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Union calls on prime minister to step into stalled Phoenix compensation talks

first_imgOTTAWA – The country’s largest civil service union called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday to intervene in “stalled” talks aimed at compensating federal government employees affected by the Phoenix pay system fiasco.Those talks are suddenly going nowhere, with government negotiators saying they haven’t been told how to proceed, said the Public Service Alliance of Canada.The leaders of 17 unions issued a letter to Trudeau in February, demanding compensation for civil servants who have suffered as a result of the pay crisis.For more than two years, tens of thousands of federal workers have been affected by problems plaguing the Phoenix system, which was supposed to streamline pay services across government.Some haven’t been paid at all for months at a time while others were paid either too little, or too much.In its 2018 budget, the Liberal government promised to work with the unions to deal with the mental and emotional stress caused by Phoenix.The unions have not disclosed the amount of compensation they are seeking, nor has the government said what it’s prepared to offer.The unions are seeking damages for their members for stress, the time spent dealing with pay issues and the catastrophic financial losses caused by Phoenix pay problems.While there appeared to be movement as talks got underway last month, they have since come to a standstill, PSAC national president Chris Aylward said in a statement.“Government representatives at the table say they are waiting for a mandate,” Aylward said. “Well, it’s time Prime Minister Trudeau gave them one.”Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough has said her department would continue working closely with public sector unions to limit the financial hardships faced by government workers.She has also apologized to employees for the ongoing pay problems.The compensation talks have been spearheaded by the Treasury Board Secretariat, which said Wednesday it would “negotiate in good faith at the bargaining table, not in public or through the media.”The costs associated with Phoenix, including the $309 million spent to set up the system, continue to escalate as the government hires compensation advisers and other staff in efforts to stabilize the problem.The budget also committed $16 million to determine whether a new pay system could be found to replace Phoenix.The auditor general is to release a report next week detailing what went wrong with the system.last_img read more

Canadian accused in Yahoo hack appeals judges decision to deny his bail

first_imgTORONTO – Lawyers for a Canadian accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails say a judge who denied their client bail overstated his alleged role in the scheme.Karim Baratov’s legal team was in court Monday appealing an April ruling by Ontario Superior Court Justice Alan Whitten, who decided the 22-year-old was too much of a flight risk to be released on bail.Baratov was arrested in March under the Extradition Act after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others — two of them allegedly officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service — for computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.Baratov’s lawyers argued Monday that Whitten had made several errors, including amplifying the Hamilton man’s alleged connection to the Yahoo hack and the Russian intelligence agent who allegedly hired him.“(Our argument is) painting him as a small fish, and not affiliated to the Yahoo hack,” Baratov’s lawyer Amedeo DiCarlo said outside court.Ravin Pillay, another one of Baratov’s lawyers, said in court that there’s no evidence to suggest his client was involved in the large-scale breach of Yahoo security systems.Emails between Baratov and his alleged contact in the Russian intelligence service show he was only allegedly hired to hack into 80 accounts, and only allegedly succeeded in accessing seven, Pillay said.Hacking into several individual accounts is “fundamentally different” from breaching Yahoo’s security system and gaining access to data from nearly half a billion accounts, Pillay argued.“There’s no evidence that Mr. Baratov knew who (the person who hired him, Dmitry) Dokuchaev was or that he was FSB,” Pillay said.He also noted that Dokuchaev only allegedly transferred $104 into Baratov’s PayPal account.“If the applicant knew he was dealing with a government official from another country, $104 is not a lot of money for his trouble,” Pillay said.But Crown Attorney Heather Graham said that money is only what was allegedly transferred to Baratov’s PayPal accounts, suggesting further funds could have been sent to other accounts American investigators have not been able to access.In denying Baratov bail, Whitten had rejected a defence’s proposal that the man be released into the care of his parents, who offered close to $1 million in cash and assets as collateral.Whitten said he believed Baratov would be motivated to flee, given that he could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted in the U.S.But Pillay said Baratov doesn’t pose a flight risk because there’s nowhere for him to flee to.American authorities have alleged in court documents that Baratov, who was born in Kazakhstan, posed an “extremely high flight risk” in part due to his alleged ties to Russian intelligence agents and his financial resources.A decision on Baratov’s bail appeal is expected later this week.last_img read more

Unlicensed operators responsible for more near misses involving drones Calgary study

first_imgCALGARY – A new study says there are more drones in the air than piloted aircraft and the numbers of close calls between the two continue to rise.The University of Calgary study, published online in the Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems, examined drone incident data from Transport Canada’s civil aviation daily occurrence reporting system database.“They clearly show in the last several years that incidents involving drone use in Canada has been on the rise,” said associate professor Chris Hugenholtz, who co-authored the study with Paul Nesbit and Thomas Barchyn.The data shows there were 355 drone incidents reported in Canadian airspace between November 2005 and December 2016. The numbers rose substantially after 2013 when drone technology became more readily available.“Drone use has skyrocketed, and with that comes new potential safety concerns,” said Nesbit, who led the study.Of the reported incidents, 66.5 per cent were drone sightings with 22.3 per cent involving close encounters between drones and piloted aircraft.“We are very concerned that just based on probability with more incidents occurring, the chances for something far more severe start to rise,” Hugenholtz said.Hobbyists have been flying model aircraft safely in Canadian airspace for decades, he said. But in recent years, drones requiring substantially less skill to operate have integrated into the airspace.Hugenholtz said many drone operators are licensed by Transport Canada.“Those people would know all the rules and would be following the conditions,” he said. “We surmise that the vast majority of these incidents are people who are unaware or are choosing to ignore rules and don’t have certification.”Hugenholtz said there is no simple solution. He said Transport Canada has legislated guidelines that clarify drone regulations and brought in fines. It is also possible to anonymously report unsafe drone activity.Technology may also offer a way to deal with the problem.“There’s a technology called geo-fencing and what that does is look at the GPS of the drone and will prevent the drone from either taking off or entering airspace where it shouldn’t be,” Hugenholtz said.“Another one is to use small new radar systems that can actually detect drones in airspace where they shouldn’t be as early warning systems.”— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitterlast_img read more

BC overdose warning system aims to alert users about potentially deadly drugs

first_imgVANCOUVER – Medical health officers in the Vancouver area are aiming to quickly warn drug users about clusters of overdoses and batches of contaminated drugs based on reports from people who use illegal substances.Sara Young, the regional leader of mental health and substance use for Vancouver Coastal Health, said the data would help staff decide what action needs to be taken to prevent fatal overdoses in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis.The pilot project started Tuesday with an online web form and a texting service that can be used by people who have registered to receive alerts, said Young, who worked with substance users to create the alert process.“We talked to people who are currently using substances and the feedback that we got was that we really needed to make this a simple system that could be used with a flip phone.”Young said service providers who may witness an overdose and call 911 could also report information including the date it occurred, the town or neighbourhood where a substance was bought, and its physical description.Participants can also upload a photo of the drug and its packaging and do not need to provide their names as part of the project called Real-time Drug Alert and Response, or RADAR.Currently, information about overdoses is analyzed from multiple sources including emergency departments, overdose prevention sites and Insite, a supervised injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.“But that process can be slow and take a number of days,” Young said. “If we can get information from people about what a specific batch looked like or what packaging it was contained in then we can quickly send alerts to the people who signed up to the system and say, ‘Hey, watch out for this particular batch.’ “Young said drug users who are warned about so-called bad drugs tend to take precautions to protect themselves and their peers by using a smaller amount of drugs, going to an overdose prevention site or not using alone.The project, which also involves the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, is expected to run for eight months in the large Vancouver Coastal Health region that includes Richmond, the North Shore, Bowen Island, the Sunshine Coast and Bella Bella.Nearly 1,000 people died of opioid overdoses in British Columbia last year, and 253 of the fatalities were in the Vancouver Coastal area.Dr. Thomas Kerr, associate director of the BC Centre on Substance Use, said involving drug users, who are the experts on issues directly affect them, would be useful among other efforts underway during the overdose crisis that has claimed so many lives.“The technology side is maybe a little bit different,” Kerr said. “I worry about who will get missed because of that requirement of participation but I think any information that can be brought to bear on the response is helpful.”The RADAR project, which was launched as part of a joint task force last summer in response to the provincial overdose response, could be expanded across Canada, Young said.British Columbia declared a public health emergency in April 2016 as the painkiller fentanyl was increasingly detected in multiple fatalities.Since then, provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall has been working with health authorities, first responders and the BC Coroners Service to improve the sharing of data between organizations.— On the web: www.vch.ca/overdose— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.last_img read more

Canadian Chamber of Commerce critical of proposed tax reforms by Ottawa

first_imgFREDERICTON – Members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce say proposed tax changes by the federal government are casting business people in a negative light and the finance minister shouldapologize.Chamber members got to put their concerns directly to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau Saturday at their annual meeting in Fredericton.There was a round of applause when Morneau was asked if he’d consider an independent royal commission to take a broader look at tax reform, but Morneau said the government has been talking about tax reform since the summer of 2015, and expects the current input will lead to changes in what’s being proposed.The tax proposals include restrictions on the ability of business owners to reduce their tax rate by sprinkling their income to family members in lower tax brackets, even if those family members don’t contribute to the company.Morneau also proposed limits on the use of private corporations to make passive investments that are unrelated to the company.Another change would limit business owners’ ability to convert regular income of a corporation into capital gains, which are typically taxed at a lower rate.last_img read more

Canada adds jobs for 10th straight month

first_imgThe labour market posted a 10th straight month of net job gains in September to match the economy’s longest monthly streak since the financial crisis almost a decade ago, Statistics Canada said Friday.The national unemployment rate stayed at a nine-year low of 6.2 per cent after Canada added 10,000 net new jobs, including a surge of 112,000 full-time positions. The rise in full-time work more than offset a drop of 102,000 part-time jobs.Wage growth also perked up in the latest survey, a long-awaited development after it remained surprisingly low earlier in the year despite the steady tightening of the country’s job market.Experts underlined a lot of positives in a jobs report that arrived amid recent signs suggesting the economy is already starting to cool down, as widely expected, following red-hot start to the year.“The underlying story is the economy is still churning out jobs at a pretty solid pace, the unemployment rate is slowly but surely grinding down and, yes, the majority of the job gains actually are in full-time positions,” BMO chief economist Doug Porter said in an interview.“So, I would categorize this as a robust report. The headline number isn’t that impressive, but the details were quite impressive.”On average hourly wages, Porter said last month’s 2.2 per cent year-over-year growth “isn’t going to knock anybody’s socks off,” but he noted the number does mark a comeback from some mysteriously soft numbers earlier in the year.Scotiabank’s Derek Holt said wage growth has seen some considerable gains in recent months and was only 0.5 per cent as recently as April.“There is serious consideration to be given to the argument that the Bank of Canada is behind wage and price pressures that may be starting to spiral upward,” Holt wrote Friday in a research note to clients.He said the squeeze could lead the inflation-targeting central bank towards another interest-rate hike as early as October.Overall, Holt called the quality of the job growth “solid.”CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld had a different take on the report.He said Canada’s job marketwas “ho-hum” last month and in line with other signals of a moderation in economic growth.In a note to clients, Shenfeld suggested that weighs against the probability of a third interest rate hike this year from the Bank of Canada.The jobs report Friday showed an increase in factory work as the goods-producing sector added 10,500 jobs, compared to a loss of 500 positions in the services industry.The survey detected a gain of 10,800 paid employee jobs, while the number of people who described themselves as self-employed, including unpaid workers in family businesses, fell by 800.Employee positions in the public-sector saw a gain of 26,200, while the number of private-sector employee jobs fell by 15,500.Statistics Canada said Ontario gained 34,700 jobs in September for its fourth monthly increase in five months and, compared to a year earlier, the province’s employment was 2.4 per cent higher. Manitoba shed 5,500 positions for its first notable decline since April 2016, the report said.Overall, the national numbers show that Canada’s year-over-year employment expanded 1.8 per cent with the addition of 319,700 net new jobs, of which more than 90 per cent were full-time positions.The run of 10-consecutive months of job creation marked the country’s longest streak of total employment gains since February 2008.Related stories:Morneau expects economic positivity to continue despite weak trade numbersGrowth has been strong, but productivity still low, Bank of Canada deputy saysCanada’s economy pauses in July, no growth from June: StatsCanlast_img read more

Dad says NS restorative justice helped heal after sons jail cell death

first_imgA series of restorative justice meetings between the father of a man who died in a holding cell and staff who oversaw the inmate’s last hours is being praised for bringing reforms and moments of healing.Last year, Ernie LeBlanc opted for the face-to-face encounters rather than pursuing civil action over errors made when Jason LeBlanc died of an opioid overdose at the Cape Breton Correctional Centre in the early hours of Jan. 31, 2016.The 42-year-old was captured on video gasping for breath less than 14 hours after being admitted into the prison without proper searches being conducted or a standard medical form filled out that could have identified his addiction issues.He was there for an alleged parole violation after being caught overnight in a snowstorm and missing a curfew at his halfway house.“As far as civil compensation, I didn’t give a hell about the money. Money wasn’t going to answer my questions or … help me be told how things happened,” said Ernie LeBlanc, adding his wife Eileen agreed.“I’m doing this so Jason didn’t die in vain.”The restorative justice report contained 17 recommendations — six of them completed so far — for changes in the system.They include a plan to install X-ray scanners for body searches, calls for the Nova Scotia Health Authority to be more open about co-operating on investigations in its jail clinic, and an annual scholarship in Jason’s name to help educate guards.There’s also a policy now in place that requires a simple form be presented on admission to the jail to indicate whether a person has addictions and other health issues.In addition, the 66-year-old father says he was able to hear directly from workers who expressed remorse and offered apologies during emotional gatherings.“It meant everything to me. I thanked them,” he said during an interview last week. “I accepted (their apologies) in a way. I could tell they meant Jason no harm. It’s just a lack of knowledge.”Jason LeBlanc had been brought to the jail on Jan. 30, 2016. Some of the officers there knew and liked him, as he’d served a few months there for a drug crime.The report says the “talented tradesman” had happy years in Sydney Mines filled with athletic pursuits, but later in life became caught up in Canada’s national epidemic of opioid addictions. Money earned during well-paid sojourns working in Alberta helped pay for his habit and his addictions led to troubles with the law.It also says his efforts to seek help in the health system and take advantage of community resources for addicts brought “few results.”A police report said after Jason LeBlanc was admitted, he appeared intoxicated and had told the nurse employed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority he had taken “nerve pills.” However, he was never sent to a civilian hospital’s poison control centre for a check.It’s been a long journey for the LeBlanc family, who are finally hearing how all of this unfolded.Heavily censored investigation reports said errors occurred, but left “the family with more questions than answers” on the details, according to the review provided to The Canadian Press. It said the Nova Scotia Health Authority initially provided the LeBlancs with limited information about his treatment in the jail clinic, causing them further frustration.The family pursued the restorative justice route at the suggestion of their lawyer Michael Dull, accepting an undisclosed financial settlement at the outset in return for guarantees they wouldn’t refresh the legal action after hearing from staff.Some of the ideas emerged directly from the discussions, such as the $2,000 per year bursary dedicated to Jason.“It’s a way of keeping Jason’s memory alive,” the senior LeBlanc said.Plans to install X-ray body scanners and a system for assessing and tracking prisoners with opioid addictions were already in place in separate processes before the LeBlanc’s restorative justice case.However, Sean Kelly, executive director of Correctional Services, said the restorative process overseen by Dalhousie University professor Jennifer Llewellyn went from a time when there was “a wall of mistrust,” to a point where it shows promise for use in other cases.“I’d have to say it was transformative. It’s one of those things where you have to be there to truly experience it and see how meaningful it is to the participants,” he said in an interview.Devin Maxwell, a lawyer who represents the family of a 23-year-old man who died from an overdose in a Halifax provincial jail, said that while he supports restorative justice, he’s concerned the province’s jail system needs deeper reforms.He said the family of Clayton Cromwell, who overdosed in his cell in 2014 while awaiting a court appearance, has been offered a “take-it-or-leave-it” damage settlement that is inadequate compensation.“There is a serious problem in the prison system in this province. My impression is they think they’re doing all kinds of great things to make the system better, but it remains broken,” he said.The report also notes that from the outset of the case, the involvement of the health authority has been a problem, as it claimed health privacy laws limit its requirements to talk about the cases.“Privacy issues prevented a joint or integrated investigation of the events surrounding Jason’s death,” says the report. “It remains an issue that will require further consideration in terms of its implications for future processes.”Still, Ernie LeBlanc said he feels a civil damage settlement and never learning the details of his son’s final day would have been far worse.“I wanted to do it my way, the way I felt. I was doing it for Jason — for Jason and for me to get the answers I couldn’t get.”—Follow @mtuttoncporg on Twitter.last_img read more

I felt unsafe Indigenous saferide service for women cant keep up with

first_imgWINNIPEG – Jackie Hartog opens the door to her white van as she pulls out her cellphone, checking the Ikwe Safe Rides Facebook group to see where she is heading next.She’s been volunteering with the Winnipeg non-profit for about two years and has provided transportation for women around the city.“It’s fantastic. I always tell the women that, during the day, I work with kids. So I’m always talking with kids, that’s my job,” Hartog said with a laugh. “Then I go out in the van and they do me a humongous favour. They talk to me, I talk to them. I listen, they listen to me.”Hartog was one of the first drivers to get behind the wheel when Ikwe was founded in 2016 after Indigenous women came forward about their safety concerns in taxicabs.Ikwe co-director Christine Brouzes was also an early volunteer after facilitating a national roundtable for the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Brouzes left that meeting feeling helpless.“I heard about Ikwe from a friend and a light bulb went off. I thought this is what I can do,” Brouzes said. “I felt that if I could help keep one woman safe by providing a safe transportation ride for her, then that would be my tiny pebble in the river to help this situation.”Ikwe — which means woman in the Anishinaabemowin language — has now provided more than 46,000 rides. The Facebook-based group has more than 15,600 members and 43 drivers.Many of Ikwe’s passengers share stories about inappropriate sexual comments while taking taxis and Brouzes said a small number of women have had violent encounters.Diane Marr is a regular passenger, using the service to get groceries and even go out of town for work as an actress.“I’ve been in a cab before and the driver pulled over and said, ‘Do you want to go for a drink?’ and I said ‘No, take me home, my husband is waiting’,” said Marr, who wasn’t married. “I said that because I felt unsafe.”Anyone identifying as a woman can request access to the group and go through a vetting process. Once in, passengers post a request saying where they’d like to go. A driver replies and then, in a private chat, the two work out the pick-up and negotiate a donation, which goes towards gas and vehicle maintenance.Drivers are also screened, must submit a child abuse registry check and are trained before they hit the road.Similar services have started across the country, but most have not lasted long. A new female ride-hailing service called DriveHer started in Toronto in mid-March and CabShe in Kitchener ran for a short time before being shut down by licensing requirements. In response to the 2017 acquittal of a taxi driver accused of sexual assault, women in Halifax were providing rides through the hashtag #HaliLadyCab, but it was informal and also didn’t last. A different service, Lady Drive Her, does provide rides to and from the city airport.Meanwhile, demand for Ikwe keeps growing. It recently partnered with a vehicle-for-hire company to transport larger groups in Winnipeg.“We exist because we want to provide a safe alternative transportation for women of all backgrounds and cultures and ages and economic statuses in our city. And that shouldn’t be growing,” Brouzes said. “That mandate should be met and not need to exist anymore.”Brouzes said she had hoped changes to regulation within the industry itself would mean safer rides. Instead, new legislation last November — paving the way for ride-hailing companies like Uber — dissolved the Manitoba Taxicab Board which regulated the industry.Indigenous activist Leah Gazan had joined the board to help improve its relationship with the Indigenous community. The previous legislation governing taxis was “archaic,” but Gazan said she’s now concerned there is no oversight.“I totally understand why women are taking charge of our own safety because it’s pretty clear that things are not safe, and it hasn’t been taken seriously enough,” she said.Responsibility has fallen to local municipalities. City of Winnipeg regulations say concerns over service levels, including inappropriate comments from drivers, are directed to the cab companies and criminal complaints go to police.Back behind the wheel, Hartog said she hopes one day all rides will be safe. But, until then, she will keep volunteering to show her daughters it takes a community to protect women.“I want to bring this to my girls and to make sure that they will help whenever they see someone in need.”last_img read more

Trudeau in Latvia prior to NATO summit expected to extend Canadian mission

first_imgOTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to commit Canada to spend several more years leading a NATO battle group in Latvia — news that will come Tuesday on the eve of the alliance’s summit in Brussels, where leaders will be braced for a showdown with U.S. President Donald Trump over military spending.Trudeau arrived in Latvia late Monday, one day before he’ll visit the approximately 450 Canadian troops leading the multinational force that was first announced in 2016 as a check against Russian aggression in eastern Europe.That will serve as the backdrop for the news that Canada is renewing the mission, the current three-year mandate for which is currently run out on March 31, 2019, sources told The Canadian Press, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details not yet made public.Such an extension has been widely expected. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has asserted numerous times that Canada remains committed to leading the mission for the foreseeable future.The Canadian-led battle group is one of four in the region, and includes troops from Albania, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Germany leads a similar force in Lithuania, Britain leads one in Estonia and the U.S. leads in Poland.“We’re not here trying to take an aggressive posture. This is about deterrence. We would like Russia to get back to normality,” Sajjan told The Canadian Press in January during a joint interview with Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis.“This will take some time. And Canada is committed for the long term.”The prime minister is expected to use the extension to defend Canada from criticism from Trump that America’s northern neighbour is not spending enough on defence.Canada and other countries have faced U.S. pressure to meet the alliance’s target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence and 20 per cent of defence budgets on equipment — a target member states agreed to in 2014 at a NATO summit in Wales.Trump has sent letters to the leaders of several NATO allies, including Canada, expressing “growing frustration” over the fact the targets are still not being met by the majority of alliance nations.The Liberal government has repeatedly argued that has Canada consistently contributed to NATO operations and efforts — as evidenced by its role in Latvia — and committed to grow funding for defence by 70 per cent over the coming decade.But critics have noted that even with the increase, Canadian defence spending will top out at 1.4 per cent of GDP, and it’s unclear to what degree extending an existing mission will satisfy Trump’s demands for Canada and others to put up more cash.And while Canada’s role in the Latvian mission is positive, it is a relatively small one compared to ongoing NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo — two operations that are highlighted in annual reports from NATO secretary general Jans Stoltenberg, said David Perry, a senior defence analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.“We’re doing good things in Latvia, we’re one of four countries that are leading the battle groups … but the two that the secretary general tracks in his report, we have five out of about 18,000 troops.”The Liberal government last year rebuffed requests from the Trump administration and NATO for allies to redouble their efforts in Afghanistan, including a specific appeal for Canadian police to help train Afghan security forces.France, meanwhile, is expected to pledge this week that it will meet the two per cent spending target within the next seven years, while Germany says it will reach 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2024.German newspaper Bild am Sonntag quoted Stoltenberg as saying, “One and a half per cent is not two per cent.”Any extension in Latvia will nonetheless be welcomed by the country’s government, which has turned to Canada and NATO for support and reassurance in the face of Russia’s recent attempts to flex its muscle and exert its influence across eastern Europe.“This Latvian enhanced forward presence mission altogether in the Baltics and Poland is one of the most successful missions of NATO,” said Karlis Eihenbaums, the Latvian ambassador to Canada.“We feel much more stable as a people and also the NATO eastern flank is much more stable. You can ask our neighbouring countries which are not NATO members, like Sweden or Finland, what they think, they are very much for this presence … they are very happy that Canadians are there.”Eihenbaums said security is also a concern when it comes to trade — Latvia has been trying to grow its exports to Canada under the Canada-EU trade agreement.“In order to trade we have to have safety,” he said. “We should not stop (the Latvian mission), probably we should go further because we have to think about the air, we have to think about the water, we have to think about the seas.”— With files from Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa; follow @ReporterTeresa on TwitterNote to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the news of Canada’s mission extension in Latvia would come Wednesday.last_img read more

Biologist fears extent of bird mortality may grow after NL oil spill

first_imgST. JOHN’S, N.L. — At least 15 oiled seabirds have been spotted after Newfoundland’s largest-ever offshore oil spill, but a biologist says past spills indicate the number could be in the thousands.Husky Energy reported the sightings on Wednesday and confirmed one dead bird since an estimated 250,000 litres of oil spilled into the ocean on Friday during an intense storm.The SeaRose platform was attempting to restart production when there was an equipment failure in a subsea line that released the oil.Experts on seabirds say an estimate on the number of birds killed from oiling could be months in the making, but is likely to grow.Gail Fraser, a leading seabird biologist at York University, said even a small number of oiled bird sightings are cause for concern and are likely a sign of much wider harm.“The fact that they have found oiled birds means that there’s probably a lot more oiled birds out there,” Fraser said.Prior oil spills have ended up with estimates of bird deaths that have grown into the thousands, she said.The 2004 Terra Nova spill that released 165,000 litres of oil into the ocean is estimated to have killed around 10,000 birds.The biologist noted the Terra Nova incident spilled less oil into the ocean, but it happened at the same time of year as the latest incident, meaning similar numbers of birds like murres and dovekies would have been in the area.Fraser said “millions” of birds migrate to the region form the Arctic around this time of year, and the weekend’s rough conditions mean getting an accurate count of killed birds may be impossible.“The conditions were terrible and that makes it a challenge to get good estimates of how many seabirds might be killed,” Fraser said. “It becomes kind of a hand-waving exercise and doing our best guess.”The region’s birds are particularly sensitive to oil pollution, Fraser said. The birds can die of hypothermia if even a small amount of oil slicks their plumage.They also have low reproduction rates and long lives, meaning a large hit to the population has a big impact.Fraser thinks these characteristics are not always reflected when companies are fined for hurting seabird populations.Syncrude Canada was fined $3 million in 2008 when more than 1,600 ducks were killed after landing in a tailings pond. By comparison, Petro-Canada was fined $290,000 for the Terra Nova spill believed to have killed 10,000 birds.“To kill 10,000 seabirds is a big deal ecologically and the fine should reflect that.”Scott Tessier, chief executive of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, said no oil sheens were spotted on the water on Monday or Tuesday, meaning the oil has likely broken down to the point that it cannot be cleaned up.The board is now focused on wildlife monitoring and its investigation into the incident.Operators in Newfoundland’s offshore industry are responsible for following their own safety and environmental plans, and the regulatory board monitors and investigates when necessary.Trevor Pritchard, senior vice-president of Husky Energy in Atlantic Canada, said his team followed the company’s plans and procedures, and his company is investigating what caused the equipment to malfunction.“We’ve seen nothing that tells us we did not follow our internal procedures,” Pritchard said.Husky provides the procedures to the regulatory board but a Husky spokesperson said in an email that the company “does not disclose its specific operating procedures publicly for security and commercial reasons.”Pritchard says Husky won’t restart production until he has “full confidence” in the integrity of the subsea system.“Nobody wanted to see this incident happen. It’s a bad day for us. Can we change things, yes we can. I don’t know what they are yet,” Pritchard said.Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Presslast_img read more

Soldier found dead on New Brunswick base was veteran of Afghanistan Bosnia

first_imgOROMOCTO, N.B. — The Canadian Armed Forces has released the name of a soldier and Afghanistan veteran found dead at New Brunswick’s Gagetown base on Monday.He has been identified as 41 year-old Warrant Officer Mark Boychuck.Boychuck was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for the last 20 years, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once to Bosnia.Col. Keith Osmond, Commander 5th Canadian Division Support Group, issued a statement urging people to take time to remember Boychuck’s contributions to Canada, the international community, and the Canadian Armed Forces.Base officials are not releasing a cause of death, but confirm it was not the result of a training accident.The Canadian Presslast_img read more

Montreal police arrest one of Quebecs 10 most wanted criminals

first_imgMONTREAL – Montreal police say they’ve arrested one of Quebec’s 10 most wanted criminals.They say Frederick Silva, 37, was arrested last night in Montreal and is expected to appear in court this afternoon to be charged with murder and attempted murder.According to the RCMP’s website, a Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for Silva in June 2017 after he allegedly fatally shot a man in the parking lot a Montreal strip club in May following a fight between two groups.Silva is also facing an attempted murder charge stemming from a second incident earlier that same year.A Montreal police news release from 2017 says Silva allegedly fired shots at a victim in a restaurant in Terrebonne, northeast of Montreal, hitting the person at least twice.Police at the time described Silva as dangerous and potentially armed.The Canadian Presslast_img read more

US wont allow performance of Newfoundland play about man with disability

first_imgST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A Newfoundland playwright says his failed two-year battle for a visa to perform in the United States speaks to the barriers facing independent artists telling diverse stories.Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security rejected a detailed application to bring Paul David Power’s autobiographical play “Crippled” to a San Francisco theatre.Despite providing formal requests from the theatre company and recommendations from Canadian artists and scholars attesting to the play’s attributes, authorities said the application failed to prove its “cultural uniqueness.”Power, the play’s writer and star, said the decision shows a lack of understanding about the rarity of seeing complex stories about disability presented on stage.“I feel the dots just aren’t being connected of why this would be culturally unique and I think it’s a lack of understanding of disability,” Power said.“It seems like a lot of bureaucratic barriers that shouldn’t be there.”Power was first invited to bring “Crippled” to San Francisco in 2017 after Exit Theater’s artistic director saw the work at a New Brunswick festival.Procuring a visa to make the trip happen, however, turned out to be more complicated than anticipated.Power said he and his small company of five people were limited in their options and chose to apply under the classification of cultural uniqueness.“Crippled” is based on Power’s experiences growing up with a physical disability in rural Newfoundland and later St. John’s. The story also explores Power’s grief after the death of his long-term partner.The play has been well-received by critics and audiences and made accessibility a key aspect of the performance, providing American sign language interpretation and audio description.But officials said the materials did not prove to be of cultural uniqueness or benefit for the U.S., and suggested the quoted experts, representing organizations like the Canada Council for the Arts, had not proven their expertise in the area.The rejection letter also said the U.S. theatre companies hoping to host “Crippled” had not submitted appropriate materials proving all the performances would be “culturally unique events.”Power said the next step is to appeal the decision, and there is growing support from arts communities in Canada and the U.S.  Exit Theater launched an online petition, proposing a policy allowing theatre artists into the United States to perform for up to 30 days per year.“It is virtually impossible for indie theatre artists from another country to perform legally in the United States,” the petition read. “The immigration policy for artists is unduly restrictive, does not protect the security of the U.S., and impedes international cultural exchange.”Power said he hopes the situation highlights the difficulty low-budget Canadian artists have sharing their work with wider audiences.And putting aside his play’s themes and representation of life with a disability, Power said he is most frustrated that he and his colleagues have had to jump through bureaucratic hoops to prove “Crippled” is a high-quality work of art that deserves to be seen.“The driving force behind the invitation by Exit Theater was, it’s a wonderful piece of theatre that they wanted as part of their season,” he said.“It’s not a disabled actor trying to make his way. It’s a really high-quality, good play, and we have the reviews and public feedback about it,” Power said. “It should be about the art form.”Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Presslast_img read more

Gloves come off as Canadian TV rivals battle over fees for carrying

first_imgMONTREAL — This year’s National Hockey League playoffs features an unusually fierce battle between two long-time business rivals, Quebecor’s TVA Sports and BCE’s Bell TV.TVA Sports blocked its French-language NHL feed to Bell at 7 p.m. Wednesday as the playoffs got under way, to reinforce Quebecor’s demand for better fees from Bell.That defied a warning by the federal broadcasting and telecommunications regulator, which had directed Quebecor earlier Wednesday to continue providing the signal to Bell TV subscribers despite the fee dispute.The CRTC also warned that it was ready to use its powers to enforce its regulations.A Quebecor statement issued later Wednesday, as the first Round 1 playoff games were in full swing, said it cut off the TVA Sports feed to Bell because the parties hadn’t negotiated a resolution to their dispute over fees.Quebecor acquired the rights to French-language NHL games in an multi-year agreement with Rogers, after the Toronto-based telecom company acquired the Canadian national rights for NHL coverage through to the 2025-26 season. Companies in this story: (TSX:QBR.B, TSX:BCE)The Canadian Presslast_img read more

New Brunswick health officials confirm 9th case of measles in province

first_imgFREDERICTON — Health officials in New Brunswick have confirmed another case of measles — bringing the total to nine in the Saint John area — and some officials predict the number could go higher.Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer, says the latest case is linked to a previous infection at Kennebecasis Valley High School.On Friday, public health officials issued a directive that staff and students at the high school must receive a measles booster shot if they want to continue working and studying at the school.As of Monday, more than 950 students and staff had been given the vaccine, and it was still available to the final few people who had not received it.District school officials have cancelled a number of planned out-of-province class trips at two other schools in the district as a result of the measles outbreak.“In light of the long incubation period of the measles virus, and the understanding that more cases of measles could possibly be confirmed in the coming days, it was decided not to take an unnecessary risk,” district communications director Jessica Hanlon wrote in an email.“Our greatest concern would be that a student could start to present symptoms while travelling, away from home and their regular health care provider, and in extended, close proximity to their classmates.”Early symptoms of the virus may include fever, cough or tiny white spots in the mouth.Within three to seven days, a red rash will appear, first on the face and then spreading to the body, arms and legs.Dr. Serge Melanson, an emergency physician in Moncton and president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said he’s not surprised by the number of cases. He believes the total could rise.“Given the infectiousness and ease of spread of this particular virus, it’s not all that surprising that we’re up to nine. And that’s despite public health and the regional health authorities doing an exceptionally good job getting out a lot of information to folks on what to do and how to contain it and to urge people to vaccinate,” he said Tuesday.“It has a very long incubation period, which means people can feel relatively well for a good week or two weeks before they display symptoms, which means they have a lot of opportunity to transmit it to other folks,” Melanson said.  Education Minister Dominic Cardy has said he’s not ruling out mandatory immunization for teachers and school staff in the province. Russell has been asked if she thinks that’s necessary but said that during an outbreak is not the time for that debate.On Friday, legislators in neighbouring Maine signed into law a bill that eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions for vaccinations in the state. Maine has one of the highest rates of non-medical vaccine exemptions in the United States.Melanson said he isn’t prepared to push for the same action in New Brunswick.“I’ll leave those policy debates to those drafting those laws, but I will say there’s little scientific doubt that the easiest, safest and best way to prevent the spread of these communicable diseases is by vaccination,” he said.“What the medical field can do better, I think, is attempting to debunk some of the messages that are out there in the community, on social media and other platforms that are promoting vaccination hesitancy.”The measles virus is transmitted through the air or by direct contact with an infected person. Measles can be more severe in adults and infants and can lead to complications.Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Presslast_img read more

Jason Biggs Loves SeaWorld So Much

first_imgIt’s got sex, nudity, and violence, and it’s available to stream this week — but it’s not season two of Orange Is the New Black. Instead, it’s series star Jason Biggs’ brand-new PETA video, which reveals what might happen if Biggs ever sat down to shoot a SeaWorld commercial.Video: Jason Biggs Loves SeaWorld So Much! He Just Loves It!The video starts off mildly enough as Biggs tries his hardest to film a commercial for the despised amusement park, but it becomes apparent that he simply can’t stomach the party line as he starts to ad-lib: “Maybe [visitors will] get lucky — see one of the trainers get their legs ripped off.” A few dozen takes later, Biggs storms off the “SeaWorld” set and heads to a PETA set, where a drastic wardrobe change and a kiddie pool give viewers an eyeful of what orcas experience in SeaWorld’s tiny tanks.The new dad has been speaking out against SeaWorld on Twitter ever since he saw the hit documentary Blackfish, which reveals how SeaWorld tears baby orcas away from their mothers and ships them from park to park in order to sell tickets to see “baby Shamu” — something that has Biggs especially livid. The American Pie star also takes issue with the way that orcas — including Tilikum, the subject of Blackfish who has killed three human beings — have their sperm collected and used to impregnate their own daughters and sisters.Biggs is part of a growing list of celebrities — including Tommy Lee, Bob Barker, Eli Roth, Cloris Leachman, No Doubt’s Tony Kanal, Joan Jett, Alec Baldwin, and Kathy Najimy — who have teamed up with PETA to speak out against SeaWorld’s cruelty to marine mammals.For more information, please visit PETA.org or SeaWorldOfHurt.com.Source:PETAlast_img read more

Step Up to Honor Zoe Saldana At 2014 Inspiration Awards

first_imgNational mentorship organization Step Up will honor actress and advocate Zoe Saldana; Variety Editor-in Chief Claudia Eller; corporate honoree KPMG and graduating Step Up senior Tamia Walker at its 11th annual Inspiration Awards on May 30, held at the Beverly Hilton.The star-studded red carpet charity luncheon celebrates professional and philanthropic accomplishment, honoring influencers, executives, corporate partners and Step Up teens alike.“The Inspiration Awards exemplifies the impact of role models and mentors, whose dedication and work benefits so many lives,” Step Up CEO Jenni Luke says. “It is for this reason that we’re excited to recognize Zoe, Claudia, Tamia and KPMG, as they continue to inspire other women that inspire the next generation of girls.”The event will begin with a runway show presented by HALSTON HERITAGE, followed by Emmy Award-winning actress Julie Bowen, who will present the Inspiration Award to Walker. Walker was selected as the teen honoree from among her Step Up Class of 2014 peers for her achievements in Step Up’s after-school programs. Actress Constance Zimmer will also assist on-stage, helping Step Up raise vital funds during a fundraising challenge.Melanie Barr-Levey and Tanya Hekimian pull double duty, serving as both the co-chairs of Step Up’s Los Angeles Board of Directors and as co-chairs of the Inspiration Awards, while Willow Bay is the program’s honorary producer.In addition to the fashion show and awards ceremony, style lounges by partnering brands including HALSTON HERITAGE, LUNA Bar and Color Secrets, will open before and after the program. The style lounges provide guests with the chance to engage with Step Up partner brands and enjoy product sampling and services. The HALSTON HERITAGE lounge will allow guests to shop with 15% of proceeds benefiting Step Up. Other sponsors include The Container Store, Dogeared, U.S. Bank, WineSimple and media partners InStyle, Angeleno and Variety.Find out more here.Source:PR Weblast_img read more

AID FOR AIDS To Host My Hero Gala

first_imgAID FOR AIDS, the international non-profit organization committed to empowering communities at risk of HIV and other vulnerable situations, has announced the honorees for this year’s annual “My Hero Gala.”Iconic scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci will receive the My Hero Award for decades of substantial contributions to HIV/AIDS research and other immunodeficiencies, both as a scientist and as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Television star and activist Daniel (Danny) Pintauro will be presented the Courage Award by his “who’s the Boss” co-star Tony Danza for his efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination.Additionally, the organization has announced that ABC national news special correspondent Gio Benitez will be the emcee for the evening, and Latin pop star Guto Bittencourt will perform, debuting the song “Rolling” from his upcoming album. 100% of the royalties from his new single will be donated to AID FOR AIDS international (AFA).Now in its 19th year of its international life-saving work providing 1st world medicines to developing, world populations, founder and Executive Director Jesus Aguais said, “Now in its 19th year, AFA celebrates being recognized internationally as a successful model of empowerment. As we close in on our 20th anniversary our ambitious goal is to continue reducing stigma and discrimination associated with HIV, as well as to expand our high social impact programs that enable the development of leadership, adopting prevention and comprehensive health as a lifestyle for a better quality of life.”The “MY HERO Gala” will be held November 4th at the new Cipriani on Broadway in downtown New York City.In addition to those named above, supporters expected at the gala include: Kelly Rutherford; Nicole Miller; Miss Universe Paulina Vega; Tony Danza, Danny Pintauro, Madeline Brewer from Orange is the New Black, Clay Aiken, designer Angel Sanchez; Board member- scientist Dr. Bill Haseltine (known for his groundbreaking work on HIV/AIDS meds and the human genome); Venezuelan humanitarian and President of Aid for AIDS, Maria Eugenia Maury; Founder and Executive Director, Jesus Aguais; David Roth; Donald Dye; and Laura Pilson among others.last_img read more

The Elders Urge Zimbabwe To Cease The Violence

first_imgThe Elders today call on all parties in Zimbabwe to show restraint and calm as the country decides its future.Led by Kofi Annan, The Elders condemn the violence and tragic deaths that followed the 30 July vote.Following a pre-election visit to Harare in July to encourage a free, fair and transparent process*, The Elders urge all political parties to publicly recommit and adhere to the Peace Pledge signed on 26 June, refrain from violence and its incitement, and confine any challenge to the election result to the due process of law.Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders, the Kofi Annan Foundation and Nobel Peace laureate, said:“The scenes of violence that have erupted in parts of the country after the election are completely unacceptable. We call on all those responsible to step back from the brink, and give the people of Zimbabwe the opportunity of a peaceful transition to democracy.“The election process must be completed fairly, freely, and with the utmost transparency. Nothing other than the democratic will of the people should be allowed to determine the future of Zimbabwe.”The Elders commend the Zimbabwean citizens who voted peacefully in huge numbers, making this one of the largest voter turnouts in Zimbabwe’s history.The Elders welcome President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement of an independent investigation into the violence in Harare on 1 August and urge him to make every effort to curtail any further excessive use of force by the armed forces. The Elders also welcome the statement of the International Election Observation Mission condemning the violence and encouraging all sides to show restraint.Furthermore, The Elders call on the MDC Alliance and all opposition parties to promote peaceful engagement, await the announcement of official results, and to use the courts and legal channels to air any grievances regarding the electoral process.The Elders also appeal to the armed forces to remain neutral during these testing times, and allow the police authorities to manage issues of public order.Mary Robinson, Elder, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said:“We are deeply saddened by the scenes of violence that have followed the largely peaceful voting in Zimbabwe.“Whatever the facts of the election result, it is clear there has been a significant breakdown of trust in the process across Zimbabwe. The country’s political leaders and its military must lead by example by demonstrating restraint, respecting due process, and appealing in the firmest terms for calm.“The Elders urge all those who seek a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe to return to meaningful dialogue and put the long-term future of the country and its citizens centre stage.”last_img read more

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Advocate Champion Charlotte Rae Dies

first_imgCharlotte Rae, an American TV actress, comedian, singer and Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) champion, has died. She was 92. No cause of death has been announced, but Rae publicly fought pancreatic cancer since 2009 and more recently, was diagnosed with bone cancer.Rae with fellow survivors at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network PurpleStride Orange County 2016Rae was known most notably for her portrayal of Edna Garrett (Mrs. Garrett) in the sitcoms “Diff’rent Strokes” and its spin-off, “The Facts of Life.”“In the pancreatic cancer community, Charlotte was a cherished champion for the cause,” said Pamela Acosta Marquardt, PanCAN Founder. “She served as an Influencer of Hope, an elite group of notables who lend their voice and unite with everyday heroes in the fight against pancreatic cancer, and Charlotte was always willing to use her voice to raise awareness and visibility.”Pancreatic cancer was personal to Rae even before her own diagnosis. She lost three relatives to the disease, including her mother, uncle and older sister. Her extensive family history with pancreatic cancer led her to be more vigilant about the symptoms and risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer.“Keep searching for a solution, explore clinical trials,” Rae told PanCAN in 2016 when asked what advice she gives other patients fighting the disease. “I’m extremely grateful to be here today and I’m sending out powerful prayers to all of you.”Not only did Rae use her voice on behalf of the world’s toughest cancer, she attended local PurpleStride walks, championed for increased federal funding through PanCAN’s annual National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., and referenced the organization in numerous media interviews.“We must speak out loud and clear: Federal funds must be invested to develop more effective treatments and to find a simple, affordable detection test,” Rae told fellow PanCAN Advocacy Day participants in a letter she penned in 2013. “This disease is so frightening because it cannot be detected early enough. Effective treatments and early detection tools could save thousands and thousands of lives.”On behalf of Rae and all patients like her, PanCAN will continue to work diligently to double survival and improve patient outcomes.last_img read more