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Trudeau urged to press Suu Kyi on rights

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

OTTAWA – The meeting Wednesday had the look of a feel-good visit between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and honorary Canadian citizen Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of Myanmar, also known as Burma.

But a major international human rights watchdog and groups representing Burmese refugees in Canada called on Trudeau to push Suu Kyi to allow an independent international investigation into allegations of widespread human rights abuses against the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority in the western state of Rakhine.

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Suu Kyi’s government has so far resisted those calls, which came from a special UN commission chaired by former secretary general Kofi Annan.

Farida Deif, Canada director for Human Rights Watch, urged Trudeau to use the meeting with Suu Kyi on Parliament Hill to specifically push her to accept the UN call.

“The prime minister should make clear that Myanmar’s full co-operation with this independent and impartial investigation is expected by Myanmar’s international donors and friends,” said Deif.

Trudeau made no mention of the Rohingya situation during a brief public photo-op with Suu Kyi as the two exchanged pleasantries in his office.

“We have some way to go before we become a working, democratic, federal nation such as yours, but I’m sure we’ll get there,” Suu Kyi told Trudeau.

She is a one-time political prisoner, democracy champion and Nobel Laureate who won a landslide election victory in late 2015.

While Trudeau’s office said he did raise the investigation during the meeting, he didn’t attach any strings. His office said Canada was giving Myanmar an additional $8.8 million in humanitarian assistance to promote “peace and stability” programs, including human rights.

Deif said Canada should view the Rohingya situation as “an important test of the Myanmar government’s commitment to uphold the rule of law and to work constructively with the international community to establish the facts, identify perpetrators and deter future human rights abuses by all sides.”

Trudeau’s spokesman said the prime minister planned to use the meeting to “advocate for further reforms in Myanmar, especially those that support ethnic and religious minorities, women, and young people — including the situation of the Rohingya.”

The prime minister also offered Suu Kyi Canada’s condolences for the loss of a military plane from Myanmar, which disappeared Wednesday while carrying more than 100 passengers and crew.

The Karen Community of Canada, which represents ethnic Karen refugees, also urged Trudeau to press for an independent UN investigation in Myanmar.

The group said in an open letter to Trudeau it didn’t want the visit to be a “feel-good celebration” that will ignore “human rights abuses in Burma’s ethnic areas, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has done virtually nothing to alleviate.”

The Rohingya situation has dulled much of the lustre of Suu Kyi’s successful entry into democratic politics in what was once one of South Asia’s most repressive military regimes. She spent 15 years in detention in Myanmar before her National League for Democracy won the election after five decades of military rule in her poor, but resource-rich country.

Former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird travelled to Myanmar in 2012 to present Suu Kyi with honorary Canadian citizenship and support her and the democratic reforms that were taking root then.

Canada has since re-established diplomatic relations with Myanmar and wants to forge new business links with a country the World Bank has described as possessing “fertile lands, significant untapped agricultural potential and a rich endowment of natural resources.”

But in its letter to Trudeau, the Karen community urged the government to reign in its enthusiasm for exploiting opportunities in Myanmar’s oil and gas sector because that has human rights implications.

5 suspects sought after Parkland County residents threatened with guns

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

RCMP west of Edmonton are looking for five suspects after a home invasion in Parkland County early Wednesday morning.

Stony Plain/Spruce Grove/Enoch RCMP say five men forced their way into a home near the Beach Corner Esso at Range Road 15 and Highway 16A at around 5:15 a.m.

The homeowners told police they were threatened with firearms and a knife before the suspects stole thousands of dollars worth of cigarettes being stored there.

Video footage captured two of the five suspects on camera.

One suspect was seen leaving  the scene in a new model, silver, four-door Nissan Altima.

RCMP describe one suspect as having a  medium build and short brown hair. Police say he has brown eyes and was clean shaven. The man was reportedly wearing blue jeans, a black t-shirt, a green ball cap and brown high-top running shoes.

The second man is described as having a thick build with short brown hair and brown eyes. He is clean shaven and was wearing red shorts, a red t-shirt, black gloves and black and red runners.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Stony Plain RCMP at 780-968-7200. If you want to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or online.

One of five suspects in a Parkland County home invasion on June 7, 2017.

RCMP

One of five suspects in a Parkland County home invasion on June 7, 2017.

RCMP

One of five suspects in a Parkland County home invasion on June 7, 2017.

RCMP

One of five suspects in a Parkland County home invasion on June 7, 2017.

RCMP

RCMP said one of the five suspects in a June 7, 2017 home invasion in Parkland County was seen fleeing in this Nissan Altima.

RCMP

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New Brunswick community comes together after fire destroys village’s only grocery store

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Two days after a massive fire destroyed the Village of Minto’s only grocery store, residents are rallying together to ensure everyone has access to groceries and fresh food.

Donald Gould, mayor for the Village of Minto, said the fire was a shock to the community, and said council met Monday to figure out a plan to ensure residents who are unable to drive to neighbouring towns for groceries are able to get food.

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“Certainly it was a shock to everyone initially, but since then our main concern, the concern of the individuals in the community is ‘how do we get our major staples, like meat, produce and those things,” Gould said.

READ MORE: Fire destroys lone grocery store in Minto, New Brunswick

Gould said there are convenient stores and drug stores in the village that sell items such as milk and bread, but said it’s access to produce and meat that is concerning.

“The day of the fire, council had a meeting and we had local volunteers who were part of our emergency response group come forward and said that they would take on the task of driving people who don’t have cars, and seniors… to the grocery stores in Chipman to pick up the kind of things that they need,” Gould said.

He said the Queens North Community Health Centre has offered to donate their van twice a week for the next couple weeks to take residents to Chipman —; with the first shuttle available to take up to ten people there on Thursday.

Gould said for residents who don’t want to travel out of the village there is also a mobile meat shop set up across the road from the municipal office.

Door-to-Door Seafood owner Kim Hatfield was set-up Wednesday selling sausages, shrimp, chicken and other meats to residents.

“It devastated me to find out that the store had burned, had burnt down, because it’s the only store in town, but they called me, the city councillor called me Monday afternoon and asked if I’d be interested in coming down a little more often or frequently because of the necessities that the community needs,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield said he is usually set-up at the Northside Market in Fredericton, but is often out in communities delivering his products.

He said he wants to help ensure residents have access to the staples and said he will be back in Minto on Friday, along with a produce truck.

READ MORE: ‘Tonnes’ of items salvaged prior to building demolitions: former Saint John heritage planner

Gould said so far the village has only received one request for a ride to Chipman, and said he has also been encouraging residents to carpool with neighbours when going to get groceries. He said anyone who needs a ride can call the village office to arrange transportation

Global News reached out for comment from Sobeys Wednesday, but did not receive a response prior to publication deadline.  Gould said representatives from the company are scheduled to be in town Thursday to assess the situation.

Gould said the La-Kassa-We pub is hosting a fundraiser this weekend, with proceeds going to support anyone in-need due to the fire.

“I understand there are a few people who are doing fundraisers or collecting food and we’re asking people if they are doing that to deliver it to the village office and we’ll see how best we can distribute that, so we’ll be a good council to make sure we do those things,” Gould said.

He said he wants to thank all the fire departments and local service districts who came together on Monday to battle the blaze.

N.B. organization working for people with limited mobility struggles to keep up with demand

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Six years ago, Judy King was told by her doctor that she would likely never garden again.

“I’ve had a knee replaced, but I have spinal stenosis in my back, and I’m waiting for another knee transplant” King said.

Fortunately for Judy, she had access to rehabilitation through her doctor, but many other seniors are having to wait for the same kind of care and an organization that works with people with limited mobility says it’s struggling to keep up with demand for their services.

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READ MORE: New Brunswick should move seniors’ care to health department: advocate

“We are beginning to see the need to wait list seniors that are accessing our service,” said Haley Flaro, director of Ability New Brunswick.

Ability New Brunswick provides rehabilitation services for people with limited mobility, including seniors, but they say they don’t have enough rehab counselors to fill the demand.

“Now we are seeing an increase in the number of seniors needing our service, it’s getting a little bit beyond out reach,” Flaro added.

As a result, seniors with mobility issues aren’t getting the home care they need in order to live independently.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing increasing trend of the seniors choosing nursing home care when they could be staying at home with added support,” Flaro said.

READ MORE: New Brunswick seniors’ care to be discussed

But that trend goes against the government’s goals to keep seniors in their homes longer, says Cecile Cassista of the Coalition for Seniors Rights.

“Staying at the hospital to the tune of $800 a day is a lot of money to taxpayers and I think that wherever the government could lend a hand they should,” Cassista said.

Ability New Brunswick is trying to get more money from the province to hire three more rehab workers.

“So we can fill the demand in the province especially in Northern New Brunswick and Saint John regions,” Flaro said.

Madeleine Meilleur pulls out of languages commissioner job

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

The federal heritage minister says Madeleine Meilleur has withdrawn her candidacy for the position of official languages commissioner.

Melanie Joly’s announcement Wednesday comes after steadfast opposition and criticism of Meilleur’s possible appointment because of her ties to the federal Liberals.

WATCH BELOW: NDP and Conservatives oppose Madeleine Meilleur as official languages commissioner

01:23

Politics

NDP’s Mulcair opposes Madeleine Meilleur as official languages commissioner

02:47

Canada

Conservatives wants Liberals to ‘cancel’ appointment of Madeleine Meilleur



Meilleur was a Liberal member of the Ontario legislature between 2003 and 2016.

The federal Liberals insisted Meilleur’s selection was based on merit, experience and a track record of defending francophone rights.

She was heavily criticized after telling the Commons official languages committee in May she had contact before the nomination process with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s two closest advisers to express her interest in the job.

Conservatives and New Democrats accused Trudeau of picking her for the job without consulting them.

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Related

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Indebted Canadians using ‘homes as ATMs,’ consumer agency warns

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Canadians are borrowing against their homes in increasing numbers and many are not making regular payments against the principal, adding financial stress to households already carrying a record level of debt, a consumer agency warned on Wednesday.

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The number of households that have taken a home equity line of credit (HELOC) on top of their mortgage has soared nearly 40 percent since 2011, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada said in a report that stoked concerns about consumer debt linked to Canada‘s slowing housing market.

READ MORE:
Home renovations: The 4 big risks of borrowing against your house to pay for it

“At a time when consumers are carrying record amounts of debt, the persistence of HELOC debt may add stress to the financial well-being of Canadian households,” the agency’s commissioner, Lucie Tedesco, said in a statement.

“HELOCs may lead Canadians to use their homes as ATMs, making it easier for them to borrow more than they can afford,” she added.

Outstanding HELOC balances reached $211 billion in 2016, according to the report. There are about three million HELOC accounts in Canada, with an average outstanding balance of $70,000.

Canada‘s debt-to-income ratio has risen to record levels in recent quarters to levels surpassing those seen in the United States prior to the 2008-09 housing crash, and policymakers have repeatedly warned that households are vulnerable to an unforeseen event or economic shock.

WATCH:
Over half of Canadians are $200 or less away from not being able to pay bills

The report by the consumer agency showed some 40 percent of consumers do not make regular payments toward their HELOC principal, and most consumer do not repay their HELOC in full until they sell their home.

It said banks and other lenders are increasingly offering readvanceable mortgages, which combine term mortgages with HELOCs and other credit products, to customers. The complexity and risks of such products are often not well understood by indebted consumers, the agency said.

“Banks reported to FCAC that a readvanceable mortgage is now the default option offered to credit-worthy mortgage customers with down payments of at least 20 percent,” the report noted.

Canada‘s long housing boom and double-digit price gains in cities like Toronto and Vancouver have led to fears of a housing bubble. But the country’s big banks and federal policymakers have often said Canada does not have much of a subprime mortgage market or the kind of innovative credit products that came back to haunt borrowers in the U.S. housing crash.

Could Quebec engineers be forced back to work?

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

The government said it will consider back-to-work legislation for engineers if it has to. Treasury Board president Pierre Moreau said he is considering the latest proposal from the union and will give it a written offer Thursday.

Government engineers – most of whom work for the transport ministry – have been on strike for two weeks and its having an effect on construction sites.

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At the end of February, the government forced its lawyers and notaries back to work. Last week, it did the same for construction workers.  Now, will engineers be next?

READ MORE: Quebec passes back-to-work law to end construction strike

“We lower our expectations,” said union president, Marc-André Martin. “So we’re waiting for the government right now.”

The union is fighting for higher salaries. It says they can’t retain experienced engineers without it. Moreau has said several times the provincial government is competitive in its current salaries and doesn’t see a recruitment problem.

To that, Martin said:

“If it’s really that easy to employ engineers (in the public sector) they have to explain to us why an agro-food engineer is in charge of building bridges at the transport ministry.”

Martin said this engineer works in Longueuil. He explained that the ministry is short of expertise, particularly civil engineers, which results in personnel with little experience taking charge of large projects.

In their last proposal, they dropped their demand for a 30 per cent wage increase to 20 per cent. By striking in the middle of construction season, Martin said engineers are hoping to force the government to make a choice.

“The government has to make their calculation: ‘Are we going to invest $3 or $4 million to improve our engineering department…or are we going to pay penalties?’” Martin explained.

READ MORE: Turcot interchange pedestrian overpass disappears from plans, angering Montrealers

One of the biggest projects in jeopardy is the Turcot Interchange in Montreal.

Quoting from a transport ministry note during question period in the National Assembly, Coaltion Avenir Québec MNA, Eric Caire said the cost of delays on the interchange caused by a strike longer than two weeks could be $118 million.

However, Minister Moreau said he’s going to be patient for a little while longer. He said that so far, the schedule and the budget for the project are being respected.

READ MORE: NDG residents say noise from Turcot Interchange construction getting worse

“It is still possible to have a work site that is proceeding normally,” he said, while acknowledging that it was “probably slower than expected.”

But if the negotiations go south, he said he would consider calling the National Assembly back during the summer to pass a special law.

B.C. legislature called back on June 22

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

VICTORIA – Politicians have been called back to the British Columbia legislature on June 22, setting the stage for a showdown between the ruling Liberals and two opposition parties that want to defeat them.

Premier Christy Clark has said she expects to lose a confidence vote in the house after the New Democrats and Greens reached an agreement to allow the NDP to form a minority government.

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No party won a majority of seats in a provincial election last month. The Liberals won 43 seats in the 87-seat legislature, with the NDP winning 41 seats and the Greens three.

The results left Clark with a tenuous grip on power and spelled the likely end for the Liberals’ 16 years in government.

READ MORE: B.C. legislature to face off over Speaker question

Government House Leader Mike de Jong says the first order of business will be to elect a Speaker.

“After which, and in the aftermath of a very close election, the government will seek to determine if it continues to enjoy the confidence of the house, he said in a statement Wednesday.

Before de Jong made the announcement, Horgan expressed his frustration about the length of time it was taking the Liberals to recall the legislature.

“I can’t walk down the street now without someone coming up to me and saying, ‘So are you the premier or is she the premier? What’s going on?’ ” he said earlier Wednesday.

“I think we need to get certainty. It’s well over a month since election day. People want to know. Let’s get on with it.”

READ MORE: Highlights of the NDP and Green party deal in B.C.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver welcomed the decision to recall the house.

“I’m glad that the premier has finally decided to recall the legislature,” Weaver said in a statement. “In the weeks since the election, it has been encouraging to see all three parties agree that British Columbians want us to work together.”

The first order of business — selecting a Speaker — is a tall one. The narrow election results mean none of the three parties are eager to give up one of their voting members to take on the role.

“I rather suspect they’re all going to file in, take their seats and stare at each other for a while,” said Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley.

The Speaker enforces the rules in the legislature and only votes in the event of a tie, and even then only to maintain the status quo, as per tradition.

All members of the legislature who are not cabinet ministers are eligible to be Speaker, Telford said.

Telford said he expects Clark to announce a cabinet before June 22 and she could appoint potential Speakers from her party to cabinet, such as former Speaker Linda Reid, to make them ineligible for the job.

When there has been an impasse over the Speaker, legislatures have been dissolved and another election held, he said.

But if a Speaker is chosen, the government would introduce a throne speech, Telford said. There would be a reply from the Opposition, a debate and then a confidence vote.

If the Speaker comes from the Liberals, it’s likely the government will be defeated. If the Speaker is a New Democrat, a tie is expected, he said.

Telford said in that case, he thinks the Speaker would likely break with convention and vote against the Liberal government.

“I have yet to find a case anywhere in the Commonwealth where a Speaker has voted in such a way that it leads to the defeat of the government,” he said. “That’s not to say there hasn’t been a case, but I haven’t found one.”

Injured hiker rescued by helicopter from woods north of Dartmouth

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

A hiker suffering from an injury has been rescued after emergency and military crews responded to a 911 call by Anderson Lake north of Dartmouth.

Halifax spokesperson Brendan Elliott told Global News that two men had been hiking and one of the hikers had a bad back. He said it’s unknown if the injury was pre-existing or occurred during the hike, but it was determined that he would not be able to walk anymore.

The pair did not have a phone, Elliott said, so the uninjured man walked about an hour “back to civilization” where he was able to get a phone and call 911.

Elliott said the call came in about 3:15 p.m.

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Pat Kline, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s acting division commander, told Global News a drone had been launched but could not reach the man. They relocated, but by that time a police officer had already reached the man.

READ MORE: Pilot unharmed after plane crash near Greenfield, Nova Scotia

Elliott said the police officer had been led by the man’s partner to where the man was.

READ MORE: Halifax Fire services respond to large blaze in Fall River, N.S.

At about 4:30 p.m. Elliott said they called for assistance from 14 Wing Greenwood which dispatched a Cormorant helicopter.

He said the military was taking over the rescue as the man was on Department of National Defence property.

As of 7 p.m., Elliott said a division commander informed him that the man had been rescued.

Prior to the helicopter’s arrival, Elliott said that EHS had taken a boat across the lake and were with the man keeping him stabilized until the Cormorant.

He said the hiker was placed into a basket lowered by the helicopter, brought into the aircraft, transported to Windsor Park where an ambulance was waiting and he was taken to hospital.

Elliott added that the injuries are non-life threatening but “are pretty serious.”

Toronto school partially closed after alleged prank sees peanut butter spread throughout building

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

A facilities team will be working overnight as part of a massive clean up which saw peanut butter and cooking oil spread throughout the hallways of a North York high school.

Early morning staff at Senator O’Connor College School on Wednesday noticed discrepancies prior to the first classes of the school day. After reporting to the principal, the Toronto Catholic District School Board dispatched a so called cleaning “SWAT” team to the site.

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Head of communications for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), John Yan told AM640 that a “graduated release” of students was executed to safeguard against potential allergic reactions to some students.

READ MORE: Toronto school board cancelling future trips to U.S. due to ‘uncertainty’ over travel ban

“Grade 11s and 12s were permitted to go home as their classes were cancelled,” said Yan, “while grades 9 and 10 were allowed to continue because of the quick cleaning by crews, and other areas that were not affected.”

Senator O’Connor College School is a two story facility which has 1200 students attending on a regular basis.

Yan says an investigation is underway spearheaded by the school’s principal. Early indications are it was graduation prank conducted by grade 12 students.

READ MORE: 3 arrested after student stabbed outside of west Toronto high school

“This is an example of prank, unfortunately, that went a little bit awry, and is considered vandalism.” said Yan, who also believes it was likely “driven by social media.”

The TCDSB told AM640 that incidents involving student vandalism are taken very seriously, and disciplinary action will be taken upon the end of the investigation.