CHARLOTTETOWN, - Premier Pat Binns announced Monday night that Prince Edward Island’s estimated 100,000 voters are going to the polls on May 28.Binns, seeking a fourth consecutive majority government, made the announcement at his Conservative nominating convention in the Belfast-Murray River riding.
His party currently has a stranglehold on the 27-member legislature with 23 seats and only four for the Liberals.
Binns, 58, has been elected to three consecutive majority governments, in 1996, 2000 and 2003, since he became party leader in 1996.
Running in his second election as Liberal leader, Robert Ghiz will try to reverse his party’s troubled political fortunes in the province.
Ghiz, 33, elected party leader in 2003, once served as special assistant to former prime minister Jean Chretien. Ghiz is also the son of former Liberal premier Joe Ghiz.
A party spokesman said the Liberals were looking forward to an election.
The election is Binns’ to lose and will decide his opponents’ future, says University of P.E.I. political studies associate professor Peter McKenna.
McKenna says the Liberal leader may have to step down if he fails to win the election on his second try, and doubts that the current political environment calls for much change.
“There’s no great movement among the citizenry for substantial political change,” McKenna says.
In an April pre-election budget, the government announced over $30 million in new health spending and new spending in education but also promised tax cuts and a continuing surplus.
Binns also introduced legislation this month that would set fixed election dates for the second week of May every four years. Opposition Liberals blamed the premier of hypocrisy after voting against a similar bill in 2006.
The Saskatchewan-born premier and his wife Carol have four children and also operate a bean farm in a province where agriculture, tourism and fishing are the economic lifeblood.
McKenna says the premier likes to connect with the average voter, playing up his rural roots, and has a way of deflecting criticism.
“Pat Binns is the Teflon man,” McKenna says.
But the opposition may accuse Binns’ government of fiscal mismanagement after the Auditor General’s report found shortfalls in the government’s loan system.
The steady exodus of islanders to the West has been a growing concern in this province of some 138,000 people. At the same time Binns has acknowledged that P.E.I. could benefit from economic growth trickling down to local businesses from red-hot provinces such as Alberta.
Critics have also been coming down on the province’s environment record, after a new federal-provincial study in April found high levels of nitrate in P.E.I.’s groundwater wells.
“It’s going to be tight,” says Don Mills, the head of the Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates polling firm. In March CRA gave the Tories 48 per cent to the Liberals’ 44 per cent.
While party popularity has varied over the last year Binns has scored consistently stronger in terms of personal popularity, with 38 per cent to Ghiz’s 30 per cent.
“It’s a pretty good spread and that number has held for about a year,” Mills says.
CanWest News Service
Boisclair, Charest unpopular, survey shows
CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2007
MONTREAL - One month after Quebec's provincial election, Premier Jean Charest and Parti Quebecois Leader Andre Boisclair's popularity has not rebounded, a CROP poll shows.
Fifty-two per cent of respondents said Charest, the Liberal leader, should not lead his party into another election, while 37 per cent said he should. Charest's Liberals were re-elected with a minority government on March 26.
Boisclair has roughly the same numbers with 51 per cent saying he should step aside, versus 35 per cent who say he should stay on as PQ leader.
Action Democratique du Quebec Leader Mario Dumont, who now forms the official opposition, is enjoying a surge in popularity with 74 per cent saying he should lead his troops in the next election.
Overall the ADQ has been rising steadily since the election, winning the support of 32 per cent of people polled compared to 27 per cent for the Liberals and 23 per cent for the PQ.
The Liberals won 48 of the National Assembly's 125 seats, followed by 41 for the ADQ and 36 for the PQ.
While he isn't personally popular, Charest's decision to have as many women as men in his cabinet, was supported by 87 per cent of respondents.
The CROP poll prepared for La Presse reached 1,001 respondents between April 19 and 29. Its margin of error was plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Bombardier quiet on alleged case of industrial spying
Published: Thursday, May 03, 2007
CanWest News Service
MONTREAL -- Canadian transportation manufacturer Bombardier declined to comment Wednesday on a report that foreign technicians were caught stealing secrets at one of its Montreal plants last year.
The newspaper report said that Chinese technicians were especially interested in computer files at one of the jet-assembly plants and that Bombardier tried to keep the incident under wraps.
Isabelle Rondeau, a Bombardier spokeswoman, refused to comment on the story and referred calls to the company's aerospace division.
Bombardier Aerospace did not return repeated calls.
The Journal de Montreal also reported that Bombardier negotiators found out they were being spied on during a recent trip to China.
On Monday the head of CSIS, Jim Judd, told a Senate committee on national security that China tops a list of roughly 15 countries regularly conducting intelligence operations within Canada.
China repeatedly denied spying on Canada.
Bombardier's technological know-how and military products make it a target of choice, says David Harris, director of the International Terrorist Intelligence Program at Insignis Strategic Research Inc.
"On so many levels, a place like Bombardier is something China would be drooling over," he said.
This is a case of "all the resources of a major state and a growing superpower being brought to bear on nearly defenseless commercial interests."
Such "competitive espionage" enables countries such as China to catch up technologically without investing the money and effort into research and development and to create instant competitors able to steal Canadian business or jobs, Harris added.
He says Canada is an easy target because it lacks the "security mindset" to protect itself from espionage.
Harris said this is ironic because the Canadian International Development Agency still regularly allocates money to China.
In addition to using agents under diplomatic cover, China also can force the hand of Canadians of Chinese background by putting pressure on their families back home, he said.
Airline analysts say China is an important part of Bombardier's future plans of lining up customers and partners for its C-Series regional jet.
They believe China could be a major financial backer and also a key parts supplier.
Canada expressed concern about Chinese economic espionage soon after last year's change of government.
"There are some well-documented problems with the Chinese government's operations in this country," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in April 2006.
But Harris notes that while China is very active spying in Canada, so is Russia, as well as some countries Canada considers allies.
Meanwhile, Bombardier downplayed the reports, insisting its corporate secrets are safe.
While a spokeswoman said Bombardier takes ample precautions to protect trade secrets, she refused to comment on the report that Chinese technicians were trying to steal information from a company factory.
In a statement released Wednesday, Bombardier also challenged "erroneous press reports" that suggested a former director revealed sensitive information to another company where he was seeking employment.
New regulations could strain close border community
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, May 04, 2007
Months before new border regulations could require passports to move between their tightly-knit communities, two towns hugging the U.S.-Canada border may be facing new regulations blocking traffic on side streets.
Stanstead, Que., and Derby Line, Vt., are facing plans by U.S. and Canadian authorities to close three unguarded side-streets that cut across the border, in this area about 150 kilometres southeast of Montreal.
An increase in vehicles using the streets and not reporting to border stations made U.S. and Canadian agencies consider the change, says Corp. Elaine Lavergne of the RCMP.
"The problem goes back many years, but we've realized that it's just gotten worse in the last few months," she says.
Few will be as affected by such measures workers at the Haskell Free Library, where the border cuts right through the building. It has addresses in Vermont and Quebec.
Librarian Mary Roy says some of the employees worry new regulations will mean they will have to check through customs before they punch into work.
"Personally I think this would be very sad," she says. "It would be an imposition on Canadians." The main entrance is on the U.S. side.
But at least patrons don't have to worry about borders inside, says Roy, whose husband is a U.S. border agent in Montreal.
The regulations will change habits, but are a necessary impediment, says Derby Line town treasurer Karen Jenne.
An April presentation by the U.S. Border Services about illegal activities along the border was a real eye opener, she said.
"I can understand the reason for raising some of these barricades," Jenne says. "It's going to make it less easy for terrorists to get into the country."
"The number of people the Border patrol is apprehending, whether it's drugs, or illegal crossing, or money laundering... were incredible," she added.
"If people were aware of some of these statistics, people would want these barricades up as well."
"It's a new border," said Jenne, who used to cross into Canada to teach Sunday school without a care for the border.
While emergency vehicles routinely cross the border, thanks to mutual agreements, the type of barriers that go up will determine whether response times change, she said.
Lavergne says cement blocks were one of the options considered but stressed that easy alternate routes would leave response times unchanged.
But new passport requirements for entry by land into the U.S., which could start as early as next January, will have a greater impact on the town, Jenne added.
That may not be easy for everyone.
"The local high school hockey team practises at the Stanstead arena and for all the students to get passports... it's costly."
New regulations hurt lobster season, fish processor claims
Published: Wednesday, May 09, 2007
CHARLOTTETOWN -- With lobster season underway fish processor Ocean Choice is concerned new government regulations on foreign workers will make it miss out on one of its most lucrative periods of the year.
A lack of local workers in the last few years, due to the draw of higher-paid government wages in Prince Edward Island and lucrative oil contracts in Western Canada, have forced the company to look overseas for able hands.
Last year its P.E.I. plant brought in 30 workers from Russia to supplement workers coming from Newfoundland, and was looking to bring in 65 this year. It also wanted to bring in an addition to 15 from India, said Jack MacAndrew, a spokesman for for P.E.I. operations for Ocean Choice.
But new federal government regulations are limiting the number of foreign workers processed by immigration officials at one time and are slowing the hiring, hurting business this lobster season, MacAndrew said.
"In Moscow the embassy told our recruiters that the regulations changed on April 2, and from here on in they would only accept 10 applications a day and it would take at least three weeks to produce the visas," he added.
"This is a little tough to absorb at the last minute because the season began May 1 and we're short 80 workers on the production line."
A new recruiting plan will attempt to "shake these foreign workers loose," he said.
MacAndrew says the regulations will impact other industries across the country, such as agriculture.
"I chaired four meetings on behalf of the Department of Economic Development to get a picture of what was taking place," he said. "And everybody is having the same problem."
Lobster seasons runs until the end of June. MacAndrew said it was hard to estimate possible losses from the lack of manpower, but said it would have a definite impact on productivity.
"If you're bringing in 5,000 pounds of lobster and you can only process 3,000 pounds on any given day... those lobsters begin to pile up in storage," MacAndrew said.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Lisa Borsu said that to her knowledge new regulations were seeking to speed up, not slow down processing time of the worker's visas.
She pointed to a recent announcement on the Temporary Foreign Worker program.
"The changes will reduce the time that employers have to wait to get the workers they need," Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley said at the time.
Explosive device removed from Fredericton, N.B. high school
Published: Monday, May 14, 2007 Police were investigating a 14-year-old suspect after they removed an explosive device Monday afternoon from Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton.
The device forced the evacuation of the school.
"Our priority was the school, so now that will branch us off into a different arm of our investigation, which will include a 14 year-old-suspect," said Cpl. Bobbi Simmons of the Fredericton police.
The suspect, a student at the school, was being questioned.
Police were alerted about the device by a school staffer and started their investigation shortly after noon. The school was evacuated shortly after "without incident," she said.
Simmons said she had no description of the device, which was handled by a special explosives disposal unit and taken to a secure area to be detonated.
"We knew where the device was, it wasn't a matter of going in and searching for it," she added.
The high school was given the all clear by police by late afternoon, after an RCMP sniffer dog was brought in. But a decision to reopen the school will rest with the school board, Simmons said.
This is the third security incident at the school this month. Earlier this month two students were arrested on gun charges and another was detained for making threats against another student.
Halifax gay community concerned after recent murders
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2007
As Halifax prepares to mark International Day Against Homophobia, some members of the gay community are uneasy about the recent murders of two gay men, which police say may be related.
Trevor Charles Brewster's body was found on May 9 after going missing for a day. The murder of Brewster, 45, has been linked to the killing of another man, 44-year-old Michael Paul Knott, whose body was found a few days earlier.
Both men are gay and Halifax police and the RCMP issued a warning to gay men to protect themselves.
People seem to agree the murders are related and there's a consensus that it's because they were gay, said Leiehann Witchman of the Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Youth Project.
"I'm sure that's on people's minds," she said of the possibility gays may be specifically targeted in Halifax.
The recent murders have given this week's public event against homophobia a particular significance, says Kevin Kindred of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project.
"Given recent events, the planning has taken a different direction and will be used as an opportunity to reflect on recent events, violence and the way it affects our community," he said.
"The community was always conscious of safety and is being particularly conscious given recent events."
Police say they had seen Brewster's Honda Civic a few hours before he was reported missing - the car was noted because the driver had made a minor traffic violation, but the vehicle wasn't pulled over. Brewster was found under a boardwalk at a local lake by a man collecting recyclable cans. His car is still missing.
Knott was found dead last week in woods near Mill Cove, about 50 kilometres outside of Halifax.
Halifax mayor Peter Kelly says the police made the right move with the warning to the gay community.
"We are always concerned when there are any murders in our territory," he said. "The police were trying to get proactive in getting information out to the community."
Kelly says the city is concerned by the violence but wouldn't speculate on whether the events made Halifax less welcoming to gays.
He said safety shouldn't be a preoccupation to people taking part in this week's public event, which include a rally for the murdered men and a kiss-in.
"I don't see any issue of concern," Kelly added. "This is to bring focus... in terms of trying to deal with homophobia and to see how the community at large can work with the gay community, to bring them support and also (for them) to know that the community is there as part of a diverse Halifax."
Police said there is no special security in place for Thursday's public events but said they had stepped up patrols and "special checks" around gay bars and cruising areas.
Mumps spreading west
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2007
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia began immunizing its health-care workers Tuesday to protect them against an outbreak of mumps steadily spreading across the country.
Some 222 cases of mumps have been reported across the province since the beginning of the outbreak in February.
Since then, the largely Maritime-based outbreak has spread to other parts of the country with reports of cases in Ontario and British Columbia directly linked to the Nova Scotia outbreak.
Health officials say they are not surprised the outbreak may be growing because those who are infected can spread it without knowing they are contagious.
"Public health officials across the country have been on alert since the beginning of the outbreak," said Melissa MacKinnon of Nova Scotia's Health Promotion and Protection.
"What's difficult with the mumps is that you're spreading it before you even know you have it."
The outbreak may have spread to revellers at a Kensington Market bar, Toronto Public Health is warning.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the city's director of communicable disease control, said two female students in their early 20s picked up the viral infection while at school in Halifax.
The mumps virus is generally spread through saliva, meaning anyone who knowingly shared a drink, cigarette or kiss with the infected man is at risk.
But in the packed, sweaty atmosphere of a bar, some may have come into contact with the man's saliva without realizing it.
"Just having been in that location may be enough of a risk to get mumps," said Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health.
Mumps are rarely fatal, but serious complications stemming from the virus can include encephalitis meningitis, arthritis and deafness.
In British Columbia, Roy Wadia, spokesman for the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, said a student from a Halifax-area university contracted the viral disease while in Nova Scotia. He visited family and friends in B.C. in late April and started showing symptoms in early May.
"But he actually went back to school there before he got quite sick," he said.
Wadia added the student could have been contagious while in B.C., as there is a wide window between the day the mumps are contracted and the day symptoms start to show - as much as 14-25 days, he said.
The Centre for Disease Control is closely watching the people he had contact with to see if he spread the mumps while out west.
While cases around Halifax have been declining, they have been growing in the rest of the province.
MacKinnon ties this to the end of classes in city colleges.
Most of the people contracting the ailments were between ages 20 and 25.
Health officials have been meeting with their U.S. and U.K. counterparts to discuss how to stem such outbreaks.
Assisted suicide case full of holes: defence lawyer
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2007
A 29-year-old man has been charged with helping an uncle, who suffered from muscular dystrophy, commit suicide.
The death was in September 2006, but the charges were only laid on Tuesday, months after police launched an investigation into the man, Stephane Dufour.
His uncle, Chantal Maltais, 49, was confined to a wheelchair. Dufour is accused of helping him hang himself, but his attorney, Michel Boudreault, says the case against him is very weak.
“It’s in our favour that 12 people will be able to pour over the reasons for these charges,” he said of the jury that will decide Dufour’s fate. “The charges are full of holes.”
The jury will eventually have to launch into a debate on whether the law should be amended, he added.
Dufour could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted of assisting or encouraging someone to commit suicide.
Dufour is out on bail until he appears, on July 17, at the courthouse in Alma, Que., 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.
Boudreault said his client, who will plead not guilty, is living through a very difficult situation.
The trial is taking place nearly a year after Maltais’ death because some family members wondered how he could hang himself unassisted, which prompted the police investigation.
Boudreault said Maltais wanted to die on the anniversary of his mother’s death.
Reached at work, one of Maltais’ five brothers, Gaetan, said he was “very relieved” by the death “because he had suffered so much” late in life.
He said Dufour is supported by most of the family.
Gaetan’s wife, Lina, said they were shocked to learn about the trial.
Maltais had suffered from the disease since he was four, Lina said, and suffered “like a martyr” but was constantly helped by his nephew.
She said Maltais openly talked about putting an end to his life and family members eventually stopped trying to dissuade him.
In 2001, Evode Pelletier, from nearby Chicoutimi, was sentenced to 12 months in jail after helping his depressive partner end her life with the help of cyanide.
Last October Andre Bergeron, a Sherbrooke, Que. man admitted helping to kill his severely disabled wife, but a judge spared him prison time.
It isn’t unusual for the family to become convinced that someone is suffering too much to live, even to the point of helping them commit suicide, said Louis Lemay from Quebec’s Association for the Prevention of Suicide. He called Maltais’ death “a tragedy.”
While his degenerative disease couldn’t be cured, it’s very rare that nothing can be done to relieve physical suffering, he said.
“Did he have the appropriate (medical) treatment? Didn’t he in fact suffer from depression?” wondered Lemay. “Even doctors sometimes don’t have the right approach to relieve the pain.”
Suicide is becoming one of Quebec’s greatest health problems, his group insisted. It is the leading cause of death for men under 40 and Quebec’s overall suicide rate leads the country.
Morgentaler suit demands N.B. fund abortions at his clinic
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2007
The government of New Brunswick was in court yesterday to try to stop a lawsuit by abortionist Henry Morgentaler.
Morgentaler wants the government to pay for abortions at his clinic, but the province wants the lawsuit dropped because Morgentaler isn't a woman.
"Governments across the land have made similar arguments and they tend not to go anywhere so, from a legal perspective, I think it's a pretty thin argument," said Jula Hughes from the University of New Brunswick.
"The women of New Brunswick are entitled to medically safe abortions that are covered by medicare," Morgentaler wrote last year.
"The government has not only refused to cover abortions at the Morgentaler Clinic, it has not taken the appropriate action to advise the medical profession, nor New Brunswick women seeking abortion services, where this essential service will be available."
While about 70 abortion supporters paraded outside Fredericton's justice building, anti-abortionists stood in silence waving placards.
Anti-abortion group Right to Life had 50 women ready to testify about the effect of abortions on women's health, but were denied intervenor status.
Students ordered to write essay on fellatio by school principal
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2007
A Quebec elementary school principal who had four students write about oral sex as punishment after they taunted one of their peers has been heavily criticized for her conflict resolutions skills.
The essay was an attempt to get the four boys, aged 9, to explain why they had referred to the sexual act when bullying the young boy, explained Nathalie Marceau of the Grandes-Seigneureries School Board.
She said the four have a history of bullying and after the latest incident, last week, the school principal, Andree Lessard, asked the four students to reflect on what they had said to the victim. Far from condemning Lessard’s punishment, Marceau indicated it was justified.
“The school said ‘you said such and such thing — a crude word for fellatio — so write 10 lines on what you meant by this and where you learned such language, and how.’ All they did was take the same terms and ask them to reflect upon them,” Marceau explained of the school on the outskirts of Montreal.
“The four students have been intimidating and harassing another student since the beginning of the year,” she said.
But others are saying the school gets a failing grade for how it has dealt with this case.
Quebec’s Department of Education wasn’t impressed.
“This isn’t part of our educational approach,” said Jean-Pascal Bernier, a spokesman for Education Minister Michelle Courchesne. “It’s not the most opportune way to proceed.”
Sexologist Sylvie Lavallee called the assignment “ridiculous and stupid” because it focused solely on the specific words used and not on the psychological and verbal violence.
“They’re children, it’s just pouring oil on the fire,” she said.
Some of them should be suspended or even expelled if it’s a serious case of repeat harassment, Lavallee said. “They should be split up in the education system.”
A dissertation on “respect” would have been more appropriate in any case, she added.
Lessard did not return phone calls, but the school board defended her approach. It said it has tried involving parents, teachers, even police officers, to make the four understand “the impact of intimidation and harassment on the victims.”
“It was a major concern at the school,” Marceau stressed.
She said the school used the essays to help the boys focus on how to solve the problem and stop the bullying, but it backfired.
Three of the four turned in essays with a parent’s signature, but a fourth parent complained about the assignment to a newspaper.
In one essay she had read, Marceau said the student expressed no remorse and simply justified his use of insults.
The boys’ writings will be analyzed by specialists. The victim was suffering as the result of constant intimidation and was receiving counselling, she added.
Montrealers cope with latest transit strike
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2007
MONTREAL - Montreal transit workers went on strike Tuesday squeezing commuters into crowded rush-hour buses and metro trains.
Quebec’s Essential Services Council has ordered that the buses and subways have to keep running during morning and afternoon rush hours and for a couple of hours late at night. Disabled Montrealers will still get special services as they normally would.
Montreal Transit Corp. spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay said that the volume was higher than usual on the buses and subway trains Tuesday.
The MTC is refusing to buckle to the demands of the 2,142 mechanics and maintenance workers, which it says will cost the transit authority $60 million.
Key issues remaining to be settled in the dispute include wage increases and pension fund parity.
MTC chairperson Claude Trudel has warned Montrealers to prepare themselves for a long walkout.
“I told our clients it could last for awhile,” he said Tuesday. “I fail to understand why they’re imposing a 15th strike in 40 years.”
Montreal mayor, Gerald Tremblay, said the strikers would fail to get the city to back down.
“This time we will not cede,” he said. “Because doing it would be against Montreal’s interest.”
Union president Pierre Saint-Georges said the strike could end immediately.
“If the MTC informs us it accepts the offer we made, it’s not complicated, a few hours from now public transit will be back and running,” he told French-language news channel LCN.
The strike was under discussion in Quebec’s legislature, where Opposition Leader Mario Dumont questioned why the Charest government wasn’t “applying pressure to settle the issue as quickly as possible.”
Some commuters grumbled about the extra time it would take to get to work, others about the salaries transit workers are making. Some actually found their morning commute easier.
Ali Khalil said there were fewer riders than usual. "I guess everyone got scared and left early," he said.
Government gives union, transit authority 48 hours to settle strike
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2007
QUEBEC - The Quebec government is giving the two sides in the Montreal transit strike 48 hours to settle the dispute or else it will intervene.
Labour Minister David Whisell said Wednesday the government "will take its responsibilities," if no settlement is reached. "We cannot remain passive in this."
"The message is very clear," he added. "We are giving both sides 48 hours."
Whissell also warned the two sides that a negotiated settlement is preferable to an imposed settlement, suggesting that is the course the government is considering.
Meanwhile Montrealers faced a second day of getting to bus stops early and longer commutes as the transit strike continued.
Transportation is running during rush hours, late at night, and disabled Montrealers are still getting special services, as ordered by Quebec's Essential Services Council.
While some travellers were getting used to the longer wait, there were a "few isolated cases" of passengers taking out some of their frustrations on drivers, said MTC spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay.
"Generally people are very understanding," she said. "They're adapting, but we're adapting too."
The Montreal Transit Corp. placed ads in newspapers Wednesday urging riders not to target drivers, who are not involved in the labour dispute with mechanics and maintenance workers.
"Please do not associate them with this dispute," the full-page ad urged.
Key issues in the dispute include wage increases and pension fund parity.
Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay said the city would not yield to pressure tactics and urged his citizens to be patient.
"I know it's not easy for transit users," he said Wednesday. "I ask them to be patient."
Retailers in Quebec more likely to sell smokes to minors
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service Published: Thursday, May 24, 2007
When it comes to selling cigarettes to minors, Quebec is smoking the other provinces, a Health Canada study says.
A report on retail practices says that 32 per cent of retailers in Quebec sold tobacco to people under 18 years of age last year, compared to 18 per cent in the rest of the country.
That figure is still a vast improvement from the past, according to Louis Gauvin of the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control.
In 1995, some 75 per cent of young Quebecers could buy cigarettes, he noted.
“We’re closing the gap with the rest of the country, we were very far behind to begin with,” he said, adding legislation had to catch up in what he called the province with the most smokers.
Nationally, Kingston, Ont. did the best. It scored a perfect 100 per cent of retailers saying they refused to sell to minors. Among major metropolitan areas, Vancouver had nearly 18 per cent of retailers selling to minors, better than the 25 per cent in Toronto and 30 per cent in Montreal. Alberta was the province where the fewest retailers were willing to sell to minors, just 10 per cent, under five per cent in Calgary.
Meanwhile, Gauvin said legislation at both the federal and provincial levels, as well as anti-tobacco campaigns, are turning things around, but “much work remains to be done.”
That is certainly the case in Saguenay,_Que., where a stunning 56 per cent of retailers admitted to selling tobacco to minors. That city, 250 kilometres north of Montreal, was by far the worst rated among the 30 Canadian cities surveyed.
Surprisingly, in both 2005 and 2004, under 10 per cent of retailers said they sold to minors there, beating other Quebec cities surveyed.
“What’s going on there?” Gauvin wondered. “Quebec doesn’t have a record to be proud of.”
Yves Servais of Quebec’s association of food merchants and convenience store owners said the numbers had vastly improved across the province but cautioned about the rise of contraband sales.
“It’s fine that inspectors are making sure retailers are conforming to laws, but the government should help police forces fight contraband,” he says. “Soon that’s the only way cigarettes are going to be sold.”
Health Canada obtained the data by sending research teams containing one young Canadian aged 15 to 17 and another over 19 to buy tobacco in various establishments selling it across the country.
Health alert for passengers who flew on flight with man who has rare form of TB
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service Published: Tuesday, May 29, 2007
A health alert has been issued for passengers who flew on two trans-Atlantic flights, including one that landed in Montreal, and may have come in contact with a man infected with a dangerous and drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.
American health officials issued the warning Tuesday afternoon that anyone who was on the two flights — Atlanta to Paris on Air France 385 on May 12 and Czech Air flight 104 on May 24 from Prague to Montreal — should be seen by a doctor and tested for the disease.
“The patient’s tuberculosis organism was extremely resistant to the tuberculosis drugs,” said Julie Gerberding, Director of the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control.
“Let me be very clear, anyone who comes in contact with XDR-TB could become infected with TB,” she stressed. XDR-TB stands for extremely drug resistant TB.
The CDC doesn’t believe the man was highly infectious when he travelled, but there is still a risk that people on the flight could have been exposed to the antibiotic-resistant TB.
The man, an American from Georgia, is in a hospital in respiratory isolation.
A “federal order of isolation” allowed officials to order his isolation until health officials rule he is no longer a risk to others. The CDC said to the best of its knowledge, they haven’t issued an order like this since 1963.
“We thought it was our responsible to err on the side of abundant caution,” Gerberding said.
An official at the Public Health Agency of Canada said they were notified of the case on May 25.
Dr. Howard Njoo, director general for the Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response, called the risk of contracting TB among passengers low in general, although it may be higher among his immediate neighbours on the plane.
During an eight-hour flight modern air filters on jet liners would have prevented the bacteria from traveling throughout the plane, he said.
But the CDC strongly recommends that people next to the passenger, two rows in front and two rows behind, get checked. “This isn’t going to pose a health threat to the vast majority of the people that were on these flights,” Gerberding said.
The man suffered from tuberculosis before leaving for Europe. It isn’t clear why he travelled despite knowing that he has tested positive for TB.
“However at the time he departed the full nature of the drug resistance was not known, that became evident (...) once he was already in Europe,” Njoo said.
The CDC wasn’t aware that man planned to travel, had they known, they might have stepped in, Gerberding said.
During his overseas trip he was “advised not to take the flight back to North America” but chose to travel anyways, Njoo said.
The man spent little time in Canada, Njoo said, and immediately rented a car in Montreal which he drove to the Champlain, N.Y. border crossing, some 60 kilometres away.
He was put into isolation soon after he crossed the border and was flown in quarantine to Atlanta by the CDC.
The man was reportedly in “good health” without any symptoms such as coughing or a fever.
“We have no suspicions that this patient was highly infectious, in fact the medical evidence would suggest this his potential for transmission would be on the low side but we know it isn’t zero,” Gerberding said.
Officials would not give out specifics about the man or his seat number but encouraged passengers of the Czech flight to contact health authorities at 1-866-225-0709. Some 200 passengers would have been on that flight, Njoo estimated.
Canada has had only had two previous experiences with the strain, in 2003 and 2006, but authorities generally considered the present case to be a U.S. one.
Symptoms would include fever, coughs, feeling unwell, lack of appetite and weight loss.
“One thing important to understand about tuberculosis, it takes a long time for the disease to evolve so there is time for the people to get these tests done before they would pose any hazard to others,” Gerberding said.
Gay bar in trouble after refusing to serve woman
By Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service Wednesday, May 30, 2007
A 20-year-old woman who was asked to leave a Montreal gay bar because it caters to a mostly male-oriented clientele has lodged a complain to Quebec's human rights commission. Audrey Vachon, who was sitting down at the bar with her father, was asked to leave Le Stud last Tuesday after having been told she could not be served because she was a woman. The bar in Montreal's gay village promotes itself as being "one of the most hard, manly, and virile establishments in town." A server told her father "this place is exclusively reserved for men, we don't serve women, I would ask you to leave," she recalls. Her father, psychologist Gilles Vachon, protested that such discrimination was illegal, to which the server shrugged, explaining he didn't make the rules. "I could barely believed it," said Audrey, who immediately went home to consult the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "That some establishments prefer to serve men, that's fine," she says. "But to prevent the presence of women, that bothers me." Audrey stressed that Article 10 of the Quebec Charter was amended in 1977 to prevent sexual discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and that ironically she was basing her complaint relying on the same article of law. "I'm scandalized!" she said of being treated this way by "a community which has suffered discrimination in the past." The complaint is rare, considering there was only one case of discrimination in a Quebec establishment on the basis of sex in the 2005-6 period according to his files, said commission spokesperson Robert Sylvestre. In contrast there have been 46 cases of people discriminated against on the basis of race, colour, ethnic origin or physical handicap, for the same period he said. The commission will analyze whether the complaint is admissible, and if so, will first encourage the parties in the complaint to come to a friendly agreement, Sylvestre said. Only if this fails will the commission investigate whether the case warrants being referred to a tribunal. Vachon says she expects to hear from the commission next week
Battle replay has Quebecois irked
Published: Thursday, May 31, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Two hundred and fifty years later, they'll be storming the Plains of Abraham again.
The National Battlefields Commission announced this week that it will commemorate the famous 1759 battle between Britain's Gen. James Wolfe and France's Marquis de Montcalm by re-enacting the clash with the help of some 2,000 actors.
Participants in full martial gear will set up camp from Aug. 6 to Aug. 9, 2009, in the picturesque field outside Quebec City overlooking the St. Lawrence
River, in what organizers say will be "the most impressive recreation of its kind in the country."
"We would like to underscore this page of our history," said Andre Juneau, president of the commission. "The public is behind us and extremely enthusiastic with the idea of experiencing, once again, the lively ambiance of the military camps and these decisive engagements of the brave men and women who helped shape our history."
But not all Quebec groups are enthused by the prospect of seeing Montcalm's troops fall to the British again, chipping away at the French presence on the new continent.
Nicole Madore, spokeswoman for the Societe nationale des Quebecois et Quebecoises de la Capitale, says her group won't speak out against the production because it teaches history, but fears the re-enaction may spark divisions in Quebec society.
"We say go ahead, but you'll face the consequences if it ends up dividing people," Madore warned. "Some people will probably be upset. We're not keen on celebrating our defeats."
But Juneau said people shouldn't dwell on the politics of the battle, considering French actors are just as likely to portray British soldiers as French ones.
"People come for the show and usually leave in a good mood," he says. "We try to put this in a positive light. There was a battle 250 years ago, the French lost it, but even the French will commemorate it because it's historically significant."
Organizers expect some 100,000 visitors to attend the event commemorating what some historians describe as the first worldwide conflict. Descendants of Wolfe and Montcalm will also be in attendance.
Horst Dresler of the Quebec Historical Corps and Andre Gousse of the Societe de Reconstitution Historique du Quebec will co-ordinate the event, which has a budget of $160,000 and is expected to draw actors from Canada, the United States, Britain and France.
New Quebec regulations lets offenders denied parole the right to visit family
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service Published: Monday, June 04, 2007
Quebec inmates who have been turned down for parole could still be able to visit their immediate family, under new rules from Quebec’s correctional system that came into effect Monday.
The point is not to release a dangerous offender into society, stressed David Sultan, vice-president of Quebec’s parole board, but to enable inmates who have met a certain criteria to keep in touch with family and eventually reintegrate into society.
The rules won’t be any less strict than those that apply to inmates seeking a conditional release. “The criteria are not different, they are the same, the main ones being protecting the public and social reintegration,” Sultan said. “If they don’t pass that first test they won’t get out.”
Victims of their crimes will be informed of the date, location and conditions of the release. Inmates must clearly state the reason for their visit, when and how they intend to get there and obtain the permission of the host.
A prisoner who has served a third of his sentence could be entitled to visits strictly limited to immediate family members, once a month and for a period not exceeding 72 hours.
“If we consider someone does not represent a risk to the public and it is necessary that family links be reinforced (...) the board could in theory agree to a family visit,” he said.
If on the other hand the board sees the visit just as a courtesy call, or for the fun of it, the person may not get out. “Everything is done in the spirit of social reintegration,” Sultan said. “When the person is eventually released will he or she have the tools necessary or not?”
Victims’ groups say that’s fine but still wonder whether social reintegration isn’t done on the backs of the victims.
“Reintegration is important but not at all cost,” says Michelle Roy, who represent victims of sexual aggression. “There has to be a balance between the security of the public and reintegration.”
“What happens if the family lives near his victim, or if they end up crossing paths with them?” Roy asked. “I hope they take this into consideration but I’m not entirely sure about that.
“Sometimes it’s not the fear of repeating an offense per se, but the stress it brings to the victims,” Roy added.
She also noted that it’s usually hard to track inmates during visits because of the heavy caseload of correctional workers.
Inmates considered for family visits must be assessed according to various criteria including the threat to society they may pose, the risk of repeating offences, the nature of their crime, their behaviour as inmates, and their potential for reintegrating into society.
The Quebec parole board is looking to see how it can apply the new regulations.
Quebec doctor suspended for falsely assuming patient knew about cancer
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service Published: Tuesday, June 05, 2007
A Quebec doctor who wrongly assumed a patient knew about her breast cancer has been suspended for four weeks by Quebec's College of Physicians.
In its decision the college said Dr. Van-Ty Banh failed to ensure the proper follow-up of a patient despite coming across documents confirming she had cancer in her left breast.
The patient first made a visit to the Montreal walk-in clinic where Banh worked on Feb. 18 2005, worrying about a cyst on her left breast. That day Banh recommended she undergo a mammogram and blood tests.
The patient returned twice to see Banh but wasn't informed of her diagnosis despite a series of mammograms and other reports streaming into his office confirming she had breast cancer soon after her last visit.
"Banh falsely assumed, but in good faith," that the patient was under the care of a hospital handling the tests and that it had fully informed her of her condition, the college wrote.
Banh slipped the documents into her file without making sure the patient knew about her condition or was under proper care, causing delays to her treatment, the college's disciplinary committee charged.
Four months after the woman stepped into the Banh's office her true medical condition was revealed to her by an endocrinologist, on June 23, who recommended urgent treatment.
Banh agreed to a four-week suspension in the complaint, first lodged in December 2005. During the disciplinary proceedings Banh recognized he was a fault.
The decision takes into consideration the dangers faced by the patient but also the "isolated" nature of the incident and lack of priors in the 23 years Banh has been practising medicine.
College spokesperson Anne Roy said the health system wasn't at fault even if the patient seemed to fall through the cracks.
"The college does not tolerate this lack of communication," said Roy of the lack of coordination between Banh and the institutions he referred his patient to. "We don't have to improve the system, the doctor did not follow the procedure he should have followed."
But some improvements can be made said Phil Hassen of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute. "We need to find ways of organizing patients around physician groups so that there is a continuity of care," such as with an electronic health record, he said.
Anti-war protesters appeal directly to soldiers about to be deployed
Published: Monday, June 11, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Anti-war protesters have launched a letter-writing campaign to discourage soldiers from Quebec's Valcartier military base from participating in the next deployment to Afghanistan.
"We are writing this letter to offer you a dissenting point-of-view about your deployment that we hope will prompt you to reconsider your participation," says the two-page letter sent to 3,000 people living near the base.
Most of the soldiers being deployed will come from the Valcartier base, home to the Royal 22nd regiment or Van Doos, as they are known.
"Your deployment in Afghanistan means complicity with the civilian deaths and other activities - like the transfer of prisoners to potential torture and death - that are tantamount to war crimes," the letter says.
Marie-Noelle Beland of the Quebec Coalition for Peace, one of the four groups that signed the letter, said she knows the letters have arrived because her group has received calls from soldiers. "Some people have seen it as a way to open a dialogue - which is interesting - others got angry and said we don't understand what's going on', we expected that," Beland said.
Valcartier spokesman, Lieut. Bruno Tremblay, said Monday he hadn't heard about anybody receiving the letters, but said that they would be preaching to a crowd that's rather hard to convert.
"Let's not forget that soldiers enrolling in the Canadian Forces are volunteers to serve in such missions," and not conscripts he stressed. "The decision... is made at a political level," Tremblay added. "The letters should not be sent to the soldiers but to politicians."
Protesters say they are seek to convince soldiers and hope to recruit conscientious objectors. "If there are any we'll support them," Beland said. "We have a legal committee for that reason." The group also plans to stage a demonstration to "denounce Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan and the deployment of additional troops to Kandahar" in_Quebec City on June 22, the day some 2,000 soldiers about to be deployed, will be parading.
While the group is calling for a "peaceful" protest that wouldn't interfere with the parade, at least one participant on the online forum Independance du_Quebec called for people to jeer the soldiers and try to prevent them from parading.
Tremblay said people had a right to demonstrate but noted that the soldiers also have the right to thank the local population for its support.
"What we're defending is exactly what the demonstrators are benefiting from, their right to express their opinion and demonstrating peacefully," he said.
Quebec judge awards goalie $7,500 after he's cut from minor hockey team
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2007
A Montreal minor league hockey player was awarded $7,500 by a judge after his Midget AAA team cut him from the team after promising to keep him for the season.
Quebec Court Judge Henri Richard ruled in favour of goalie Alexandre Di Ruocco, 17, who lost a year of hockey after he was cut from the Montreal Predators for the 2005-2006 season.
The decision has potential ramifications for teams across the country as players can find themselves teamless, if a higher division cuts them and their former team has replaced them.
"Would this be a judgment that we'd be excited with? No it's not," said Glen McCurdie, a Hockey Canada spokesman. "It does have the capacity to have a negative impact certainly in the province of Quebec and perhaps beyond these borders as well."
But the boy's father, Gino, said he was "ecstatic with the judgment that was handed down. There are lots of Alexandres out there in the world that this happens to on a daily basis."
Three members of the Predators staff made the verbal promise when Di Ruocco transferred to the team but they were eventually replaced when the team's fortunes went sour, Gino said. The new staff didn't abide by the deal, he said.
"This can't go on, you can't make kids promises...," he added.
The judge established that a promise had been made and that letting the young goaltender go could compromise his hockey career, Gino recalled. He went to court after a lawyer's letter was ignored by the team.
Gino said he probably spent more on lawyer fees than was awarded in court, but he wanted to set a precedent for others.
"They seem to forget that this is a kid's game where the adults that manage these things don't take the child into perspective," and consider how decisions can affect them, he said.
The president of Quebec's Midget AAA hockey development league, Claude Gauthier, said that in his 30 years in the business he hadn't heard of many promises made to young players "because they are constantly evaluated."
He stressed the judge made clear that both the league and relevant associations were not at fault in the case and that league rules were respected. "The league has no control... the coaches choose the players," he said. David Assor, the boy's lawyer, said the judge made it clear the associations had to change their regulations to keep this from happening in the future.
Gauthier, who was involved in the court proceedings, said that he found no jurisprudence that pointed to a precedent in such a case but agreed that "if someone says he is committed to a player he has to respect that, if he doesn't and it causes moral harm he should probably be sued and should pay."
The boy is anxious to put the entire chapter behind him.
"I was real happy with the result but I won't get that season back," said Alexandre, who's been playing since he was six and turns 18 on Sunday.
He said the experience left him a bit bitter about playing hockey in Quebec and that he was looking forward to making a "fresh new start" out West. Alexander has offers from teams in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Quebec City hospital reports eight C. difficile deaths since March
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2007
QUEBEC — Fifty-two cases of C. difficile infections have resulted in eight deaths at Quebec City’s Saint-Francois d’Assise hospital since March, health officials said Wednesday.
This sudden increase in cases of the infection were reported to regional public health officials on May 28. In 2006, 12 people died from the infection at the hospital.
The average age of victims is 83, many of whom were already very ill.
“Compared to the same periods the previous year fewer number of cases of C. difficile have been counted, but our clinical teams noticed a rapid rise in complications with some patients in May,” said Louis Couture of Quebec’s University Hospital Centre.
Since health authorities were notified however, the number of new cases is down sharply, with just three cases of infection since then.
As of Wednesday regional health officials had launched an epidemiological investigation that would review all of the infection cases which emerged since March. They were also reviewing preventative measures put in place at the hospital. An inspection earlier this year revealed that measures dealing with the infection at Saint-Francois d’Assise were either good or superior to ministerial norms, said Pierre Lafleur of the regional health and social services agency.
Officials will try to determine why the sudden increase happened and whether procedures can be improved to prevent future spikes.
“Public health officials are examining different general hypotheses,” Lafleur said. “Such as a seasonal fluctuation related to the end of the flu season, where there have been more respiratory infections requiring the use of antibiotics, which can be a triggering factor.” Health officials will also look into whether another strain is surfacing.
C. difficile is a common, hospital-acquired infection. But when it strikes people weakened by illness and antibiotics, it can damage the lining of the bowel, in some cases even perforating it.
The new strain has caused an estimated 2,000 deaths in Quebec since 2003. Deaths have also occurred in Ontario.
A hospital in St. Hyacinthe, Que., east of Montreal, was put under investigation by a local health department earlier this year after it “lost control” of the infection that killed 16 patients in six months last year.
A highly lethal strain of C. difficile is one of the most dangerous superbugs today. Health officials don’t know where it came from, but the first major cases emerged alarmingly in August 2004 when the superbug was blamed in the death of 100 patients in the previous 18 months at a single hospital, the Centre Hopitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke in Quebec, some 150 kilometres east of Montreal.
Quebec may make installing car breathalyzers easierTuesday June 12, 2007 CanWest News Service QUEBEC — Quebec’s Department of Transport may make it easier for people with drinking problems to have ignition interlock systems installed in their cars. The systems, currently only installed in the cars of people in rehabilitation programs, prevent drivers from taking the wheel intoxicated. Drivers have to blow into a built-in breathalyzer that keeps the car locked down if alcohol is detected. The issue was raised Tuesday in Quebec’s National Assembly by Transport Minister Julie Boulet. Gino Desrosiers of Quebec’s motor vehicle board said Boulet “considered opening up the program to people asking for it on a voluntary basis if they submitted to the same program and conditions.” Desrosiers said that could start in a matter of weeks. The device isn’t available to everyone but is installed in vehicles of drivers in a special rehab program after they were convicted of drunk driving, he said. Some of the conditions include having the equipment recalibrated every few months. But the equipment shuts down well below the legal blood-alcohol limit of .08, Desrosiers noted. Before considering rule changes, Boulet wants to take into account a provincial committee’s transportation recommendations on matters such as photo radar and breathalyzers at the end of the month. The car breathalyzer made headlines after a man who has a chronic drinking problem but no record, voluntarily asked Quebec transport officials to install the $1,000 system, but was turned down. Desrosiers said however that the man could have obtained a doctor’s note stating his client is “a chronic alcoholic” that would have made him eligible for the rehabilitation program. A similar note on his licence renewal forms could also have allowed him into the program. Last week Quebec public-health officials said passive technology that detects alcohol in the air should be installed in all new cars to curb drunk driving.
Politician fights to keep reporting job
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, June 14, 2007
A Quebec cabinet minister is contesting her lay off from Radio-Canada after she was elected as a Liberal member of the National Assembly in the March 26 election.
Quebec Culture and Communications Minister Christine St-Pierre, a 30-year veteran reporter with the French-language arm of the CBC, was on a leave of absence and had requested an extended leave but was turned down.
St-Pierre is now fighting the decision with a grievance against Radio-Canada. St-Pierre is saying her grievance isn't in case the minority Liberal government is ousted, but is on principle. The minister has said that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would supersede any institutional regulation at Radio-Canada.
"She's entitled to her point of view," said Guylaine O'Ferrell, a spokeswoman for Radio-Canada.
The broadcaster's rules make it clear a reporter must quit when elected at the federal or provincial level. Under the heading "Political activities of company employees" Radio-Canada's rules state: "Any employee elected to the House of Commons, the legislative body of a province... ceases to be to the employ of the company following the official results of the election."
"All we've done is apply to the letter Radio-Canada's regulations," O'Ferrell said.
St-Pierre's office confirmed the grievance was lodged with Radio-Canada but would not make further comments about the dispute.
Before the campaign St-Pierre requested a leave of absence which was granted to her, said O'Ferrell. But a Radio-Canada letter clearly explained, O'Ferrell said, that if St-Pierre was defeated she would return to a position that would not "represent a conflict of interest with her political commitment, and if she was elected it automatically caused her to lose her employment."
Alex Levasseur, head of Radio-Canada's communications union said firing St-Pierre was a rather questionable decision. "Normally when running for public office Radio-Canada allows for a leave of absence for the duration of that period," he said.
"It's pretty obvious that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is rather important," Levasseur added.
It isn't the first time St-Pierre has a run-in with Radio-Canada's in-house rules. Last year she was suspended after writing an open letter in support of Canadian troops, which the network said contravened policies preventing reporters from expressing personal viewpoints on controversial issues.
During the last provincial election Quebec City Radio-Canada reporter Bernard Drainville was also elected for the Parti Quebecois and was given the same letter, said O'Ferrell. In his case there were no grievances.
Drainville and St-Pierre are just the latest former Radio-Canada reporters to go from asking the questions on the small screen to those answering them. Michaelle Jean also worked at the network before she became Governor General in 2005. Rideau Hall spokesperson Isabelle Serrurier said Jean had advised her bosses that she had planned on accepting the nomination for Governor General and "she no longer has a professional affiliation to the station for obvious conflict of interest reasons."
In 1976, Rene Levesque was elected Quebec's first Parti Quebecois premier after spending years at the network.
Pedophile found out by one of his victims
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
A convicted pedophile was on the board of a centre housing intellectually handicapped children until he was confronted by one of his victims earlier this month.
The head of the Centre Louise Bibeau in St-Hyacinthe, 65 kilometres east of Montreal, learned about the man's priors from someone who had come to register her child at the facility.
Josiane Deslandes, 28, said she was sexually assaulted by Yves Plante, then her mother's boyfriend, for three years from the age of eight and testified at the closed hearing that put him away for 41/2 years.
He actually served a year and seven months, and when Deslandes took her three-year-old daughter to register her on June 5, Plante was the one who opened the door.
"Shock does not start to describe what I felt," said Deslandes, who had just ended a year of therapy that day and had come to the centre to find some support to raise her handicapped daughter.
"Seeing him that day answered the question I was asking myself: are you really healed?" she said.
Deslandes immediately asked to see the head of the centre, Sylvie Gazaille, storming into her office. "The man who just opened the door for me is called Yves Plante and he was my aggressor for three years ... what is he doing here?" she recalled asking Gazaille.
The news came as a shock to members of the centre's board. "It was like the world flipped upside down," said board member Daniel Lanoie.
Soon after Deslandes notified the board Plante was told to "cease his activities" at the centre, said Lanoie.
Plante officially quit his post last week at the end of his mandate, which was to oversee the reconstruction of the building, Deslandes said. "He was not in contact with children but he was still here."
Plante had been a volunteer for at least a year and a half at the centre. Lanoie said the centre quickly altered its hiring policy and that someone would be coming in soon to screen all of the staff, but it's too late for Deslandes. "I just lost all confidence in the place," she said.
Suspected Basque militant arrested in Quebec City
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2007
CanWest News Service
QUEBEC - Canadian police have arrested a suspected member of the Basque militant group ETA, their second such detention in a week, Spain’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
The RCMP arrested Ivan Apaolaza Sancho, 35, in Quebec City after discovering he was carrying false papers and lacked permission to stay in Canada, the ministry told Reuters News Agency.
He had been sought by Spain and was on a European Union list of terrorism suspects for his possible involvement in attacks after ETA broke a ceasefire in 1999.
In Montreal, a spokesman for the RCMP confirmed that a man had been arrested in Quebec City on Wednesday morning but gave no further details. Quebec City police said they observed the arrest which was conducted by the RCMP, assisted by Quebec provincial police.
For Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, the arrest was a sign of the effectiveness of Canada’s security services.
“I can’t say anything that would in any way, you know, influence a case, influence charges or an investigation but it does show that our security forces are vigilant,” Day commented on Wednesday evening. “It shows that they do — that they are aware when there are possible risks coming into the country or in the country itself and they take action on those.”
Earlier this month ETA, which is fighting for Basque independence from Spain, called off another ceasefire which had lasted 14 months. That truce had effectively ended in December when Madrid airport was bombed — an attack that killed two.
Wednesday’s arrest brought to six the number of ETA arrests in June, following last week’s detention of 50-year-old Bittor Tejedor Bilbao in Vancouver, three in France and another in Mexico. In April, three suspects were arrested in Britain. Spanish police alleged Bilbao was part of a separatist commando unit that placed explosives at two electrical plants in the Basque region of Spain in June and August 1981.
Deportation and extradition cases involving political refugee claimants can take months or years to complete under Canadian laws.
Spain said Apaolaza may have been involved in a car bombing in January 2000 that killed army officer Pedro Antonio Blanco Garcia, ETA’s first murder after ending its 1999 ceasefire.
In abandoning its truce, ETA vowed to attack the Spanish government “on all fronts.”
With files from the Montreal Gazette.
Montreal student held in Iran asks for her release
Published: Friday, June 22, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
MONTREAL -- A Montreal doctoral student prevented from leaving Tehran says she should be let go because authorities have not found her guilty of breaking any laws.
Documentary filmmaker Mehrnoushe Solouki has dual French and Iranian nationality and is being held as a threat to national security, in a case vaguely reminiscent of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in an Iranian jail.
In a phone conversation with Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom organization which has written twice to French officials to intervene in the affair, Solouki says she did not understand the Iranian authorities' motives for keeping her. "Why am I still being held in Iran?" she asked. "Didn't I have the consent and politically sacrosanct authorizations of Iranian officials to come to Iran? To spend time here and to film? Have I broken any rule, any of the rules laid down by the Islamic Republic? After an investigation, the Iranian judicial authorities concluded that I had not."
Solouki went to Iran in December 2006 to make a documentary about the events that followed the 1988 cease-fire between Iraq and Iran. She was arrested on last February and was held in Evin prison.
Her French passport was returned to her but Iranian authorities are still holding on to all her notes and a portable hard drive that contains 70 per cent of the film she shot.
Evin prison was the one photographed byKazemi before she was arrested and beaten to death during interrogation, an event which has since tainted Canada's relations with Iran.
"So why I am still being held in Iran? Am I guilty because I have French citizenship? Because I resided in Canada?" she asked. "Because I am an independent filmmaker? The interior ministry's silence does not bode well."
Reporters Without Borders is deploring the silence of Iranian authorities. "The Iranian authorities are saying nothing," a statement from the organization said. "While no charges were brought against her after she spent a month in detention, the Tehran prosecutor's office is awaiting a green light from the intelligence ministry to allow her to leave the country."
The group says her family has mortgaged their home to pay for the large amount required to make bail. She was finally released on March 19 after paying over $115,000 in bail but is not allowed to leave the country.
Native group “disgusted” after building vandalized
CanWest News Service
KITIGAN ZIBI ALGONQUIN FIRST NATION, QUE. — A Quebec native community was shocked to wake up to racist graffiti on its cultural centre Thursday but officials vowed the act of vandalism wouldn’t deter plans to enjoy National Aboriginal Day.
Police chief Gordon McGregor said people in the community, about 100 kilometres north of Ottawa, were “disgusted” when they discovered their cultural centre spray-painted with graffiti depicting swastikas, “SS signs” and the inscription “white power.”
The damage was made overnight all around the building between midnight and 4 a.m., according to McGregor, but he couldn’t say whether it was made to coincide with the holiday.
He said there haven’t been previous acts of vandalism nor tensions with neighbours in the area. “We don’t know what the motivation is but it dealt a serious blow to our people here,” he said. “This shouldn’t happen in any society.”
The tents and picnic tables set up for National Aboriginal Day, on Thursday, were also destroyed.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine called for the incident a “hate crime” and said it should be investigated and resolved as quickly as possible.
“I am deeply saddened, shocked and gravely concerned that such a heinous hate crime could be committed against the people of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation,” Fontaine said in a statement.
“This crime is a hate crime, and it harms all First Nations people, everywhere.”
“We expect that this hate crime will receive the same kind of thorough and serious investigation that other hate crimes have received in the past, such as the firebombings (of a Jewish school) in Montreal,” Fontaine said.
McGregor said he wasn’t sure when people would start to remove the markings. “People are stunned by what occurred and are trying to gather themselves,” he said.
Celebrations around the centre were still going to take place “just to make sure it’s not going to deter us in any way,” McGregor said.
Mostly peaceful rallies, some disruption planned for native day of action
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Thursday, June 28, 2007
As Canada's native groups prepared to mark a national day of action Friday, raising awareness about issues touching their communities, at least one group was considering disruptive action to make its message heard.
Most groups are planning peaceful demonstrations such as marches and cultural events, but the Tyendinaga Mohawk reserve in eastern Ontario said this week it would consider Ontario Highway 401 and the CN rail main line that runs between Toronto and Montreal to be "credible targets" for blockades.
In a statement Wednesday, Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine sought to downplay the statement "While these comments have been widely reported they are isolated comments and do not reflect the position of the Assembly of First Nations," he said in a statement.
"We respectfully urge Canadians not to criminalize First Nations people with respect to the actions they plan to take on June 29th and beyond. Our people do have a right to protest, as do all Canadians," he further said. "We understand the frustration that exists among too many of our people. Our objective in organizing the National Day of Action is to provide a positive channel for that energy."
Wednesday VIA rail warned passengers that a potential blockade could impact service to or from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax. "While VIA has not received any official confirmation of planned actions," it said on its web page, "we wish to advise passengers who need to travel on June 29th on the above noted services, so that they can make alternate transportation plans if they wish to do so."
Ontario's is an isolated case according to Bryan Hendry spokesman for the AFN.
"That's only one person Shawn Brant," he said, adding that the chief of Manitoba's Roseau River First Nation had removed his threat of blockades after Ottawa settled an old claim by turning over acres of urban land. Instead a four-kilometre walk from Roseau, Man., to a nearby CN rail line and an open-air concert was scheduled.
In Winnipeg, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs planned a similar peaceful march from the legislature to a downtown market followed by a concert to showcase aboriginal musicians, dancers and singers, not limited to aboriginal people.
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, near the Ontario and Quebec borders, was however planning a large protest at the base of the Seaway International Bridge, according to the AFN's list of day events.
New Brunswick's Woodstock First Nation and Quebec's Wendanke First Nation were also up for "traffic slowdown" in the schedule.
In the Yukon, the Carcross First Nation was considering "Rail/Highway blockades." A spokesperson for the group said it would not sanction such action and that peaceful demonstrations were officially planned for the day.
In Quebec, the local chapter of the AFN, which had been suggesting that other Quebec bands demonstrate peacefully, was going to pass leaflets. But a spokesperson noted that native bands were free to demonstrate as they pleased.
The group had promoted the notion of "building bridges not blockading them," said Chief Ghislain Picard. "Any blockade or demonstration of civil disobedience would be severely denounced," stressed Picard about June 29.
Kitigan Zibi Chief Stephen McGregor said his community wasn't planning anything out of the ordinary for that day, but deplored blockades "which don't further any cause". "Negotiating is the best approach to anything," he said. "The only thing that blockading does in the end is just cause aggravation."
His Algonquin community, some 100 kilometres north of Ottawa, was still reeling from last week's vandalism of its cultural centre which left it defaced with racist markings.
Security increased at airports, border crossings
Published: Monday, July 02, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
North American airports and borders, already preparing to deal with the crush of holidays and summer travel season, stepped up security over the weekend in the wake of terror-related incidents in London and Glasgow.
On Sunday Canadian airports were advised by Transport Canada to be extra vigilant in the wake of this weekend's terrorist attack on Glasgow airport in Scotland, an incident that occurred a day after British police foiled car-bomb plots in London.
The call was quickly heeded, said a spokeswoman for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
"At all the screening checkpoints at the 89 airports, screening officers are carrying out the screening functions with increased vigilance," said Anna-Karina Tabunar.
While this didn't mean more staff to oversee security, it did mean agents were "being extra watchful."
One Transport Canada directive called for personnel to "watch out more for airport perimeters and vehicles," said Tabunar, who added this would be the responsibility of individual airports.
"If he said take extra vigilance, that's exactly what we're doing," Ali Hounsell of Vancouver International Airport said of Cannon's message, without offering more details.
At the Greater Toronto Airport Authority a message recorded on the day of the Glasgow attack said "security was at an appropriate level for today's events."
U.S. airports began tightening security Saturday in the wake of the U.K. incidents. Travellers at New York's major airports were warned that "vehicles entering the airport are subject to random search, please allow extra time when driving to the airport" on the Port Authority of N.Y. and New Jersey website.
A terminal at JFK Airport was briefly evacuated Sunday following the discovery of a suspect package which turned out to be harmless.
The head of U.S. Homeland Security said there were no plans to raise the nationwide colour-coded terror threat level.
"At this point, I have seen no specific, credible information suggesting that this latest incident is connected to a threat to the homeland. We have no plans at this time to change the national threat level," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a statement. "However, in an abundance of caution during this holiday period, DHS will be implementing plans to increase our security measures at U.S. airports, mass transit and other transportation facilities. Some of these measures will be visible; others will not."
Melisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, said "obviously when something happens like this, the level of exchange of information (between various agencies including RCMP and overseas) increases as well as the level of vigilance."
British airports remained on critical alert Monday after a terminal at London's Heathrow was closed briefly Sunday when a "suspicious package" was discovered by authorities. It was later cleared. Glasgow airport re-opened Sunday with limited service.
On Monday police arrested three more people over a weekend car bombing at Glasgow airport, bringing to eight the number of suspects detained after three failed attacks which put Britain on maximum alert.
The incidents occurred soon after the release of a video purporting to show Taliban militants graduating from training camps before being sent off to the U.S., Canada, Britain and other European countries on suicide missions. Canada has been named by al-Qaida in the past as a terrorist target.
"Times like these definitely raise awareness across the world with different security agencies," said Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Andrea Kent. "We are always on alert and always very vigilant for anything that could possibly threaten Canadians."
Some border crossings in B.C. and Quebec were testing the patience of passengers for over an hour and a half on Monday, according to the CBSA website.
Agents were dealing with extra cross-border traffic, Kent said. "To respond to that influx in traffic we maximize our resources and will do things like putting extra officers on shifts that we know are busy. We monitor the traffic regularly."
Derek Humble, a senior security specialist with G4S Security Services, a private security firm, said Canada lacks the appropriate security mindset. He recommended posting 1-800 numbers publicly to report suspicious activity.
"The people in this country only have one alternative means of communicating with the police and that is 911," he said.
"The problem is, it is overkill. If there were posted signs in areas vulnerable, key transportation sites, the airport, Union Station (in Toronto) ... that would give me some form of sense these guys (government) were taking things seriously, but unfortunately I don't think they are."
As with after the bombings of the London transit system in 2005, Canada is reacting too late to the latest overseas threat, Humble said. He criticized the lack of "expediency and sensibility from the government at any level."
Canada shouldn't fear scaring off tourists by publicizing security measures, he added, especially not in an environment where Canada's military presence in Afghanistan could inspire terrorists to strike at home.
Canadian fertility research shines at conference
Published: Tuesday, July 03
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Groundbreaking fertility techniques and a study correlating infertility treatment with negative moods have put Canadian reproductive research at the forefront of a major international conference in France this week.
The 23rd annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lyon has been presented with reproductive studies from McGill University and the London Health Sciences Centre, showcasing Canadian know-how in reproductive research and technologies.
"I think Canadian research is really up there and we are among the world leaders in the field," said Dr. Seang Lin Tan, head of the McGill Reproductive Centre, in a phone interview from Lyon.
On Monday the Centre's researchers revealed the first baby to be created from an egg matured in a laboratory, frozen, thawed and then fertilized, had been born in Canada about a year ago.
In a breakthrough treatment that opened new venues for fertilization the baby girl was born to a woman diagnosed with advanced ovarian disease, and three other women in the 20-person trial group are pregnant by the same technique, according to researchers.
Usually the eggs - harvested after stimulating the ovaries with hormones - are fertilized in-vitro with their partner's sperm, then frozen. The eggs are then thawed and implanted. But the Canadian technique recovered the egg from unstimulated ovaries and were only fertilized after they had been frozen and then thawed, not before.
"The baby was born healthily about a year ago," Tan said, adding the method represented a breakthrough to help women with cancer who are at risk of losing their fertility because of chemotherapy.
Tan said the egg was frozen by a "new method of freezing" developed at McGill which has vastly improved the survival rates of eggs, improving chances of bringing fertility treatment to terms with a birth.
In another case, which has raised eyebrows and ethical issues, involves a Quebec woman, Melanie Boivin, who donated her eggs to her daughter who is sterile because of a genetic condition called Turner's syndrome.
When 7-year-old Flavie Boivin comes of age to bear children through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), she will have the option of doing so. But she would also be giving birth to her half-brother or sister.
Tan conceded this scrambling of generations raised ethical issues but noted that Flavie can choose not to use the eggs and noted that ethics may evolve between now and when she is mature enough to bear child.
"It opens up the possibility that in the future mothers can freeze eggs to help their daughters if their daughters have a medical condition," Tan stressed.
Then again the eggs may be given away as the country suffers from a shortage of egg donors which he in part attributes to new federal regulations that ban the selling of women's eggs.
In another presentation in Lyon, Canadian doctors at the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont. have found that mood swings heavily influenced a woman's fertility choices when considering IVF treatment.
Research headed by Dr. Christopher Newton unveiled a link, among 129 female infertility patients surveyed one month before IVF treatment, between a negative state of mind and a greater willingness to take risk, in this case by choosing to receive multiple embryos rather than a single one.
Research shows that pregnancies with single embryos suffer less complications while multiple embryo implants offer a higher chance of a pregnancy.
"We found a significant association between women's mood states and their perceptions of the likelihood of a multiple pregnancy. Women estimated their chance of having a multiple pregnancy as lower when they were experiencing more negative moods," Newton said in a statement. "One possible explanation is that negative moods lead women to knowingly make more risky choices."
Newton said this can lead to better understanding of the importance of couples' emotional health during IVF treatment, and the effect this has on their decision-making.
About one in six Canadian couples is affected by infertility and the rate is increasing because women are having children at an older age and have greater access to birth-control pills, Tan said.
Longueuil bank robber surrenders after standoff
CanWest News Service
A tense hostage-taking situation following an apparent botched bank hold-up in Longueuil ended without incident Thursday when a 52-year-old man turned himself to police.
“What is important to remember is that the five hostages were all released and are safe and sound with no apparent injuries,” said Jayson Gauthier, a Quebec provincial police spokesman. “The suspect also doesn’t appear to have been hurt.”
“He turned himself into police voluntarily,” said Constable Gaetan Durocher of Longueuil police. The man was taken into custody and will appear in court Friday to face a series of charges.
He gave himself up at 5:30 p.m., after more than eight hours of negotiating with police.
His last hostage had been released about four hours earlier.
Three Laurentian Bank employees left the bank by themselves at 9:40 a.m. About two hours later a woman left the branch, taking advantage of something distracting the suspect.
Initially, police responded to an alarm going off at the bank on Montreal’s south shore at 9 a.m. The bank branch is on Chambly Rd. near Jacques Cartier Blvd.
The first officers who responded noticed an armed man inside the bank. They decided to call for back up and wait.
Manon Gaignard of the Surete du Quebec said three women who worked at the bank were released less than an hour later.
“At around 11:20 (a.m.) a woman managed to leave the bank on her own. She took advantage of a moment where the suspect was not paying attention to her,” Gaignard said.
At 1:40 p.m. a man, the fifth hostage, was released from the bank. Gaignard said the robber agreed to let this hostage go.
The gunman remains inside the bank and SQ is in contact with him. Gaignard said the SQ hopes he will surrender himself voluntarily.
“When we arrived we noticed bizarre movement inside and we noticed that someone was armed inside,” said Constable Gaetan Durocher of the Longueuil police in reference to when the officers first arrived.
After the first officers called for backup several officers arrived at the scene, Durocher said adding the bank had just opened when the robbery took place.
“The priority was to secure the area, which we did by setting up a security perimeter.,” he said.
The Place Desormeaux shopping mall, which is across the street from the bank, was evacuated as were several homes in the area.
The police also closed off access to Chambly Rd. between Jacques Cartier Blvd and Desormeaux St. Heavily armed SWAT team officers could be seen on Chambly Rd. with their weapons drawn.
A witness saw the first three hostages as they left the bank.
“They didn’t appear to be panicked but I was far away from the bank at that point,” said Richard Desjardins who was at a neighbouring bank when the alarm at the Laurentian Bank went off.
None of the hostages was injured and no shots have been fired, Durocher said.
The SQ was called in to take charge of the operation to lend assistance with negotiations and with other aspects of the operation.
“This kind of operation is necessary when you have a hostage or a possible hostage (situation),” said SQ Constable Manon Gaignard. “That is the structure that we put in place to intervene in this kind of event.”
Soldier sentenced to house arrest for sexual assault
Published: Thursday, July 05
CanWest News Service
QUEBEC - A Valcartier-based Canadian Forces soldier has been denied an absolute discharge that would have allowed him to serve in Afghanistan.
Instead he was sentenced Thursday to 15 months to be served in the community for sexual assault.
The sentence could end the two-year military career of Pierre-Olivier Boulet, 22.
"This is not the kind of person we want to represent the country overseas, that's for sure," said Crown prosecutor Sarah Julie Chicoine.
But defence attorney Richard-Philippe Guay said there would be an appeal in the case later this year and Boulet remains a soldier in the mean time.
Guay had asked for the absolute discharge so Boulet could serve in Afghanistan, but Quebec Court Judge Carol St Cyr said that would have meant trivializing the crime.
Boulet will be under 24-hour house arrest for the first five months except for work-related matters, leaving him an opportunity to still serve in the military, Guay said. The judge did not prevent him from having access to weapons, he added. "There's still a good chance the army will keep him," Guay said.
Military officials say his case will be looked at in Ottawa.
"Basically, for a serious offence, like a serious crime, the file of the soldier is looked at right away," said Capt. Eric Chamberlain, a spokesman for CFB Valcartier.
"And if he's released from the forces because of a crime he will have a dishonorable discharge and he won't be able to rejoin the Forces after that," Chamberlain said.
Boulet was found guilty in February of sexual assault on a 19-year-old woman, a friend's sister, in 2004. Boulet claimed the act had been consensual.
Boulet was originally scheduled to be deployed in 2006 but the trial postponed his departure. If he wins his appeal he could possibly be deployed next year, Guay said.
Boulet's sentence will be followed by 18 months of probation. He must also make a donation of $1,500 to a victim of crimes group.
"It's a partial victory," Chicoine said.
"The victim said she was happy with the ruling because she thought that if the person would have had a conditional or unconditional discharge, it would have been not a good thing," she added.
Thieves lured by shine of metal money from coast to coast
CanWest News Service
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Aluminum billboards disappearing in Vancouver, stainless steel tanker trucks reported stolen in Quebec, a copper wire theft in New Brunswick resulting in a death, beer kegs in Nova Scotia and a two-tonne bronze statue snagged from an Ontario park.
Across the country no metal item seems too big or too small as police report an increasing number of incidents they are associating with the growing black market for scrap metal.
The phenomenon is nationwide, but British Columbia has seen the most frequent incidents, says Len Shaw, executive director of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries, while Ontario takes the cake in terms of the volume of metal stolen.
In January, thieves made off with aluminum bleachers at a baseball diamond in Ucluelet, B.C. The province has been dealing for months with the theft of scrap metal from Vancouver billboards and memorial plaques removed from park benches in Nanaimo, among other targets.
"B.C. has very specific social problems, drugs, etc," Shaw explained. "They're looking for cash, they go steal a billboard made of aluminum for quick money."
The metals that are getting the most attention from thieves are bronze, stainless steel, copper and aluminum.
Metal theft spares no industry or borders. According to the California Farm Bureau, metal theft in rural areas there doubled in 2005 and shot up another 400 per cent in 2006, so the state is now considering legislation to make it harder for thieves to make a quick buck off stolen scrap.
In Michigan, authorities tripled the deposit on beer kegs to discourage thieves from selling them to scrap dealers.
Shaw says the phenomenon isn't necessarily new, but the size and frequency of thefts are, boosted by the fact scrap metal is a basic supply and demand issue and commodity prices are high all over the world.
But copper is a prized metal and there is a shortage in inventories, leading to higher prices, which in turn is encouraging more thefts across the nation's construction and utility sites.
The price of copper reached an eight-week high of US$3.5935 a pound -- it was US$1 a pound in 2003 -- at the New York Mercantile Exchange this past week. It has been fuelled by the U.S. housing boom and, more recently, China and India's seemingly boundless growth.
Often outshone by more precious metals, copper is commonly used in many daily items, for electricity, computer components, data and phone transmissions, plumbing as well as various household appliances.
And some thieves will take great risks for a few metres of copper wire.
In May, an attempt to break into a New Brunswick power substation to steal copper wires resulted in the electrocution of one of the two thieves.
There have been 75 break-ins at substations across the province in the last 18 months, despite tighter security.
"Some folks are just willing to take that risk," observed Sgt. Greg MacAvoy of the Charlotte County, N.B., RCMP. "Commonly, we find that a lot of folks involved in this type of activity are desperate for cash to support an addiction and are willing to do all sorts of things."
While metal fever seems to be spreading across the country, some regions are noticeably spared. Alberta has reported few incidents, probably due to the province's current boom, said Shaw, of the recyclng industry association.
"I guess, frankly, even the thieves out there have jobs," he said with a laugh.
In his quiet corner of southwestern New Brunswick, MacAvoy said that in his 15 years in the RCMP, it's only this spring that cases of metal theft really started surging.
"The price of metals is rising, making them a little more appealing," he said. "Several years ago copper wire probably wouldn't have been at the top of their list."
Local government officials had recently been noticing how aluminum road signs seemed to be disappearing at a growing frequency, he added.
In addition to the value of the metal stolen, inconvenience costs also have to be factored in, MacAvoy said, such as reconstruction costs, extra man-hours of work and interruption of public services.
Overall, the RCMP said it doesn't have a specialized team investigating metal theft, but if thefts continue at this rate, community groups, businesses and even governments may start clamouring for some kind of national plan.
Among the more peculiar items recovered from scrap yards recently was the 135-kilogram bell stolen from Plymouth-Trinity United Church in Sherbrooke, Que. It was recovered in a Montreal scrapyard last March.
Parishioners were fortunate the mass of yellow brass only made it 150 kilometres away. In some cases, large items have quickly been sent overseas.
Last December, a two-tonne bronze statue of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko was pulled from its park perch in Oakville, Ont. It's believed to have been shipped to China to be melted down. Only its head was found.
How big does metal theft get? Quebec's trucking association is concerned it is being targeted by metal thieves after a dozen stainless steel and aluminum tankers were stolen in the last couple of months. It suspects their rigs are also joining the scrap heap after being stripped of valuable steel.
"They don't show up at a local scrap yard," Shaw said of large items. "They're pretty much, we expect, put into a container and shipped overseas."
The metal theft boom has given scrap dealers a bad name, Shaw points out, despite the fact they're also frequent targets and his association has promoted ethical business practices.
"We are a very large target for these types of thefts," Shaw stressed. In addition, it's hard to track down where much of the material comes from.
"Police are having tremendous difficulty obtaining convictions because they are unable to do that," he said.
UFO show features Canadian
Published: Friday, July 13
CanWest News Service
The truth is out there, and Stanton Friedman will soon get to tell the masses about it. The trained nuclear physicist turned ufologist from Fredericton believes aliens have visited Earth, and governments don't want people to know.
Now, he is about to tell a planetary audience about it.
Friedman is heading to Los Angeles to address his largest audience yet on a CNN Larry King Live special segment tonight marking the 60th anniversary of the Roswell incident.
"People are excited by factual information; they also want to know why, why the cover up, why would aliens come here," Friedman said.
Roswell, N.M., was the site of a July 1947 crash, after which ufologists claim space aliens were sighted.
Ten years ago, a U.S. Air Force report concluded that people who reported seeing alien bodies at the crash site near Roswell were actually describing U.S. Air Force dummies used in high- altitude parachute drops. This hasn't made ufology less of a popular subject and reinforces Friedman's belief that Roswell is the subject of a Cosmic Watergate.
Friedman appears on the show with former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Jesse Marcel Jr. - whose father was a military intelligence officer who examined the Roswell debris field.
"It's just a milestone and also it makes you reflect on the fact that they've been covering things up for 60 years," Friedman said.
After becoming interested in ufology early on in his scientific career, Friedman turned his passion into a specialization and is now considered an authority on the subject.
"I'm not a masochist. I'm not in this to get a hard time. I've only had 11 hecklers in over 700 lectures and two of them were drunk; and I come on very strong," he said. "I'm not an apologist ufologist." Friedman admits he's excited about appearing on the show, which is rebroadcast around the world on CNN International.
"We need to recognize that we're not the big shots in the neighbourhood, maybe we'll grow up a little bit," he said. "Anything I can do that gets people to look at the big picture is worth doing." Friedman, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, received BSc and MSc degrees in physics from the University of Chicago and was employed for 14 years as a nuclear physicist for such companies as General Electric, General Motors and McDonnell Douglas.
He has lectured on the topic of Flying Saucers ARE Real! for 40 years at more than 600 colleges and more than 100 professional groups in 50 states, nine provinces and in 16 other countries.
Friedman has published more than 80 UFO papers and has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows. His website describes him as " the original civilian investigator of the Roswell Incident."
Jews facing “gathering storm,” Canadian MP tells Israel audience
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Jews are facing a “gathering storm” with multiple threats from Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaida, Hamas and international terrorism unmatched since the 1930s, former justice minister Irwin Cotler told a Jerusalem conference on Tuesday.
Speaking on the opening day of the Conference on the Future of the Jewish People, Cotler warned that “radical Islam threatens international peace, security and human rights” and moderate Muslims as well as Jews, amounting to an environment Israel hasn’t seen since the rise of Nazi Germany.
Cotler expressed concerns about a dangerous Mideast threat environment combining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran with the election of Hamas in Palestinian elections and emergence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon “as a state within a state,” he said in his keynote speech entitled The Gathering Storm.
While many of these developments are at least a year old the events “have not only intensified but congealed, constituting now what may be called a gathering storm.” He noted that when Hamas took over the Gaza strip and refugee camps in Lebanon that both erupted in violence due to the infiltration of islamic militants.
“Since last year Iran not only continues to incite a Mideast Holocaust but now also denies that the European one occurred,” he said. “There’s been a quantum leap forward in Iran acquiring lethal atomic capabilities and increased state support for international and Mideast terrorism.”
Cotler also criticized the United Nations Human Rights Council for passing many resolutions against Israel while letting offending countries off the hook, constituting “a country-specific indictment.”
But Israel can count on geopolitics and allies it didn’t have in the 1930s, he stressed.
“It is not 1938. There is a Jewish state as an antidote to Jewish vulnerability,” he said. “There are non-Jews prepared to join together in common cause with the Jewish people and Israel’s not alone.” It can count on allies such as Canada and the U.S. as well as developing relations with emerging powers such as China and India.
“I do believe there is a gathering storm, but there is no inevitability about the negatives,” said the Liberal MP and Opposition Critic for Human Rights.
The conference, organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, brings together Jewish leaders from around the world to discuss strategies to deal with threats and challenges facing Jewish people.
Some 120 participants, including Israel’s President-elect Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as well as former U.S. envoy to Israel Dennis Ross, were taking part in the conference.
Reflecting this balance of threats and opportunity, Olmert urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to begin direct peace negotiations between the two countries on Tuesday, one day after Olmert reiterated Israel’s determination to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Olmert has come under pressure to resign after a government report accused him of committing a series of errors in his handling of the war in Lebanon last summer.
The fighting broke out on July 12, 2006 and left 1,100 Lebanese dead, mostly from Israeli air raids, but also killed 163 Israelis. Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel before a United Nations-brokered ceasefire was declared on Aug. 14.
Drowning dangers peak this week
Published: Saturday, July 14, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Canadians seeking refuge from the dog days of summer at water's edge take note: This week is the peak time for drownings in Canada.
National Drowning Prevention Week, which starts today, is situated smack in the middle of July for a good reason. This is the month of the year that sees the most drownings in Canada, said Suzanne Gorman, executive director of the Lifesaving Society.
Drowning, according to the Lifesaving Society, is the third leading cause of unintentional death for Canadians under the age of 60 and it takes 400 victims every year.
A majority of the victims drown in natural bodies of water and are male, many of whom never intended to hit the water, Gorman explained.
"Over seventy per cent are male," she said. "Less than one-third of the victims intended to get wet, which means they're usually in a boat, fishing or in land transportation or walking along rivers' edges."
More than 75 per cent of drownings occur in natural bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and oceans.
A little more than five per cent happen in backyard pools, five times more than in public pools.
"For children, our recommendations to parents is to keep them within arm's reach," Gorman said. "It only takes a moment for things to go from perfectly fine to trouble."
Safety advocates also say wearing a lifejacket and leaving alcohol at home when going on boating trips, as well as following a lifeguarding course, can go a long way toward avoiding tragedies.
While drownings occur across the country, the issue has made its way onto Quebec's political landscape thanks to a few high-profile cases.
Tabled in June, Quebec's bill 18 would standardize province-wide norms for pool safety that currently vary from one municipality to another. The bill is aimed at private pools where on average 11 drownings happen every year in the province -- the worst record in the country. Of those deaths, half involve children under five.
"It's important to control access to private pools," said Raynald Hawkins of the Quebec Lifeguarding Society.
Gorman says the bill, which she believes is a first in Canada, is being closely followed.
The Union of Quebec Municipalities applauded bill 18 but stressed cities and towns shouldn't bear the cost of improving residential pool safety alone.
It said pool-makers, stores, installers and insurance companies need to share the costs.
Protesters gathering for three-nation summit
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
OTTAWA - Protest groups are assembling for what they say will be a major demonstration to coincide with the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America summit bringing together the leaders of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. east of Ottawa next month.
Unfazed by being asked to move a scheduled public forum on SPP from its planned location close to Montebello, Que., the site where the leaders are gathering, for security reasons, the Council of Canadians says it is holding the event in Ottawa and calling for a National Day of Action. Protests are planned for Aug. 19, the eve of the two-day summit during which the leaders will gather to discuss bilateral issues.
Spokesman Stewart Trew said the same sort of protests that greeted George W. Bush in his last visit in 2004 should greet the U.S. president here, including a march passing in front of the Mexican and U.S. embassies and ending on Parliament Hill -about 60 kilometres away from the site of the meetings.
"The Council of Canadians has been following the Security and Prosperity Partnership since the 2005 when the leaders of all three countries signed it without public discussion or parliamentary debate," Trew said. "So our position is basically that all talks leading to deeper integration between the three countries should cease until there has been a full public debate on this."
Trew said that in addition the Council is critical the SPP would give U.S. companies control over Canadian resources, make Canada's foreign policy less independent and harmonize security measures targeting innocent Canadians.
A number of groups from Toronto and Montreal have expressed interest about joining in the protest he said. Some groups reported already booking buses to attend the rally.
The Canadian Peace Alliance and Quebec-based Collectif Echec a la guerre were two groups jointly calling for demonstrations to coincide with the summit.
So far police have said little about security measures but they are expected to be tight. Last month, a town official in Montebello said police were planning to erect a 25-kilometre security perimeter around the town, with checkpoints as far away as Thurso, Que. and Hawkesbury, Ont. In comparison, a 6.5-kilometre radius security zone surrounded Kananaskis, Alta., during the G8 Summit held there in 2002.
Boy dies as ambulance teams argued over transport to hospital
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
A Montreal-area woman is charging that ambulance teams were too busy arguing to help save her son who ended up dying after a scooter accident.
The parents of a 14-year-old boy are lodging a complaint with two ambulance companies they say argued for nearly an hour over transferring their gravely injured son, Marc-Olivier Chayer, to hospital.
“I don’t know if he would have died or not, but I was told that when they transfer people it’s because there’s a good chance he can be treated,” said Danielle Gaudreau. “They don’t transfer them for just any reason. If they were sure he was going to die they wouldn’t transfer him. But they had the opportunity to treat him, to save him.”
The regional health agency said it was investigating whether procedures were followed, and if so whether they should be changed.
“What has occurred is unacceptable to us, this sort of call should be handled within 15 minutes, it took 50 so it’s inadequate,” director Jean-Claude Berlinguet told the all-news, French-language channel LCN.
The boy was going to work picking strawberries early on the morning of July 12, riding his scooter, when he was involved in an accident south of Montreal. He was rushed to Pierre-Le Gardeur hospital east of Montreal where he received initial treatment. The severity of the injuries he sustained required that he be transferred to Montreal for treatment. That’s when the argument between ambulance companies began.
Ambulance personnel at the hospital representing two separate regional services — Services Prehospitaliers Laurentide-Lanaudiere and Ambulances Lanaudiere — argued about being unable to transfer the boy, one because it would have meant overtime, and the other because it wasn’t in the right coverage area, Gaudreau said.
Ambulance technicians could be heard swearing and arguing over who should transfer the boy, she recalled. Then one of the men she was told would do so stormed out of a room swearing. Gaudreau said she was told by a nurse he wasn’t mad at her son but because his dispatcher wouldn’t let him leave because he was doing overtime. “They’re arguing because they want to leave but they can’t,” Gaudreau said the nurse told her. Gaudreau said she was going through hell.
“I knew my boy was hemorrhaging, it was the liver and that’s essential,” she said. “We knew he was in a stable but critical situation.”
An ambulance eventually picked up the boy 50 minutes later but he was pronounced dead at the Montreal hospital.
Services Prehospitaliers Laurentide-Lanaudiere, has opened an internal investigation. Head of operations Francois Galarneau says overtime wasn’t an issue in the matter but rather trouble coordinating resources because ambulances arriving at the hospital were already carrying patients that required a certain turn-around.
But it isn’t the first time the ambulance service is the subject of complaints, Gaudreau said.
Traditional ways a solution for natives on thin ice
Published: Sunday, July 29, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Canadian natives struggling to keep their traditions alive are being told that the old ways can be life-saving for aboriginals who are on thin ice.
A four-year study in six northern Quebec communities into climate change by the Kativik Regional Government is recommending that if people want to avoid falling through thinning ice being blamed on global warming, they should use dog teams instead of snowmobiles.
"The switch from dogsled to snowmobile has had an impact on the security of transport," the report notes. "To minimize the negative impact on travel security of thin and unstable ice due to global warming, the use of sleds pulled by dog teams could be favoured during some periods of winter, such as the beginning."
The report makes plain the impact global warming is having on the traditional trail network of the north. It stresses that dogs represent a "very efficient navigation device," able to sniff around for trails, signal when the ice is thin, and can help pull a sled out of the water should it fall through. The report quotes Inuit elders saying that the number of accidents increased in the north with the introduction of snowmobiles.
"No one is asking hunters to part with snowmobiles and use (just) dog teams," insists Julie Grenier, spokeswoman for the KRG. Besides "there aren't enough dogs for dog teaming in Nunavik," she added.
Martin Tremblay, who is researching infrastructure safety for the KRG in a project that looks at changes along the trail networks, says Inuit elders are pointing out the risks of a winter season starting later and its impact on transport.
"In some areas the ice will be more dangerous than in the past, more unstable," he said. Local experts providing key ice condition data are reporting more areas of risk, he adds.
Risky trails can potentially block access to resources such as hunting grounds.
During the 2005 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Montreal, Inuit elders, trappers and hunters said weather changes can have significant socio-economic impacts, forcing natives to import more expensive food from the south, which isn't always as suitable to northern diets.
While Tremblay said his study didn't look at the socio-economic ramifications of these changes to infrastructure access - sometimes preventing access to certain areas for weeks -- he conceded they could be far-reaching. "Access to resources depends on access to territory," he noted.
The report says further studies are necessary to determine the impact of global warming on hunted species, hinting their "diversity, distribution and density" may be affected.
Although ice on lakes hasn't been causing problems, coastal areas can remain a risk all winter long due to thin ice, the report notes. Ground trails should be favoured when possible to minimize risks, it adds.
"During the last 10 years we have observed that the ice breakup is earlier than before and this situation can have an impact on security when using snowmobiles to go fishing and hunting," Tremblay said.
Semi-retired Inuit leader Jose Kusugak acknowledged things are changing in the North but he has never heard of recommendations to avoid using snowmobiles. "It's not uncommon that things are changing rapidly," Kusugak said on the phone from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. "But as far as the trails, I've never heard someone say 'stop using snowmobiles.' They're just more careful now."
Ironically, snowmobile season was particularly long this year, ending just over a month ago in his part of the North, he pointed out. Kusugak said he has been contacting others by citizen's band to get an idea of trails to avoid late in the season. They would "give a general direction but add 'don't go by my word'," he said. "But in the end it was safe."
Experts of the North said this year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group reports only confirmed what had been obvious to people in the North: that human activities are the cause of climate change. The IPCC, northern observers say, expanded on the findings of an earlier report by the multi-national Arctic Council entitled "Arctic Climate Impact Assessment" reaching similar stark conclusions three years prior.
"The Arctic is a barometer of global environmental health," commented Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami -- Canada's national inuit organization.
Tremblay says his study issues a number of recommendations for the peoples of the North: making information on trail risk areas and shelter locations widely available, using various technology such as GPS for navigation, and spreading the knowledge of experienced hunters and trappers.
A sign snowmobiles aren't about to disappear from the trails of the North: Tremblay's group also recommends using multiple ski-doos on treks, in case of mechanical failure. Even in risk areas, snowmobiles can be used with caution, he said.
Jamaica out to conquer the White North again
Published: Wednesday, Aug 1, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Maybe it’s the heat that makes them do it. A sun-kissed athlete from Jamaica is about to take on the Great White North by storm again.
In a project reminiscent of the Jamaican bobsled team’s participation in the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games, immortalized in the 1993 comedy Cool Runnings, the owner of the Jamaica Dogsled Team announced that his lead musher would be training with a former champion to take on one of the most demanding dogsled races in the world.
That’s dogsled, not bobsled. “Ninety percent of the time I have to correct people, it’s not bobsled, it’s dogsled, they always mix it,” explains head musher Devon Anderson in a phone interview from Jamaica. Anderson will train with three-time race winner Hans Gatt for the 1,500-kilometre 2009 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race that connects Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon. To get there he’ll have to prepare for 300 and 450-kilometre qualifiers, starting this fall either in Canada or Alaska. “It’s in the making!” he said. Relatively new to the sport, Anderson visited Canada last year to follow the Yukon Quest and even mushed on Lake Laberge. He’d seen snow before, but never this much. “It blew me away: the people, the snow, the landscape, it was like living in a storybook,” he said. Anderson said he’ll have to practise being around the dogs and staying extended periods of time in the cold to be ready to tackle the first qualifiers. “We’re not talking about winning, but competing, it’s an endurance race,” said team owner Danny Melville, a tour adventure company owner on the island nation. “This is not just a promotional move, we take mushing seriously and Gatt agrees otherwise he would not be wasting his time with us.” What started like a tour company gimmick turned into serious competitive training quite unexpectedly. In spring 2005, Melville was shopping for dune buggies in Edmonton when he spotted a crazy-looking dog sled and had an “epiphany” about starting a dogsled team. Initially created from mixed breed dogs found on the street or through the Jamaican Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals, The Ocho Rios-based team is now big business with sponsors that include singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett. “We’re talking about a Jamaican entering the Yukon Quest and hopefully completing it,” Melville said. “That in itself is an achievement.” There’ll be no need to wait for the movie, Palm Pictures’ documentary feature “Sun Dogs,” chronicling the struggle to make contenders out of Jamaica-bred street dogs in time for the 2006 Dogsled Championships in Scotland, already premiered at Toronto’s ReelWorld Film Festival in April.
Couple refuses chemo treatment for their child
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
An Ontario hospital said it would not press Quebec health authorities to force a three-year-old boy suffering from cancer to receive chemotherapy treatment.
The family has refused chemo, instead opting for alternative treatment.
The hospital expressed concern about the boy's health and referred the case to Quebec's regional youth protection agency, which has declined to intervene.
Marie Belanger, spokeswoman for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario said it wasn't likely the hospital would take matters to court to force the child to undergo chemotherapy. "I don't think that we're going to forge ahead with any legal recourse," she said.
Anael L'Esperance-Nascimento, from Ripon., Que. north of Ottawa, was diagnosed with cancerous cells in his brain and bone marrow last fall.
He was treated at CHEO but then his parents decided to consider alternative treatment because he wasn't getting better.
Belanger said doctors disapproved of the family's decision to interrupt treatment but were keeping in touch and still providing some level of care.
"We don't jump the gun every time the parent says something we disagree with," Belanger said. "But in this particular case, for reasons that I can't go into, we decided that we disagreed with the course of treatment the family had chosen."
The alternative treatment involves a diet of raw vegetables developed by Florida's Hippocrates Health Institute which "is dedicated to the belief that a pure enzyme-rich diet, complemented by positive thinking and non-invasive therapies, are essential elements on the path to optimum health" according to its web site.
On Saturday some 300 people held a rally at Gatineau,_Que. health food store to raise money for Anael's treatment.
Joining the crowd was Laurie Anne Prince, who says the Hippocrates method helped her beat breast cancer. She has since started giving conferences promoting alternative treatment and a similar diet based on raw vegetables. "It gives the body the tools necessary to fight cancer," said Prince, who adds she dropped using a wheelchair and tests now showed her cancer to be inactive. "I'm not completely healed, but I am healthier, I should be dead," she said.
It's not unusual for families to seek complementary alternative medicines, said Belanger, but this doesn't necessarily mean patients should interrupt hospital treatment.
The child's condition was improving according to reports, but his mom said she would not hesitate to resort to chemotherapy if the current method failed.
Bridge work cuts town in half
Published: Tuesday, August 07
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
A small Quebec community is torn in half after learning it will have to make do for months without its main bridge, dividing the town right down the middle.
Last week, St. Lin, a community of about 13,000 in the Laurentians region north of Montreal, was told its main link spanning L'Achigan River would have to be torn down and rebuilt, a process expected to take four months.
Since the Laval overpass collapse last year, Quebec's Transport Department has been conducting more thorough inspections of the province's infrastructure and announced the demolition of a number of structures, but most are located in large urban areas leaving drivers with alternatives.
Talk of replacing the bridge goes back about four years, said Mayor Andre Auger, and the seriousness of the situation became obvious last year when chunks of concrete started falling off.
But it was the death of a worker repairing the bridge earlier this year that prompted an investigation which led to the discovery of cracks below the water line and forced immediate large-scale work.
"We were supposed to rebuild it in two stages so as not to cut off the city completely," Auger said, but this would have extended work by a year so authorities bit the bullet and severed all links to get "a brand new bridge" sooner.
The destruction of the village bridge on Highway 335 will require small-town commuters to put up with big-city delays of over half an hour.
In his regular online message, Auger appealed for calm: "We must be very patient because we've been waiting for it for years."
But business owners are enraged that gradual reconstruction has turned into a complete shutdown of the bridge.
"Of course they had to repair the bridge, but the problem is with the duration of the closure, it makes no sense whatsoever," said Stephane Larose of Moreau automobile, a GM dealer just under one kilometre north of the bridge, who added that his business, like many others in the area, was sure to be affected by the closure.
"The partial closure was fine but a complete closure is going to hurt," agreed Yves Morel, who runs a renovation store near the bridge and expects sales to drop by 30 to 40 per cent. "At least we get a number of phone orders but other businesses nearby will be cut from half the city and no one will walk in front of their stores," he said.
"It's unbelievable, I live in St. Lin and I cross the bridge daily to get to my pharmacy, drug store and post office on the other side," Sabrina St-Martin wrote on an Internet bulletin board. "I'm going to have to go all the way around."
A foot bridge will be in place during construction, which starts Monday, Auger said, and emergency services will be split to be able to serve both sides of the community.
Auger, who's been mayor for 36 years, says he's aware of the public reaction, but is happy to get a new bridge he won't have to worry will topple into the water. "The collapse of the Laval overpass created a climate of insecurity in the population and even within government," he said. "I used to remember seeing those big rigs cross the bridge and think 'I would rather not be the driver'."
Quebec likely to join HPV vaccination bandwagon: health official
Published: Wednesday, August 08
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Barring any surprises from health specialists currently studying the matter, Quebec should announce it will join other provinces in rolling out a vaccination program to protect young girls against the human papilloma virus this fall, provincial health officials say.
"We've asked our public health teams to step up their work to be able to make an announcement, if they recommend it, before September," said Isabelle Merizzi, spokeswoman for Quebec's Health Minister. "We're awaiting the last recommendations of our experts, but if they're positive we will proceed very rapidly." She said that such a decision had to be based on scientific facts.
Merizzi said health authorities don't want Quebec to fall behind on HPV vaccinations. "We want Quebecers to have access to the latest technology and medicine," she said.
While a September announcement may seem a bit short to implement the program for the school year, Merizzi said things would move on rapidly after approval.
On Monday, Newfoundland and Labrador said it would set up its vaccination program beginning in the coming school year to prevent HPV, which is known to cause many types of cervical cancer.
Last month, Nova Scotia became the first province to outline a plan to roll out the Gardasil vaccine under a $300-million national program announced in the last federal budget.
The vaccine was approved by Health Canada in July 2006 for females between ages nine and 26.
The vaccine, Gardasil, protects against four types of HPV, which together cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and 90 per cent of genital warts, health authorities say.
It does not protect against other HPV strains, the other 30 per cent of cervical cancers or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Still, the HPV vaccine has been hailed a medical breakthrough. Besides Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, vaccination programs are also slated to begin in schools in Ontario and Prince Edward Island in September. British Columbia is also considering a program.
However, there are many questions left unanswered about the vaccine, says a Canadian Medical Association Journal article published online last week in advance of the journal's Aug. 28 paper edition.
Lead author Abby Lippman said federal vaccine funding could be better used to figure out if the vaccine is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, she said.
On Wednesday, Newfoundland's Right to Life Association said the province's plan to vaccinate pre-teen girls against HPV will encourage promiscuity and sends the wrong message to young girls.
"It could give children an impression that they have a green light to sexual activity," said association president Patrick Hanlon. "It can give them a false sense of security in their knowledge about the risks of sexual activity, resulting in them being less hesitant to engage in promiscuity."
Hanlon said that if the government was really concerned with the teenage infection rates for sexually transmitted diseases, it would introduce an abstinence education program, which it says is given only "a fleeting mention, if any" in the current education system.
HPV infects half of all sexually active women between ages 18 and 22 in North America.
Canadian wanted in deadly Mexico prison break faces extradition, fears torture
Published: Tuesday, August 14
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
A Quebec man wanted in connection with the shooting death of a Mexican prison guard in 1999 could be extradited any day after losing his last bid to stay in Canada, the man's attorney and sister said Tuesday.
Regent Boily, 62, who moved to Mexico 13 years ago, had served six months of a 14-year sentence for drug trafficking when he was involved in an escape, which left a prison guard dead. Boily was arrested near Gatineau, Que. in 2005 and has been fighting extradition ever since over fears he may be tortured if sent back to Mexico.
The man was placed in isolation on Tuesday because prison officials feared he would commit suicide, Marjolaine Boily, his sister said.
Boily was dealt a fatal blow to his attempt to stay in Canada after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture withdrew its support for him.
Marjolaine said Tuesday a Quebec prisonmate who befriended him had alerted her Regent had been told he had spent his last days in his Gatineau,_Que. cell.
Boily said Regent was in a state of panic and tears when he learned he lost the support of the UN on Monday. She said the world body and Canadian government let her brother down.
"It's the fault of the Canadian government," she said between tears. "I also blame Geneva (the UN) which didn't want to read his file and take care of him."
"My brother was tortured (in a Mexican prison) and he shouldn't be sent there," she said. "Why does the government not understand this?"
Regent's attorney Christian Deslauriers said it was a matter of when, not if his client would be extradited. "It's imminent," he said. "He's returning to the lion's den."
He said the UN committee on torture, which initially asked Canada to put the extradition on hold, was ultimately "pressured" by the Canadian government to drop its support so Boily could be extradited before a looming Aug. 20 deadline. If Regent failed to be extradited before then the entire extradition process would have had to start from scratch, he said. In July, the Supreme Court turned down a request to review Boily's case, leaving authorities 45 days to extradite him.
Ironically Aug. 20 is when Mexican President Felipe Calderon joins Stephen Harper and George W. Bush in Montebello, Que. for the three amigos summit.
"One wonders why the government supported this process, what I find shocking is that there's a Canadian national who's been extradited with no criminal history in Canada... he's a good citizen and Canada isn't defending him,"_Deslauriers said. "He should have been helped, and instead we fought to send him back." Deslauriers said Boily had nothing to do with the guard's murder, was involved in the escape against his will - during a prisoner transfer - and later the two other prisoners involved demanded payment from him for being freed.
Deslauriers says fears Boily could be tortured are justified because of what he called Mexico's well-documented cases of torture in general, and specifically because Boily had previously been tortured in the country.
"The risk he faces is very personal because those responsible (for torturing him) were never punished," he said. "My client is extremely fearful of returning, he expects to be mistreated."
Regent has written a book "The nightmare of a Quebecer," from prison, which describes his ordeal.
Groups say banning prison smoking in Quebec could mean trouble
Published: Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
Starting next February Quebec will join other provincial correctional services by banning smoking in its institutions, a decision inmates and smokers rights groups say will add tensions in a prison system already burdened by overcrowding and lack of resources.
Eric Belisle, a spokesman for an inmates rights group, says the withdrawal may spell trouble in a prison population where 80 per cent of the people smoke. "Imagine 600 people going cold turkey like that, I think the risks (of trouble) are high," he said. "The situation (in Quebec prisons) is already tense due to overpopulation problems... and this is added on top of that, I don't think it will improve the situation."
Jean-Yves Roy, a spokesman for federal institutions in Quebec, which already banned smoking indoor two years ago and where outdoor smoking will be banned next year, admits there were some troubles when the nation's 58 federal pens changed their regulations, but he insists they were minor.
"It wasn't a surprise, people knew it was coming," he said, noting inmates had been informed and had access to nicotine patches, gum and education programs that eased the transition. Real Roussy, a_spokesman for the Quebec correctional system, said the change should occur as smoothly at the provincial level, adding assistance will be available for inmates who need it.
But Arminda Mota of smoker's group Monchoix.ca says the ban just opens the way to new illegal trafficking inside prisons.
"Patches are used quite differently in prisons, they dissolve them in water, extract pure nicotine and either inject it or drink it, creating a traffic in patches," she said. The extracted nicotine is often added to other drugs forming a potent cocktail. The patches became such a problem in Alberta they were removed from some prisons, she said.
"Inmates are not super-men, they are going to have physical and psychological reactions (to withdrawal) like everybody else," Mota said about the smoking ban. "They're not angels, this will create unnecessary tensions."
She found it ironic that Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis would try to ban smoking in prisons while she stressed he didn't have a handle on the pervasive drug problem in prisons.
"It's ironic the government wants to improve the health of inmates this way considering the lack of doctors and other health care workers in these facilities," Belisle noted.
Woman commits suicide after cancer diagnosis
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
A woman, who had recently learned she had cancer, committed suicide by setting herself on fire in a Quebec City area parking lot, police confirmed Thursday.
Police in Levis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City, said they responded to a number of 911 calls Wednesday evening reporting a fire in a vehicle parked in a mall parking lot.
Once the intense flames were doused, a body burned beyond recognition and two empty propane tanks were found inside. Beside the vehicle they found personal effects and a family portrait along with a suicide note "which confirmed the person's intentions," said Const. Christian Cantin of the Levis police.
Police are waiting to check dental records before they officially confirm the woman's identity.
The woman had gone missing Wednesday, the day her chemotherapy treatments were supposed to begin, police said. Her husband and son, from Lotbiniere, some 65 kilometres west of Quebec City, arrived at the scene, recognizing the vehicle, Cantin said.
There was no explosion according to witnesses. One of them reportedly loaned the woman a lighter before the flames engulfed the vehicle.
"It's certain that it was a suicide and everything points towards the man's common-law spouse," Cantin said. "She decided to end her life after having been diagnosed with cancer."
People who have learned they have a serious medical condition such as AIDS_or cancer are more prone to commit suicide, said Louis Lemay from Quebec's Association for the Prevention of Suicide.
"Scientifically it's been proven that people who have received such bad news face higher risks (of suicide)," he said. Lemay says such incidents raise questions about whether physicians have a difficult time giving patients bad news, and sometimes fail to prepare them to face their new challenges. "They're often not at ease about breaking bad news," he said, adding physicians should be attentive to a patient's psychological history.
Quebec and video game industry agree to translate more titles
Published: Friday, August 17, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
When Super Mario crosses over the Quebec border he will have to be able to speak French.
The government and the video gaming industry have reached an agreement to make sure an increasing number of French games will be available in La belle province.
The lack of French games on the Quebec market became "an irritant," said Nathalie Gelinas, spokeswoman for Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre. Gelinas said an "announcement on the agreement is imminent" without providing further details.
"Many people complained about a number of games," Gelinas said. She stressed that the department signalled early this spring that it was targeting the video game industry.
"This has been a preoccupation for some time in Quebec," Gelinas added. "In France, there's more access to French versions and this agreement works to head in the same direction."
Quebec's linguistic watchdog, the Office quebecois de la langue française (OQLF), reported 262 complaints were made on video games in 2005-2006, which represents some five to 10 per cent of complaints received at the agency.
About 80 per cent of video games in France are available in French compared to a little over 30 per cent in Quebec, noted spokesman Gerald Paquette, whose agency has been intimately involved in the agreement and is preparing to make a formal announcement in weeks.
"If we could, through this agreement, reach 80 per cent [of video games in French] and more, we would be happy," Paquette said. "There's been a sweeping movement by consumers and French-language protection groups," about the issue he said. "It became a priority for us and we had to intervene."
"What was important was to obtain the collaboration of distributors and game makers, and since they're [mostly] not in Quebec, they're not as sensitive about the issue," Paquette added.
"We and the Ministry of Culture had to establish a certain partnership [with them] to come to an agreement, and this is what we will be unveiling in mid-September."
Among others, Nintendo's Mario Party 8 for Wii, released this year, is available in French in France but in English in Quebec, like many other Nintendo products.
One of the OQLF objectives in its 2005-2008 strategic plan is to make sure gamers have access to products in French.
"We call it a sectorial intervention," said Paquette. "Instead of reaching every single retailer, we intervene at the source: game makers and distributors."
Quebec is a video game development and game makers hub. Companies such as Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, which have expanded operations there are "excellent collaborators, great partners of the office," Paquette said.
Although according to the latest OQLF lists of French video game availability, even Ubisoft fails to provide an Xbox 360 2007 French version of Wartech in either Quebec or France.
According to industry figures, some 3,500 people in 70 different companies work in the video gaming industry in Quebec. In addition to developing its homegrown talent, the province has drawn major international players such as Ubisoft, which earlier this year announced it would invest up to an additional $450 million to expand its workforce of 1,600 to 3,000 by 2013.
Ubisoft said the announcement didn't come as a surprise since it had been working with the government on the issue for some time.
Shuttle remains 'ride of a lifetime,' Williams says
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Going from the launch pad to orbit in just over eight minutes remains "truly the ride of a lifetime" Canada's record-setting astronaut Dave Williams said Tuesday after space shuttle Endeavour returned to Earth.
Williams, 53, became the first Canadian to complete three spacewalks.
But the experience of space flight just doesn't get old, he said at a news conference from Cape Canaveral, Fla. "To me the most spectacular part of being in orbit is the view outside the window, it's absolutely breathtaking," he added. "But when you get outside and you're doing a spacewalk and you can see a quarter of the planet swirling towards you and you see the sunrises and sunsets every 45 minutes ... these are moments you truly take away with you."
"It's really the human experience of being there and getting a chance to look at the spectacular beauty of the world," he added.
The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour returned to its Florida home port Tuesday, shortly after 12:30 p.m. touching down safely at the Kennedy Space Center following a hectic but successful 13-day mission to the International Space Station.
"Welcome home. You've given a new meaning to higher education," said astronaut Chris Ferguson at mission control in Houston, a reference to teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan, an Endeavour crew member.
The shuttle made a smooth landing despite a ding in the belly caused when a piece of foam broke off during liftoff on Aug. 8.
The shuttle and its seven-member crew spent nine days at the space station to deliver new components and prepare the US$100-billion complex for additional laboratory modules.
"We had a great team, it was a great mission and for me it was thrilling and an honour to be part of it," Williams said.
NASA brought the shuttle home a day earlier than planned when it appeared Hurricane Dean could force an evacuation of the Houston centre that operates the shuttle during flight. But the storm took a more southerly course and hit Mexico's Caribbean coast Tuesday.
Williams had bird's-eye view of the storm during a space walk: "Look over your shoulder and you can see the hurricane below you, and you can see this gigantic hurricane, spanning across the whole area of the ocean."
The back-to-Earth gravity adjustment aside, Endeavour's crew probably felt "bulletproof" nevertheless at the end of their mission, Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean said Tuesday from the Canadian Space Agency in Longueuil, just south of Montreal.
"I'm sure they're feeling marvellous," MacLean said after watching a smooth landing of the DC-9-sized orbiter at Cape Canaveral.
MacLean, who served on shuttle crews in 2001 and 1992, said returning astronauts -- including Canadian Dave Williams -- may have a sense of invincibility after completing such a rigourous set of tasks.
"The hand-grips have to be synchronized within three milliseconds of each other," MacLean said of the commander's steering skills.
During the descent -- which reaches speeds of nearly 2,600 kilometres per hour -- the shuttle "falls like a brick."
"The crew tries to -- and usually does -- beat the computer in calculating data needed for landing."
Crewmates need about four hours after touchdown to completely adjust to gravity, he said.
They cannot walk straight for nearly an hour, but they still manage to kick the tires and comment on what an amazing vehicle the shuttle is, he said.
"It's a feeling that's hard to beat," MacLean said. "Everyone makes mistakes in space. But when you land, you realize your crew and the team on the ground made it all happen. It makes us all very proud."
With just 12 more missions planned to complete the space station before the shuttles are mothballed, and only eight not yet staffed, Williams could be the last Canadian in space for quite a while.
Body count adds to family grief in cemetery strike
Published: Sunday, August 26, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
MONTREAL - Left uncut for months, the weeds and tall grass have overrun the usually immaculate 153-year old cemetery. In places, the grass is even covering up the tombstones on the city's picturesque Mount-Royal.
Over 100 days after the beginning of the labour conflict at the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery bodies are literally stacking up in cold storage and for family members of the dead sadness has turned to frustration and now to anger.
No bodies have been buried or cremated since workers were locked out by management on May 16. All landscaping and maintenance has also been halted.
A group representing the families estimates that at a rate of 50 per week, some 600 families are waiting for the bodies of loved ones, to be buried or cremated.
Nathalie Saint-Pierre, 28, has no trouble remembering May 16. That's the day her 75-year-old father Gilles should have been laid to rest. The labour strife has only prolonged the suffering of a family which was dealt a blow when he died on Valentine's Day.
"It was all so sudden," she recalled, standing on vacant plot 408 of the cemetery. "And because the ground was frozen we had to wait until May."
Six months after his death, Saint-Pierre says the family is still looking for closure.
"For my mother it's been particularly difficult," she said. "Sometimes I will ask her if she wants to do something on the weekend and she'll say 'Not yet.' She's not at ease to do anything until it's over."
The plot of cemetery land was dear to her father, she says, and the family is frustrated it can't fulfil his final wishes, or go through the normal stages of mourning.
Saint-Pierre says the wait for "finality" is psychologically draining. "This is the first time I lose someone so dear to me," she said. "I am trying to mourn his passing, but I know we'll all have to go through it again."
As union and management entered a negotiating blitz to attempt to end the impasse, patience was running thin.
"Our members are frustrated and angry," said Debora De Thomasis, who lost her grandmother this year and is a spokeswoman for the families. "We can't wait until December when the earth is frozen. Will we have to wait another year?"
That would present another set of problems. Guy Dufort, a lawyer for the cemetery management, says 700 bodies could be stored under current conditions, which by his count is enough to last until October. The families think that number will be hit sooner.
"If we reach capacity we will find alternatives," Dufort said, but added "I am not here to count the bodies."
The thought of a mounting body count in cold storage has upset many.
"The people allowing the strike at the Cote-des-Neiges cemetery must not have loved ones stored in a massive refrigerator," Mena St. Onge wrote to the Montreal Gazette in July.
"We publicly came out against it (storage) to say it's awful to compare people to fruit and vegetables, or a piece of steak," said De Thomasis.
If some thought divine intervention would settle the issue, they may have been disappointed when Montreal Archbishop Jean-Claude Turcotte waited until July to weigh in, recommending conciliation but stressing the church doesn't own the cemetery, so his hands are tied.
This came as a shock to some in this mostly Catholic province, who expected more action from the church.
"I know the cemetery is Catholic, I was born and baptized Catholic, but I will never set foot in a Catholic church again," declared Robert Tomasino, 73. "These people deserve to be buried according to their final wishes. What is happening is abominable."
Tomasino said Turcotte's intervention amounted to him "washing his hands of the whole matter."
"The church is supposed to bring comfort, not stress," he said.
Lucie Martineau of the Archbishop's office says the cardinal was brokenhearted he could not do more to help settle the dispute. "Unfortunately he can't legally intervene," she said. "But for the families in grief it will never be enough, this is understandable."
De Thomasis said it was ironic that in a province so influenced by Catholicism, its church had a harder time "being respected" than other religions brought in by successive waves of immigrants.
"I'm not a religion expert," she said. "But you've never seen this at a Jewish cemetery because there's a particular rite, a Buddhist would never have accepted this." Jewish law requires burial as soon as possible and preferably within 24 hours of death.
Her group has filed a class-action lawsuit which is seeking moral and punitive damages, which she says will go even if the dispute is settled "to make sure this never happens again."
On Sunday some 200 family members demonstrated outside the cemetery's main entrance appealing for the right to bury their loved ones.
"When I think that my mother passed away three months ago and still cannot be buried next to my father, it is a very sad case," said Tony Vaccaro, joined by his two brothers and sisters, carrying photographs of their mother and father.
Simultaneously, some 70 union members affiliated with the Confederation des syndicats nationaux staged a silent vigil in support of their demands outside the Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame-de-Montreal, which owns and operates the cemetery.
While the grieving families are angry with both sides in the dispute and the Catholic Church and government for their not ensuring the strikes ends, ironically, for at least some of the families, the labour dispute has brought them closer to some religious tenants including charity.
With tall grass around their mother's grave, Claude and Stephane Parent came to the cemetery recently to clear the area around her plot. While they were there, they also tended to several other plots. "This is our good deed of the day," beamed Claude. "We're doing our bit for people who can't come here, for those who may have been forgotten."
Forgotten is how Saint-Pierre feels her father is in this dispute. "That's what we need, a public place to grieve the person we've lost, and we don't have it," she said.
Quebec police admit they infiltrated protest
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
QUEBEC - The Quebec provincial police acknowledged in a statement Thursday that their agents had infiltrated protesters demonstrating during the recent North American leaders summit in Montebello, Que. but denied that they acted as "agent provocateurs" to instigate violence.
"They had the mandate to spot and identify violent demonstrators to avoid the situation from getting out of hand," the Surete du Quebec said in a statement. "The police officers were identified by demonstrators when they refused to throw projectiles."
"At no time did the Surete du Quebec police officers act as agents provocateurs or committed criminal acts," the statement adds.
A spokesperson for the police force refused to further comment on the statement.
Protesters have accused police of planting agents outside the Chateau Montebello to instigate violence during Monday's demonstration.
A prominent labour official pointed Wednesday to video made available on Youtube and photographs of three burly men, dressed as "Black Bloc" anarchists, standing out in the midst an otherwise peaceful sit-in adjacent to Surete du Quebec and RCMP riot squads.
The video shows the three black-clad bandana-wearing men being singled out by union organizers and the crowd. Other protesters started pointing at them and crying "police."
One of the three men is seen shoving and swearing at Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada, who is angrily confronting the trio, demanding they put down the rocks, remove their bandanas, and identify themselves.
After being backed into a corner against a line of provincial police officers in riot gear, they try to force themselves through the police line and are arrested while the crowd cheers.
"People have the right to peacefully protest something they don't like," said Coles this week, demanding answers from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
"They think that they have the right to infiltrate us as they've done before. But to be packing large boulders, they were going to do something with those rocks and it wasn't peaceful."
Parents hope to have Cedrika back for 10th birthday
Published: Monday, August 27, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
TROIS-RIVIERES, QUE. - The parents of a missing nine-year-old girl said Monday they hoped to celebrate her 10th birthday by her side and called on the services of a police journalist to help bring her back.
Cedrika Provencher's father, Martin, thanked volunteers for their assistance since the girl went missing, almost a month ago. He hoped she could be found in time for her birthday, on Wednesday, and could join her classmates starting a new school year this week.
"We hope she can join the class she is registered to join, it's important," he said in a halting voice. "She's been gone for one month, we can't wait to see her again."
"Usually a birthday is celebrated with family," he added. "I hope with all my heart we can have her back for the birthday."
"I can't imagine not having her there that day," said Cedrika's mother, Karine Fortier. Already Cedrika has missed her brother's birthday, she said.
She added she was convinced "someone knows something" about Cedrika but was perhaps afraid to come forward, so they reached out to a police journalist to help crack the case.
Popular French-language crime journalist Claude Poirier, said he was joining the search effort acting as an individual and not a journalist and made public a telephone number to receive tips to help locate the girl.
An $80,000 reward is already available for any information that could help solve the case. "This money is intended to locate the girl and is unrelated to the police investigation," he said. Poirier said he is giving his word that he won't record his calls or pass on identifying details about a caller to police, nor will police tap his phone.
Poirier has a long history of serving as a mediator between suspects and police.
Last week police said they believed Cedrika was still alive after receiving information that she has been seen with a man. This week however, provincial police said the trail leading to the eastern part of the province has gone cold.
Dozens of investigators were combing through 3,000 tips, 1,000 of them listed as credible enough to check and 1,200 people have been interviewed.
Cedrika disappeared on July 31 and was last seen looking for a black and white dog, a few blocks from where she lives with her mother.
Four girls in the area have reported being approached by a man asking for help in searching for his dog.
Safety board to review report on Laura Gainey's death
Published: Friday, August 31
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
The family of Laura Gainey, who died after going overboard off a tall ship last December, wants the Transportation Safety Board to review the accuracy of a report on her death.
The TSB said it would review a preliminary report, prepared by the Cook Islands, on the incident involving Gainey, 25, daughter of Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey. She was working as a volunteer crew member on the Picton Castle. Her body was never found.
While the incident occurred 765 kilometres off Cape Cod and the three-masted ship is based out of Lunenburg, N.S., the investigation was conducted by the Cook Islands, because the Picton Castle is registered in that South Pacific country, halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.
"The Gainey family had a few concerns about the draft of the report that they were given by the Cook Islands and they've asked us to review," said John Cottreau, a spokesperson for the TSB. "They're fully within their right to have a look at things; it's not out of ordinary.
"They didn't communicate any particular concerns to us," Cottreau added. The review is expected to begin next week.
"When a foreign government does a report, it's natural that it sends that report to the TSB, so that another agency can review the work," Cottreau added. He said it is impossible to predict how long the review would take.
The Habs GM wouldn't comment directly on the report, which Cook Islands officials said was sent out two weeks ago.
"There's something going on out there. I've received some information, but not in the form of a final report," Gainey said. "It's not something I can discuss now."
The Cook Islands ministry is ultimately responsible for releasing the report, but Secretary of Transport Aukino Tairea said the Gainey family had requested it not be made public.
The Picton Castle's crew has stated Gainey wasn't tethered to the deck and was not wearing a life jacket when a wave hit. They also confirmed Gainey was not on duty when the ship encountered rough weather.
Bad day for man who was bitten, battered and probed
Published: Wednesday, September 05
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
A Quebec man suffered violent convulsions during a crack overdose, was subsequently attacked by his pit bull and hit in the face by friends trying to scare off the dog.
Then things got worse.
He was sent to hospital and is now facing charges of drug possession after 10 grams of crack was found in a certain body cavity by a nurse. The series of unfortunate events started on August 26 when he suffered a crack overdose and fell to the ground convulsing violently.
The 41-year-old man from Val-des-Monts, Que., north of Ottawa, was subsequently attacked by his American Pit Bull Terrier. The dog "took a bite out of him" under the left ear, said Const. Martin Fournel of the local police force.
That would have been bad enough, but his friends tried to dislodge the animal by swinging a bat. It connecting with the man's face after missing the dog. All four people in the house were under the influence of drugs, Fournel pointed out.
"On one side of his face you had the bite and on the other he had a huge black eye," Fournel said of the man, adding he was lucky the blow didn't give him a concussion.
The incident hit the man in the wallet as well after receiving a $250 fine because his dog's breed is illegal, according to a municipal bylaw.
But the man's brush with the law was far from over. Later in the day a nurse treating him in a Gatineau hospital "noticed something abnormal in the man's intimate parts," Fournel said.
Doctors then extracted a Ziploc-type bag from his buttocks. The bag contained approximately 10 grams of crack, Fournel said.
The man now faces changes of drug possession with the intent of trafficking.
"A ticket, a bite, a bat to the face and now charges," Fournel summed up with a laugh. "He better buy a lottery ticket, talk about bad luck."
Teen must choose sport or religion
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, September 07, 2007
GATINEAU (CNS) -- A young Quebec hockey player has the next week to choose between his religion and his passion -- hockey.
Benjamin Rubin, 18, comes from a very religious Jewish Orthodox family and was given permission not to play a number of games during the Sabbath last year.
This year, the Montreal native was traded from the Quebec Remparts Major Junior team to the Gatineau Olympiques.
Many junior hockey games are played from sundown on Friday to Saturday night, the Sabbath, and the governor of the new team, who says he is satisfied by the forward's level of play, is trying to make Rubin more of a full-time participant.
"No decision has been made one way or another, meetings are still taking place," between the team, the boy and his family, Charles Henry said.
Ex-soldier faces charges after standoff with police
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
A former member of the Canadian Forces accused of blindly firing weapons through the wall of his trailer home, hitting his neighbours' property, and engaged in a standoff with authorities last week was in court Tuesday facing over half a dozen charges.
They include mischief, production and possession of cannabis, possession of explosives, negligent use of firearms as well as improper storage of weapons, said his attorney, Luc Tourangeau, who described his client as "not fit to stand trial" and asked for a psychiatric evaluation. Tourangeau said Daniel Maltais, 41, formerly of the Valcartier military base, did not have a police record and didn't know whether Maltais had a history of mental troubles.
Maltais' home was cordoned off and surrounded by authorities Friday after police investigating the source of bullet holes appearing on nearby homes turned to his Chicoutimi home, some 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.
A man who had barricaded himself in his home "spoke very incoherently" when finally reached by phone after hours of trying to contact him and ultimately turned himself in during the evening, said Bruno Cormier, spokesman for the Saguenay police.
Only when police entered the home did they realize how dangerous the situation could have turned, he said, describing the home as being filled with improvised bombs, high-calibre weapons and traps.
"One trap shot arrows when triggered by a trip wire," Cormier said.
The home was filled with fishing lines with large fish hooks, the walls and windows were covered with black plastic sheets and all entry points were screwed shut, he said, adding that the man was equipped with gas masks and was geared for a lengthy standoff.
There were molotov cocktails in the home, Cormier said, describing a pump 12-gauge and .38 and .223-calibre weapons as well as "an industrial amount of ammunition." All were properly registered.
Cormier said ballistic studies will determine which weapons hit surrounding homes, but noted that the man had fired them in his home a number of occasions. He added however that he didn't think the shooter willingly targeted surrounding homes "because he couldn't see where he was shooting" from within the black-covered walls.
Police also found 23 marijuana plans with all the necessary ventilation and lighting equipment, Cormier added.
The man, described as being a solitary figure his neighbours knew little about, was undergoing psychiatric examinations at a nearby health facility and returned there after appearing in court Tuesday afternoon.
U.S., Canada share police power in mutual waters
Published: Friday, September 14, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
U.S. Coast Guard officers are being made Canadian peace officers in an area off the south coast of B.C. and in a 100-km stretch of the St. Lawrence, with similar powers given to RCMP officers in U.S. waters.
While the law enforcement initiative, Project Shiprider, gives some members of the coast guard special privileges to act as law enforcement officers, they will have to obey strict guidelines and will be under the authority of the RCMP while in Canada.
The two forces are partnering with a number of other agencies, including provincial police, the Canadian Forces, U.S. state police and immigration and border patrol agencies to also develop the capability to pursue criminals on the ground and in the air, said Cpl. Luc Bessette of the RCMP.
Bessette said the goal is to try to thwart "organized crime in border areas on both sides of the seaway.
"We want to see how criminals will react and adapt [our strategy] in consequence. We want to become proactive."
"It's the first time there's a strategic use of Canadian and U.S. officers to combat organized crime," said Bessette, adding contraband and drugs had been seized as a result of the project.
No public announcement was made about the pilot project because authorities wanted to keep an element of surprise in their border strategy, but people have spotted U.S. officers in Canadian waters, forcing authorities to reveal some of the project's details.
Bessette said giving a foreign police force powers in Canada isn't an unprecedented development as secret service agents are given those privileges when the U.S. president visits, such as during the recent Montebello summit.
"During international gatherings that bring together foreign dignitaries here, certain countries request permission to bring in armed guards and we give them this status of special or peace agent," he said. "They act under the authority of the RCMP and they obtain the right to be armed in Canada but in a very rigid context."
But unlike the short partnership during a summit or high-level meetings, Project Shiprider brings together USCG and RCMP in integrated teams sharing boats over a number of summer months and it may be extended.
"We have decided to try a project where a boat can travel on both sides of the border," he said. "If we want to do this we must absolutely give powers to American officers in Canadian waters and give Canadians powers in American waters."
If someone has to be arrested during an operation in Canada and the closest officer is American, he will be able to do so, Bessette said, but added that U.S. officers aren't about to commandeer Canadian patrol cars and answer calls.
In these aquatic zones, criminals thinking they are out of the reach of a police force giving them chase when they cross the border are in for a surprise.
One of the areas covered is from Valleyfield, Que. outside Montreal to Cardinal, Ont., west of Cornwall.
Pacific coverage extended to an area south of Vancouver.
"Sept. 11 has changed the face of the border," Bessette said.
"As in the U.S. we have brought new techniques and ways to deal with the border because of terrorism and other problems like contraband and illegal immigration."
Sister sells self to help 2 brothers
Published: Friday, September 21, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
A Quebec woman is selling her services to the highest bidder on eBay, but don't get the wrong idea, it isn't sexual and it's being done for a good cause.
Chantal Guilmette, 38, is selling herself on the online auction to support her two brothers, Richard and Jimmy, who are suffering from muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease which has confined them to a motorized wheelchair.
The bidding started at $30,000 US, but Chantal makes it clear that the offer is non-sexual: "Sirs or Ladies, I am not a prostitute. If you win this bid, you will have the privilege to take me along with you on vacation, at your expense, for a duration of one week in Canada or the U.S." The winner will have to provide proof they don't have a criminal record and "impeccable references," the posting adds.
Guilmette says the unusual idea occurred to her after she learned the provincial government would cut off welfare payments to her brother Richard following his marriage on Aug. 4. His wife works as a social worker.
"I said 'it can't be,' there's got to be something we can do," she said. Her mom wasn't excited by the eBay idea, she added.
"The government is saying 'it's up to your wife to take care of you,' my human dignity just plummeted," said her brother Richard, 34, who also heads two organizations for people with disabilities in Quebec. "People with disabilities are the poorest on the planet, that's certainly true for me because I have no more money."
While Chantal says she's had to ward off some detractors with the wrong idea, she said the experience was "fun" and hopes it would "help shakes things up," to help her brothers.
Chantal says she could simply accompany someone on vacation or serve as a nanny for a week.
As of Thursday afternoon two people had bid, one wasn't being considered seriously and the other was "a bid of sympathy," with no real money involved, said Richard.
Chantal, who is a waitress and may lose her job by taking the week off, says the idea of selling herself occurred to her after musician James Blunt said he sold his sister on eBay.
The Department of Employment couldn't be reached for comment.
In an edition of Gentlemen's Quarterly this summer, the artist referred to the experience as "the stupidest thing I've ever sold."
Lachine cyclist Jeanson admits to career of doping
Published: Friday, September 21
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
After years of denial, retired cyclist Geneviève Jeanson admitted to doping during most of her career in an interview with Radio-Canada.
The Lachine native said she started doping at age 16 saying that doing so was "unavoidable" in the sport.
"I knew it wasn't right, but I got caught up in it. I didn't know how to get out. I didn't want to disappoint anyone," Jeanson said.
In 2005, she tested positive for erythropoietin. She was handed a lifetime ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, but argued she never took the banned substance and accepted a settlement offer from USADA that reduced her ban.
"What hurt the most was lying to people who believed me," she said in the interview.
Families pushing Harper for tougher sentences
Published: Tuesday, September 25
PHIL COUVRETTE, CanWest News Service
With parliament now officially prorogued, killing tough anti-crime legislation, a Quebec victims' group is calling on the Harper government to end concurrent sentences for violent crimes and murders.
"We're asking the federal government to abolish the notion of concurrent sentences in all cases of murder, violent crime or rape," said Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, whose daughter Julie was raped and murdered in 2002. He heads the Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association.
Concurrent sentences are when a criminal is sent to prison and serves time only for one crime - when several have been committed - while a consecutive sentence would add up the total incarceration for each crime.
"We can no longer accept that a criminal who's raped a woman gets the same sentence as someone who's raped five," he added. "The notion of concurrent sentences is the antithesis of justice."
Among bills that were passed by the Commons but didn't get through the Senate and eventually died on the order paper was Bill C-10, imposing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, and Bill C-35, making it harder for those charged with gun crimes to get bail.
Geneviève Breton, spokesperson for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, said the government intends to fulfil its 2006 promise to "create mandatory consecutive sentence for select multiple violent or sexual offences."
Messy hot dog war gets personal
Published: Sunday, September 30
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
It's been three years since Constantinos Kivetos, owner of more than a dozen franchises of the "La Belle Province" fast-food chain, decided to open a location in Lachute, northwest of Montreal.
But with that latest attempt to open shop he possibly bit off more than he could chew.
The decision sparked a wild fast-food rivalry that degenerated into a flurry of trial dates and multiple charges of arson, conspiracy and attempted murder. The string of events became widely known as Quebec's notorious "hot dog war."
Now, one of the remaining alleged conspirators is set to appear before the courts - none other than Kivetos's wife of more than a quarter century.
A community of 11,000 people some 55 kilometres northwest of Montreal, Lachute became ground zero for the fast-food slugfest when Kivetos attempted to leave his stamp there.
A competitor in the cutthroat world of fast-food hangouts named after Quebec's old motto - La Belle Province - decided he didn't want to share the market, and that's when a number of indigestible events started occurring.
In February 2005 a fire erupted at one of Kivetos's Montreal restaurant locations. Later that fall, the site picked as the future Lachute location was set ablaze.
Steeve Dufour, who was associated with one of Kivetos' competitors, Paraskevi Katsifolis, was later shown to have been behind the attack.
And because Kivetos had failed to read the smoke signals, it wouldn't be the last of it.
In November 2005 Dufour barged into a meeting involving Kivetos and stabbed one of the participants, falsely assuming it was Kivetos, according to reports.
Dufour was later arrested and pleaded guilty to conspiracy, attempted murder and arson and was sentenced to six years in prison this June.
"Ah, the hot dog war," recalled Dufour's attorney Clemente Monterosso. "The arson, the murder attempts, the conspiracy to commit murder... The story is quite unusual."
Joining Dufour in jail was Katsifolis, another among half a dozen people charged in the take-no-prisoners battle over hot dog supremacy.
But the worst was yet to come for Kivetos. Dufour finally got to him and stabbed him. Kivetos survived, and his attacker was eventually put behind bars, but the wounds would run much deeper. His wife is also accused of being in on the attack.
Anastasia Vythoulkas faces charges of attempted murder and conspiracy.
"That's what she was charged with but I don't know what she'll be facing," said her attorney Marco Zuliani, who added that details about the charges were still under discussion.
He confirmed that the charges Vythoulkas is facing involve acts against Kivetos.
Her preliminary inquiry is scheduled for Oct. 16.
The drama has been devastating for Kivetos, who wouldn't return calls placed to one of his outlets, which was the first in a long list of targets over the last years.
In a rare comment on the messy affair, he told the French-language TVA network the entire controversy was "bad for business."
He then slammed the door on reporters and went back to building the empire, one hot dog at a time, which had made him both famous and a target.
Quebec students head to U.S. to learn in English
Published: Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
When the young kids in the Gamache family head out to school they have to remember to collect their books, pack their lunch, and bring their passport.
During the daily 15-minute ride south, the family picks up other young students on their route and visit the Lacolle, Que., border crossing.
Veterinarian Mario Gamache lives in Napierville, Que., just north of the Canada-U.S. border, and three of his four children, Hugo, 9, Meghane, 7, and Matis, 5, all attend school and kindergarten at St. Mary's Academy inChamplain, N.Y.
"In the U.S. immersion in English is total because no one speaks French there," Gamache said. "Our goal is for them to be perfectly bilingual, so that they can write English as well as they write French."
Gamache said bilingualism is a prerequisite for many jobs and wants his children to have the opportunities both he and his common-law spouse never had.
He said Quebec language laws are unfair because they forbid French-speaking children from having access to the same bilingual public education given to English-speakers.
To avoid this Gamache would have to send his children to private school, at $9,000 each, he said, but for that money he can send four of them to the U.S.
He doesn't only want them to know English, but speak it "without accent," and said they will gain from the unique experience. "It's to open a cultural door. Personally I have not had that despite 22 years of education. English has given me problems, [this] would have made my life easier."
The school made it easy to cross the border daily by providing documents for a visa and his children all have passports, Gamache said. Crossing the border is smooth because they do so daily and their itinerary is well-known, he said.
"Even if the customs officers change, they are aware there are many students from Quebec that cross this border station," said Gamache who adds the passports mention where the children go to school.
Indeed he's not alone, 34 of the 102 pupils are from Quebec in the 101-year-old Catholic school which originally started out as a French boarding school, says principal Marie Cordata.
"We love our Canadian kids," Cordata said, noting the first Quebec students started coming in the fall of 2002. The numbers grew with word to mouth and the school placed adds inQuebec papers as well.
Now St. Mary's is even looking for a temporary tutor so their Quebec students keep up with their French.
"It's been a good thing for our school," she said. "I think we have to learn that our borders are beyond what's in front of our nose, that we're all people of God, whether we speak different languages we are all one."
Jean Dorion, head of sovereigntist group Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal, says the families have the right to choose what's right for their children but fears the kids will become alienated from Quebec culture.
"It's regrettable because these children won't have a very Quebecois culture," Dorion said. "They will have been schooled in the U.S. with an American mentality."
"It depreciates their culture," he added. "It risks giving them a very poor opinion of their own culture."
"Their purpose is not to undermine the French language," Cordata points out. "But they know that if their child is going to be successful they should be bilingual, and there's no better way to learn."
Frankly, learning another language isn't the only reason why parents choose to send their kids there, she says.
"I sent my child here to learn English, I keep my child here because my child is learning those kinds of values which I want them to learn," Cordata quotes a parent's letter as saying. "I don't think it's all about language."
Gay inmates to tie the knot in Quebec pen
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
They'll be joined in matrimony, but different cell blocks will keep them apart and limit their honeymoon options.
Two gay prison inmates at the federal penitentiary in Cowansville, Que., 60 kilometres southeast of Montreal, will tie the knot in the institution's first gay marriage on Oct. 29.
It will be Canada's third gay wedding in a federal institution, according to Corrections Canada, following a 2006 wedding in Ontario and another in Alberta this year.
"Gay weddings are legal since July 2005 and the first union between same-sex inmates occurred in November 2006 so it's not frequent," said Jean-Yves Roy, a spokesman for federal institutions in Quebec.
David Bedard, 22, is serving a 10 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter while his partner Sony Martin, 26, is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder and is ineligible for parole before 2020.
"It won't be any different from any civil wedding," said Lucette L'Esperance, assistant warden at the institution. "They will marry at the chapel before a Quebec court judge."
The wedding will be the usual 10-minute ceremony, but the two, who currently live in separate cell blocks, will continue to do so and will get no special treatment.
"The fact that they are getting married does not grant them any privileges, they will remain in their respective cell blocks and won't benefit from private family (conjugal) visits," L'Esperance stressed.
And nothing prevents correctional officials from placing them in separate prisons, Roy said.
Bedard, in prison since 2006 and Martin, since 2002, will still be able to cross paths during hours when inmates from different cell blocks get to mingle, such as during lunch, gym and outdoor activity periods and well as other down time.
L'Esperance said there probably weren't more than two or three weddings of any type at the Cowansville institution any given year.
While gay weddings between inmates remain rare, the fact they are happening shows that homosexuals can benefit from the same right as all other citizens, notes Jean-Claude Bernheim, a spokesman for an inmates rights group.
"It reflects what is happening in society in general, there's a possibility of getting married - which wasn't possible before - and some inmates will take advantage of this," Bernheim said. "It's a step forward. It confirms formally that inmates aren't totally excluded from civil life."
RCMP nets dozens in U.S.-Canada border operation
Published: Tuesday, October 16
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Some 40 individuals were arrested, including some charged for human smuggling, in an RCMP operation conducted with other agencies near the U.S. border.
Four individuals are being charged with either human smuggling or not reporting to a border station. Officials would not provide details about the remaining individuals arrested last week in the vicinity of Stanstead, Que., some about 150 kilometres southeast of Montreal, but a lawyer says they are claiming refugee status.
"During the operation some 40 individuals were intercepted and arrested," confirmed Dominique McNeely of the CBSA. "Charges were laid by (the CBSA) against four individuals in virtue of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act."
"It's rare that we arrest such a large number of people, this doesn't happen often," said McNeely, adding that the arrests were made between Oct. 9 and Oct. 14.
RCMP_Cpl. Luc Bessette said the Mounties were expected to formally announce Wednesday the results of the "targeted operation," which also involved U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"Following information obtained via our partners we conducted a strategic operation last week resulting in rather impressive results," he said, without providing further details.
"Most of the people who have entered are claiming refugee status," said Claire Desgens, the attorney of a man charged with not reporting to the border station. A vast majority of those arrested were Colombian, she said. Those being criminally charged are not claiming refugee status because they are either U.S. nationals or permanent residents there, Desgens added.
Desgens said the guerrilla conflict in Colombia may be feeding the influx. "The difficult political conflict in Colombia is making these people flee," often bringing entire families, she said.
The number of arrivals may suggest a network is at work but so far no "professional smuggler" has been charged, Desgens said. But she added that a majority of those arriving carried maps depicting side-streets that could be used to cross undetected the border separating the tightly-knit communities of Stanstead and Derby Line, Vt.
Earlier this year U.S. and Canadian authorities announced they would seek to close three unguarded side-streets that run across that border, but barriers have yet to the put in place McNeely said.
Second death following Taser use sparks call for moratorium
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
The death in Montreal Thursday of a second man stunned by a Taser gun in Canada this week is prompting concerns about the use of the weapon, but a recent U.S. study says the weapon inflicts very few serious injuries.
Quilem Registre, 39, was Tasered Sunday, the same day as Robert Dziekanski, 40, who was restrained at Vancouver International Airport. Dziekanski died minutes after being shot with the electro-shock weapon while Registre passed away four days later.
While the actual causes of death have yet to be determined, the incidents are reviving debate on the use Taser guns.
The two recent deaths bring to 17 the number of victims to have died in Canada shortly after being hit with a Taser. In many cases the men also had illegal drugs in their system and often pepper spray or other restraints were used as well as the Taser.
Amnesty International is calling for a moratorium on the use of the weapon.
"The events this week really show a necessity for a comprehensive understanding of this weapon," said John Tackaberry, a spokesman with Amnesty. It wants use of the weapon suspended "until there are adequate comprehensive studies that deal with all of the aspects of the physical and medical impacts."
On Thursday Quebec's Public Security Department asked a working group studying the use of the weapon to move up the presentation of its report, originally due in December.
"In light of recent events the minister has asked that the (committee's) work be accelerated," said spokeswoman Genevieve Guilbault.
She said two suspicious deaths are being investigated in Quebec. Claudio Castagnetta was arrested on Sept. 18 and died after being transferred to a detention centre by police. At one point he resisted arrest and police used a stun gun to restrain him.
The head of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission asked in 2006 for a comprehensive report on police use of Tasers, citing concerns over how the 50,000-volt device is being used.
"In our annual report we reported about the use of Tasers and our concerns about its appropriate use," said Nelson Kalil, a spokesman for the Commission. Among them he cited concerns Taser may be used to prod people along rather than when officers were at risk. "Other interventions could have been more appropriate."
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day on Thursday said the RCMP and the Canadian Police Association were reviewing the use of Tasers as the issue was being raised during question period in the House of Commons. He said that since their introduction in 2001, Tasers have been used by the RCMP about 4,000 times and at least as many times by other police associations. He said that officers have received intensive training on Tasers.
But in a recent study funded by the U.S. Justice Department, researchers tracking police Taser use on 962 people from July 2005 to June 2007 found very few suffered serious injury.
Three people sustained moderate or severe non-fatal injuries. Two had head injuries when they fell to the ground after being stunned. Another had a type of muscle breakdown, the researchers said. Another 216 people sustained minor injuries like cuts, and 743 suffered no injury, the study found.
Dr. Christine Hall, an in-custody death expert from Victoria, said "99.7 per cent of field applications resulted in no or minimal injury. In that series there were two deaths and in each of those cases the technology was found to be unrelated to the death."
"In the 100,000s of Taser applications in North America... you're going to encounter adverse outcome, it has to happen statistically. That doesn't mean it's a causal relationship."
Canadian Forces keep eye on Russian aerial exercises
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
The Canadian Forces say they transferred a number of CF-18 fighter jets based in Quebec to Goose Bay, N.L. for maintenance reasons, but add they're also keeping an eye on a Russian military exercise in the Arctic.
"It still keeps us in a rapid position to respond to any unidentified aircraft approaching our airspace, but this hasn't been the case," said Capt. Steve Neta, from Canadian Norad regional headquarters in Winnipeg.
Last week, Russia's military announced that up to 10 of its strategic bombers would carry out patrols over the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans and the Black Sea.
"From the Norad perspective the mission hasn't changed," Mr. Neta said about the Russians flights. They have been "conducted in a professional way, it's all been done in international waters and airways and obeying international flight rules, so it's been done in a very professional exchange up to this point."
"Up to 10 long-range aircraft, Tupolev 160s and 22M3s are taking part in these exercises, with inflight refuelling," Air Force spokesman Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky told Russian news agencies.
He added that the flights were for training purposes and conformed with international regulations on the use of airspace.
Mr. Neta denied reports a Russian plane had flown into Labrador air space without permission on Aug. 17.
"There is no information supporting this event although we are double-checking to see if there are any flights that may have been misinterpreted," he said. "One thing we can say with absolute certainty is that (at) no time did any aircraft, unidentified or without permission, enter sovereign airspace, at no time at all."
But the president of the civilian workers union at CFB Goose Bay says he expected the denial but insisted that multiple sources, some "well-placed," tell him otherwise.
"(The plane) was asked several times to identify himself and wouldn't, so they called in three CF-18s from Bagotville to escort him out," said Howard Bishop. "By the time they got here from Bagotville, (the Russians) were over Goose Bay. If that plane was equipped to do any damage he would have been able to (do so)."
Mr. Bishop said he has seen at least four CF-18s at CFB Goose Bay, which arrived for an unscheduled two-week training period.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the resumption of long-range flights in international air space on Aug. 17.
In the past year Russia has been flexing its military muscle, reviving strategic bomber flights to probe western air defences, investing in new strategic weapons and using the windfall from high oil prices to rebuild its weakened military, but NATO officials aren't alarmed yet.
"We watch it, as we always do," Gen. Bantz Craddock, the supreme NATO commander told reporters earlier this month, referring to the resumption of Russian strategic bomber flights. "At this point, I don't see it as threatening at all."
Beginning in 1985 Goose Bay supported allied military training but the memorandum of understanding expired in March, 2006, putting an end to what used to be a permanent allied detachment.
There is no permanent CF-18 presence at the base, which serves as a forward operating location for CFB Bagotville, providing support for that base.
Many countries have faced the same budget restrictions seen in Canada, explains Capt. Tom Burkhart, and have been doing alternative training elsewhere. The base remains a permanent establishment for allied training but none are presently at Goose Bay, he said.
Fighting Hiltons: TKOed by legal battles
Published: Sunday, October 28
By Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
The 'Fighting Hiltons' from Rigaud, Que. were talented and destined for greatness but instead have become an infamous trio better known for their rap sheet than their boxing record.
Their legal troubles started early on and were at times very serious, such as the prolonged sexual assault of two daughters, or plain old silly, when two of the professional boxers wore stocking masks and decided that robbing a doughnut shop while sporting jackets with their names on it would be a good idea.
Two members of the notorious trio remain in prison despite recent court appearances which resulted in acquittals. However their long history of trials and convictions explain why Alex Hilton and brother Dave Jr. aren't on their father's side training the next generation of boxers at Montreal's Club de Boxe Hilton.
Dave Jr., 43, whose appearance in the ring this spring was probably his last despite being successful, remains in custody, waiting to hear from a parole board despite being acquitted on Oct. 17 of charges of assault and uttering death threats against his girlfriend.
He breached parole conditions in place since last year when he was allowed to serve in the community the remaining third of his 2001 seven-year sentence for sexually assaulting his two daughters, who were minors at the time.
"The parole board is quite powerful, if they decide it's grave he could spend the rest of his sentence in jail, or they could change some of the conditions," said his lawyer Andrew Barbacki.
Alex, 42, walked out of a Montreal courthouse Oct. 17 a free man only to be arrested hours later on 15 charges, nine of them for breaching parole conditions. The previous day he had promised to turn over a new leaf and said the time for the Hiltons to clean up their act was long overdue.
His attorney could hardly believe the new charges.
"Initially I thought someone was playing a prank on me, you know, between lawyers," recalled Clemente Monterosso. "Sincerely, I thought it was a joke."
Monterosso said Alex had walked out of court "full of good intentions" and intended to restart his life, seeking advice on how to once more have access to his children and calling contacts to return to work. He planned to rent an apartment and prepare a nice room for his daughters so he could see them on the weekend.
"He said they (the Hiltons) couldn't go on doing what they did in the past," Monterosso recalled. "He said it was time for them to take charge, to wake up, to lead a normal life."
Their brother Matthew was convicted in the doughnut shop robbery and he was also charged with threatening to kill his wife's former husband.
But often stepping out of court seemed to be like walking through a revolving door for the descendants of a Scottish fighter who became British champion. A boxing analyst says family background goes a long way to explain how the Hiltons became, so "dysfunctional."
"The family in general is quite unusual. Normally when kids are five years old they play in the park with other kids, but the Hiltons were out training with their dad, a boxer himself, two to three hours a day," said Martin Dion from RDS, the French sister station of TSN. "They were running across Montreal while their father was pushing them harder from his car, at that age they were being pushed to the limit."
They were pulled out of school at a young age, Dion said, and were later "sold" to a reputed U.S. promoter "better-known for looking after his wallet than his boxers, Don King."
With their early successes during the 1980s came the first run-ins with the law, spawning a history of violent crime often fuelled by alcohol.
Still fans kept being drawn to the name Hilton until Dave Jr.'s trial, Dion says.
"Even at the trial (for incest) some fans wanted their picture taken with him and to get his autograph," which was absurd, he said. But the sexual assault conviction became the last straw for many fans, and when Dave Jr. returned to the ring this spring and beat his much younger, but also less experienced opponent, the event proved a disaster for the promoter, said Dion.
"The public didn't cheer him on and the media totally ignored it," he said.
He doubts the Hiltons will ever take to the ring again.
The Hiltons were a "boxing machine" probably the most talented family ever produced in Quebec, Dion said, but the headlines they make these days are strictly in the crime pages.
Matthew is a former International Boxing Federation junior middleweight champ and Dave Jr. was for a brief moment one of the greatest 168-pound fighters, having captured the World Boxing Council super-middleweight title before being stripped of the belt in 2001 after the sexual assault conviction.
But in the end, all that fame even failed to intimidate Dave Jr.'s own daughters, who released a book in 2004 describing the abuse at the hands of their father.
"My sister and I confronted the man who made us into slaves, the man who we feared even more than the monsters in our dreams," one of the girls wrote in the book, entitled "Heart with a Black Eye." -- "Together, we KO'd him."
"It's unfortunate, their story is a sad one, but they snatched defeat from the hands of victory," Dion said of the Hilton trio. "They've had so many opportunities and yet failed to seize them."
Mother caught smuggling heroin in baby carriage
Published: Tuesday, October 30 2007
CanWest News Service
When a woman pushing a baby carriage walked into a prison in Quebec this weekend, police dogs picked up an unusual scent, but the month-old toddler wasn't to blame.
"Our trained dog pointed in the direction of the baby, which indicated a trace of narcotics," said Jean-Yves Roy of the Correctional Service of Canada.
The 22-year-old woman from Halifax, who was visiting Donnacona Institution near Quebec City on Saturday, also had a 4-year-old child with her. The woman was asked to leave the premises, but became agitated and tried to strike prison personnel, Roy said.
Provincial police officers arrested the woman. The children were handed over to youth-protection services.
Once in custody, the woman handed over about 32 grams of heroin, estimated to be worth $38,400, Roy said.
Another visitor apprehended the same day, a 20-year-old woman visiting from Trois Rivières, was detained for carrying hashish, said Ann Mathieu of the Quebec provincial police.
Roy stressed the two incidents were unrelated and said the second woman was carrying 117.5 grams of hashish.
While both face charges of drug possession, the Halifax woman could also face charges of mistreating the month-old child, Mathieu said.
Search still full-time job for Cedrika's family
Published: Tuesday, October 30 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Three months after Cedrika Provencher went missing the number of tips phoned into police are dwindling but her family remains hopeful and is still industriously working to secure her return.
The 10-year-old girl, whose birthday was celebrated in her absence, disappeared on July 31 and was last seen looking for a black-and-white dog, a few blocks from where she lived in Trois-Rivieres, Que., about 110 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
In the days leading to her disappearance a suspect had approached several young girls in a park in Cedrika's neighbourhood telling them in French that he was looking for a dog.
Trois-Rivieres' Chapais Park was empty the afternoon of Thursday 06 September. Two girls were say they were approached separately by a man in the days leading up to Cedrika Provencher's July 31 disappearance in Trois-Rivieres, Qc. The 10-year-old vanished near her home after telling people she was helping a man look for a lost dog.
Police have since released the description of the man and said they were looking for a red, four-door Acura with beige interior in connection with her disappearance.
While investigators are treating it as a possible kidnapping, "we have to use the term 'disappearance' because we're not in a position to clearly establish it's a kidnapping," reminded Pierre Rivard of the Surete du Quebec.
Rivard says there's been a sharp drop in he number of calls to their public hotline in the last month but that overall some 15,000 calls had led to 4,000 tips worth investigating.
Fears the case may have gone cold isn't discouraging members of Cedrika's family from pursuing their own investigation.
Family members and volunteers have travelled some 25,000 kilometres over the past three months criss-crossing the province to verify clues and tips, said Cedrika's father, Martin, in a phone interview conducted while he was on the road.
The family has set up a regularly-updated website on the search, and continues fielding some 30 calls and 50 emails daily at "Cedrika headquarters."
"Everybody puts in a full day and helps the search move along, always with the hope of finding her alive," said Henri Provencher, Martin's father.
Over a dozen family members and volunteers put in full 12-hour days in the search for Cedrika. "It's non-stop," he says.
"We're not losing hope, as long as we don't have reason to believe otherwise we remain hopeful," he said.
On Oct. 24 a concert featuring music artist Nanette Workman and a local orchestra helped raised funds to help continue the search.
"The goal isn't to make millions but gathering money to help look for Cedrika, we don't know for how long we'll be doing this," Martin said.
He adds that the concert, which raised some $5,000, was also the opportunity to wind down for the first time since Cedrika went missing.
"It's the first time we were trying to relax since she went missing," he said, adding the day was very emotional. "It's not easy to sit around on a comfortable chair when you don't know where your daughter is and what she's going through."
Nearly a third of rural mailboxes are unsafe and may have to go
Published: Wednesday, October 31 2007
Phil Couvrette, CanWest News Service
Canadians living outside of cities could have to travel a bit further to collect their mail as Canada Post is estimating that nearly a third of the number of rural mailboxes across the country will have to go.
The mail carrier is currently conducting a three-year assessment of all 843,000 rural mailboxes across the country after having received some 1,000 complaints from postal carriers operating in these areas over the last 18 months.
"Since we have been evaluating rural mailboxes we can say in general terms that 70 per cent can keep them and 30 per cent must find an alternative," said Line Brien, a spokeswoman at Canada Post.
Some rural areas are entirely safe, she points out, while others represent dangers for postal workers who have to use vehicles on sometimes narrow, unpaved and increasingly busy roads.
"Often postal workers delivering mail do so while standing on the road, there isn't a shoulder, and they can encounter vehicles coming from both directions, and this can result in accidents," Brien said. "Because there's so much concern, especially on road safety matters, and because of complaints from postal workers, we decided to launch a countrywide operation."
"Heavy traffic volumes in particular, make pulling off the road and merging back into traffic unsafe - a situation made worse where curves, hills or other obstructions make it impossible for other drivers to see the mail carrier vehicle stopped at the side of the road or merging back into traffic," noted Canada Post on its website page dedicated to the assessment program.
Brien said Canada Post is legally responsible for the safety of its workers and other federal agencies confirmed the danger posed by some rural routes.
Rural mailboxes represent about six percent of Canada Post's 14 million points of delivery.
In certain areas such as Quebec's Eastern Townships, the number of mailboxes effected is slightly higher, near 40 per cent. Complaints from postal workers resulted in refusal to work in certain areas such as Vaudreuil-Dorion, near Montreal, and Fredericton, N.B., Brien said.
Canada Post has been progressively alerting Canadians, whose boxes pose a problem, and assisting them to find alternatives to their rural mailboxes since the assessment started in 2006, Brien said.
"We're being very transparent and let people know when we're in the region," she said, adding that people are met personally and told face-to-face if their mailbox represents a problem.
The nationwide assessment was deemed necessary after two postal workers were killed and 37 others injured since 2005.
Prior to 2006 Canada Post would visit homeowners of problem mailboxes if there was an incident or a complaint, but now Canada Post is being more proactive, Brien said.
To prevent accidents the carrier has equipped vehicles with rooftop signs and flashing amber lights, but this hasn't proven enough to limit the risks.
In some cases owners are being asked to move their mailbox to a safer area. In other cases they can either use alternatives such a community mailboxes, piggyback on their neighbour's mailbox, or receive free lockbox service at a local post office or local outlet offering postal services, such as pharmacies.
A postal workers representative says she backs the assessment because it addresses safety worries, but is concerned it could be carried out in some instances in an effort to cut mailboxes, service, costs and jobs.
"What I hear is that many mailboxes are being removed and people are asked to use community boxes and post offices, and they're already speaking out against it," said Monique Allard, from the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. "People are opposed to this because they're entitled to the service, and some elderly people are shocked because rural mailboxes have always been part of the landscape."
Que. provincial police spent $7 million on Montebello summit
Published: Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
One of a number of police and security forces ensuring protection at the Montebello summit bringing together North American leaders this year, the Quebec provincial police spent over $7 million on the event alone CanWest News Service has learned.
On Aug. 20 Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon convened in the Quebec town some 80 kilometres east of Ottawa for a two-day summit as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership. The initiative aims to deepen the integration of Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Security was both tight and expensive, especially as a three-metre high fence was raised to surround Chateau Montebello where the meetings took place, to keep hundreds of protesters away.
A number of local, provincial and federal police forces participated in the security effort on land, water and in the air, and for just one of them the bill climbed over $7 million according to an audit obtained by CanWest News Service through Quebec's access to information legislation. Figures for the others are not yet available.
According to documents obtained from the audit bureau of the Surete du Quebec, $7,192,635 was spent by the provincial police force to help secure the event, most of it to make sure enough manpower was available. A total of $4,589,965 went to cover overtime during the summit and another $1,416,303 covered lodging, transportation and catering costs.
Various maintenance, communications, and rental needs cover the remaining expenses. An official at the audit bureau said these were the more up to date numbers available at the time of the request for information but not necessarily the final costs associated with the event.
Shortly after the summit the SQ acknowledged in a statement that its agents had infiltrated protesters demonstrating during the protests in Montebello but denied charges by some protest groups that they acted as "agent provocateurs" to instigate violence.
A video posted on YouTube showed three burly black-clad bandana-wearing men being singled out by union organizers and the crowd before trying to force themselves through a police line and getting arrested.
Daycare can help prevent childhood aggression, study says
Published: Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
Children of mothers with low education levels are less likely to become aggressive if they have been introduced to daycare at an early age, a Quebec study found.
The sweeping study of 1,691 children born between 1997 and 1998, published in this month's Archives of General Psychiatry, found that the earlier the children of such mothers were introduced to nonmaternal care services the less likely they were to become aggressive.
Children who attend daycare before they are nine months old are five times less likely to become aggressive. After nine months, they are still three times less likely to become aggressive by attending daycare.
"Contrary to some popular belief there's no risk to children, in a majority of cases, who attend daycare, even at a young age," said Sylvana Cote of the University of Montreal, who headed the study. "There's a clear benefit for mothers with low education levels."
That doesn't mean mothers without a high school education won't become good mothers, but they usually live in a troubled environment that may affect the child, Cote points out.
Before learning how to talk, children express themselves aggressively, "which is normal," Cote notes, but in a difficult home environment they may not learn how to adjust their behaviour. "In those cases experience outside the family is beneficial," Cote said, and avoids social problems down the road.
Of the children selected for the study, 111 received no nonmaternal care before kindergarten, 234 received it before they turned nine months old and 1,346 after nine months. Researchers met with their mothers every year between the ages of five and 60 months to track possible behaviour problems such as kicking, hitting or biting other members of the family.
The study goes against notions that some children become more aggressive by attending daycare, its authors note.
But the study acknowledges that the children who would most benefit from early introduction to daycare, most likely from low-income families, are least likely to receive it.
"Because children most likely to benefit from nonmaternal care services are less likely to receive them, special measures encouraging the use of nonmaternal care services among high-risk families are needed," the authors recommend.
The longitudinal study brought together researchers from Canada, the U.S. and Europe and will track the cognitive abilities, school maturity and other characteristics of the study group for years, Cote said. Early figures indicate that children attending daycare are better prepared for school compared to others, she added.
Quebec doesn't need reasonable accommodation debate: Harper
Published: Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
Quebecers could do without the ongoing debate on the integration of immigrants into society, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.
"I do think that most Quebecers are feeling increasingly secure in the position of their language and culture in this country, as they should," Mr. Harper said. "My sense is... kind of going back over debates over language or culture or immigration is not frankly where most Quebecers want to go."
Quebecers want to look ahead and not get bogged down by old debates, Mr. Harper said Wednesday. "Quebecers really do want to move forward," he said. They want to "put behind them the battle between the two extreme positions that they've faced over the past couple of generations -- extreme separatism on the one hand and extreme centralization on the other hand."
Mr. Harper's position on the so-called reasonable accommodation debate, which has enflamed passions across the province over the last few months, may disappoint Quebec Premier Jean Charest, whose government launched the provincewide commission.
It also is in sharp contrast to Governor General Michaelle Jean's opinion on the issue.
Ms. Jean said in a September interview that Quebec's debate on the reasonable accommodation of religious and ethnic minorities is a healthy exercise that should take place not only there but in the rest of Canada as well.
Ms. Jean said Quebec is no different than other parts of Canada when it comes to attitudes toward minorities. The difference is that Quebecers are talking about it.
"I think it is always healthy to confront perspectives and points of views," said Ms. Jean, a Haitian-born Quebecer and Canada's first black Governor General. "It is always healthy. I think it would be unhealthy not to do it," she said.
Mr. Charest's office had no immediate comments on Mr. Harper's statement.
Mr. Charest announced the reasonable accommodation hearings earlier this year after the Quebec election campaign was monopolized by tensions over how religious and ethnic minority groups were being integrated into Quebec society.
Girl at home with mother dead in bed
Friday, November 16, 2007
CanWest News Service
DOLBEAU, Que. -- A four-year-old girl was found by herself in an apartment where her mother had been dead for at least 24 hours, and possibly days, Quebec Provincial Police said yesterday.
The 29-year-old single mom, a smoker who suffered from chronic asthma, was determined to have died from natural causes according to a coroner's report, police said.
"The woman died in her bed from natural death caused by her chronic asthma, according to the autopsy; there was no trace of violence," said Const.Pierre Dufour.
The girl was found by herself Sunday when her grandparents entered the home in Dolbeau-Mistassini, about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City. The girl's grandmother had been told by the four-year-old that her mother was "still sleeping" during calls over the weekend.
The last time the grandmother had heard from the child's mother had been the previous Friday. A coroner determined the woman had been dead for at least 24 hours.
"The girl couldn't tell she was dead, she was too young to know" said Dufour. "After awhile they became worried because they found it strange that the mother was 'sleeping' for such a long time."
The grandparents, who said the girl is in good condition in spite of her ordeal, are now taking care of the child, Dufour said.
Emergency vehicles delayed
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2007
CanWest News Service
OTTAWA -- U.S. officials say they are preparing a response to a letter by Stockwell Day raising concerns about incidents involving emergency vehicles being held up at the border but noted that they were isolated cases amid the heavy traffic across the border.
On Monday the public safety minister told the House of Commons he had registered Canadian concerns about the incidents.
On Remembrance Day, Quebec firefighters rushing to respond to a fire in New York State were held up for several minutes at the U.S.-Canada border. The following day an ambulance carrying a 49-year-old Windsor heart-attack victim, who had already twice been revived, was asked to head to a secondary inspection at the U.S. border en route to a Detroit hospital.
Amy Kudwa, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said her office had received a letter by Day and was formulating a response.
Taser incidents more common in the U.S.
Friday, November 23, 2007
By Phil Couvrette
CanWest News Service
While the disturbing video of a writhing Robert Dziekanski being shocked by Taser in Vancouver travelled around the world, use of the electro-shock weapon is especially widespread in the U.S., where four people reportedly died after its application this week alone.
Recent non-lethal incidents there also have drawn attention to the use of the weapon, including video footage showing police shocking a student with a Taser during a meeting held by U.S. Senator John Kerry at the University of Florida.
In another incident, an 82-year-old Chicago woman was Tasered because she wouldn't put a hammer down when confronted by police. That incident is being investigated by the Chicago Police Department's Office of Professional Standards.
Taser International Inc., based in Scottsdale, Ariz., says over 11,000 law-enforcement, correctional and military agencies in 44 countries use its devices. Over 260,000 Taser brand stun guns have been sold to law enforcement since February 1998 and over 136,000 sold to citizens since 1994.
In Canada, Tasers are not legal for private use.
Last year the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice commissioned a two-year study following reports by Amnesty International that over 150 people had died after they had been shocked by the device.
At the time, Amnesty called on law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to suspend the use of Tasers. It recently said authorities in Canada should do the same.
Amnesty now says nearly 300 people have died after being struck by Tasers since 2001 in the U.S. and Canada.
Brian Loan, a 47-year-old who died in October, 2006, is believed to be the first person in the U.K. to die after being shocked with a Taser, according to Amnesty.
In Britain, some 3,000 special firearms officers have received Tasers since their introduction in 2003 but groups are concerned authorities are making the device more widely available after the announcement 10 forces across the U.K. were taking part in a 12-month pilot program that began in September.
In Australia, police ministers in Queensland and New South Wales are under increased pressure by police unions to extend the use of Tasers, according to reports.
A spokesman for Taser International Inc., noted Amnesty's tally was "not saying those death causes are causal, they're just saying they're related."
"When we get cleared, these numbers never drop off their radar screens," said Steve Tuttle. "They're just doing a body count at this point, which is ridiculous."
In fact, Tuttle said no deaths "in terms of direct physical cause" are attributed to Tasers. Some were listed as a "contributing factor in a handful of cases" he said, adding that even in these cases "other uses of force were applied."
There are 39 lawsuits pending against Taser Inc., including some for wrongful death, but to date it has never lost one. "We're actually 60 wins and no losses when it comes to wrongful deaths and or training injuries," Tuttle said.
The company's success selling the product internationally is proof of its reliability and safety, Tuttle said. "Multiple independent tests (are required) to get those into countries, particularly the United Kingdom," which spent millions of dollars studying Tasers over many years, he said.
In a recent Wake Forest University study, researchers tracking police Taser use on 962 people from July 2005 to June 2007 found very few suffered serious injury.
Tenant and landlord in court over right to smoke in home
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
In a case that is rallying smoker's rights groups one year after Quebec banned smoking in public places, a Montreal landlord is going to court to overturn a July rental board's ruling in favour of a smoking tenant.
This summer the Regie du logement ruled pack-a-day smoker Sandra Fowler could keep puffing away on the second-floor of her building despite complaints by owner Olesia Koretski. She lives below Fowler and said that smoke was entering her apartment and aggravating her asthma.
Koretski was also worried about the effect the second-hand smoke could have on the unborn child she was carrying.
Central to Fowler's success in the ruling was that a non-smoking clause was not included in her lease.
The board ruled that Koretski's argument that the initial application form that Fowler filled out - stating that smokers and people with pets were not welcome to apply - was not enough to oblige Fowler to butt out when inside. Fowler was also allowed to keep pets.
The case returns to court Friday a year after Fowler received a letter advising her the landlord had lodged a complaint with the rental board.
Koretski could not have picked a tougher opponent to square off against on the matter of smoking rights.
Fowler is a member of the smoking rights group MonChoix.ca, whose spokeswoman Arminda Mota said she was confident the July ruling would not be overturned.
"Imagine they win this case and the tenant is forced to leave," Mota said. "Anyone who is tenant right now can be booted out by their landlords?"
She says the case is being watched closely by smokers groups at a time communities are starting to prevent smoking in private areas, such as vehicles.
Last week Wolfville, N.S. became the first town in the country to ban smoking in vehicles if there's a child on board.
Bridgewater, N.S., councillor Kevin Marlin said he was inspired by the ruling to consider a more dramatic smoking bylaw in his community.
"My concept is that this bylaw includes not just children in cars but driving and smoking because you're in a public space," he said about plans for a more far-reaching smoking ban. "We're talking the sidewalks, the streets, town-owned parking spaces, recreational facilities - the whole gamut," he said.
"Anti-smokers groups are on an offensive to prohibit smoking in homes," Mota said. "They don't want us to smoke anywhere!"
Mota notes the landlords renewed the lease twice since Fowler moved in and failed to include a non-smoking clause. Mota also blamed shoddy repairs for letting the smoke into the apartment below.
Housing groups were also following the case. Francois Saillant, coordinator for group FRAPRU, said he doubted the landlord would win the case.
"You can't just change the terms of a lease," he said.
Fowler said she was confident the court case would settle the longstanding dispute.
"It's been going on since I moved in but I think it's going to settle it once and for all," she said.
She said she would fight any eviction bearing in mind others faced the same predicament.
"It's easier to just move out, but you have to think of all the other people that are going to be in the same situation," Fowler said.
Matthew Newland, Koretski's husband and father of a five-month-old child, said he was reserving comments for after the court date.
"There's nothing here to say, we're just going to wait and see what happens," he said.
The spokesman for a landlord group says the grievance doesn't oppose landlord against tenant but smoker against non-smoker, and landlords can have valid reasons for denying smokers the right to light up.
"Some landlords have found places in bad shape because a smoker lived there for years and left behind burns appearing on carpets, counters and a lingering smell that scares away future tenants," said Hans Brouillette.
Time ripe to remember defender of the North, historian says
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
As Canada seeks to assert its Arctic claims, the founder of a Quebec historical society says the time has never been better to honour an explorer who helped the country claim a huge chunk of the North.
In the late 1800s, Quebec-based captain Joseph-Elzear Bernier tried to persuade a young Canada of the importance of claiming sovereignty over the islands of the North. The British government had formally ceded the land in 1880 but the Canadian government had yet to exercise its jurisdiction there.
Bernier's expeditions eventually helped the country claim sovereignty over 750,000 square kilometres in the Arctic, says Jeanne Coude of the Levis regional historic society. Coude has been prodding various governments for years to erect a monument paying homage to a man sometimes called "the greatest Canadian navigator."
"When I saw reports of other countries contesting the Northwest Passage . . . I thought we needed to honour him here (in Levis), where he lived," said Coude, who has approached federal, provincial and municipal governments to erect a monument.
Bernier not only claimed sovereignty over a large land mass in the North, he constantly reminded the government of the need to "maintain and take care of the North" because of its immense potential, Coude said.
"He saw at the time how valuable it was going to become," she noted. "If he had been English (Canadian), he would already have a monument with a plaque."
The monument would be laid by the docks in Levis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City. Estimated to cost some $300,000, it would be made of bronze and stone.
"Like Bernier (trying to reach the Arctic), I will do everything I can to get a monument worthy of him," Coude said. "He was the last Jacques Cartier - after him there were no more lands to claim."
At the turn of the 20th century, Bernier finally persuaded the government of the need to claim the islands - such as Baffin and Ellesmere - amid obvious signs U.S. and European explorers were out to do the same.
Canada is currently locked in a furious claims rush with Russia, the U.S., Denmark and Norway over parts of the Arctic. Many countries do not recognize Canada's sovereignty in the Northwest Passage.
Billions of dollars in oil and gas deposits are believed to lie beneath the Arctic seabed. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country can secure rights to seabed territory reaching far beyond the 200-mile limit if it can prove that a portion of the ocean floor is geologically linked to its continental shelf.
The Harper government announced billions in spending to defend the North, including construction of Arctic patrol ships and the establishment of a new training centre in the North.
Bernier made 12 trips to the Arctic and spent eight winters there between 1906 and 1925. He hopped from island to island, sometimes finding documents left behind by his predecessors, and conducted topographic surveys while officially claiming the island for Canada.
Bringing Canadian law to the region, Bernier issued permits to whalers, hunters and fishermen in the area and helped establish numerous RCMP posts. His travels enabled him to establish contacts with Canada's Inuit communities, transporting food and other articles in remote areas.
To this day, his memory lives in Canada's North, said Philippa Ootoowak, who works at the Pond Inlet archives in Nunavut. "Because he made the attempt to stay around the community and befriended the people . . . he was well respected."
"Kapitaikallak still has not been forgotten by Inuit up to now. We still know about him," Inuit elder Nutaraq Cornelius was quoted as saying in 2000, referring to Bernier's Inuit name. "We have heard about him. He is not forgotten."
Ootoowak said "the monument sounds like a good idea because it would make people pay attention more (to their history), especially as people in the political world are talking about sovereignty."
"(But) putting a monument to a southern person is a little affronting to people who lived here all their lives," she added. "Just because somebody came up in a ship ... nobody's bothered to recognize the fact we've lived here for years and years."
Statements by the government to the effect that "we have to show we live there" can suggest Inuit are not important in the larger scheme of things, Ootoowak cautions.
Coude is hoping the monument, possibly inaugurated during next year's festivities marking Quebec City's 400th anniversary, will help preserve Bernier's memory.
"If we don't, 100 years from now, who's going to remember him?"
Afghan mission won't make soldier miss childbirth
Published: Thursday, November 29 2007
Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
A Quebec hospital is set to broadcast the birth of a baby whose father is a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan and might not be able to make it home in time.
The pilot project, done in partnership with the Canadian Forces, will enable the parents to be linked by video-conference, should the father not be able to attend the birth in mid-December of his child.
A spokesman for the hospital in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, north of Montreal, said the military approached the hospital this fall to ensure the couple was united one way or another for the birth.
"We really want to make sure the couple can experience this event together," said Alain Paquette.
Paquette said the couple wanted to remain anonymous but said the soldier left for Afghanistan four months ago and was due to receive a special leave."She could give birth tomorrow or in three weeks and we want all bases to be covered.
"This is taking place after wishes were first expressed by the couple," he said.
While the hospital is equipped to allow medical specialists to conduct video conferences and take part in training by video, the equipment will be the military's most up-to-date technology, usually used for soldiers to keep in touch with their families.
"It looks a lot like a laptop with a webcam on it, and it will be discreetly placed in the birthing room" he said. "But the challenge is to make sure the birth takes place like any other normal childbirth here at the hospital, by respecting the human dimension of an event such as this one."
"We want to forget the technology is there. They'll be able to communicate, talk to and see each other but that's all."
Preparation tests carried out Thursday linking Kandahar with Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts had proven successful, Paquette added.
Speaker saga leaves laboratory, heads to court
Thursday, November 29, 2007 Phil Couvrette CanWest News Service
Health officials in the U.S. and Canada say that none of the passengers who travelled with an American carrying a highly contagious form of tuberculosis, sparking an international health alert, have shown symptoms of the disease.
Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker travelled on two flights carrying a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis in May. He ignored a no-fly advisory to fly to Europe and back, passing through Montreal on his way home. He has since apologized for doing so.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about 250 passengers on the flight originating in the U.S. onMay 12 were tested and none reported any symptoms. They include 25 of the 26 "high priority" cases sitting closest to Speaker. The remaining passenger was outside the U.S. and testing could not be confirmed.
Twenty-nine passengers sitting closest to Speaker on the return flight, landing in Canada, are also symptom-free, said AlainDesroches of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
"To date everything is pointing to no evidence of transmission," he said.
While these signs bode well six months after the flights, a full two years will be necessary before the passengers are considered completely in the clear, he said citing medical experts.
Skin test results only indicate lack of exposure at the time of testing. The passengers have been told to immediately alert their doctors should they develop any symptoms, Desroches said.
"I'm relieved that the results came back that way," Speaker told the Atlanta-Constitution on Tuesday. "I hope that brings a sense of peace and closure for the people who may have been concerned."
That won't be the end of his worries. Canadian passengers have launched a suit against Speaker "claiming expenses the various plaintiffs have incurred but (which they) were unable to enjoy" because of the health scare, said attorney Anlac Nguyen. Sixteen people have joined the suit which goes to court Nov. 29.
Magdalen mayor says land erosion threatens island links
Published: Sunday, December 02, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
The mayor of the Magdalen Islands has warned Quebec provincial officials his region needs a long-term plan to deal with constant land erosion which threatens to sever roads linking islands in the archipelago.
Joel Arseneau has been addressing various provincial ministries on the matter after being briefed by experts preparing a major report on erosion in this wind-swept community in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.
"Researchers have taken samples for the last two years and have noticed that the borderline dune which protects the archipelago, notably road infrastructure linking the islands, has been losing ground in certain areas, sometimes by as much as 15 metres," he said. "Obviously this phenomenon is alarming.
"Based on this information we can attest to what extent erosion is a serious problem."
Climate change is making matters worse by melting ice packs that usually protect the archipelago's sand-lined coast, he said.
"Less ice to protect the archipelago in winter means, during this period when storms are fiercest, there are risks of greater damage," he said.
Guglielmo Tita, the scientific director of a research centre on maritime studies, who's lived there for more than five years, says different factors threaten dunes in the north and south, which serve as road links between the islands. But climate change has exacerbated natural erosion in the last 10 years.
"The (lack of) ice, the storms, the waves, are phenomenon tied to climate change or are at least amplified by them," he said.
Arseneau wants to make sure the issue will become a provincial priority next spring when the erosion experts, the Ouranos research group, releases its report.
"It's a phenomenon we're going to have to act on quickly," he said, referring to Ouranos models which suggest more intense and frequent storms beating against an increasingly defenceless coastline.
The islands of the Magdalen archipelago are connected by extensive sand dunes that serve as foundations for a road system without which up to a third of the area's 13,000 inhabitants would be cut off, the mayor warns.
"People can't imagine being cut off from the islands." Arseneau said. "They need this road link with the main islands."
While he said he didn't expect to wake up one morning and find the links severed, a rupture "isn't an impossible scenario," he said, especially in the event of a major storm.
Any breach to the northern dune could quickly widen and be hard to repair, Tita warns.
Work is completed every year to combat erosion, Arseneau added, but usually it consists of a quick-fix that involves filling gaps with stones.
This isn't a long-term solution, he stressed, and often only ends up displacing the problem.
This method is also becoming costly as the islands increasingly require rocks to be imported and Arseneau said the rising cost of all these quick fixes was more an immediate concern than the possibility part of the road system being washed away.
Arseneau is also trying to bring public officials from both provincial and federal levels, and business to work together to help replenish the dunes.
Tita says, however, there's always going to be a need to combat erosion.
"No adaptation strategy will ever be definitive, it will always be necessary to adapt the structures," he said.
While the problem is common in the region, the margin when fixing the problem is growing thinner every year, Tita says.
"Anywhere else you can just move a road threatened by erosion, here if you do you fall into the water," he said.
Three orphans face harm if they are deported to Mexico, groups say Friday, December 14, 2007 Phil Couvrette CanWest News Service
The United Church of Canada and Amnesty International are asking Immigration Canada to suspend the deportation of three Mexican orphans and their grandmother citing fears for their safety.
The three children, ages 6 to 17, were orphaned when their parents were killed by drug traffickers in Mexico two years ago and events they witnessed after the murders mean they could be targeted not only by drug cartels but crooked cops, supporters say.
"Amnesty International is very concerned about their safety," said Claudette Cardinal of Amnesty. "We're asking for a suspension of the deportation to give immigration ministry officials the time to study their request for permanent residence for humanitarian reasons."
The orphans fled to Canada in October 2005 after receiving threats from drug traffickers. They applied for refugee status, which was refused. A deportation date was recently fixed for January 21.
"We've applied to federal court to review the decisions," said attorney William Sloan. "The two decisions that we're attacking are one on the humanitarian application and the other one on the risk review."
Cardinal says that in addition to the traffickers, crooked cops are also a concern because one of the children said he saw an officer remove items from the home during the investigation of the killing which were never returned. Sloan says any notion the state of Mexico can protect the orphans is a joke.
"They were threatened both by the drug cartel and by some crooked cops so they left because of that," Sloan said, adding someone is currently under arrest in the murder case who is suspected of being a drug cartel assassin. He was known for going after the families of the victims as well, he said.
The United Church of Canada has also thrown its support behind the orphans and their grandmother Juana Montes-Gonzalez, calling upon Immigration Minister Diane Finlay to intervene and grant the family legal status in Canada.
"We are amazed that the immigration officer charged with assessing the humanitarian and compassionate grounds of the family's case did not find it severely contrary to the best interests of these three children to be returned to the place where they suffered such trauma," United Church of Canada general secretary Nora Sanders said in a statement.
Immigration Canada spokeswoman Jacqueline Roby said immigration agents were torn by the decision because it involved children and came so close to Christmas, but said the decision was final while reserving the right to appeal.
"This is a very sad case, we're very empathetic as a ministry, even if the decision is negative," she said. "But everything was carefully examined before the decision was handed to the client, and we're twice as attentive when minors are involved."
Immigration procedures require that agents consider "the best interest of the child," Roby said, noting that "the best interest of the child isn't always to stay in Canada" in an unfamiliar setting away from the family.
Christmas wish: fir tree that doesn't lose needles
Published: Wednesday, December 19 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
Shedding Christmas trees are enough to cause post-holiday blues, and pushing them through a door when they're dry is when it gets really messy.
Researchers concerned that needle loss is increasingly making consumers choose artificial trees over the scent of a freshly cut fir tree, and costing the tree industry plenty in the process, have launched a project to develop trees that hold onto their needles.
"Consumers have cited needle loss as one of the issues and problems with real trees," said Ross Pentz, a Christmas tree specialist with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. "We feel it's a serious enough issue that we need to address it."
The switch to artificial trees is hurting the $72-million-a-year Christmas tree industry in Atlantic Canada, said project director Raj Lada, a professor of plant physiology at the Nova Scotia Agriculture College in Truro.
"This is a major initiative unique to Atlantic Canada," Lada said. "Needle drop is a major issue after a tree is detached from its roots and used as a Christmas tree."
Lada initiated the study and is trying to establish the college as a world centre for the research.
Key to keeping trees from shedding their needles is understanding what triggers it, researchers say.
Most people think trees shed their needles because of dryness, but regular watering does not stop needle loss, and water retention has even been observed to improve after initial needle loss, Lada pointed out.
The research is studying how trees age and how they shed in the hopes of eventually creating a Christmas tree that holds onto its needles.
The study is looking into some 200 balsam fir clones from a Christmas tree seed orchard for signs of genetic resistance to needle shedding. Clones that hold their needles the longest are being studied to see what makes them special.
"We're at the very beginning of the research project, but we have already identified certain clones that have exceptional needle retention," Pentz said.
"So we will be studying those further and looking at ways to reproduce that same condition or those particular clones to make sure that the majority of the trees that we're putting out there in the future will have that superior needle retention."
Acclimatization to cold is being studied because lower temperatures have been shown to damage trees. The role of ethylene, a plant hormone, is also being analyzed, as are industry harvesting and production methods.
Researchers have to look into "multiple questions, as this is not a one-dimensional approach," Lada said, calling needle loss an "intriguing and complex mechanism."
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Choosing your tree
Pine trees shed the least along with Fraser firs, says Myles MacPherson, vice-president of the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association. The balsam fir also rates well, while the spruce trees, such as white or blue spruce trees, shed the fastest, he says. Needle retention can also depend on the harvest, MacPherson points out, while firs remain the people's choice overall.
The most popular Christmas trees are balsam fir, Fraser fir, Scotch pine and white spruce, according to the association.