybody has a theory," said Jessica Waterland, between sips of coffee at a humming coffee shop. The mother of a 10-year-old said Tori's disappearance has made her appreciate her own son that much more.
"I know this sounds horrible, but I am thankful that it wasn't my son," she said, adding she believes Tori will be found safe. "That's the best we hope for."
Over at another table, Ann Davies and her friend Jean McCarthy have their own questions.
"There is more to the story than we know," Davies said. "What made this little girl go so willingly? Was she bribed? Was she told this woman was a friend of one of her parents?"
"It's very scary," McCarthy said. "We don't know if there is a predator, or if it is something else. You hear so many rumours, but it is hard, because we really don't know."
Parents and grandparents dropping children off at school Tuesday after the Easter break expressed mixed emotions.
"I'm terrified for my children," said Heather Ditchfield, whose children are eight and 13. "I can't let them go anywhere without me."
She said it's difficult to explain what has happened to Tori.
"You have no answers for them. I have no answers for my kids. I can't comfort them," she said.
Parent Jeff Ebel said he has reinforced the importance of not talking to strangers, but will still allow his children, in Grades 2 and 8, to walk to school together.
"Everybody's doing the same things. We are emphasizing safety," he said. "You have to be protective, but you also have to go on."
Kate Young, a spokeswoman for the Thames Valley District School Board, said eight crisis counsellors were kept busy at Tori's school Tuesday, talking with students.
Teachers tried to make the day "as normal as possible," she said.
Tori's classmates made purple ribbons for students in the school to wear. Purple is Tori's favourite colour, and residents of Woodstock have been wearing the purple ribbons to show solidarity with the girl's family.
The family of Cedrika Provencher, a nine-year-old who disappeared in Trois-Rivieres, Que., on July 31, 2007, offered words of encouragement to the Stafford family, adding they should not lose hope in their search for Tori.
Cedrika's grandfather, Henri, says there has been renewed interest in the search for the Quebec girl who, like Tori, was last reported with someone who has yet to be identified. Cedrika was helping a man she didn't know look for his dog.
"There have been 20 calls this morning. (Frequency) depends on the period, especially when events such as this take place, involving the girl in Ontario."
Henri says the family's message is "to not lose hope, to never give up, keep trying, as we have, keep working and hoping to come across information that will unravel everything."
Trish Derby, a spokeswoman for Child Find Ontario, said it's important for parents to talk to their children about how to be safe. She said parents with younger children should have a password they can use if parents send a friend or relative to pick them up from school.
Parents should talk through scenarios with their kids, she said.
"We suggest parents play role-playing games," Derby said. "They should talk about: What if I am late? Who do you go with? Who else can you go with? Where will you wait?"
Police have received more than 500 tips since Tori disappeared last week after school.
Officers continue to canvass her neighbours, and are working around the clock, following up on leads, Oxford Community Police Const. Laurie-Anne Maitland said, adding she's still hopeful Tori will be found safe.
With files from Phil Couvrette
Blais remembered as dynamic, brave soldier
BY MATTHEW FISHER AND PHIL COUVRETTE, CANWEST NEWS SERVICEAPRIL 15, 2009
Undated handout photo of Trooper Karine Blais who was killed in Afghanistan April 13, 2009. Blais, 21, is the second Canadian female soldier to die in Afghanistan when the light armoured vehicle she was patrolling in struck an improvised explosive device.
Photograph by: Handout, DND
KABUL — As Canada's latest soldier to die in Afghanistan began her final trip home, a family in a small town in eastern Quebec was deep in grief Tuesday after learning of the loss of their daughter.
The parents of Trooper Karine Blais, 21, who died Monday in a roadside bomb explosion northwest of Kandahar City, said they were devastated by their daughter's death.
"We are extremely saddened. . . . It leaves a void that is too big," the family said in a statement released Tuesday.
"Despite the terrible news of her sudden loss, Karine had met her goal. She wanted to be a part of this adventure and she was proud to serve in Afghanistan," the statement said.
Blais had only been in the war-ravaged country two weeks when she became the second Canadian woman killed in action in Afghanistan.
Her vehicle struck an explosive device while on a routine patrol on a well-travelled secondary road northwest of Kandahar City during which no "combat indicators," had been seen, said her commander, Lt.-Col. Jocelyn Paul.
Two of Blais's comrades from B Squadron, 12th Armoured Regiment, which is attached to the Van Doo battle group, were "going to be all right" after suffering what Paul described as serious injuries.
The first Canadian woman to die in battle in Afghanistan was Capt. Nichola Goddard of Calgary. A forward artillery observer with the Manitoba-based Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, Goddard posthumously received the Meritorious Service Medal after she was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade in May 2006 in a firefight with the Taliban. That incident occurred about 40 kilometres west of where Blais became the 117th Canadian to die in Afghanistan.
Blais's family said she was a dedicated to her regiment and adored her work.
"You are our sunshine and you will be forever in our hearts," they wrote.
Mario Blais, the godfather of Trooper Blais, said her death has touched the entire community of Les Mechins, in Quebec's Gaspe region.
"She was a woman who enjoyed life," he said.
Blais had been recruited at school and enlisted with a sense of adventure, he said, but ultimately wanted to return to civilian life.
"She just wanted to do this one mission and start her own business," possibly as an auto mechanic, he said.
Mario Blais said the family has been receiving words of sympathy from across the community of 1,300, where the soldier was well-known for her work at a convenience store.
Donald Grenier, the mayor of the community, said the loss is possibly his town's first military death since the Second World War.
"Today everybody is deeply touched, it's hard to explain losing someone so young at the service of the population, fighting for our rights," he said.
"A youngster in a municipality such as ours is something precious. It is very difficult on all of us."
Grenier described Blais as a dynamic young woman whose life was cut short after "being at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Tributes also poured in on a Facebook page created to honour Blais's memory.
"I'm shocked," wrote her cousin, Sarah Harrisson. "It's a big loss. My beautiful cousin, you will always be in our hearts."
Mario Blais said his goddaughter leaves behind parents Gino and Josee, as well as a 14-year-old brother, Billy.
Blais's sex never became an issue for the men who fought against the Taliban alongside her, Paul said Tuesday — she was simply a member of the squadron.
"Yes, when we think of Karine she was a woman, but first and above all, she was a member of the troop, no matter what her gender, her origin or what language she spoke," Paul said.
Blais's flag-draped casket was placed on a CC-130 Hercules transport to begin the long journey back to Canada a few hours after Paul received command of the battle group from Lt.-Col. Roger Barrett. Among the eight pallbearers was a fellow female trooper.
The solemn ramp ceremony was attended by about 2,400 allied troops under a star-filled night sky. It began with prayers and ended with a slow procession to the aircraft as a lone piper skirled a lament.
"She left us suddenly," Padre Martine Belanger, a Catholic lay chaplain, told the assembly. "It is difficult to collect our thoughts after such a rough and unexpected shock."
Those who knew Blais remarked on her energy and how she cared for others, Belanger said. "She was crazy about Hugo, her partner, whom she liked to call Kermit . . . and about Molly, her favourite dog," she said.
Paul spoke moments after his Quebec-based 2nd battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment Battle Group officially took over responsibility for Kandahar from the Ontario-based 3rd battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group at the airfield outside the provincial capital, which serves as the main Canadian headquarters.
Before Blais's departure, Paul told reporters: "It is obvious that when you lose a soldier everyone is under shock. Some people can make the comment that yes, she was a female. What I would like to say is that the Canadian army has come a long way over the last 15 years. Right now, you can see women serving in every type of environment.
"These women show a lot of courage. They are here standing shoulder to shoulder with all the men in the battle group. Very often, especially with the younger ones, we don't make much difference now in terms of sex."
"There is a time to grieve," Paul said. "Today, we have been thinking about her. Tomorrow, we will continue with the mission."
In remarks directed toward "the people of Quebec, to Franco-Ontarians and the people of New Brunswick," Paul said: "There are real and important challenges in the province of Kandahar. My organization is prepared to meet them. The training we had was of a remarkable quality and the handover with the RCR was better than I have ever seen before."
The Van Doo are to be in Kandahar until next September or October.
The RCR battle group the French-Canadian regiment has replaced lost 19 soldiers during its tour in Kandahar, which began late last summer.
With files from Marianne White
As officials meet on hunt, some sealers stay put
Canwest News Service
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - As Newfoundland officials were meeting this week with foreign diplomats to press the province's case on the seal hunt, some sealers back home were staying ashore, citing lower demand for pelts and low pelt prices.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it has been advising sealers to check with their buyers before setting out the sea, and some have elected to pass on the hunt altogether, which opened at the ``Front'' on Newfoundland's northeast coast Wednesday.
``Overall activity level is significantly reduced in comparison to previous years,'' wrote Fisheries spokeswoman Michele Boriel. ``Six longliners and 17 small boats were active (Wednesday) and 2,652 seals were landed on the first day of the front hunt,'' she said, comparing this to 34,000 seals landed and 113 longliners sealing last year.
``We won't be taking part this year,'' said Jack Troake, a sealer from Twillingate, on the northeast coast, who missed the hunt only once before since he started sealing in 1951.
Troake said demand hardly warrants more than three boats going out instead of the whole local fleet.
``You must have a market for a number of animals - any less than 1,000 wouldn't be worth going for,'' he said, adding prices at $15 are half what they were last year and buyers say the pelts must be in perfect condition.
``All over the world the economy has bottomed out,'' Troake said, but adds there's always next year to look forward to. ``We Newfoundlanders live in hope, that's the reason why we're here on this bald rock.''
The news comes as Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dave Denine is in Ottawa Thursday and Friday to meet with European Union diplomats to make the province's case as an EU vote on a proposed ban on seal products looms.
Denine was scheduled to meet with ambassadors and embassy officials for countries including Portugal, Greece and the Netherlands, following similar meetings with other diplomats held by provincial Fisheries Minister Tom Hedderson last month.
Paulino Lozada arrives at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, wearing a surgical mask after a vacationing in Mexico April 26, 2009.
Photograph by: Merle Robillard , For National Post
Canadian health officials reported six “mild” cases of swine flu on Sunday — the first confirmed cases in Canada since an outbreak of the illness began in Mexico several days ago — and warned there could be more cases in the days ahead.
As governments around the world rushed on Sunday to check the spread of a new type of swine flu that has killed over 80 people in Mexico and has infected about 20 people in the United States, Nova Scotia health officials said two of the four victims in that province, all students at the same private school, recently visited Mexico. Two case also were confirmed in British Columbia.
None of the people in Canada has been hospitalized.
The Canadian cases “have thankfully been relatively mild and the patients are recovering,” said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who warned “as we continue to ramp up our surveillance efforts these cases are likely not the last we’ll see in Canada.”
Aglukkaq said health officials were “following plans and protocols prepared in advance for events like this.”
The minister said that the government was co-ordinating its response in key departments and that in addition to consulting with provincial and territorial counterparts she had been in contact with officials in the U.S. and at the World Health Organization. Aglukkaq said the prime minister was being regularly briefed on the situation.
“To have our first confirmed cases is of course, troubling,” said David Butler-Jones, Canada’s chief public health officer, adding that while the symptoms in Canada were ‘mild,’ Canadians had to practice good basic flu-prevention techniques, to lower risks of infection.
Because the outbreak is at an early stage “there’s a lot more unknowns than is known” said Frank Plummer of the Public Health Agency of Canada. “We’ll learn a lot more as we do further epidemiological analysis and research.”
Health officials said Washington’s decisions to declare a public health emergency did not suggest people were in greater danger but that the declaration was part of a normal course of action to facilitate state and federal response.
“At this point, we are not seeing severe cases like we are in Mexico,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief public health officer for Nova Scotia, where four cases were confirmed.
Joe Seagram, the headmaster of the private school in Windsor, N.S., said 21 people were in isolation, 17 students and four staff. They are being isolated for seven days as a precaution.
“All those who had the flu are recovering either at home or in the dormitory,” said Strang.
Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, medical officer of health for the Capital District Health Authority in Nova Scotia, said health officials are closely monitoring the other students at the school.
“One of the challenges with this illness is that it has been so mild that many of the students can’t really tell how sick they are,” she said, adding that most of the children just had a cough and fatigue. There may be many more children who had the virus and didn’t report they were sick because they felt fine, she said.
While some people at the school were wearing face masks over the weekend, Strang said wearing protective covering had not been recommended by health authorities.
Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a spokeswoman for the BC Centre for Disease Control, said the two people with mild cases of swine flu were in the greater Vancouver area and had recently travelled to Mexico.
“This is not scary monsters,” she said at a news conference in Vancouver. “We had a surveillance system on high alert to be able to detect these cases and we have.”
Doctors aren’t sure why the illness has been so deadly in Mexico and mild in other countries, said Skowronski.
“The six confirmed cases in Canada are different from what we are seeing in Mexico,” she said. “We do expect more cases.”
Officials in Ontario and Quebec said there were no cases of the swine flu in their provinces but had people are under observation for the respiratory virus.
Air Canada and Westjet meanwhile announced they were waiving change fees for passengers to and from Mexico booked until April 30.
While all the deaths so far have been in Mexico, the flu is spreading in the United States, and possible infections popped up as far afield as Europe and New Zealand.
About two-thirds of the 1,300 people in Mexico who were suspected of having swine flu were given a clean bill of health and sent home from hospital, according to Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
He said more than 900 people had been declared healthy and nearly 400 others with flu-like symptoms were in hospitals being checked.
Calderon reassured Mexicans on Sunday that the flu is curable with drugs and said Mexico has ample stocks of antiviral medicine.
“It’s very important to act fast and take this seriously, but it’s also very important to stay calm, co-operate with authorities and inform them of any cases that arise,” he said during a meeting of health officials.
Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that they expected fatalities from swine flu in the United States.
However, the CDC’s acting director, Dr. Richard Besser, told a White House briefing that “if you do not have symptoms you should not get tested” by a doctor.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed on Sunday that eight schoolchildren there had contracted the virus, although the cases were mild and it did not appear to be spreading rapidly to the general population. Another 12 cases have been confirmed in California, Kansas, Ohio and Texas.
In New Zealand, 10 students from a school party that had been in Mexico were being tested after showing flu-like symptoms.
The World Health Organization has declared the flu, of a type never seen before, a “public health emergency of international concern” and says it could become a pandemic, or a global outbreak of serious disease.
A 1968 “Hong Kong” flu pandemic killed about one million people globally.
Mexico City, one of the world’s most populated cities, practically ground to a halt on Sunday with restaurants, cinemas and churches closing their doors and millions staying at home.
Worshippers were told to follow Sunday church services on television and some residents abandoned the capital, a rambling, chaotic city of some 20 million people.
Michelle Geronis, 22, a film student, took a bus to be with her family in the central state of Aguascalientes.
“My parents heard the news and said, ’You know what? You’d better get here,’” she said.
In Spain, doctors checked three people who had returned from visiting Mexico who had reported flu-like symptoms.
The new flu strain, a mixture of various swine, bird and human viruses, poses the biggest risk of a large-scale pandemic since avian flu surfaced in 1997, killing several hundred people.
WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan urged greater worldwide surveillance for any unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness.
Although it is called “swine flu” there is no evidence that any of the cases stemmed from contact with pigs, said Liz Wagstrom, a veterinarian who works on public health issues for the U.S. National Pork Board.
New flu strains can spread quickly because no one has natural immunity to them and a vaccine takes months to develop.
Authorities across Asia, who have had to grapple with deadly viruses, such as H5N1 bird flu and SARS in recent years, snapped into action. At airports and other border checkpoints in Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, officials screened travellers for any flu-like symptoms.
With files from Phil Couvrette
N.L. sealer survives two days on ice floes
Canwest News Service Friday, May 08
A 66-year-old sealer rescued after spending nearly two days on ice floes off the coast of Newfoundland says his faith kept him going after spending a first frigid night stranded at sea, unable to signal the search helicopters that swirled around him.
Lifelong sealer Rex Saunders had caught nine seals off St. Lunaire-Griquet on Monday morning and directed himself toward two more in the distance when disaster struck.
He had barely got off his cellphone with his wife, promising to see her shortly, when his six-metre open boat struck ice and capsized, about 40 kilometres from the shore.
The boat climbed on the ice, slowly tilting due to the weight of the seals he was carrying. Saunders tried to balance the boat but ended up "face first down in the water."
Luckily he was wearing a survival suit, but it didn't keep him dry as he had opened it down to his stomach.
After failing to get on top of the boat a first time because it was too slippery, and onto a nearby ice floe because it was too high, he swam back to the boat and hoisted himself on top just as a small ice pan of about eight metres by eight metres was sliding by. He seized the opportunity to climb on it.
"I had nothing. My cellphone was dead," he recalled. A mound of ice on the pan was too cold to sit on, so he spent the first night walking around until a gas tank from the sunken ship floated by, which he used as a chair.
Saunders spent the next 11/2 days keeping himself warm by moving and blowing on his arms and chest, at times collecting water by digging a hole in the ice floe.
"It started to rain, and then snow, I had a bit of a miserable (first) night," he chuckled. But what made matters worse were circling helicopters that couldn't see him despite the fact he was waving his arms.
"No one shone the light on me," he said. "Everybody was searching for a boat in the water, not for a body or anything on the ice."
The following night "was a rough one, too," he said, but added he gave himself hope by singing hymns from his local church, Power and Prayer and Not by Might, Nor by Power.
"I got to keep my faith up," he said he thought at the time, seeing the ordeal as an opportunity "to increase my faith."
"That's how I kept myself going."
Saunders was rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Ann Harvey around 7 a.m. local time Wednesday and is back at home after spending a night in hospital.
Study suggests combo treatment for irregular heartbeat
There's a more effective way to treat the millions of people worldwide — among them an estimated 200,000 Canadians — suffering from severe arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, than current treatment methods, according to a Canadian-led international study unveiled in Boston Thursday.
Photograph by: Mychele Daniau, AFP/Getty Images
BOSTON — There's a more effective way to treat the millions of people worldwide — among them an estimated 200,000 Canadians — suffering from severe arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, than current treatment methods, according to a Canadian-led international study unveiled in Boston Thursday.
Spearheaded by Toronto-area electrophysiologist Dr. Atul Verma, the study followed 108 patients at four Canadian hospitals and four European cardiac centres over a one-year period, comparing methods of treating patients suffering from atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common heart rhythm disturbance.
In people suffering from the condition, the upper chambers of the heart beat erratically, affecting the heart's ability to pump blood to the rest of the body.
It's responsible for 15 to 20 per cent of all strokes, contributes to heart failure and is a leading cause of hospitalizations.
After comparing treatment methods, the study found a combination of two of them yielded significantly better results.
Because medications to control AF are often ineffective, physicians often turn to ablation — or burning the inside of the heart, a method introduced in 1999.
The trial studied three approaches to the method: a "traditional" method of burning the tissue surrounding the pulmonary veins, a more recent automated approach of burning "hot spots" in the heart, and a combination of both.
The third proved the most effective, 74 per cent of patients treated with the combination therapy showing no signs of AF after the one-year study, compared to 47 per cent in the first method, and 29 per cent in the "hot spot" method.
In addition 94 per cent of patients treated with the combination therapy remained off anti-arrhythmic medications at the end of the 12-month followup period.
According to Verma, the study showed that the stand-alone "hot spot" method has a success rate that is probably consistent with a treatment involving medication, while the other two approaches were more effective.
"While many unanswered questions remain about the origins of and best treatment options for AF, the trial's results indicate that perhaps traditional pathways are not the optimal ones," noted Verma. "While there is still more research to be done, the results of the study will enable us to keep building on the techniques and deliver better and better patient outcomes."
The hospitals involved included Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont., Hamilton Health Sciences, the Montreal Heart Institute and Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital in addition to health centres in Norway, Spain and Italy.
Animal protection laws have more bite in Ontario: report.
Tue May 26 2009
New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Quebec are in the doghouse when it comes to getting tough on animal abusers, according to a report released Tuesday, which ranked those areas last in terms of animal protection laws inCanada.
The U.S.-based Animal Legal Defense Fund referred to them as ``the best provinces and territories in Canada to be an animal abuser,'' based on a comparative analysis of the relative strength and general comprehensiveness of animal protection laws.
The report says Ontario was the jurisdiction with the most teeth in animal protection laws, following ``a dramatic turnaround'' from 2008, where the province was ranked last. ``A host of new laws'' made this possible in the province, the report said.
The group underlined new Ontario measures improving standards of care for animals, requiring veterinarians to report suspected offences, higher penalties, and restrictions on the future ownership of animals by offenders.
British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia joined Ontario in the top tier in terms of animal-protection laws, while Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and Saskatchewan took the middle ground.
The ALDF notes lack of protections for most kinds of animals, minimal fines and sentences for offenders, and no provisions for the ``warrantless seizure of animals in emergency situations'' often land jurisdictions in the bottom ranks.
It also underlines the field of animal law ``is getting real legs'' with seven law schools in Canada offering courses in the field, while Quebec hosts ``the first-ever animal law conference in Canada'' this week.
``Regardless of where each jurisdiction currently ranks in the report, all still have room for improvement,'' said Stephan Otto, author of the report.
Mystery surrounds boot found in Quebec farmer's field.
Wed May 27 2009
By Phil Couvrette Canwest News Service
Every year farmer Michel Robitaille spends hours clearing his field north of Montreal of debris that washes onto his land when a nearby river thaws and floods.
All sorts of junk piles onto his field when the Riviere du Nord rises in the spring, but a boot caught his eye on May 3 while he was riding his tractor on a two-hectare field next to the river.
``What struck me is that it was out of the ground, clean, and there was a blue sock sticking out,'' he said.
Lifting the boot, Robitaille said he felt it was heavy. ``I unrolled the sock and saw it was white inside, it wasn't dirt.''
Wanting to make sure about the significance of his find, Robillard removed the sock from the small leather boot.
``I wanted to make sure somebody wasn't pulling a prank on me,'' he said. ``But when I removed the sock from the boot and felt around, I knew.''
Robitaille further inspected his find by cutting open the sock with a pair of scissors, with a neighbour as witness. ``We both agreed it was something'' that required notifying authorities, he said.
Police took custody of the boot and its contents and searched around the river but nothing else turned up.
Mirabel Police Insp. Daniel Rivest says the contents of the boot were sent for analysis in Montreal. In addition to determining whether it is a human foot, the lab was asked to complete a DNA analysis, which could take a few months, he said.
``It sure seems to be a human foot,'' Rivest said.
He described the boot as black, size 7 1/2, with a zipper on the left side, which he said would make it a right foot.
Rivest notes the river carries water from the Laurentians further north, which made it likely that ``it travelled quite a way.''
Small surprises usually turn up when flood waters recede in the spring, he said. ``His surprise was to find a bone.''
Robitaille says dealing with animals, which sometimes get sick and die, made him react with less revulsion to the find, but his concern is with the family of the missing person the foot could belong to.
``I have two children and my reaction was somebody, like a parent, could be looking for this person.''
Last November authorities in British Columbia found the sixth foot to have washed ashore on the province's coast since August 2007.
Police determined two of the feet came from the same person and another was linked to a depressed man who had gone missing.
Jails are bulging in Quebec: this week, police were rounding up some 200 suspected marijuana producers, distributors and exporters, mainly around Montreal. Last week, another police crackdown in the region led to the arrest of 46 people, allegedly linked to drug trafficking and the Hells Angels.
Photograph by: Don Healey, Regina Leader-Post
Quebec highways are crowded with prison vans as the strained provincial correctional system tries to cope with the domino effect of a series of raids, mostly in Montreal, targeting hundreds of suspected criminals since the spring and adding to already overcrowded prisons.
This week, police were rounding up some 200 suspected marijuana producers, distributors and exporters, mainly around Montreal. Last week, another police crackdown in the region led to the arrest of 46 people, allegedly linked to drug trafficking and the Hells Angels.
Earlier this spring, more than 120 people were arrested in Operation SharQC, an investigation largely credited for crippling the bikers in Quebec.
The operations have left correctional authorities struggling to redistribute the inmates among Quebec's 18 provincial facilities, not only in response to the new arrests, but to manage what was earlier billed as a solution to the overcrowding problem.
"Our system has been overcrowded for two, three years," said Stephane Lemaire, head of the union of Quebec correctional officers.
The provincial government has provided trailer-type housing that can hold 300 prisoners, but they can only house inmates representing a low risk — meaning occupants often have to be transferred from other locations.
"That puts a lot of people on the road," Lemaire said, beginning with the SharQC arrests, which he says ended up taking an entire section of Montreal's Bordeaux prison, while the most recent arrests filled Riviere-des-Prairies, where he said some 50 inmates slept on mattresses placed in common rooms.
"It feels like we've become a placement agency," he said. "This facility asks 'can you take five (inmates)?' another asks 'can you take four?' a third will agree to take two . . . Someone from Montreal will end up in Amos (580 kilometres away) because there's no space."
This upsets family and attorneys who have a hard time following the inmate's movements, he noted.
The overcrowding problem in Montreal has had a domino effect across the province, agrees Eric Belisle, a spokesman for an inmates rights group, who notes the frequent transfers, in fact, impede social reinsertion and can end up keeping inmates in prison.
"Because they're away from home or there's no program where they are sent, they don't get a conditional release, which amplifies the problem."
Inmates end up staying longer in jail and end up being freed without any therapy, he said.
Belisle said occupation rates in provincial prisons had already reached 116 per cent before the recent arrests.
Quebec security officials say they take the problem seriously but expect the reopening of a new wing of the Bordeaux prison this summer to free 250 spots, while five prisons are being built and seven others are being renovated province-wide, spending $563 million in the process.
"That will give us a breather, but won't solve the problem," Lemaire said.
Air Canada to allow small pets in aircraftcabins
BY PHIL COUVRETTE, CANWEST NEWS SERVICEJUNE 18, 2009
No animals have been accepted for travel on either Air Canada or WestJet airlines since Dec. 15, with the ban extending until Jan. 6 on WestJet and the following day on Air Canada. On Wednesday, the nation's largest air carrier announced it would allow passengers to bring their cat or small dog in the cabin on flights operated by Air Canada and Jazz beginning Canada Day.
Photograph by: David McNew, Getty Images
If you like Fido curled up at your feet during a flight you now have a greater choice of airlines, but only if he's small enough, and for a fee.
On Wednesday, the nation's largest air carrier announced it would allow passengers to bring their cat or small dog in the cabin on flights operated by Air Canada and Jazz beginning Canada Day.
The airline says checking in Fluffy will be possible for a limited number of pets at a cost of $50 per North America segment, $100 each way internationally. No more than two to four pets will be allowed per flight, depending on the plane, to limit the possibility of upsetting passengers with allergies. The pets can weigh no more than 10 kilograms in their carrier, which will have to be small enough to fit under a seat.
Staff will take this into consideration when making seating arrangements for people suffering from allergies.
Trained and certified dogs assisting passengers with disabilities will still travel free.
"This is the latest of our customer-friendly initiatives that underscores our renewed commitment to listening to our customers and offering a competitive product that meets their needs," said Air Canada executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, Ben Smith, in a statement.
Peter Fitzpatrick of Air Canada says the decision has nothing to do with a recent Federal Court of Appeal ruling that overturned a decision by the Canadian Transportation Agency that said the airline must allow pet owners to check them as baggage.
"This decision today is really unrelated to the court decision," Fitzpatrick said. "We're waiting to see what the CTA does."
WestJet, Canada's second-largest carrier, allows pets to fly in the cabin under their owners' seats, an allowance that Air Canada had previously abandoned, citing passenger allergies.
"We have allowed pets in the cabin for several years now and are known as the pet-friendly airline," said Robert Palmer of WestJet in an e-mail. "We welcome Air Canada's announcement because we think choice is healthy, and we invite pet owners to compare the two services."
WestJet came under fire this spring for its pets-onboard policy when a Saskatchewan woman complained she had an allergic reaction to a dog seated near her on a flight from Winnipeg to Regina.
Palmer says this hasn't led to policy changes but reminded: "It's extremely important that allergy sufferers identify themselves to us when they book, just as pet owners must let us know in advance if they wish to bring their pet on board. If an allergy sufferer does end up on the same flight as a pet, we will do our best to move one or the other as far apart as possible."
Master-Corporal Charles-Philippe Michaud, from the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment based at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, died at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Photograph by: Handout, Department of National Defence
OTTAWA — A Canadian soldier critically injured last month by an improvised bomb in Afghanistan died in hospital in Quebec Saturday.
Master-Corporal Charles-Philippe Michaud served with the 2e Batallion, Royal 22e Regiment based at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, near Quebec City.
He was hospitalized after an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his dismounted patrol in Panjwaii District, southwest of Kandahar City, the morning of June 23.
Michaud was evacuated by helicopter to the Kandahar Airfield hospital and, from there, to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany. He arrived in hospital in Quebec City on June 28, 2009 and died there six days later.
Master-Corporal Michaud was serving his third operational tour and second to Afghanistan.
Valcartier officials announcing the death Sunday said medical teams spared no effort to save Michaud but he never regained consciousness after the blast.
“Close to his men, he constantly looked out for their well-being,” said Col. Jean-Marc Lanthier in Valcartier. “He was a mentor for the young soldiers he rubbed shoulders with and he remains an example to follow for all his brothers in arms. His departure leave a tremendous void.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our fallen comrade during this very difficult time,” said a Canadian Forces news release.
“Master-Corporal Michaud lost his life as a direct result of his participation in operations to enhance security for the people of Kandahar Province. We will not forget his sacrifice as the Canadian Forces continues to work with Afghans and our allies to bring peace and stability to the region.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement saying Canadians “honour his sacrifice” as Canadian troops and their allies strive to “bring Afghans a better future and make Canadians safer.”
“I was aware of his heroic battle to survive severe injuries sustained on June 23 in Afghanistan,” Harper said. “The thoughts of all Canadians are with Master-Corporal Michaud’s family today. They are in our prayers.”
Governor General Michaelle Jean also offered her condolences to the family in a statement issued Sunday afternoon.
“Master Corporal Michaud is one of the courageous, and without a doubt, generous soldier whose sense of duty and ability to keep going despite all adversity command our admiration for the women and men serving in the Canadian Forces,” she said.
“His sacrifice will never be forgotten and increases Canada’s resolve to help the Afghan people in a UN-sanctioned, NATO-led mission,” said Defence Minister Peter MacKay. “Thanks to Master-Corporal Charles-Philippe Michaud, progress and change is taking place in Afghanistan.”
Michaud is the 122nd Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.
On Friday Cpl. Nick Bulger, on his first tour in the war-torn country, was killed by a roadside bomb.
Members of Michaud’s battle group are expected to a private memorial service in Afghanistan on Monday.
Que. physicians' move may heat up right-to-die debate
BY PHIL COUVRETTE, CANWEST NEWS SERVICEJULY 16, 2009
Canada’s continuing debate on the right to die, prodded by court cases and proposed legislation, seems to be heading for a new round this fall according to a report the Quebec College of Physicians may recommend Canada’s Criminal Code be revised to permit a form of medical euthanasia in strictly controlled circumstances.
Photograph by: Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Canada's continuing debate on the right to die, prodded by court cases and proposed legislation, seems to be heading for a new round this fall according to a report the Quebec College of Physicians may recommend Canada's Criminal Code be revised to permit a form of medical euthanasia in strictly controlled circumstances.
A right-to-die private member's bill sponsored by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde is also due for debate, leaving both sides of the contentious issue gearing for a busy fall.
The college is reportedly preparing a proposal that calls for drug-induced euthanasia to be allowed in certain circumstances when dealing with terminally ill patients in severe pain.
This is firing up the latest round in a debate kept going by reintroduced legislation and high-profile court cases such as that of Quebecer Stephan Dufour, found not guilty of helping his disabled uncle commit suicide last year.
Ruth von Fuchs, of the Right to Die Society of Canada, says she isn't surprised Quebec is leading the way.
"Quebec is the most advanced of the provinces. Whenever polls are done, Quebec has the highest percentage of support, around 80 per cent, for people being able to choose professional assistance when they want to end their life," she said, adding "the country is actually eager to talk about this."
Being confronted with the suffering of terminally ill people is "something more and more people know is a real problem and may be a problem for them," or their elders, von Fuchs said.
The college's suggestion would help end "the hypocrisy" under the current state of affairs, she noted.
"A lot of doctors don't enjoy having to acknowledge responsibility for ending a life — it's a very serious thing, it's a psychological hardship for the person who has to acknowledge this responsibility," she said. "You can authorize the administration of the drug, go home and be watching TV when a person dies and don't have to acknowledge that you've ended this person's life . . . this situation exists now."
Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Canada, says he is opposed to "anything that results in the direct and intended killing of other people," but argues that if death is induced by high doses of pain medication "this is not euthanasia."
Intent, is key he says. "When a physician is using a huge amount of analgesic to (make patients) comfortable and not intending their death, there is no euthanasia taking place. It's actually a subtle thing in common law," he argues.
If, however, doctors plan to turn a blind eye and "abuse the use of the drug to cause death," that becomes a concern "of getting euthanasia through the back door," he said. "I can't prove intention, but I can prove action. Are they actually meaning they want to legalize lethal injection? Is this where they're getting to?"
Should physicians use drugs in an unethical manner, "if that is their intention, I would be extremely concerned," he said. "We're not in favour of allowing people to suffer — we're just opposed to intentionally and directly killing them."
Michele Boulva of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family agrees intent is key.
"Giving physicians the right to directly and intentionally cause death would go against public safety," she said. "I can see happening very easily a loss of trust between doctors and patients."
The bill sponsored by Lalonde, who is battling cancer, is also due for debate this fall after receiving first reading in the House of Commons. Lalonde has been advocating changes to Canada's laws to allow assisted suicide in certain cases.
The college's reported proposal is "very interesting" and "an opening that benefits everyone," said Lalonde, adding it "arouses a debate which must take place."
"The community is not speaking with a single voice on this," she noted. Lalonde says Canadians are ready for a long-overdue debate, bearing in mind the Supreme Court of Canada had decided Sue Rodriguez's landmark right-to-die case, dismissing her bid for a doctor-assisted suicide in 1993 by a slim 5-4 margin. A year later she took her life.
"We need to obtain a legal framework to allow, under well-defined conditions, people who continue to suffer from acute physical and mental pain — without the prospect of relief — to be medically assisted to die."
Article 241 of the Criminal Code makes it illegal to help someone commit suicide, a crime punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
The college would not comment on the report, saying it would make its official position public in the fall.
Man ticketed for endangering kids he disciplined
CANWEST NEWS SERVICEJULY 23, 2009
SHERBROOKE — A father who wanted to discipline his children for being unruly while he was behind the wheel was punished by Quebec police instead who ticketed him for endangering their lives.
Police ticketed the 34-year-old who was driving in his car with the children, aged 5 and 9, Tuesday evening, after he forced them to take a time out by kneeling on the side of Highway 10 near Sherbrooke.
Police gave him a $438 ticket and withdrew four demerit points from his driving record. The man would normally have been ticketed $40 for parking his car on the side of a highway, but was given a more severe penalty for endangering their lives, police said. The man’s common-law wife and another three-year-old child remained in the car at the time police intervened.
Police note the man’s action was particularly perilous as it took place during the busy Quebec construction holiday period, where more cars hit the roads.
Sherbrooke is about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.
Michaelle Jean speaks of Acadian roots at N.B. gathering
BY PHIL COUVRETTE, CANWEST NEWS SERVICEAUGUST 13, 2009
In a speech to young people Wednesday night, Michaelle Jean, shown here in a July 31, 2009 file photo, shared her Acadian roots as a “descendant of an Acadian family, the LeBlancs,” who in 1763 arrived in present-day Haiti, where she was born, following the deportation of Acadians in the 1750s.
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal
Canada's Governor General wasn't just taking an outsider's view of discussions on identity this week at the World Acadian Congress, but talking from the heart — noting in a speech to a youth gathering her ancestors had Acadian roots and lived through the deportations of the 18th century.
Since Aug. 7 and until Aug. 23 New Brunswick's Acadian Peninsula is home to the fourth edition of the congress which attracts Acadians from around the world every five years to celebrate their history and identity. Cultural celebrations, conferences and workshops, sports competitions and the reunion of more than 90 dispersed families are among hundreds of events.
In a speech to young people Wednesday night, Michaelle Jean shared her Acadian roots as a "descendant of an Acadian family, the LeBlancs," who in 1763 arrived in present-day Haiti, where she was born, following the deportation of Acadians in the 1750s.
The LeBlancs and other Acadians who settled there were known as "the petits blancs, or 'little whites'" she said, and were labourers who married into the local population.
She described her great-grandmother as a "determined, extremely energetic woman who was known for being actively involved, politically aware," and urged the youths at the gathering, to use their own energies to protect their heritage and "help it grow."
"Acadia enriches the heritage of humanity and deserves to be protected, defended, celebrated," she said. "You have always existed, resolutely, alongside the dominant language and in permanent contact with it. It is at once a daily struggle, a source of inspiration for any minority community and an incredible strength."
Organizer Jacques Lanteigne says the congress first began15 years ago as an opportunity to foster reunions and reaffirm ties between Acadians from all around the world.
He cited his own family reunion, this week, which brought together some 600 people from across the U.S. and Canada, and even France. The congress is therefore "an opportunity for families to return home and see everyone," to maintain but also build new family ties.
While the deportations between 1755 and 1763 might have been responsible for the initial scattering of Acadians, economic imperatives and career moves increasingly fuel the most recent displacements from the region, he says.
A number of members of his family have moved away for work "and it's like that in all the families I know," he notes, citing decisions by many to leave the Acadian Peninsula to find work in Moncton.
With the economy in a slump, Lanteigne says the congress is bringing much-needed funds to the region.
"If we hadn't had the congress this year it would have been more difficult," he said.
The congress is expected to inject some $30 million in the local economy.
Via facing language complaint after fire evacuation.
CANWEST NEWS SERVICEAUGUST 20, 2009
OTTAWA - The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages said Thursday it has launched an investigation after receiving two complaints following the evacuation of a Via Rail train south of Ottawa over the weekend.
A fire in the train's engine when it was travelling near Richmond, Ont. Sunday night forced the evacuation of 300 travellers on the Toronto-Ottawa route but resulted in no injuries. Some passengers had reportedly complained about the lack of French instructions at the time of the evacuation.
The complaints allege a dereliction of duty concerning ``the linguistic obligations of Via Rail during this evacuation,'' said Robin Cantin, a spokesman for the commission.
Via is a Crown corporation and is subject to the Official Languages Act, said Cantin.
Via says it is investigating the matter to determine what caused the incident and looking into any communications related to it.
``Our policy, as a Crown corporation, is to offer a service in both official languages, no matter where we are in the country,'' said Via spokeswoman Julie Durocher.
She said while announcements would first be uttered in French in Quebec, they would be followed by English, while English would come first and French second in other parts of the country.
Via has not yet determined how the fire started.
Fugitive found dead, may have taken own life — RCMP
Ryan Jenkins, the ex-husband of the bikini model found dead and stuffed in a suitcase, and is a "person of interest" in the case, Thursday, August, 20, 2009.
Photograph by: Vancouver Sun, VH1RealityWorld.com
SURREY, B.C. -Fugitive Ryan Jenkins, wanted in the murder of his swimsuit model ex-wife, has been found dead in British Columbia, RCMP confirmed Sunday evening at a news conference in Surrey, B.C.
Sgt. Duncan Pound, spokesman for the RCMP’s federal border integrity program said the police force “is able to confirm that a deceased person that was found in a motel in Hope, B.C., is in fact Ryan Jenkins.” He said it appears as if Jenkins took his own life.
Hope is 135 kilometres east of Vancouver.
RCMP confirmed earlier in the day that reality-TV star Jenkins, 32, was hiding out somewhere in Canada but wouldn’t be more specific.
Jenkins, originally from Calgary, was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for the murder of Jasmine Fiore, 28.
Her mutilated body was found on Aug. 15 stuffed in a suitcase and dumped in a garbage bin in Buena Park, Calif., about 30 kilometres southeast of Los Angeles.
An international manhunt has been on for Jenkins, though authorities on both sides of the border had speculated he may have returned to Canada after his speedboat was discovered in a Point Roberts, Wash., marina on Wednesday. That community shares its only land border with B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
Military called in to remove WWII mortar
CANWEST NEWS SERVICE
PETERBOROUGH, Ont. — It’s not every day the Canadian Forces’ explosive disposal unit has to make a house call, but on Monday experts from CFBTrenton were called in to remove a Second World War mortar shell found in the shed of a Peterborough-area home.
Three other military artifacts were removed from the shed in the community about 90 minutes east of Toronto by the specialized unit.
The home and shed were searched for more devices by the military and police but nothing further was located.
The unexploded ordnance was transported to CFB Trenton for examination and disposal.
Officials were not available to say how the ordnance got into the shed.
Archeologist condemns historical-site looting
BY PHIL COUVRETTE, CANWEST NEWS SERVICEAUGUST 26, 2009
A Parks Canada archeologist condemned on Wednesday signs of looting at a Nova Scotia Acadian historical site, and says it's indicative of a wider problem plaguing such sites around the world.
More than 270 holes have been discovered in recent weeks at the Beaubassin Parks Canada site near the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border, and Parks Canada archeologist Charles Burke fears the items potentially lost "have an incredible value to our interpretation of the use of that site by the Acadian people."
He's also seen people using metal detectors around the area.
"This has a great value to the Canadian public," he said of rare ornate silver clasps, silver and copper coins, buttons and buckles — which have already been recovered.
In part Burke says the discovery of the historical coins near an aboriginal clay smoking pipe suggests Mi'kmaq lived side by side with Europeans at the site before the Acadian deportations of the 1750s.
Jean Leger, director general of the Nova Scotia Acadian Federation says his group is "outraged" by the reports, especially as he notes the site is yielding valuable information concerning the pre-deportation period.
"Beaubassin enables us to study a period that was very prosperous for Acadians," Leger notes. "Sometimes Acadians are viewed as being a poor people, but this really wasn't the case and Beaubassin is a site that could show how prosperous they were before deportations.
"I hope people aren't plundering Acadian heritage to resell it, it is already limited the way it is."
He urged Parks Canada to better protect the area.
Burke added the problem of looting on historical sites is widespread.
"This relates to the international trade in illegally acquired antiquities (such as) remarkable items and objects of art from the Old World that are traded about in contravention of UNESCO regulations."
Burke pointed to organized "bottle hunting" regularly carried out by collectors on historic sites where they think the items can be found and people using metal detectors on national battle fields.
"Items in an archeological context, once they are removed from that context, essentially become objects of arts or museum objects — by losing the context in which they are found they no longer can provide the kind of information that culture historians would need to interpret the site in itself," he said.
Clockwise - Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton and Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May - Opposition leaders said Tuesday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has “set himself on a course toward an election” and it was time to present Canadians with “an alternative” as the buzz of a possible call to the polls kept growing across the country.
Photograph by: Geoff Robins/Reuters, John Morstad/Montreal Gazette, Mike Cassese/Reuters, Paul Darrow/Reuters
Opposition leaders said Tuesday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has “set himself on a course toward an election” and it was time to present Canadians with “an alternative” as the buzz of a possible call to the polls kept growing across the country.
The Bloc Quebecois rolled out a series of pre-campaign ads while Green Leader Elizabeth May announced she will seek her party’s nomination in B.C., adding to mounting speculation Canadians may soon be called to the polls for a fourth time in five years.
The Bloc said Tuesday it is gearing up for a fall election and the party opened hostilities by launching pre-campaign ads attacking its Conservative and Liberal opponents.
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said a fall election appears inevitable at this point and his party is ready to fight it.
“I have the firm conviction that barring a major change there will be an election,” Duceppe said Tuesday.
He said the Bloc’s strategy will be to stress there is not much of a difference between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
When it comes to dealing with the province, both of them are on the same page, he said.
“They have the same restrictive vision of Quebec. Harper thinks the talk about the (Quebec) nation is over and Mr. Ignatieff believes Quebec doesn’t need more powers,” Duceppe said before heading into a two-day caucus meeting in Quebec City.
He said the two leaders refuse to take action on a range of issues dear to the Bloc and many Quebecers, such as settling the fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces and asserting French predominance in areas of federal jurisdiction in Quebec.
Duceppe unveiled pre-campaign ads that hammer that point.
“There won’t be any personal attacks, but we’ll underline their positions,” the Bloc leader said, referring to Harper and Ignatieff.
One newspaper ad released Tuesday shows half-faces of Harper and Ignatieff side by side, topped with the message “Two parties, one vision.”
The ad asserts that Liberals and Conservatives voted alike in the House of Commons with the same results in culture, language, employment and environment. The Bloc’s slogan reads: The Bloc is the only one standing up to defend Quebec’s interests.
Duceppe said Tuesday the Bloc has already nominated 67 candidates in the province’s 75 ridings and that it has enough money in its coffers for the campaign.
But Ignatieff told a news conference in Waterloo, Ont., that his party wants Quebec to be at the heart of a Liberal government while the Bloc is condemned to remain in opposition.
Speaking after visiting the headquarters of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, Ignatieff said his party wants to back new “national champions” to create future jobs.
“Stephen Harper let Nortel fail,” he said. “His government didn’t think it was in the national interest to keep Canada’s single largest source of private research and development from going bankrupt — and they have yet to conduct their mandatory review of the sale of Nortel’s high-tech assets to a foreign company.”
Ignatieff also criticized the Harper government of letting the U.S. take the lead on the environment.
“The Conservative government is basically waiting for Barack Obama to give Canada its climate change policy,” he said. “I’m the biggest fan of Mr. Obama in the world but this is Canada and we don’t take policy from others, we should make policy and lead.”
While Ignatieff would not speculate on the timing of a possible election, he said his party could not support the Tories out of principle.
“We believe that if you’re running the largest deficit in history, terrible unemployment numbers, record bankruptcies and you’re letting Canadian champions down, you’re not investing in the jobs of tomorrow and the know-how of tomorrow, then we can’t support you,” he said. “And we need to present Canadians with an alternative and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jack Layton said on CTV’s Power Play that his party “called on Mr. Harper to reach out to other parties and try to make Parliament work but . . . he hasn’t been willing to do that.”
Harper “set himself on a course toward an election,” Layton said, adding “in some ways it’s unfortunate because a lot of people would rather see Parliament getting to work on the key issues,” such as the needs of seniors.
Layton said he didn’t see any interest by the government on many issues dear to his party.
“I guess Stephen Harper has decided he preferred an election to getting down to work with other people. I think that’s too bad but that’s the way it is,” he said. “I think it’s time for a real government, one that actually works with people on the issues.”
Also on Tuesday, May announced she will seek the Green nomination for a possible federal election in the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“The people here and the values they hold dear are the very heart of our movement,” May said in a statement. “I will be so proud to stand for those values and help to create the change our country needs starting right here in Saanich-Gulf Islands.”
However in an interview she acknowledged a fall federal election is the last thing she, or Canadians, want.
“Hundreds of people told me they don’t want another election,” May said in an interview with the Victoria Times Colonist. “Five years, four elections. What’s wrong with this picture?”
The prime minister's spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, called the election talks by opposition party leaders “unfortunate” and said the Tory government will instead focus on economic recovery when Parliament resumes next week.
“It’s unfortunate that the opposition is going to be focused on partisan politics and electioneering at a time when instability would be caused by an unnecessary and opportunistic election,” said Soudas.
“As we’re starting to see signs of economic recovery, a snap election would obviously put at risk this recovery.”
Police in Quebec investigate string of suspicious fires
Oct. 13, 2009
Canwest News Service
SAGUENAY, Que. - Police in Saguenay say they are investigating the possibility that four of six fires which struck various buildings overnight may be of criminal nature but have yet to establish possible links to two "criminal" blazes which targeted schools over the long weekend.
Sgt. Bruno Cormier of Saguenay police said the six fires were reported between 12:52 a.m. and 8:52 a.m. Tuesday within a 30 kilometres radius of the city about 450 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
"Certain elements (of the investigation) are leading us to believe they could perhaps be of criminal nature," Cormier said at midday Tuesday. "Fire investigators are on the scene are we will probably learn more details later during the day." "We cannot yet establish any links because every fire scene must be investigated," he added.
Damage ranges from minimal to considerable, including one family home where three people were living but escaped without injury.
Police were still investigating two fires of criminal nature which targeted schools over the weekend but had yet to determine whether the same person or people were responsible for both blazes.
About 300 elementary students learned Sunday they will have to be relocated after their elementary school, located on St. Benoit St. in the Saguenay borough of Chicoutimi, burned down.
Fire at the second school was limited but concerned citizens were gathering Tuesday to urge authorities to rebuild the first school after it was considerably damaged.
Police could not confirm reports suspects were seen fleeing the site of one of the school fires. A string of cases of arson against vehicles in July in Saguenay remained unsolved, Cormier said.
Saguenay man faces nine charges of arson
CANWEST NEWS SERVICEOCTOBER 15, 2009
SAGUENAY — A 27-year-old man appeared in court Thursday to face nine charges of arson, including five the same night, as police investigate a string of suspicious fires that have targeted homes and businesses here in the last week.
A dozen fires, most of criminal nature, have taken place in this city 450 kilometres northeast of Montreal in the last week, two of them involving schools, which Dominique Gauthier has been charged in connection with.
Bruno Cormier, of Saguenay police, said officers arrested him at 5 a.m. Thursday morning after receiving a tip from the public.
He said the man wasn’t the first to be questioned about the fires that have kept the community on edge since Friday of last week.
Less than two hours after the arrest, another fire was reported in Saguenay but officials had yet to determine if it was of criminal nature.
Gauthier, whose next court appearance is Oct. 22, was charged in connection with fires dating from Oct. 9 to 13.
He also faces three separate charges of theft related to earlier incidents.
Butting out in virtual reality may have real-life results
A recent study by the GRAP Occupational Psychology Clinic and University of Quebec in Gatineau found that smokers who destroyed cigarettes in a virtual-reality environment many times over a period of months reported having less of a tobacco addiction than those who were assigned another virtual-reality task.
Photograph by: Alex Grimm/Reuters, np
Our actions in virtual reality may subconsciously lead to changes to real-life addictive behaviours, according to a group of Quebec researchers.
A recent study by the GRAP Occupational Psychology Clinic and University of Quebec in Gatineau found that smokers who destroyed cigarettes in a virtual-reality environment many times over a period of months reported having less of a tobacco addiction than those who were assigned another virtual-reality task.
The theory behind the study, published in the current issue of the U.S.-based CyberPsychology and Behavior journal, is that the participants developed a "stronger drive" to quit smoking, because they subconsciously visualized themselves destroying their addiction.
Ninety-one smokers who were enrolled in a 12-week anti-smoking program were randomly divided into two groups.
Participants in the first group were asked to seek out and grasp up to 60 balls in a virtual-reality setting. In the second group, participants were told to find 60 virtual cigarettes and crush them with a virtual arm.
The participants, aged 18 to 65, were in good general health and regularly smoked 10 cigarettes or more a day in the last year. The average age of the participants was 44.
The two groups completed their tasks once a week for the first month of the study, and then once every two weeks for the following two months.
The researchers found that, in the 12th week of the program, 15 per cent of participants in the cigarette-crushing group said they had stopped smoking. Only two per cent in the ball-grasping group reported a change in their addiction.
During a six-month telephone followup, the researchers found that 39 per cent of the participants in the cigarette-destroying group said they had stopped smoking, compared to 20 per cent in the ball-grasping group.
One of the study's co-authors, Dr. Benoit Girard, said the "significant effect" on the groups' behaviour shows that virtual tasks may lead to a change in real-life behaviour.
"We made use of cybertherapy to introduce a virtual arm in a virtual environment," he said Tuesday from Saguenay, Que.
A number of things could explain the different results, according to the study, including the regular meetings with a nurse that participants had to attend as part of the program.
"The impact of the cybertherapy may be limited to foster treatment attendance and adherence," the study said. "Enjoying crushing virtual cigarettes would only be a motivator, and the active ingredients in the treatment would remain those related to counselling and applying self-help strategies."
It's also believed that virtually destroying cigarettes may have led the participants to increase their "self-efficacy" in behaviours associated with quitting smoking. As well, the study theorized that the investment of time and energy into crushing cigarettes may be linked to a boost in the participants' motivation, or might create a more positive emotional response to stopping the behaviour.
The authors note that further research needs to be completed to determine the role cybertherapy plays, and whether it should be used in conjunction with other treatments in addictive-behaviour programs.
With a file from Phil Couvrette
Montreal Mayor Tremblay wins third term
BY DAVID JOHNSTON AND PHIL COUVRETTE, CANWEST NEWS SERVICENOVEMBER 2
Montreal mayoral candidate and incumbent Gerald Tremblay (C) walks with his wife Suzanne Tailleur (L) and their daughter Marie-Laurent after casting their vote in Montreal.
Photograph by: Christinne Muschi, Reuters
MONTREAL — Montreal's incumbent mayor, Gerald Tremblay, whose administration has been dogged by corruption investigations and allegations of unethical behaviour for much of the past year, won a third term running Canada's second-largest city after a hotly contested election Sunday night.
Tremblay said in a muted victory speech that he understood the concerns of citizens expressed during the turbulent election campaign and had to strive to regain the confidence of all Montrealers.
"I am aware the municipal administration has been shaken by all the events of the last months and particularly by those of the last weeks," he said. "I am aware the conscience of Montrealers has been put to the test. Citizens want change and we embody this change.
"All citizens want Montreal to be an exemplary model at all levels . . . especially concerning the integrity of its institutions, its elected officials, or its employees and its procedures.
"Rest assured I have heard their concerns and expectations."
Main rival Louise Harel said shortly before 11:30 p.m. that she congratulated Tremblay on his win but urged his administration to make sure "Montreal reclaimed the place it must have in the world."
As Tremblay spoke, he held 37.2 per cent of the vote to Harel's 33.1 per cent. Third-placed Richard Bergeron had 25.5 per cent. Results from earlier in the evening had given Tremblay 42 per cent of the vote, Harel 31 per cent and Bergeron 24 per cent.
TVA network called the election at 10:35 p.m. in favour of Tremblay and rival Radio-Canada followed at 10:55 p.m.
"Gerald Tremblay won this election, I congratulate him," said Projet Montreal Leader Richard Bergeron, the first of the main candidates to concede the election.
Recent polls had the three main contenders in a dead heat and early participation rates were higher than anticipated, but the suspense after an anything-but-usual campaign was all the more prolonged by an announcement results of the hotly contested election would be delayed.
Logistical problems Sunday morning at 12 polling stations in Montreal extended voting hours there by as long as 55 minutes past their scheduled closing times of 8 p.m., leaving the entire city anxiously waiting for results.
Despite those problems, as of 5 p.m. turnout in Sunday's Montreal vote was at 32 per cent of registered voters, the city's chief returning officer reported, including the 5.25 per cent of voters who voted in advance polling in Montreal last Sunday.
The total Montreal turnout in 2005 was just 35 per cent.
Low participation rates aren't unique to Montreal. Lower turnouts in city elections are common across Canada. In Toronto, the turnout was 39 per cent in 2003 and 41 per cent in 2006.
But this isn't your usual election, the candidates agreed in the lead up to voting day.
"This was not a conventional electoral campaign," said Tremblay, understating the drama that has surrounded unfolding allegations of corruption at city hall involving construction contractors.
As recently as last week, Vision Montreal Leader Louise Harel described Sunday's vote as one of the most important in the city's history and "in order to restore confidence in this administration there must be a high turnout."
Bergeron, with some help from a string of perceived scandals at city hall, suddenly found himself in the middle of a three-way fight.
Tremblay said Saturday he wished he could have spent more of his campaign promoting his administration's accomplishments of the past eight years.
The most prominent of these have been in the areas of public transit, economic development and sustainable development, he said.
But corruption allegations took centre stage.
And there were early signs this had much to do with the higher participation rate.
"I rarely vote at the municipal level, but with all the scandals, I decided I had to," said Jean-Paul Chiasson, waiting in line to vote Sunday.
During Tremblay's second term as Montreal mayor, allegations surfaced that his party has been too cosy with contributors who conduct work for the city. There also were several spending scandals.
Last April, Quebec provincial police were called in to investigate the city's real-estate arm, following allegations of bent or broken rules and property sales below market value.
In June, there was an alleged extortion scheme carried out on a contractor renovating the roof Montreal's city hall. The contractor was quoted as saying he was asked by an organized crime figure to pay a $40,000 bribe to two unnamed city councillors in order to keep the contract.
In mid-September, the city's new auditor general, Jacques Bergeron, recommended the City of Montreal cancel a water-meter deal, because he believed it was awarded too quickly and cost too much.
Bergeron forwarded information to Quebec provincial police, which already had been investigating the deal.
The provincial government last month announced the creation of an investigative unit within the provincial police force to examine allegations of corruption, bid-rigging, collusion and criminal infiltration of the construction industry.
Tremblay said he welcomes the ongoing police probes and hopes the Quebec government will open a public inquiry.
Montreal's three main mayoral candidates all cast their ballots Sunday morning.
Tremblay told reporters he was a little nervous but "very confident" as he voted accompanied by his wife Suzanne Tailleur and daughter Marie-Laurence.
"Whomever wins — even if it's Mr. Tremblay — things will have to change at city hall," said Gaetan Marcoux, voting on Sunday.
Voters in 839 towns and cities across Quebec were casting votes Sunday in municipal elections to fill 561 mayor's posts.
Among them Regis Labeaume, the incumbent Quebec City mayor, was the projected winner. Incumbent Marc Bureau was the projected winner in Gatineau according to media reports.
Bodies of two miners found in flooded Quebec gold mine
CANWEST NEWS SERVICENOVEMBER 2, 2009
DESMARAISVILLE, Que. — Two of three miners missing in a flooded mine in northern Quebec were found dead Monday.
Three rescue teams were continuing to look for the remaining man, a spokesman from Quebec's workplace health and safety board said Monday evening.
Pierre Turgeon said the first victim was found as the search for the men got underway Monday morning. Another was found around supper time. The identities of the two were yet to be released.
The miners went missing Friday in a gold mine in Desmaraisville, in the James Bay region.
Bruno Goulet, 36, Dominico Bollini, 44, and Marc Guay, 31, were trapped 550 metres underground about 600 kilometres north of Montreal.
Turgeon said the search could continue overnight if necessary.
The mine was closed in 1993, but was being prepared to return to production because of the recent increase in price of the precious metal.
The men were working to align the walls of the mine shaft Friday. They were in a cage on the sixth level and told the cage's operator at the surface level they planned to descend to the 12th level, not knowing that the area was flooded.
Once the operator noticed the water, he signalled the employees, but they didn't respond. The cage was empty and the door open when it was brought to the surface.
Mine operations have ceased and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of this flooding. Water was still being pumped out of the mine Monday.
Pilot dead, 2 seriously injured in Quebec chopper crash
CANWEST NEWS SERVICENOVEMBER 12, 2009
BAIE-COMEAU, Que. — The pilot of a helicopter that crashed Thursday afternoon near Baie-Comeau has died and two others on board were severely injured, Quebec provincial police confirmed early in the evening.
Provincial police said the chopper was reported down at around 2 p.m., and that a 58-year-old man and two women in their thirties were seriously hurt in the crash.
All three initially were transported to Baie Comeau by a private chopper in the area at the time. Police later confirmed the death of the 58-year-old, whose name was not immediately made available.
The two survivors were later taken to Quebec City hospital.
Provincial police and the Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
Baie Comeau is approximately 700 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
Canadian terror suspect had been in India on headhunting mission: reports
CANWEST NEWS SERVICENOVEMBER 15, 2009
DELHI — A Canadian of Pakistani origin arrested last month by the FBI for allegedly plotting terror strikes in India, was spotted in a southern Indian city in a “talent spotting mission” days before the Mumbai attacks, according to reports.
The Hindustan Times reported Sunday that Tahawwur Hussain Rana reportedly issued an advertisement in an Indian daily days before the series of bombings that began in Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008, offering visas to the U.S. and Canada on a “limited time money back guarantee.”
“A man named Tahawwur Hussain Rana had stayed in a five-star hotel in Kochi on Nov. 16 last year. Intelligence officials are verifying details given to the hotel,” Kerala state Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told the paper. Rana later reportedly left for Mumbay.
The paper quotes police sources saying his passport was issued in Ottawa in 2006 and his address was listed in Chicago. The ad claimed Rana was a Chicago-based emigration consultant.
Police told the paper: “It seems the interview was just a coverup. Though he interviewed a couple of candidates, no one seemed to have been offered anything.”
U.S. authorities have charged Rana, along with another suspect, David Coleman Headley, with plotting attacks, including on a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005.
Rana passed tips to Headley, a suspected associate of terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, on how to illegally enter the United States, prosecutors alleged in the Chicago case earlier this month.
According to the Chicago Tribune citing court filings, prosecutors also said Rana discussed other "targets" with Headley, including the National Defense College in India, a military school.
With files from Agence France-Presse
Investigation launched after nurses bring H1N1 vaccine home
An investigation is underway after two Quebec nurses were found to have taken H1N1 vaccine home to give family members shots. In this photo five-and-a-half-year-old Kim watches as her father, Lawrence Colsell, receives his H1N1 flu vaccination in Montreal on Nov. 16, 2009.
Photograph by: Dave Sidaway, The Gazette
QUEBEC — An investigation is underway in Quebec after two nurses were found to have taken doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine home to vaccinate family members.
The North Shore health agency said the information came to light Friday and the investigation would in part serve to determine whether other nurses there were responsible for similar actions.
"The fact there are priority groups to respect . . . this caused concern, as well as the fact that vaccines were taken out and brought home, that's not what they're supposed to do," said Pascal Paradis, spokesman for the North Shore health agency — which covers areas north of the St. Lawrence in eastern Quebec.
Paradis said he expected the investigation to clear up the "who, how and what" of the incident, and address possible sanctions, in the following days.
"I wouldn't want to lay the blame on nurses, who are doing what they can and are working very hard in vaccination clinics, but what's certain is that this is an unacceptable situation which we deplore," Sandra Morin, a spokeswoman from the agency, told the French-language news channel LCN.
Morin said the nurses have received a verbal warning.
A spokeswoman for Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc referred to the minister's weekend news conference in which he described the incident as "unacceptable and regrettable."
Ottawa - Faced with what may prove to be a huge gold heist right out from underneath its nose, the Royal Canadian Mint ordered polls and consulted with a high-powered Ottawa public relations firm as it worked on damage control, access to information documents show.
What is clear in 66 pages of notes released to Canwest News Service under access-to-information law is that as news of the missing 17,514 troy ounces of gold and other precious metals -- with an estimated value of $15.3-million -- leaked out, the mint was keen to protect its reputation.
What is less clear is just what the mint's consultations with Angus Reid, which conducted at least two omnibus polls for the Crown corporation, and Hill & Knowlton Inc., the public relations firm, told the mint.
The documents are heavily edited, with the polls being blacked out entirely.
Their media notes -- the messages they tell reporters -- say the mint "is one of the most highly regarded mints in the world and has a very strong reputation." But that reputation has been under siege as the mint has been unable to account for the missing gold since last fall.
On June 9, the government announced it had told the mint to have the RCMP investigate the missing gold.
By the end of that month and in early July, the mint may not have found the gold, but it had acquired Corporate Reputation and Sponsorship Index reports from Angus Reid. The reports were called Royal Canadian Mint: Reputation to June 30 (and the second one July 14). Hill & Knowlton also weighed in with an "Issue Analysis" on at least four occasions in June and July.
It is clear through e-mails, released with the documents, that the polls are about "our reputation in the context of the metal reconciliations file."
But the polls themselves, 48 pages of data, are marked not for public release and are completely blacked out.
To explain the heavy editing, the mint cites sections of the Freedom of Information Act that allow exemptions for commercially sensitive information, information that could harm third-party dealings and negotiations and advice or recommendations the mint hasn't put into operation.
The mint also held a July 17 conference call and part of that dealt with "Reputation Management" but again, all the details were censored.
Christine Aquino, a spokeswoman for the mint, said it is normal that the documents would be so highly censored.
"The minting industry is highly competitive, therefore this type of information is deemed confidential," she said.
"It is commonplace for the mint to conduct such research on a very regular basis for a variety of reasons, including to develop new products and programs that fulfil our mandate."
The mint also would not say how much it spent on the polls or the Hill & Knowlton work.
Charles Weinberg, a professor of marketing at Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, said this is a serious crisis for the mint and that getting advice on its reputation is part of managing the situation.
"Part of the critical issues are how they deal with this crisis," Weinberg said.
"Losing $15-million worth of gold is a serious amount of money, no matter how profitable the Crown corporation is or what a small percentage of the amount of gold it has.
"Generally when something goes wrong, a tainted product or something like that, the first thing that the organization has to do is sort of acknowledge the mistake that was made and show that they're trying to understand what the cause was and providing appropriate corrective action."
The mint doesn't just make coins for Canada, it has international clients, and Mr. Weinberg said it would also be acutely aware that it has to maintain its reputation with them, too.
But he said the issue isn't resonating with Canadians at this point.
"One of the unusual things about this is that unlike health scares where people get ill right away and there's product recalls where there's a real danger to people . . . this is a financial embarrassment but is not an immediate danger to anyone, so I think there's less heightened public attention on this than there otherwise would be."
"One of the questions, and they may be doing this, is to see whether or not this issue is actually on people's minds. The problem is going to be when the RCMP is finishing their investigation and either conclude whether they can find there was theft taking place or can't explain it either, and if it's theft they have to see if the theft is something the mint could have done something about."
He questioned why so much of the access-to-information request would have to be blacked out.
"The question is why is this such sensitive information that it can't be publicly released?"
Among other censored information in the documents is a three-page letter, dated July 7, to John Baird, the transport minister, whose department is responsible for the mint and his minister of state, Rob Merrifield.
As government department and agencies do, the mint was very closely monitoring the volume of news reports on their missing gold and tracking whether coverage was dying off or not.
"Coverage spiked once the minister announced the RCMP had been contacted. This is now truly a cross-Canada story, including in Quebec [both print and broadcast]," the documents note. But a section right after that, presumably talking about that coverage, is blocked out under the law's exemption to not release information that is advice that hasn't been acted on yet.
The mint's final report on the missing gold and other precious metals is expected to be released soon. The RCMP investigation into the case is ongoing.
Gunmen spring prisoner from Hamilton hospital
November 24, 2009
HAMILTON • Police in Hamilton are looking for three suspects after a prisoner was broken out of a hospital by two armed individuals on Tuesday.
Police say Fawad Ahmed Nouri, 25, an inmate at Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre, was being escorted out of the Hamilton General Hospital shortly before noon when two armed male suspects “exited the hospital, pushed the guards to the ground, took the prisoner and fled in a Ministry of Correction Services vehicle, hitting an ambulance as they made their escape,” according to a statement.
Police say the three then dumped the correctional vehicle and took off in a silver Hyundai Tiburon.
Nouri was awaiting trial after being arrested on a number of charges including robbery and forceful confinement in relation to a robbery in January, in which shots were fired following a police pursuit, said Superintendent Bill Stewart of Hamilton police. On Jan. 23, in which two men pulled a 45-calibre shotgun on customers and staff at a Tim Hortons. According to police, two masked men fled the scene and subsequently engaged in a police chase. The suspects' car eventually hit a snowbank.
Nouri is alleged to have fired a shotgun at officers during the chase. He took a shot once and was treated at Hamilton General Hospital. Nouri was back at the hospital for a scheduled followup appointment, police say.
Nouri is described as being 6-foot-1, 163 pounds and wearing an orange jumpsuit. He and Todd Fenty, 26, were originally charged with four counts of robbery, firearms offences and wearing a disguise. In February, however, police laid 36 additional charges.
Nouri in particular was facing nine counts of forcible confinement, possession of a loaded, prohibited weapon, dangerous driving, among others, Supt. Stewart said. He was in custody awaiting trial.
Nouri — a former Toronto resident who has family there — was also involved in other violent offenses in the past, Supt. Stewart added.
Hamilton police consider the three armed and dangerous and warned the public against approaching them.
Anyone seeing them is asked to call 911.
N.S. volunteers desperately search for missing autistic boy
SOUTH BAR, N.S. — Heavy snow and strong winds were no help in the search for a young autistic boy missing in Nova Scotia on Sunday, but nor were they a deterrent to hundreds of determined residents who were scouring their community for any trace of the seven-year-old.
There has been no sign of James Delorey since he was seen Saturday afternoon with his family’s dog outside their home in the community of South Bar in Cape Breton.
Within hours of his disappearance, search-and-rescue officials were knocking on neighbours’ doors and asking for permission to search nearby properties in a race against time as the weather took a turn for the worse overnight.
“It’s snowing and wet,” said Sgt. Ken O’Neill with the Cape Breton Regional Police Sunday. “We’re hoping if the weather breaks, we’ll be able to use the Cormorant (helicopter) again.”
Weather prevented the helicopter from flying most of Sunday but it resumed operations in the evening using night-vision capabilities. It first joined the search Saturday. Cape Breton police said the search would also continue on the ground overnight into Monday when search-and-rescue teams from Halifax were expected to help out at first light.
Despite the weather “we still had well over 200 people out searching on foot and on ATVs, definitely there’s not been any less people out,” said Desiree Vassallo of Cape Breton Regional Police.
The story of a missing autistic boy, who authorities feared was not properly dressed to be outside during the season’s first snowstorm, prompted a massive outpouring of support from residents in the community, and a long line of cars belonging to volunteers stretched along a nearby highway Sunday.
Vassallo said there’s currently no plans to interrupt the search. But the fact the boy does not speak has added another set of challenges to searchers.
“It’s definitely more difficult because he doesn’t verbally respond, there isn’t going to be somebody calling back when we’re calling for him.”
“We’re all very upset,” said Delorey’ grandmother, Donna Fraser, when reached at the boy’s home, before declining to comment further.
Delorey’ grandfather is a well-known local fisherman.
It’s believed Delorey was with the family dog, a large Dalmatian named Chance, when he went missing around 2:30 p.m. in the family yard, which opens to a large wooded area.
“Apparently the family dog had started to wander into the woods and he followed behind the dog,” said Greg Hanna, who lives in the area and joined in the rescue effort Saturday evening.
Hanna described the woods as a “real boggy, marshy-type of area, including ponds and dead trees,” with a few hills.
It’s also not far from a marina where police boats were searching the waters.
Hundreds of people registered to help search the for the boy, Hanna said.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of people looking with ATVs and off-road vehicles,” he said.
Attention for the search was also growing online, where by Sunday evening concern about the missing boy from a community of roughly 2,000 people had prompted 16,000 people to register to a Facebook group called “Bring 7 year old James Delorey home safe!!”
So many people were showing up to volunteer that those who weren’t properly dressed for the search were sent home, Hanna said.
“They’ve been searching every nook and cranny you can think of,” Hanna said, adding his barn, some two kilometres away from the home, was also searched.
Living about 100 metres from the boy’s home, Melanie Sampson said Sunday she had been serving soups and sandwiches to the rescue team posted in her driveway.
“The mother was out in the yard searching for her little boy; my husband’s been out day and night; I’ve just been staying at home to feed anybody who’s hungry,” she said, adding the family remained optimistic despite the ordeal.
“Everybody is hoping and praying and everybody is searching with best intents and hoping that he’ll be found safely,” said Sampson.
Sampson said the boy, his 10-year-old brother and mother were living out west before they moved into their grandparents’ home during the summer.
O’Neill said that four teams were doing a ground and water search for the boy Sunday. The South Bar Fire Department, K9 units, volunteers and family members were also continuing their search.
“We haven’t had any luck yet. We have additional teams out on the scene but the search is continuing, unfortunately,” he said. “We’ve expanded the area we’re searching. I can tell you, it’s large.”
O’Neill said there was concern that Delorey was not properly dressed for the wintry weathers conditions, but there was still hope the boy will be found safe and sound.
“We’re covering all avenues,” he said.
Delorey is described as four foot five and 60 pounds, with brown hair and eyes. He was last seen wearing dark jeans, a red shirt and a dark blue plaid shirt, a grey-coloured vest, a shiny belt and black sneakers with glow-in-the-dark stickers on them.
South Bar is about 10 kilometres north of Sydney, N.S.
With files from Phil Couvrette and the Cape Breton Post
Ontario moves to address funding problems at native children agencies
Dec 2, 2009
By Phil Couvrette and Jorge Barrera Canwest News Service The Ontario government will provide new funding to two northern Ontario native child and family welfare agencies native leaders said were facing a shutdown because of a funding shortage, threatening to leave hundreds of children out in the cold. Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy said this week two agencies in his territory were on the brink of shuttering, threatening to leave 1,000 children currently in care, in limbo. He said he feared that if the agencies shut down, foster families wouldn't receive money necessary to care for the children and that all services would cease. However, on Wednesday evening, a spokeswoman for Ontario's Ministry of Children and Youth Services said over $4 million in new funding would be provided to the agencies. Half of that was to be provided to Payukotayno James & Hudson Bay Family Services agency, based in Moosonee, Ont., which Beardy said had already started to lay off staff and faced a shutdown by Christmas. Another $300,000 which the agency was eligible to receive but did not would also start flowing to them, said Paris Meilleur. "This won't solve all of the agency's problems and challenges but it will certainly help," she said, adding the move would help stabilize the agency. "The agency will still be required to use their line of credit and find some other cost-containment strategy." Tikinagan Child and Family Services, based in Sioux Lookout, Ont., which according to Beardy, was likely to run out of money by early January, was to receive an additional $2.1 million, to respond to the growing number of children in its care. Meilleur said funding also would be provided for children's mental-health workers in a community which "has experienced really tragic circumstances (including) a high rate of youth suicide."
"Child protection is one piece of the great puzzle . . . but the work we're doing on the mental-health side is also very important," she said, adding another $700,000 was approved in principle to "develop and implement a plan to address the root causes of youth suicide." Beardy blamed recently announced funding cuts to child and family welfare services by the Ontario government for pushing the native-run agencies in his territory "over the edge."
Protesters block train by holding Christmas meal
Dec. 14, 2009
Canwest News Service PERCE, Que. - Protesters including federal, provincial and local politicians blocked a VIA Rail train in the Gaspe region of Quebec by organizing a Christmas meal on the tracks Monday. The Montreal-Gaspe train was blocked at the Barachois stop, outside Gaspe, to protest cuts to the dining service and dropping the name of the train, formerly called "Chaleur," said Rural Dignity volunteer Cynthia Patterson. "They're giving the dining service only in the summer and at the Christmas period - so for tourists - but 'Gaspesians eat, too,' " she said, referring to the slogan of the day. Participants involved some 30 diners in all, she said, including local Bloc MP Raynald Blais as well as his provincial counterpart, local mayors and members of the clergy. The train was blocked for just under two hours before it was allowed to resume service, Patterson said. Police witnessed the protest but no arrests were made. Gaspe is about 900 kilometres northeast of Montreal.