VANCOUVER – Despite “polluter pay” laws in Canada, local governments and agencies are still waiting to recover costs incurred during two significant fuel spills off British Columbia’s coast.The City of Vancouver and Vancouver Aquarium are collectively waiting on nearly $700,000 in losses related to a 2015 leak of bunker fuel, while the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bellla continues negotiating over $200,000 in repayments for its response to a tugboat that ran aground in 2016.Transport Canada, which oversees spill response, said in a statement that under the current regime, ship owners are strictly liable for spills — up to a limit based on the size of the vessel — and all vessels must have insurance for oil pollution damages.The government also maintains a Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund to compensate Canadians, including businesses and local governments, when costs are beyond what a ship owner covers or when the source is unknown.In the days following the 2,700-litre fuel leak in Vancouver’s English Bay, Transport Canada claimed the bulk carrier ship the MV Marathassa was the source.The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement that the Canadian Coast Guard spent more than $2.4 million in its response to the leak.That money was repaid by the federal pollution fund after the government and vessel owner “were unable to come to an agreement in a timely manner,” the statement said.The City of Vancouver said it spent $500,000 on staff salaries, equipment costs and third-party groups to help in the cleanup.Spokesman Jag Sandhu said the city asked for compensation from the ship’s owner but has since filed a claim with the federal pollution fund.Peter Ross, a scientist with the Vancouver Aquarium, said roughly $180,000 was spent on environmental testing when little information was being released immediately after the fuel spill.The aquarium draws water from English Bay, Ross said, and staff were concerned that the fuel posed a risk to its wildlife.“We basically acknowledged it was going to be expensive but it was really an exceptional circumstance where we couldn’t really worry about the money at that point, we had to know whether our collection was at risk,” he said.Ross said the tests found fuel reached beaches in Porty Moody, roughly 12 kilometres away, and mussels collected in English Bay had taken up oil.Ross said the aquarium was negotiating compensation with the owners of the Marathassa and had been offered about 20 cents for every dollar spent, which he called unacceptable.“These are not damages we’re inventing out of emotional trauma or anything, these are damages associated with direct costs, direct financial outlay and liability associated with the incident,” he said.Lawyer Peter Swanson, who is representing the vessel, declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations, which he said are confidential.Alassia NewShips Management Inc., the operator of the Marathassa, also declined to comment.The Marathassa is facing 10 environment-related charges in B.C. provincial court, including allegations it violated the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environment Protection Act. Hearings are scheduled through to May.Alassia faces similar charges, but a B.C. Court of Appeal decision earlier this year determined the Greek company has not been properly served a summons, preventing allegations from going ahead.In Bella Bella, a community of 1,600 people along B.C.’s central coast, the Heiltsuk Nation said it’s still working to recover $150,000 paid out in its response to the spill of 107,000 litres of diesel and 2,240 litres of lubricants from the Nathan E. Stewart in Oct. 2016.Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett said $100,000 went to resources such as offices, boats and staff while $50,000 went to monitoring and testing at the site.Slett said the nation was communicating with vessel owners Kirby Offshore Marine, based in Houston, but nothing had been settled.Kirby did not respond to requests for comment.Slett said the community continues to feel the effects of the spill, its commercial clam fishery remains closed and they are concerned about other affected species.“We’re doing some testing with the purpose of understanding the health of the resources and the ecosystem and the safety of consuming the resources,” she said, adding the ocean is considered the nation’s “breadbasket.”Slett said the Heiltsuk is gathering materials for a possible legal claim against the company.“We didn’t expect it would take this long and we didn’t expect that there would be issues with them paying for their own costs for a spill they were responsible for in Heiltsuk territory,” she said.Vancouver lawyer Christopher Giaschi, who specializes in maritime and transportation law, said the two cases appear to be exceptional and the legal framework is effective, with most claims involving small spills resolved within a year.Transport Canada said in a statement the new Oceans Protection Plan will strengthen the current system by allowing unlimited compensation from the federal pollution fund, amending the tax paid by industry to increase the fund when depleted, and speed up access to that money for responders and communities that need it.But Ross said the aquarium’s experience has been “demoralizing” and he hopes the incident is not reflective of the shipping industry.“What does it say about any tanker coming in and out of Vancouver?” he said. “What does it say when we have a 3,000-litre spill and the responsible party fights tooth and nail and then ends up offering one quarter of what the damages are? I don’t know. It’s absolutely beyond me.”—Follow @Givetash on Twitter.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the Heiltsuk Nation was owed $200,000.
GORES LANDING, Ont. – The case of a muskrat found badly injured in a diaper box has triggered an investigation by Ontario’s provincial police.Investigators say they’ve determined the muskrat, that has died, was left in a Huggies box on the shore of Rice Lake at Gores Landing, Ont., about 40 kilometres south of Peterborough, Ont., on Monday evening.They say a witness told them a mid-sized, four-door blue sedan drove into a boat launch area with three occupants — two females and a male driver — who all appeared to be 16 to 18 years old.Police say one of the female passengers allegedly placed the box near the water’s edge before the vehicle drove away. They say the witness investigated and found the injured muskrat.The animal was taken to Soper Creek Wildlife Rescue centre in Bowmanville, Ont., where staff named it George, and then taken to a veterinarian on Tuesday for treatment of cuts to its mouth, broken teeth and an eye injury. The muskrat died a short time later.Investigators are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the three people in the car.Stefanie MacEwan, the founder of the rescue centre, had started a GoFundMe page to pay for George’s vet bills, but said Wednesday that some of the money raised — nearly $3,400 — would now go to pay for a detailed autopsy on the rodent.George’s remains were to be sent to the Ontario Veterinary College located in Guelph, Ont., for the autopsy, MacEwan said.
Family and friends of an Ontario teen who died while on a graduation trip are still waiting for answers as they try to come to terms with their loss.Alex Sagriff of Belleville, Ont. died on July 6 while on vacation in Veradero, Cuba.Her vacation was not officially sanctioned by her local school board, but was instead co-ordinated by the student travel organization S-Trip.S-Trip says it has arranged to bring most of Sagriff’s fellow travellers home and is organizing grief counselling and other supports for those who need it.They say they will not comment further on Sagriff’s death unless directed to by her family.Family members issued a statement saying they’re focusing on bringing Sagriff’s body home as they wait for more answers about her death.And a teen named as Sagriff’s boyfriend on her Facebook page is cautioning the public against jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information.“Alex was not alone. The reports are false,” reads a tweet by a person with the same name as her boyfriend. “She was not found, she was in my arms. She was not alone.”Neither that person nor any of Sagriff’s other friends immediately responded to requests for comment. But tributes to the recent high school graduate continued to surface days after her death.Friends offered few details about Sagriff other than to describe her as someone who was “beautiful inside and out.”“Rest in paradise Alex, not a day will go by without thinking of your beautiful, contagious smile,” wrote one Twitter user.“Thank you for being an inspiration to my younger sister, I love and miss you,” wrote another.Social media posts made in the days before her death indicate Sagriff had just graduated from St. Theresa Catholic Secondary School last month and was preparing to attend Loyalist College in the fall.“You will do great things and make new friends along the way,” wrote her father in a congratulatory Facebook post. “Your kindness and easy going manner makes every (sic) want to be around you and enjoy the time spent with you!”Sagriff’s family issued a statement indicating their primary focus was on returning Sagriff’s body home to Belleville and requesting privacy from the media. They indicated that they had very little information on her death.Global Affairs spokeswoman Jocelyn Sweet said the Canadian government is also trying to gather information.She said consular officials in Havana are working with local authorities to obtain more details while officials in Ottawa are in contact with the family.She extended condolences to Sagriff’s family and friends, saying no more information could be released due to privacy concerns.Messages of support also came from the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, which has set up counselling resources at Sagriff’s former high school.Vacation organizer S-Trip said it dispatched its emergency response team to Veradero to oversee the situation and help co-ordinate the return of other students on the trip.
HALIFAX – Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says he’s “comfortable” a city block sold to a developer will now carry the name of a telecommunications company.Rogers Communications announced Wednesday it acquired naming rights to an outdoor plaza at the Nova Centre, a million-square-foot complex that includes the new Halifax Convention Centre, office space and a hotel.“The synergy of putting together a public and private development has probably given us the advantage in terms of cost,” Savage said. “It would have cost more to just build a convention centre without being part of a $500 million-plus project.”Branding the outdoor venue — which will now be called Rogers Square — is part of the telecom’s push to make bigger inroads in a province traditionally dominated by Bell Aliant and EastLink Communications. But it could cause a stir reminiscent to a debate that engulfed Toronto when the SkyDome was renamed the Rogers Centre.The Halifax plaza — it will be surrounded on both sides and above by the Nova Centre — was previously part of Grafton Street, a downtown public thoroughfare running parallel to the base of the Halifax Citadel.In a private meeting three years ago, Halifax council voted to sell the one-block section of Grafton to Argyle Developments Inc., the developer behind the Nova Centre.The sale defied the city’s own urban planning rules, which cautioned against merging street blocks.“In the past, streets have been closed and blocks have been consolidated to enable large scale development projects,” the municipal planning strategy says. “The traditional street grid provides a high level of connectivity and is an important characteristic of the downtown.”In fact, the city’s planning playbook points out that the Cogswell Interchange, a massive concrete traffic structure dividing downtown from the city’s north end, is set to be torn down to restore a more “desirable pattern of smaller scaled streets and blocks.”Still, council took the extraordinary step of declaring the street “surplus to municipal needs” and sold it for $1.9 million.Now Argyle Developments has sold the naming rights to the block.Joe Ramia, president of Argyle Developments, would not disclose details of the branding deal.“That we can’t discuss. That’s confidential,” he said. “We bought the street from the city a few years ago. It is on private land.”Ramia added: “There isn’t really a public stake in this building. Basically the convention centre has a lease for 25 years. It’s all private money that’s in this development.”The $164-million convention centre, part of the Nova Centre development, is cost-shared between the city, the province and Ottawa.But Savage said that although a “big chunk” of the development is the convention centre, he said there is a large private component as well.“Those details are between the developer and his customer,” he said of the naming rights deal.In addition to naming the public plaza, which will host outdoor festivals and events, Rogers will be the Nova Centre’s telecom provider, outfitting the building with thousands of kilometres of secure fibre technology and providing free Wi-Fi for visitors.Meanwhile, the new convention centre is slated to open in December, with the Liberal Party of Canada holding its national convention at the new facility in April and the Conservative Party of Canada booked for August.“Those are all 3,000-plus conventions and that’s the beauty of this for us,” Savage said. “We couldn’t have hosted the national Liberal or Conservative conventions before.“We didn’t have the capacity and that’s what this building does for us,” he said. “On top of that we can do smaller conventions stacked together, which was not possible to do in the old convention centre.”The burst of development activity in Halifax hasn’t been without controversy. Surrounding businesses have complained about the dust and disruption caused by the massive construction projects, with some pulling up stakes and moving.
TORONTO – A Toronto writer’s tweet relating her sexual harassment at the hands of an employer has sparked an online outpouring of similar stories, a discussion she says is the first step in tackling a culture in which such abuses are pervasive.Anne T. Donahue put out a call for such stories on Twitter in light of sexual harassment allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, which were published Thursday in The New York Times. Among them are accusations that he sexually harassed actresses, including Ashley Judd, and former employees.Weinstein has said he is taking a leave of absence from his company and acknowledged he has behaved poorly, but has accused the Times of rushing its story to publication because of a “vendetta” against him. The Times has said it is confident in the accuracy of its reporting.“Reading that Harvey Weinstein piece, it was familiar and exhausting in that I think many of us have come to recognize patterns of abuse of power, whether in our own lives or in the lives of friends and family or even in government,” Donahue said.Donahue, a culture writer, said she decided to share her story — she was a 17-year-old co-op student at a radio station when her boss insisted on massaging her shoulders — in case it could reassure even one other person who went through something similar that they weren’t to blame.Over roughly 24 hours, her tweet was shared close to 2,500 times and drew almost as many online responses, many of them from others disclosing their own experiences of sexual harassment.Some mentioned incidents dating back to high school or earlier, others described being cornered by coworkers or bosses. Not all the stories were from women.Donahue, 32, said she wasn’t surprised by the volume of replies, but rather by their sincerity. Though there were a few dissidents, the tone was overwhelmingly supportive, she said.Having men talk about the harassment they have endured was also important, she said, noting that sexual violence affects all genders.“This was sincere, firsthand experiences and it immediately created a space in which people began to feel comfortable sharing,” she said.“Sharing can be very scary and you’re in a very vulnerable position and that shouldn’t be taken lightly,” she said. “This is what reclamation of power looks like, to an extent. It’s one step in about a thousand before we obliterate rape culture. But it’s an important step.”Still, Donahue stressed there is no shame in holding back.“You can be just as powerful and create just as much change by just reading and acknowledging,” she said.
OTTAWA – Russia is accusing Canada of causing irreparable harm to their relations after Parliament formally passed the so-called Magnitsky Act targeting the actions of gross human rights violators.But the chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee has a simple rebuttal — don’t take it personally.Liberal MP Bob Nault says the expansion of Canada’s international sanctions law doesn’t target one specific country because it is aimed at human rights violators everywhere.However, Canada’s new sanctions regime and those of other countries, including the United States, have been closely linked to the Russian whistleblower, Sergei Magnitsky.Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after accusing officials of a $230-million tax fraud.The Russian embassy has not specified any particular retaliatory action against Canada for passing bill S-226, but after the U.S. enacted its Magnitsky legislation, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded with a law that banned American citizens from adopting Russian children.“Russophobes’ rejoice: S-226 is now approved by Senate, causing irreparable damage to #RussiaCanada relations,” said one of a series of Twitter postings by Russia’s Ottawa embassy on Wednesday.“In defiance of common sense S-226 is hastily signed into law. Irrational act sponsored by fugitive fraudster & tax evader and Russia-haters.”Nault brushed aside the Russian concerns.“Even though this was in honour of Mr. Magnitsky, this is to deal with victims of corrupt foreign officials. This is beyond one country,” Nault said in an interview.“I would say to Russia not to take these things personally — unless you have a reason to take things personally.“That to me is the only approach Canada should take to people who are feeling threatened by legislation that is obviously the right thing to do.”A U.S. lawmaker hailed the formal passage of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act as an important step in the fight against impunity.“The passage of this law also commemorates the activists, including Sergei Magnitsky, who gave their lives to fight for accountability and stand for principle,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, the leading Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee.“I applaud my Canadian counterparts for this effort and look forward to closer co-operation in the fight against corrupt leaders and human rights abusers.”
MEADOW LAKE, Sask. – A Saskatchewan judge is weighing whether a teenager who fatally shot four people and injured seven others at a school and a home in La Loche, Sask., should be sentenced as an adult or a youth.His sentencing hearing wrapped up Friday; now it’s up to Judge Janet McIvor to consider all the testimony and evidence that has been presented since the hearing started in May. Her decision is expected Feb. 23.The prosecution argued the teen should be sentenced as an adult after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder for the attack in January 2016.Crown prosecutor Pouria Tabrizi-Reardigan noted the teen researched school shootings and guns online. He also researched what it felt like to kill someone.“(The teen’s) school shooting was not this sudden, impulsive outburst … rather the shooting had historical awareness and depth,” Tabrizi-Reardigan told the court in Meadow Lake, Sask. “In our case, it seems that (the teen) knew exactly why he committed the offences.”He said the teen ultimately knew he was outgunned by police and gave himself up at the school — a sign he knew the consequences of his actions. The teen may have panicked but carried out his plan “with stark efficiency.”Tabrizi-Reardigan also argued that the teen has never expressed genuine remorse about the plan to shoot up the school.The young man cannot be named because he was just shy of his 18th birthday when the shootings occurred.The defence lawyer is seeking a youth sentence.“The point being that simply because it’s a serious offence doesn’t obligate the court to sentence the person as an adult,” said Aaron Fox, adding the teen suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and has cognitive problems which have affected his maturity.The teen also doesn’t have a criminal record, he noted.“This was not a person who had a history of violence,” Fox told court.The teen has said he wasn’t bullied, but Fox said the youth hated school and was repeating Grade 10 for the third time.In June, a neuropsychologist testified for the defence that the teen had an IQ of 68, which is considered well below average.However, a child psychiatrist who testified for the Crown has already said the teen did not come across as being overtly developmentally delayed or slow.The penalty if he is sentenced as a youth could be six years of custody and four years supervision; as an adult, he could face a life sentence, but would get credit for time already spent in custody, meaning he could be eligible for parole after 10 years.Some victims have already told court that the teen should be sentenced as an adult because of the severity of his crimes.An agreed statement of facts detailed the shooter’s murderous path from the home in La Loche to the community’s high school.The teen first killed Dayne Fontaine, 17, and then his brother Drayden, who was 13. Dayne pleaded for his life before he was shot 11 times, including twice in the head. Drayden was shot twice.The teen then drove to the high school, where surveillance footage captured his frightening walk through the halls, his shotgun raised, as students and staff ran in fear.When police arrived, the shooter ran into a women’s washroom where he put his weapon down and gave himself up.The teen said he didn’t know what he was thinking when he pulled the trigger.Fox said his client has never blamed anyone else for his actions and did express remorse and apologize to his victims.McIvor said she’ll deliver the sentence in La Loche.Mayor Robert St. Pierre said that could bring some closure to the community, but he does have some concerns.“It’s just two years and a month after the incident and it’s back in La Loche, so the winter scenery, it’s going to dredge up a lot of memories,” St. Pierre told reporters outside the courthouse.
OTTAWA – Options are being explored to keep the National Holocaust Monument open once the snow falls after it emerged last week that the newly opened site would be closed for winter.The subject was high on the agenda for a meeting Thursday between the monument’s development council, the designers and the National Capital Commission.The NCC has said that clearing the site of snow and ice risks damaging it, so like many national monuments, it has been slated to close later this fall and re-open in the spring.At the meeting Thursday, the NCC also expressed concern that the design of the monument creates a risk that ice will build up on top of it and then fall, making finding the right maintenance solution essential.“I honestly believe that everybody wants the right thing here and that if we can do this in a way without pointing fingers then we’ll be able to achieve the best solution in the most efficient manner,” said Rabbi Daniel Friedman, the chairman of the National Holocaust Monument development council, who attended the meeting.The monument opened to the public in September. The concrete structure is composed of a series of rooms that when taken together form a six-pointed Star of David.Given Ottawa’s notoriously harsh winters, questions have been raised about why a monument specifically designed for visitors to walk through wasn’t built or budgeted for with snow and ice in mind.When word surfaced that the monument was to close, the Opposition Conservatives accused the Liberal government of penny-pinching, but Heritage Minister Melanie Joly threw the ball back in their court.When the green light was given for the monument, the Conservatives were in power and said they’d contribute up to $4 million, provided the council could raise the same amount from the public.The entire $8 million budget was eaten up by the original design, approved by a jury after a competition. The idea for a snow melting system or a partial roof that could address the challenges posed by Ottawa’s climate didn’t get discussed until later, Friedman said in an interview ahead of the meeting.“By the time they asked us the question . . . it was already in construction mode,” he said.“The question addressed to us wasn’t ‘Would you like this design?’ The question was, ‘Can you come up with another $600,000 or not?’ And we said we’re hard pressed to be able to meet the budget the way you’ve given us at the moment.”While they couldn’t find the funds then, finding a solution going forward is beyond the scope of the council’s responsibility.The council has technically ceased to exist now that the monument is open and the federal government is responsible for the site’s maintenance.Friedman said the option of a citizens’ council that could assist was also discussed at the meeting Thursday, and while he’d thought it would require legislation, a memorandum of understanding is all that would be necessary and one is in the works.“I would love to see somebody step up to make this a reality that is 24-7-365,” he said.But he remained unclear whether keeping the monument open this winter is a possibility or if it will require a longer-term plan.
MONTREAL – Visible minorities, particularly Arabs and West Asians, feel less safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods after dark than do other Canadians, according to a Statistics Canada survey released Tuesday.The study was conducted with data collected in 2014.Forty-four per cent of respondents who identified themselves as belonging to a visible minority group said they felt “very safe” walking home alone after dark, versus 54 per cent for other Canadians.Stats Can noted that the majority of visible minorities in the country live in large cities, “where feelings of safety are relatively low.”“Yet even after taking into account where they lived, visible minorities remained less likely to report feeling safe than their non-visible minorities counterparts,” the agency said.Out of all the visible minority groups in the country, Arab and West Asian respondents were the most likely to say they felt unsafe.Fifteen per cent of Arab respondents said they did not feel safe walking alone as did 16 per cent of West Asians.“This marks a change when compared with perceptions of personal safety 10 years earlier, when the sense of safety felt by Arabs and West Asians was comparable to that of other visible minorities,” the report said.
CALGARY – It was a clothes call for Calgary police on Wednesday when a report came in about a naked man driving a Canada Post truck.Duty Insp. Ryan Jepson says officers were told just before 5 p.m. about the truck driving the wrong way down a street.The report said the driver was throwing clothes out of the window.Jepson says the truck was seen a short time later on a major Calgary thoroughfare where it hit between six and 10 vehicles.He says the driver abandoned the delivery truck and ran naked into a nearby neighbourhood where he was taken into custody.Investigators are working to determine whether the Canada Post truck was stolen, or if the driver, a man in his late 20s, is an actual employee.Jepson says the suspect was obviously under the influence of some kind of substance.A police spokesman says dangerous driving charges are pending.(CFFR, The Canadian Press)
TORONTO – Community members are coming together in Parry Sound, Ont., as a persistent nearby wildfire approaches a major highway.The blaze, known as Parry Sound 33, sprung up on July 18. Ontario firefighters have been fighting it with the help of their counterparts from other provinces, as well as the United States and Mexico.While fire crews are working, community members are doing their best to support them.Matthew Derouin, who runs a Sobeys in Parry Sound, said he was contacted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and asked whether he’d be interested in providing food for the firefighters.“We jumped at the opportunity,” said Derouin. “This situation is affecting members of our community, a lot of customers, family members and friends.”Since summer is the peak season for his store, Derouin said he did not have enough hands to help pack the food in boxes and coolers, so he put out a call to the community.“I thought there might be 50 or 60 people who would come to help us, but I ended up with over 200 people who came to volunteer their time,” he said. “It really was a community-driven event.”The boxes and coolers were picked up Saturday morning and transported to the newly established command post in the nearby community of Britt, Ont. From there, they are flown to crews in the field.The fire is now 76 square kilometres, and water bombers are trying to cut it down, said Shayne McCool, a spokesman for the Ministry of Natural Resources. It’s only seven kilometres away from a stretch of the Trans Canada highway, so the ministry and provincial police are monitoring the situation closely, he said.If the smoke is heavy enough, McCool said a portion of the highway could be closed.Derouin said he has already received orders for Sunday and will be continuing to provide food for the firefighters in the upcoming weeks.“I think the seriousness and the severity around this fire is really starting to take shape,” he said. “We did have people here today that are most likely going to lose their buildings and cottages and homes.“We also had people who were not directly affected, but simply wanted to help the best they could.”
OTTAWA – Maxime Bernier may be causing headaches for his fellow Conservative MPs, but his latest musings on “extreme multiculturalism” have been a boon for the federal Liberal party.The Liberals say a fundraising campaign based on Bernier’s controversial comments has raised 77 per cent more money than any of their previous issue-based efforts.Party spokesperson Braeden Caley says online donations have doubled and social media engagement has quadrupled since Monday.And he says the Bernier controversy has also helped boost the rolls of registered Liberal supporters, with 1,000 new sign-ups this week.Bernier, who came within a whisker of winning the federal Conservative leadership last year, has been making life difficult for the winner, Andrew Scheer. He’s suggested that “fake Conservatives” propelled Scheer to victory, and he’s repeatedly contradicted the leader on the issue of supply management.Since last Sunday, Bernier has also posted a series of tweets criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promotion of ever more diversity, which the Quebec MP warns will eventually segment the country into tribes, erode Canada’s identity and “destroy what has made us such a great country.”Scheer has distanced himself from Bernier’s views, saying the MP doesn’t speak for the party. But he has dodged questions about whether Bernier should be kicked out of the Conservative caucus.The Liberals have pounced on the controversy, using it to appeal for donations in a multi-pronged fundraising campaign launched Monday.In an email appeal, the Liberal party suggested Bernier’s tweets were a harbinger of the kind of campaign the Conservatives intend to run in next year’s election.“We can never go numb to this kind of politics — or the kind of deep divisiveness and negativity that Canadians rejected in 2015,” the email said.The party also posted ads on social media, arguing that it’s time for Scheer to boot Bernier out of caucus and repeating Trudeau’s mantra that “Canada is strong not in spite of our differences but because of them.”
SARNIA, Ont. – In a letter written shortly after his arrest, a former gymnastics coach accused of sexually assaulting a young gymnast years ago apologized for “crossing the line” but insisted his actions were not sexually motivated.Dave Brubaker penned the letter to the complainant, now a woman in her 30s, during a videotaped interview with police that was played at his sexual-assault trial in Sarnia, Ont., on Wednesday.“I have reflected on all the things uncovered … in the social media and the #MeToo campaign,” Brubaker said in the letter that was also addressed to his wife and another gymnast. “I am guilty of crossing the line, but I want you all to know that my intentions were not sexual or premeditated.”The former director of the women’s national gymnastics team has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and invitation to sexual touching at his judge-alone trial. The charges relate to alleged incidents between 2000 and 2007.In the police interview, Brubaker said people’s expectations and standards of behaviour had changed since the complainant left the sport at age 19.“We kind of reflected on a lot of things and we knew that we couldn’t carry on and we had to make changes,” he told police. “Not just us but the whole sport.”The woman has testified that Brubaker would kiss her on the lips to say hello and goodbye starting when she was 12 years old, and touch her inappropriately during sports massages. Brubaker said he thought he was being a supportive coach and denied any sexual intent.“I thought I was doing the right thing to help them,” he said. “I can see that, by today’s measures, it’s different.”The complainant also said Brubaker would pick her up from school, and take her to his house, where he occasionally would spoon her in bed and tickle her belly, before driving her to practice. Brubaker told the officer he didn’t remember doing that.Brubaker also distanced himself from other prominent men in the world of gymnastics who faced allegations of sexual assault or misconduct — among them Larry Nassar, a former U.S. sports doctor sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison for sexually abusing hundreds of girls.“I just don’t want to be painted with that same brush, because I don’t have those same intentions,” Brubaker said in the police interview.The judge presiding over the case is considering whether to allow Brubaker’s interview into evidence after court heard the interviewing officer is related to the complainant.The officer, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the complainant, testified he told the prosecution about the relationship and had received approval from his superiors before embarking on the investigation.Defence lawyer Patrick Ducharme, however, suggested the officer tried to hide the connection. The officer, the lawyer said, never mentioned the relationship in his notes and the defence only learned of it three days before the trial was set to begin.“People like me like to know that the only investigating officer is related to the complainant,” Ducharme said.The officer contended he didn’t note down his relationship with the complainant because he knew Brubaker would see the notes and didn’t want the relationship to affect what the coach told police.“I wanted to get a confession without the taint of him knowing I was related by marriage,” the officer said in court.The revelation of the officer’s ties to the complainant delayed the trial by a day as Ducharme re-evaluated the evidence and considered how it would affect the case. In court, he suggested it amounted to a conflict of interest.When the officer said he believed what the complainant told him, Ducharme responded: “Why wouldn’t you? She’s the godmother of your child.”The case has been adjourned to Dec. 13.
OTTAWA – The federal government is warning newcomers that stiffer impaired driving and cannabis-related penalties could lead to their removal from Canada.The measures are part of the sweeping package of changes taking place as Canada becomes the first G7 country to legalize recreational cannabis use.On Dec. 18, new impaired driving penalties will take effect, raising the maximum penalties for most of these offences from five years to 10. It means they will fall under the definition of serious crimes for immigration determination purposes.“The impact of these new penalties on permanent and temporary residents could be significant,” the Immigration Department advises in a statement.The Immigration Department quietly posted a statement on its website this earlier this week advising permanent and temporary of the upcoming penalty changes, noting they could be particularly affected.The posting is the first part of a multi-pronged education campaign to be rolled out in the coming weeks to ensure newcomers to Canada are informed of the impact that Canada’s new impaired driving laws could have on their ability to remain in Canada.“Our main message to permanent residents and temporary residents is — make sure you know and follow our laws, including our tough new rules for cannabis-related crimes and impaired driving. If you don’t, you could face serious legal and immigration consequences,” said Mathieu Genest, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.“These penalties will have significant impacts on Canadians and non-Canadians alike.”People who work with immigrants and refugees warn the change will create barriers for newcomers.“The significance of this change from an immigration point of view is very high,” said immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman.Immigration officials could rule a person is inadmissible to Canada for “serious criminality,” even if an impaired driving offence took place in another country.Border Security Minister Bill Blair says the aim is to deter drivers from driving while high.“The penalty for impaired driving is a reflection of how serious this government and all Canadians view impaired driving. It’s a crime that takes as many as four lives a day in this country, injures tens of thousands of people,” Blair told reporters Thursday.“A maximum penalty of 14 years for those offences reflects the seriousness of the offence.”Under federal immigration law, a permanent resident or foreign national can be deemed inadmissible if they have been convicted of a Canadian offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or of an offence for which they have actually been sentenced to more than six months behind bars.In addition, the same rule applies to those who have committed an offence in another country that, if committed in Canada, would carry a penalty of up to 10 years.As a result, the department says, the new cannabis and impaired-driving provisions could mean:— Permanent residents might lose their status and have to leave the country;— Temporary residents — including visitors, international students and foreign workers — may not be able to enter or stay in Canada;— Refugee claimants may be ineligible to have their claim referred for a refugee hearing.Moreover, appeal rights for permanent residents and foreign nationals, including sponsored members of the family class, could also be affected, the department said.Under the changes, permanent residents convicted of impaired driving in Canada will have to worry about the prospect of deportation proceedings, Waldman said.Impaired driving is an extremely serious matter given the danger it poses, Waldman said.“But do I think people should be barred from Canada, possibly for life, over one impaired driving (offence)? No.”He cautioned it remains to be seen how strictly Canadian authorities will apply the removal provision.Although criminality could always pose challenges to entering Canada, a serious offence “makes your pathway into Canada much more complicated,” Waldman said.“Because you have to go through a whole series of extra steps and the requirements to get an exemption — a permit to allow you to come in — are more stringent.”Even now, Canada doesn’t meet its international obligations with respect to refugees, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, noting Canada’s broad exclusions on the basis of serious criminality.She said that adding another group who will be denied access to a refugee hearing on that basis means Canada is “increasing the risk that we’re going to send someone back to face persecution in violation of our international obligations.”
TOFINO, B.C. — A bear cub that was rescued near his mother’s dead body in Tofino, B.C., has died unexpectedly at a wildlife refuge.The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre says in a statement that the cub named Malcolm was asphyxiated after getting his head stuck in a small rope handle attached to a plastic buoy in his enclosure.The centre says the suspended buoys have been a common source of enrichment for bears and there have never been any hints of injuries or mishaps.It says staff are quite upset and shocked by the event and will take precautions to ensure that the accident is not repeated.The cub was about eight to 12 weeks old and extremely malnourished when it was rescued in May lying on its mother’s corpse.The centre says despite some initial health problems associated with emaciation and hypoglycemia, the bear had shown good physical and behavioural progress while in care.The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal government is creating a new mechanism to warn Canadians if malicious actors try to manipulate the outcome of this fall’s election.Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould was joined by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan made the announcement Wednesday morning in Ottawa.It is establishing a “critical election incident public protocol,” under which five senior public servants will decide when an incident is egregious enough to warrant going public in the midst of a campaign.The protocol is intended to avoid the dilemma that faced James Comey, the FBI director during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, when he was confronted with evidence of Russian interference apparently aimed at boosting Donald Trump.The federal government is unveiling its plan to prevent and address foreign interference in the fall federal election. #cdnpoli— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) January 30, 2019With no rules for dealing with such a situation, Comey decided not to reveal the interference during the campaign.The five public servants who will be charged with determining what should be revealed during a Canadian federal campaign are: the clerk of the Privy Council, the government’s national security adviser, and the deputy ministers of justice, public safety and global affairs.Officials say the threshold will be high: only disruptive incidents that impact Canada’s ability to hold a free and fair election will be publicly disclosed.The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canada is a trailblazer when it comes to assisting women in humanitarian crises around the world, but far more needs to be done to improve outcomes for women and girls in conflict zones, says the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.Mark Lowcock, who also serves as the emergency relief co-ordinator for the humanitarian affairs office of the UN, delivered remarks in Ottawa on Friday as part of a panel discussion delving into the growing need for a more gender-responsive approach to humanitarian emergencies.He applauded the Trudeau government’s feminist international assistance policy — which includes a plan to eventually ensure 95 per cent of Canada’s foreign aid goes toward initiatives that improve the lives of women and girls — as an example for other countries to emulate.But he also pointed to many examples of women who continue to face extreme risks of sexual and gender-based violence in areas of conflict around the world, saying more needs to be done to ensure humanitarian aid actually helps the women and girls who are being disproportionately affected.“The world’s humanitarian agencies do a good job in saving lives and reducing suffering among people caught up in conflict,” Lowcock said. “But we do not do a good enough job for women and girls.”The Yazidi women who were forced into sexual slavery in Iraq and Syria. The Chibok girls kidnapped in Nigeria. The Rohingya refugees who were gang raped, tortured and lost family members in brutal mass slaughters in Myanmar. These are the stories of women in crisis zones that have captured the world’s attention, Lowcock said, pointing also to women he has met in other regions who continue to live in dangerous situations with fewer opportunities than men to thrive.Humanitarian assistance often does not address the specific needs of women, he said.Every day more than 500 women and girls die from pregnancy and childbirth complications in crisis-affected countries. Also, inadequate help with menstrual hygiene keeps girls confined to tents and shelters, preventing them from accessing services and limiting their mobility.Girls in conflict zones are more than twice as likely as boys to be out of school and women are often more likely to be infected in disease outbreaks because their cultural practices make them caregivers of the sick.These are all areas that highlight why women’s needs must be top-of-mind and at the decision-making table when humanitarian aid is rolled out to crisis zones, to ensure they are not only free of further victimization, but also more empowered, Lowcock said.“Let me be clear that we are making strides in the right direction with all these challenges. But let me be equally be blunt — far more needs to be done.”One key element is the way in which humanitarian aid is donated.Often money raised through the UN or other aid organizations comes with conditions attached by donors that it must be spent on certain things, such as immunizations or specific programming. This may not be what women need most for themselves and their families, said Julie Delahanty, executive director of Oxfam Canada.“That’s not an empowering feeling for the women who are receiving that cash,” she said.“We have to be asking them what kind of modality they want that assistance in — they may prefer food, and if they prefer food, what kind of food do they want? We often don’t ask them such basic questions.”Oxfam Canada published a report in October that took a close look at how Canada provides international humanitarian aid and the gaps that exist when it comes to outcomes for women and girls in refugee situations.It noted that while Canada has made great improvements with its focus on gender equality and feminism as part of its domestic and foreign policy agenda, Canada’s international assistance spending is at a near-historic low, reaching 0.26 per cent of gross national income, as compared to the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent.The organization has called on Canada to develop a 10-year plan to achieve the United Nations aid target and also wants Canada to dedicate a slice of its humanitarian assistance to the needs of women and girls.International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, who also took part in the panel on Friday, pointed to the steps the Trudeau government has already taken, pointing out that half of humanitarian programs previously funded by her department were “completely gender blind,” which has been almost entirely reversed.“We are making this big, big shift, making sure all our humanitarian partners are paying attention to the specific needs of women and girls,” Bibeau said. “And not only seeing them as beneficiaries or victims, but really bringing local women around the table for decisions and making sure that throughout implementation of projects, they are building their capacities their leadership, providing opportunities for empowerment.”—Follow @ReporterTeresa on TwitterTeresa Wright, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — A “lit”terbug was issued a hefty fine after a Victoria police officer caught him flicking a cigarette butt out his car window.Victoria Police Chief Const. Del Manak says he was travelling southbound on Highway 17 on Saturday evening in his unmarked police car when he noticed the driver of a Ford Mustang flick a burning cigarette butt out of his car window.He says the driver had been putting the ashes out of the window most of the way, then took one last drag and threw the butt, which “went in the air and landed on the road.”Manak says he had a clear view since he was behind the car of what he thought was irresponsible behaviour so he stopped the driver and handed him a $575 ticket.He says when he asked the 21-year-old male driver why he threw out the butt the latter pointed to his cup holder saying didn’t want his car burned.The police chief says throwing out lit cigarette butts in this dry weather is dangerous especially with the dry weather on the Island.The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Several people have been removed form a Vancouver horse racing track as part of an investigation by the Canadian Border Services Agency.A release from Hastings Racecourse says border services agents arrived at the park, owned by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, at about 6 a.m. Monday.It says a number of people employed and supervised by various horse owners and trainers were escorted off the site, and none of those who were removed is affiliated with or employed by Great Canadian.A statement from the border services agency says it was conducting investigations at the track related to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.The Canadian Border Services Agency says it conducts enforcement actions when it is believed that a contravention of the Customs Act or the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act has occurred.The statement says it would be inappropriate to provide any further information while the investigation is underway and didn’t say if the people remain in custody. The Canadian Press
Inclusion in the Arts, a New York City-based national not-for-profit, announced today that legendary actor James Earl Jones will be the recipient of Inclusion in the Arts’ first-ever Champion of Diversity Award.The presentation and reception is being hosted by Loreen Arbus (Television Producer, Author, Diversity Activist & President of The Loreen Arbus Foundation) and co-sponsored by The Walt Disney Studios.Courtney B. Vance, 2013 Tony Award winner for Lucky Guy, will present the award. Mr. Vance appeared with Mr. Jones in the original Broadway production of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning, Fences.Mr. Jones, a multi-award winning actor (Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, and Grammy) has been honored with the National Medal of Arts in 1992 and the John F. Kennedy Center Honor in 2002. In 2011 Mr. Jones received an Honorary Oscar in recognition of his long and distinguished career.In the 1960s, Mr. Jones was one of the first African-American actors to appear regularly in daytime soap operas (playing a doctor in both The Guiding Light and As the World Turns), and made his film debut in 1964 in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. In 1969, Mr. Jones won a Tony Award for his breakthrough performance as boxer Jack Johnson in the Broadway hit, The Great White Hope (which also garnered him an Oscar nomination for the 1970 film adaptation). His film credits include Matewan, Field of Dreams and Cry, the Beloved Country. Today, Mr. Jones’ voice is known by people of all ages and walks of life, from Star Wars fans who know him as the voice of Darth Vader to children who know him as Mufasa from Disney’s The Lion King.“Mr. Jones is a consummate artist who exemplifies excellence without boundaries. His enduring career embodies a passion and commitment that reaches far beyond performance. In an industry that historically has been reluctant to embrace and celebrate diversity, he has served as a pioneer and role model,” says Linda Earle, President, Inclusion in the Arts.“Throughout his creative life, he has expanded the artistic possibilities of theatre, film and television. In the process, he has opened doors for countless artists of color and forged the path for generations to come,” adds Joanna Merlin, co-founder and Vice President, Inclusion in the Arts. Inclusion in the Arts is the leading advocate for full diversity of artists of color and performers with disabilities at all levels of production in theatre, film and television. In 2011 Inclusion in the Arts received the Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre.