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6 cops suspended in Tonks tractor driver death case Officials

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first_imgJaipur: Six policemen, including a station house officer, were suspended on Tuesday for allegedly thrashing a tractor driver fatally in Rajasthan’s Tonk district on May 28, a senior police officer said.Uniara Police Station in-charge Manish Charan, head constable Rajesh and constables Bhagwan Gurjar, Sanwara Jat, Ramavtar and Laksmichand were suspended, Tonk district SP Chunaram Jat said. An FIR with murder charges was lodged against them on Monday night. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoCOn Tuesday, the body of 30-year-old Bhajanlal was handed over to his family members on Tuesday after an autopsy by a medical board. The post-mortem was conducted a week later as the victim’s kin, led by ruling Congress MLA and former DGP Harish Meena and opposition BJP MLA Gopi Chand Meena, were holding a protest. They were demanding a government job for the driver’s kin, Rs 25 lakh compensation, lodging murder cases against the policemen, their suspension and a CID probe. Also Read – Two squadrons which participated in Balakot airstrike awarded citationsLast Tuesday, Bhajanlal, was allegedly transporting gravel and bajri illegally when the police gave him a chase in Laxmipura under Nagar fort police station area. On Wednesday, the two legislators began a dharna, alleging that Bhajanlal was beaten to death by the policemen. Police had, however, said it was a case of accidental death as the driver had jumped off the tractor. Congress MLA Harish Meena, who represents Deoli-Uniara constituency of Tonk district, began the dharna in Nagar fort with his demands and he was later joined by BJP Jahazpur MLA Gopi Chand Meena. They converted their dharna into an indefinite hunger strike on Saturday after their demands were not met. Earlier, Tonk collector RC Dhenwal had announced a compensation of Rs 13 lakh to the family of the deceased. He had also said murder charges would be slapped against the accused policemen and a CID probe would be carried out in the matter. Following the state government’s assurances, the two lawmakers had called off their protest on Monday. However, they had restarted their dharna on Tuesday, accusing the administration of changing the members of a medical board conducting the post-mortem of the body. This prompted Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot to intervene. Pilot visited the dharna site in Tonk in the afternoon and gave necessary directions to officials. “The medical board was changed today. We objected and restarted our dharna. After the intervention of the deputy CM, the board which was decided last night conducted the post-mortem and the body was handed over to family members for funeral,” BJP MLA Gopi Chand Meena said.last_img read more

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Rahul and I Rohit ready to conquer communication challenges

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first_imgSouthampton: Communication had been the biggest USP in Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan’s enormously successful opening partnership and the Indian vice-captain wants to create the same level of understanding with KL Rahul by the time World Cup reaches business end. Dhawan’s fractured left-hand has put Rahul in the line of fire in a stage like World Cup but his senior opening partner is confident that they will slowly be able to build up the right level of communication required in such big event. Also Read – Djokovic heaps praise on ‘very complete’ Medvedev In fact against Pakistan, Rohit allowed Rahul to take first strike, which he normally does when Dhawan is around. “Yeah, KL also likes to take the strike, and for me it was important to give him that because just like me, he also has the mindset of taking the first ball. That is his comfort. He is playing his first game as an opener here, so I wanted to make sure that he’s comfortable,” Rohit said while making it clear what his responsibilities are as a senior player Also Read – Mary Kom enters quarterfinals, Saweety Boora bows out of World C’ships Rahul, on his part, knows what a big opportunity it is and he is ready to fill in the big boots of Dhawan till the time he comes back (if at all in this tournament). “Obviously Shikhar and Rohit for the last three or four years have been such a dangerous combination having done so well. They have owned those positions. I had to wait for my chance and I am just happy that I got to bat in the top of the order,” Rahul told reporters in mixed zone. However, during their stand of 136, there were a couple of occasions when Rohit could have nearly got run out primarily because of the lack of communication between the two. But the champion opener is game for this new challenge as that’s what international cricket is all about clearing new obstacles every passing day. “These are the sort of challenges you face — the understanding of when he wants to run that two, when I want to take that single, and things like that. “These are very small little things, but of course, eventually they add up to a whole lot for the team because at that point we never wanted to get run out. That was the last thing in our mind to do that,” said Rohit. But since they batted for nearly 24 overs (23.5 to be precise), they had communicated a lot and it’s only going to improve from here on, feels Rohit “But we had a lot of communication (during game against Pakistan) while we were batting, so slowly we will build on it. Now that I know he’s going to open for the next few games as well. “So that conversation between us is really, really important, and I hope that continues because it’s going to only help both of us.” For Rahul, the biggest challenge against Pakistan was to play out Mohammed Amir’s first spell, which they did with a fair degree of success “Look I mean, with the new ball against any bowler, you have to see off the first few overs and didn’t know what to expect from the wicket as it was under covers for the first two days. It was important that we saw off the first spell,” the talented Karnataka batsman said. Amir, whether it was Champions Trophy final in 2017 or the Asia Cup T20, a year before that, he had always struck in the very first over that he bowled but this time around the Indians had done their homework. “We needed to focus from ball one as he has earlier done damage in the first over itself. We were switched on from ball one and we didn’t take too many chances in the first few overs. We gave their bowlers and the ball the respect it deserved and carried on from there,” Rahul said.last_img read more

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AES claims one more life in Muzaffarpur

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first_imgMuzaffarpur (Bihar): One more child died on Tuesday after being admitted to a hospital here for Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, even as officials insisted that the severity of the disease, which has afflicted more than 700 children across the state, has lessened.The death was reported in the early hours at S K Medical College and Hospital, which has accounted for 111 casualties, the maximum number in the state, since June 1. The government-run hospital has so far registered 435 cases of AES since the beginning of the month, according to figures released by the district administration. Also Read – Cong may promise farm loan waiver in HaryanaIn addition, 163 AES cases have been registered at the privately-owned Kejriwal Hospital, where 20 children have so far died. It has, however, been nearly a week since any casualty was reported at the hospital. The Bihar Health Department had released state-wide figures, which put the total number of registered cases, across 20 districts, at 714. SKMCH Superintendent Sunil Kumar Shahi said with the onset of the monsoon, the number of AES cases will likely come down. Also Read – Modi formed OBC commission which earlier govts didn’t do: Shah”Like every year, the severity of the outbreak is diminishing with the onset of rains. This can be gauged from the fact that no deaths were reported on Monday and only five fresh cases were registered during the day. Till just a few days ago, we were receiving AES patients in droves,” he said. AES, known as ‘chamki’ in local parlance, is characterised by high fever and convulsions and strikes children north Bihar every year. The relatively higher number of deaths this year have been attributed to hypoglycemia or very low blood sugar levels. The condition is said to be triggered by a toxin found in high concentrations in unripe litchi which is grown in abundance in Muzaffarpur and adjoining districts.last_img read more

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Trump commemorates extraordinary heritage of US in July 4th speech

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first_imgWashington: US President Donald Trump, in his July 4th address at the National Mall in Washington, commemorated the “extraordinary heritage” of America at a controversial event marked by the presence of tanks and military aircraft. “As we gather this evening, in the joy of freedom, we remember that all share a truly extraordinary heritage. Together we are part of one of the greatest stories ever told, the story of America,” he told the crowd on Thursday standing before the Lincoln Memorial at one end of the National Mall. Also Read – Turkey preparations for Syria offensive ‘completed’ “Today, we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America,” Efe news quoted the President as saying. Fourth of July, a federal holiday in the US, commemorates the American Declaration of Independence that was signed on July 4, 1776. In his address at what the administration dubbed the “Salute to America” celebration, the President said: “We all share the same home, the same heart, and we are all made by the same almighty God.” Also Read – Imran Khan arrives in China, to meet Prez Xi Jinping Trump delivered his remarks before a group of VIPs – specifically big Republican donors and the relatives of active duty US military personnel and veterans – invited by the White House, which passed out tickets to specially selected guests to seat them in the front rows of the temporary bleachers erected in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The President also promised that astronauts would go to the Moon in the near future and even plant the US flag on Mars, although he offered no further details, seconds after stating that “nothing is impossible” for Americans, a remarks that sparked hearty applause from the crowd. Trump praised aerospace engineer Gene Kranz, who was present at the event and was in charge of the NASA mission to land on the Moon in 1969. This is not the first time that Trump and/or Vice President Mike Pence have promised to return US astronauts to the Moon, and the NASA budget for fiscal year 2019 includes funds to get that project under way, although no timetable for missions of that kind have been established. In his remarks, the President also spent time praising the achievements of each branch of the US military, He started with the US Coast Guard and upon concluding his brief remarks about each service, aircraft from that branch did a flyover over the city. The presidential 747 jet, Air Force One, also did a flyover of the area. “And it is our incredible airman today who wield the most powerful weapon systems on the planet Earth. For over 65 years no enemy air force has managed to kill a single American soldier because the skies belong to the United States of America,” Trump said of the Air Force. About the Marines, Trump said: “That motto, Semper Fidelis – always faithful – burns in the soul of every marine, a sacred promise, the core has kept since the birth of our country. They are the elite masters of air, and land and sea, on battlefields all across the globe.” In recent days, there has been much criticism of Trump’s plans to put on what he touted as the “show of a lifetime,” with opponents of the July 4th event using military personnel and equipment raising concerns about the cost to taxpayers, the apparent politicization of what has traditionally been a non-partisan celebration and what many claim is the use of the military as a political prop. The heavy security provided by the US Secret Service and metal barriers installed around the emblematic monument to Trump were criticized by thousands on social media, where they noted that up until this year it had been possible for the public to sit on the Memorial’s steps during previous July 4th celebrations to watch the evening fireworks display. Just like every year, thousands of families gathered at the National Mall during the day dressed in all sorts of outfits with the red, white and blue national colours, despite the intermittent rain that kept many more people away from the area, according to local media. There were many different political opinions evident among the crowd, with many Trump supporters sporting red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps, while others wore t-shirts with the statement “Not my president” or similar sentiments. However, the big attraction for anti-Trumpers was the presence of the huge “Baby Trump” balloon representing the president as a baby in a diaper, a balloon made famous in the protests against the President last year in London. Shortly before Trump’s address, two protesters were arrested outside the White House for burning an American flag. One person was arrested for felony assault on a police officer and malicious burning, and the other was arrested for obstructing a police investigation and resisting arrest, according to the US Secret Service.last_img read more

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Country facing financial emergencylike situation

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first_imgNew Delhi: The Congress on Sunday expressed concern over what it called the “slowdown” of economy and said the country is facing a situation like that of a “financial emergency”.Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi accused the BJP of diverting the people’s attention from its failures. Expressing concern over the economic slowdown, Singhvi said the situation is like that of a “financial emergency”. He raised the issue of slowdown in automobile sector. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’The trend of the slowdown in the automobile industry did not come all of a sudden. The 31 per cent fall in sales is also the ninth straight drop in monthly passenger vehicle sales, Singhvi said. “Sales have fallen in 12 out of 13 months since July 2018, underscoring the sharp slowdown in the world’s fourth largest automobile market,” Singhvi said at a press conference. He also raised the issues of crashing stock exchange and rising fiscal deficit. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KThe other issues he raised are falling GDP figures, shrinking labour force, recession in real estate sector, continuous weakening of rupee, and falling foreign direct investment and foreign portfolio investment. Criticising the Narendra Modi government, he said, “Ironically, if one looks at between Modi 1 (government) beginning and Modi 2, he or she shall figure that has been a regression in progress.” Singhvi also accused the NDA government of being unable to come up with a “sound” monetary policy. “It has to consider about the trade-off between unemployment and inflation,” Singhvi said. He also asked “why the rate cuts have been announced by the RBI even after so many days? Only one-third of the rate cuts have been implemented by the banks, the substantial chunk has not reached the recipients of credit”. “Why there is so much noise about selling ailing public sectors but absolutely no progress on the ground,” he asked. Singhvi further said that when Prime Minister Modi assumed office, the rupee was at 58.7 against the US dollar. “However now rupee has further devalued. One USD has reached Rs 71 and is anticipated to cross Rs 72 limit in the coming weeks,” he said.last_img read more

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13 killed 15 hurt in truckbus collision in Maharashtra

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first_imgDhule: At least 13 people, including two children, were killed and 15 others injured when a container truck collided with a state transport bus in Maharashtra’s Dhule district, a police official said on Monday. The accident took place around 10.30 pm on Sunday near Nimgul village on Shahada-Dondaicha road, he said. The truck driver lost control over the wheels following which the vehicle collided with the bus which was on way to Aurangabad from Shahada town in Nandurbar district, he said. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details “Thirteen people, including two women, two children and drivers of both the vehicles, were killed in the mishap,” the official said. While 11 of them died on the spot, two succumbed at a hospital in Dondaicha town of Dhule, he said. The injured persons were undergoing treatment at two local government hospitals where the condition of three of them was reported to be serious, he said. A case of accidental death was registered, he said. The kin of the deceased were informed and the process was on to hand them over the bodies after the post-mortem, he added.last_img read more

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Class 3 girl raped by Class 6 boy in UPs Baghpat

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first_imgBaghpat: In a shocking incident, a Class 3 student was allegedly raped by a Class 6 boy of her school and his two younger brothers. According to reports, the eight-year-old girl was allegedly raped inside the toilet of a government primary school in a village in Ramala region of Baghpat. The local police refused to file an FIR for 15 days. Station House Officer (SHO) Naresh Kumar also tried to force the survivor’s father to drop the charges. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ The matter came to light on Monday evening, when the girl’s health began deteriorating and senior police officials were informed of the SHO’s behaviour. He was removed by the district police chief thereafter and the has since been hospitalised. According to Baghpat Superintendent of Police (SP) Pratap Gopendra Yadav: “The crime was allegedly committed by the eldest brother, who studies in Class 6. However, the victim’s father has also named his other two brothers, who were part of the group at that time. Whether they were also involved or not is a matter of investigation.” Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K “An FIR has been filed against all three under IPC Section 376 (rape) and the POCSO Act. We sent the girl for medical examination on Tuesday and the report is awaited. Once she is stable we will get her statement recorded in the court and further action will be taken,” said the SP. “I have directed Circle Officer Ompal Singh to probe the allegations of police dereliction. SHO Naresh Kumar was not supposed to engineer a compromise in this case. He was supposed to book all those who had committed wrongdoing,” he added. According to the girl’s uncle: “From the beginning, we were asked to remain silent. A day after the incident took place, about a fortnight ago, we had visited the teacher in the school, but she behaved as if nothing had happened. Since the accused also belonged to the same village, we were under great pressure from the panchayat elders not to take the matter to the police as it would bring a bad name to the village. The local SHO was hell-bent on ensuring a compromise. During all this, the girl’s health was continuously deteriorating after which we approached the Baghpat SP with our complaint.”last_img read more

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Pompeo declines to sign Afghan deal TIME Magazine

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first_imgWashington: The fragile peace negotiations between the US, Afghanistan and the Taliban may have hit a snag as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly refused to sign on to a draft of the peace deal as it currently stands, the media reported. Under the proposed draft the US would withdraw some 5,000 troops from Afghanistan – with TIME Magazine reporting that number could be as high as 5,400 – and shutter five bases within 135 days. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US Additionally, the deal would require the Taliban commit to not allowing Afghanistan to be used as a base from which militant groups, such as the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, could plan attacks on the US and its allies. Throughout the negotiations Taliban officials insisted that all foreign forces must leave the country, which has fuelled concerns that if the US were to fully withdraw it would leave the US-backed government of Afghanistan vulnerable, especially with its security forces already stretched thin, mired in allegations of corruption and suffering losses. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls Pompeo might be having issues with the deal as it does not ensure several crucial things, those familiar with the discussions told the magazine. It does not guarantee the continued presence of US counter terrorism forces to battle Al Qaeda, the survival of the pro-US government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan. “That may explain why Pompeo is declining to put his name on the deal,” according to the report, which cited senior American, Afghan and European officials. The report said that Pompeo was asked by the Taliban to sign an agreement with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – the name of the government founded by the Taliban in 1996 until its ouster in 2001 – which would put the Secretary of State in the position of officially recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate political entity, rather than an insurgency. Ironically, the Taliban’s push for international recognition of its “Emirate” blew up any chance of peace negotiations back in 2013. Still, Pompeo’s apparent reluctance to sign on the dotted line doesn’t mean a deal was totally dead. According to TIME, chief US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad could just sign it himself, or Washington and Taliban may issue a joint statement supported by the Kabul government and other countries. Pompeo’s office declined to comment before publication of this story. After it was published, Pompeo said through a spokesperson that he might sign if US President Donald Trump and all parties struck a deal. “There is no agreement to sign yet. If and when there is an agreement that is approved by all parties, including President Trump and if the Secretary is the appropriate signatory, he will sign it,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus emailed TIME. US military and intelligence officers and diplomats who served in Afghanistan worry that once a withdrawal is underway, it will be irreversible, given Trump’s promise to end the US involvement in the war there, the fast-approaching 2020 US elections and the absence of public support for the war. The price of peace, they fear, might include reversing much of the hard-won progress towards building a stable country over nearly two decades of war.last_img read more

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The Imperials commitment to women safety

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first_imgGoing an extra mile to make the women staff at The Imperial feel safe and secure in the city, The Imperial had organised a ‘Self Defense’ workshop in August 2019 and its Grand finale was conducted on September 9, at The Royal Ballroom, The Imperial.The aim of this workshop was to demonstrate the techniques taught by the Delhi Police officials and to empower women with essential skills to handle untoward situations and instill confidence for safeguarding themselves at anytime, anywhere. Also Read – An income drop can harm brainThe action- packed afternoon which culminated with yet another session of self defense training organised for 20 days, saw the presence of senior police officials including the Chief Guest – Dr Eish Singhal IPS-DCP, New Delhi District; Additional DCP Deepak Yadav, New Delhi District; ACP Akhilesh Yadav, CP Area; ACP Shashi Bala Kaushik, Child and Women division of Delhi Police; trainers from women’s cell of Delhi police along with the senior management and associates of the hotel. Also Read – Shallu Jindal honoured with Mahatma AwardVijay Wanchoo, Senior Executive Vice President and General Manager at The Imperial, sustaining the efforts for women safety and security for the third year said: “Women today constitute a considerable workforce in the service sector. This makes our role in ensuring their safety, critical. We had initiated this exclusive workshop with Delhi Police again this year to train women associates who have recently joined and have taken all the measures to boost the level of participation amongst them. Various techniques are taught by the officials to ensure their safety in the hour of need enabling them to handle any unpleasant situation”. “The self defense training has instilled strength to fight back and has made the lady associates aware of their capabilities and I am sure they are now better equipped to protect themselves in difficult and challenging situations,” he further added. Concluding the long-running workshop, the participants demonstrated their self defense learnings and techniques to handle situational attacks like hand holding, touching while travelling in bus, neck and knife attacks on women at the grand finale. The event culminated with the honouring of participants by Delhi Police and Wanchoo showed his gratitude towards Delhi Police by felicitating the officials present.last_img read more

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CBDT launches onetime facility for compounding of income tax offences

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first_imgNew Delhi: A one-time facility to apply for compounding of income tax offences has been launched and taxpayers can avail this opportunity by December 31, a latest CBDT directive said. It said this “one-time measure” is being undertaken to mitigate unintended hardship to taxpayers in deserving cases and to reduce the pendency of existing prosecution cases before the courts.” “Cases have been brought to the notice of CBDT where the taxpayers could not apply for compounding of the offence as the compounding application was filed beyond 12 months,” the directive accessed by PTI said. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalA taxpayer or an assessee, in order to avail the facility, will have to file an application for compounding a tax offence before the competent authority, that is a Principal Chief Commissioner or Chief Commissioner, Principal Director General or Director General of Income-tax department “on or before December 31, 2019”, the CBDT directive issued on September 9 said. It, however, added that the relaxation shall not be available in respect of an offence which is generally or normally not compoundable indicating to instances of serious tax evasion, financial crime, terror financing, money laundering, possession of illegal foreign assets, benami properties or has been convicted by a court in the past. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostThe CBDT circular added that application for compounding of an income tax offence can be filed in cases where: Prosecution proceedings are pending before any court of law for more than 12 months or any compounding application for an offence filed previously was withdrawn by the applicant solely for the reason that such application was filed beyond 12 months or any compounding application for an offence had been rejected previously solely for technical reasons. Compounding in I-T parlance means that the taxman does not file a prosecution case against the offender or tax evader in the court in lieu of payment of due taxes and surcharges. The CBDT, that frames policy for the tax department, has earlier said that compounding of offences is “not a matter of right” and the department can extend such a relief only in certain cases keeping in view factors like “conduct of the person, the nature and magnitude of the offence on the context of the facts and circumstances of each case.”last_img read more

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Icy season So far 673 icebergs counted in shipping lanes off Newfoundland

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first_imgST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Newfoundland’s spectacular iceberg-viewing season continues to mean major hazards in North Atlantic shipping lanes.About 673 icebergs have drifted into North Atlantic shipping lanes off the island’s east coast so far this year, said Gabrielle McGrath, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol.That’s almost as many as the 687 counted during the whole ice season last year, ending in late September.“There’s definitely quite a lot of icebergs still up to the north,” McGrath said Friday from her home base in New London, Conn., after surveillance flights this week over the stretch known as Iceberg Alley.McGrath said it could still be a record season, but numbers are starting to come down and many bergs have melted.She says a big question is whether winds will bring several more of the floating sculptures farther south from where they were seen earlier this week off northeastern Newfoundland.Thick sea ice in the region and in the Strait of Belle Isle is affecting ferry travel and nearby fisheries.One thing is certain: the mammoth slabs that originate from glaciers in Greenland still pose a serious danger for mariners, McGrath said.“Even the smallest iceberg can do great damage to a vessel. I would recommend that the captains still heed our warnings as they transit across the Atlantic to ensure their safety from iceberg collision.”McGrath said she knows of no incidents involving vessels that have followed the patrol’s advice.“We’ve still maintained our perfect safety record through the season.”Regularly updated reports show how ships can detour farther south to avoid icebergs, often adding hundreds of kilometres to a trip.The International Ice Patrol was formed after the Titanic sank off southeastern Newfoundland in 1912. It works with Canadian partners to track icebergs and warn captains at sea.McGrath said the height of the icy season is typically around late May to early June.The last year the number of icebergs in shipping lanes approached previous records was 2014, with a total of 1,546 — the sixth most severe season since records began in 1900.Weather conditions can quickly move them.There were just 37 icebergs observed in shipping lanes on March 27, but the number soared to 272 a few days later as a low-pressure system of strong counter-clockwise winds dramatically shifted hundreds of them farther south.last_img read more

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Coming Liberal bills to reform Access to Information national security measures

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first_imgOTTAWA – The Trudeau government plans to cap the spring sitting of Parliament with long-awaited legislation on Access to Information and national security — bills unlikely to be debated by MPs in a serious way until the fall.With just days left before MPs are slated to retreat to their ridings for the summer, the bills will — at the very least — signal the government’s intention to fulfil key promises.The government had promised an initial wave of changes to the Access to Information Act by the end of winter — what Treasury Board President Scott Brison called “early wins” on overhauling the antiquated law intended to give Canadians access to federal files.The planned amendments included giving the information commissioner the power to order release of government records and ensuring the access law applies to the offices of the prime minister, cabinet members and administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts.The pledge was considered an essential plank of the government platform on transparency designed to differentiate the Trudeau Liberals from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, who broke 2006 campaign promises to modernize the access law.In March, Brison’s office cited the complex nature of the task in delaying the Liberal plans.The bill to be introduced Monday by Brison, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould could be the first substantial set of amendments to the access law in 34 years. The government has also promised a full review of the law by 2018, and mandatory reviews every five years thereafter.The Access to Information Act allows people who pay $5 to ask for everything from internal federal audits and meeting minutes to correspondence and studies. Departments are supposed to answer within 30 days or provide valid reasons why they need more time.However, the system has been almost universally criticized as slow, out of date and beset by loopholes that allow agencies to cling to information, including files more than half-a-century old.In her recent annual report, information commissioner Suzanne Legault said the law was being used as a shield against transparency.On Tuesday, the government plans to remodel several Conservative anti-terrorism measures and introduce new provisions with a bill from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale plainly titled “An Act respecting national security measures.”The extensive package of legislation will include more robust oversight of Canada’s border agency, which has faced some pointed questions over issues including in-custody deaths.In addition to new scrutiny for the Canada Border Services Agency, the bill will propose changes to ensure existing security watchdogs can exchange information and collaborate more easily on reviews.The legislation will also follow through on Liberal promises during the last election to repeal “problematic elements” of omnibus security legislation ushered in by the Conservatives after a gunman stormed Parliament Hill.The Trudeau government has committed to ensuring all CSIS warrants respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to preserving legitimate protest and advocacy, and to defining terrorist propaganda more clearly.It has also pledged that appeals by Canadians on the no-fly list will be subject to mandatory review.The Liberals say the overall idea is to strike a balance that ensures security agencies have the tools they need to keep Canadians safe, while respecting the rights and freedoms of a democratic society.— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitterlast_img read more

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The Thursday news briefing An ataglance survey of some top stories

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first_imgHighlights from the news file for Thursday, July 6———TRUDEAU TO APPEAL TO PROTESTERS ON EVE OF G20: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sunny ways will be tested over the next few days amid tensions both inside and outside the gates of the G20 summit in Germany. Trudeau arrived in the northern port city of Hamburg just hours before U.S. President Donald Trump, whose protectionist rhetoric and stance against climate change action pose a threat to much of the G20’s recent progress. Tens of thousands of anti-globalization protesters have descended on the city to disrupt the meetings, and have already set fire to a Porsche dealership. Trudeau has been called on to appeal to the protesters at Thursday night’s rock concert in Hamburg, where he will give a short speech promoting the benefits of global co-operation beyond corporations and the world’s richest citizens. Inside the meetings, tensions will flare around everything from climate change to free trade deals, but much of the action is expected in one-on-one meetings between various leaders — to say nothing of the much-anticipated Friday head-to-head between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.———LAC-MEGANTIC MARKS FOURTH ANNIVERSARY OF RAIL TRAGEDY: Four years after the rail disaster that killed 47 people in their town, a group of Lac-Megantic citizens renewed the call for the construction of a bypass that would steer trains away from the core of the community. Robert Bellefleur, spokesman for a rail-safety group in the town, said Thursday his group is outraged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other politicians seem to accept that a bypass might not be ready for years. The Quebec and federal governments have financed a feasibility study on the matter, and the province’s environmental review agency began public hearings on the issue in May. But Bellefleur said dangerous goods continue to be transported through the town on a section of rail track that has been rebuilt with an even steeper curve than before. On July 6, 2013, a runaway train carrying crude oil from the United States derailed in downtown Lac-Megantic and exploded, killing 47 people and destroying much of the city’s core. To mark the anniversary, the town planned a series of low-key activities including a church service, an outdoor vigil and an activity at the town’s train station.———TORONTO AREA HOME SALES PLUNGE 37 PER CENT LAST MONTH: Home sales in the Greater Toronto Area plunged 37.3 per cent last month compared with a year ago, the city’s real estate board said Thursday as buyers moved to the sidelines following the introduction of rules aimed at cooling one of the hottest housing markets in North America. The Toronto Real Estate Board said 7,974 homes changed hands in June while the number of new properties on the market climbed 15.9 per cent year-over-year to 19,614. The average price for all properties was $793,915, up 6.3 per cent from the same month last year, but down 8.1 per cent from May. The data comes after the Ontario government implemented rules intended to dampen Toronto’s real estate market, where escalating prices have concerned policy-makers at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. Ontario’s measures, which were retroactive to April 21, include a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, expanded rent controls and legislation allowing Toronto and other cities to tax vacant homes.———HEAD OF INQUIRY SAYS PROCESS MOVING QUICKLY: The head of an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women denies the process is drifting, saying in Vancouver that she believes it’s moving at “lightning speed.” Marion Buller says that in the first eight months, staff have been hired, offices have opened and a first hearing has been held. The inquiry has faced controversy over the resignation of its executive director and complaints from families that the process is not moving fast enough. Buller says community hearings will be held beginning Sept. 10 in Thunder Bay, Ont., before moving on to Smithers, B.C., Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Halifax, Edmonton, Yellowknife and closing in mid-December in Maliotenam, Que. She also says two expert panels will speak to the inquiry this year on the topics of Indigenous laws and decolonization and human rights. Executive director Michele Moreau resigned last week, citing personal reasons, prompting the Native Women’s Association of Canada to urge the inquiry to be more transparent and reassuring to families.———COURT UPHOLDS BREATHALYZER EVIDENCE RULES: The Supreme Court of Canada is upholding procedures that permit shortcuts in allowing a motorist’s breathalyzer sample into evidence — even in cases where taking the sample may have been unlawful. In a decision Thursday, the court is affirming the existing charter process for challenging police actions in obtaining a sample. The high court’s 5-4 ruling comes in the case of Dion Henry Alex, who was stopped by police in Penticton, B.C., in April 2012. Alex failed a roadside test and was taken to the police detachment, where he blew above the legal blood alcohol limit in two subsequent tests. At issue was the continuing relevance of a 1976 Supreme Court decision that said the Crown did not need to prove the demand for a breath test was lawful in order to rely on evidentiary shortcuts about the accuracy of test readings. Following introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the 1980s, the courts said that an argument a breath sample was obtained unlawfully must come in the form of a charter challenge against unreasonable search and seizure.———ISOLATION HEARING TO GO AHEAD, JUDGE RULES: A constitutional challenge to Canada’s segregation laws should go ahead in September as scheduled despite objections from the federal government, an Ontario court ruled Thursday. In rejecting Ottawa’s adjournment request, Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco said the hearing would not get in the way of Parliament, which is dealing with pending legislation that aims to put limits on solitary confinement. Even if the relevant bill were enacted, Marrocco said, the constitutional challenge would proceed anyway, so there would be no advantage to delaying a hearing. At issue is the practice known as administrative segregation that civil liberties groups argue can amount to indefinite solitary confinement. Such isolation is frequently used to manage difficult inmates, especially those whose safety may be at risk in the general population. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies maintain the current system subjects affected inmates to cruel and unusual punishment and violates their rights in several ways.———PETER JULIAN DROPS OUT OF NDP LEADERSHIP RACE: B.C. NDP MP Peter Julian is dropping out of the race to lead the federal New Democrats. Julian — the first contender to enter the race — made the announcement at a news conference today in Ottawa. The veteran MP was one of five candidates so far to join the race to replace Tom Mulcair at the helm of the party. Other current contenders include MPs Niki Ashton, Charlie Angus, Guy Caron and Ontario legislator Jagmeet Singh. The next leadership debate is scheduled to take place in Saskatoon on July 11, followed by events in Victoria and Montreal in August and one in Vancouver in September. Online voting in the leadership race will begin Sept. 18 and results will be announced in October after each round of balloting.———NEW DEMOCRATS TAKE POWER IN BRITISH COLUMBIA ON JULY 18: British Columbia premier-designate John Horgan and his cabinet will be officially sworn in on July 18. The ceremony in Victoria will come almost three weeks after Horgan’s New Democrats and three members of the Green party ousted Christy Clark’s Liberals following 16 years in office. The NDP and Greens defeated the Liberals in a confidence vote in the legislature. May’s election saw the Liberals win 43 seats in the 87-seat legislature, but the NDP with 41 seats and the Greens with three seats reached an agreement to push the Liberals from office and form a minority NDP government. Earlier this week, Horgan appointed three political veterans to head his inner circle of advisers, including well-known bureaucrat Don Wright and former Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs.———QUEBEC HOPING TO OFFER FREE ABORTION PILL: The Quebec government is hoping to offer free abortion pills later this year. Mifegymiso, a two-drug combination also known as RU-486, was authorized by Health Canada in July 2015 and entered the market in January. It costs about $300. The drug isn’t currently available in Quebec, but Barrette says he’s hopeful advanced discussions with groups representing the province’s doctors and pharmacists will make access a reality by this fall. Barrette said the abortion pill shouldn’t be confused with the morning-after pill. Alongside the surgical option, the abortion pill gives women another option, albeit under very strict guidelines. It will be accessible for those with a doctor’s prescription, while women taking it will need to have a medical follow-up. In April, New Brunswick was the first province to announce it would make the abortion pill available free of charge. Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta have also said they intend to offer the pill free of charge.———ANOTHER RIGHT WHALE ENTAGLES IN FISHING GEAR: An endangered North Atlantic right whale has been freed after getting entangled in fishing gear near the area where six other whales were found dead. Tonya Wimmer of the Marine Animal Response Society said the large whale was cut free of the fishing line in its mouth after it was spotted by an aerial surveillance plane in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Wednesday afternoon. The whale didn’t appear to have been snarled in the mess of gear for very long, and appeared to not have suffered serious injuries, said Kim Davies of Dalhousie University’s Department of Oceanography. A research ship was nearby and marine mammal experts were able to free the whale within six hours of it being spotted. The discovery comes after six of the massive animals were found floating in the gulf, with two suffering injuries consistent with ship strikes and a third dying from an entanglement in fishing gear. One of the six dead whales has now drifted close to shore on the Magdalen Islands. Wimmer said they are discussing sending a team to do an animal autopsy to determine its cause of death, as had been done in three others.last_img read more

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Single Atlantic police watchdog proposed though questions raised on mandate

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first_imgHALIFAX – Plans are in the works to create a single, civilian-led agency to police the police in Atlantic Canada, though a debate is brewing on whether bigger changes are needed to build trust in the region’s law officers.Senior government officials in the four provinces have confirmed the plan is to expand Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team into a region-wide investigator.“We definitely agreed this is a concept worth recommending to our respective governments,” said Michael Comeau, deputy minister of justice in New Brunswick.He said four deputy ministers of justice met in early June and came to an agreement in principle, though cabinet ministers and premiers have yet to sign off on the plan.In Newfoundland and Labrador, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons described the idea as the one his government is leaning towards, noting his province is looking for ways to save money.“One of the big drawing points of an Atlantic SIRT team is that there are economies of scale that could be achieved there,” he said.In Nova Scotia, Justice Minister Mark Furey said the idea is a way to use expertise his province has developed. In Prince Edward Island, Justice Department official Gordon Garrison said his government already uses the Nova Scotia-based agency and he said he favours the creation of a regional body.However, some observers say the four provinces should go beyond cost considerations and make bigger changes to strengthen civilian oversight of the police.The existing watchdog in Nova Scotia has a mandate to investigate cases that involve death, serious injury, sexual assault, domestic violence or other matters of “significant public interest” that may have resulted from the actions of a police officer, and to decide if charges should be laid.John Sewell, a former mayor of Toronto and an author on police issues, said if the Atlantic provinces want to expand SIRT, they should also give it the ability to make recommendations on how police can improve their performance.He says that even if SIRT investigators conclude no criminal wrongdoing occurred, they should have the ability to state if police conduct was “reasonable,” and make recommendations for changes. The existing SIRT model doesn’t have that option.“I think the agency should be looking at what happened and make some proposals in regards to what happened, so that it doesn’t happen again,” said Sewell.Other observers say there’s a need for a wider reform of the powers and transparency of each province’s police commissions, which look into questions of misconduct or poor performance by police.“We should look at the special investigations unit in the wider context of police complaints, discipline and education,” said Kent Roach, a law professor at the University in Toronto.A recent review of Ontario’s police oversight system by Justice Michael Tulloch made 129 recommendations, including a suggestion to hire more investigators without police backgrounds and ensuring investigations occur in a timely fashion.However, the head of Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team, Ron MacDonald, said he believes that if a single SIRT agency is created in the region, it should continue to focus solely on criminal wrongdoing.The investigation of criminal matters implies a particular way of handling evidence, including the constitutional right of officers not to speak about the allegations.“When you start to talk about what should be a policy, what shouldn’t be a policy … and how should police conduct themselves, these are much more complex questions,” he said in an interview.However, MacDonald said some of his reports’ findings in areas such as high-speed chases have resulted in police forces altering their behaviour in Nova Scotia.“They seem to discontinue them more quickly and more often,” he said.Meanwhile, Parsons said he’s optimistic that in his province a unified Atlantic SIRT could make a difference in the perception of police investigations of police conduct.“People look on ‘blue on blue’ or police investigating their own as perhaps not being the right model … Police themselves have called for this,” he said.MacDonald estimates that the annual cost of operating SIRT in Nova Scotia is about $850,000, if you include the salaries of two officers seconded to his team from outside police forces.He said it’s likely that the agency would be based in Halifax, with an office in Newfoundland and Labrador to allow for quicker response in that jurisdiction.There were no precise annual costs available for New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador or P.E.I.Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.last_img read more

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Calgary urged to wait for more details before deciding on 2026 Olympic

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first_imgCALGARY – The City of Calgary is being urged to wait for more details from the International Olympic Committee before deciding whether to bid for the 2026 Games.The 17-member Calgary Bid Exploration Committee has concluded that it’s feasible for the host of the 1988 Winter Games to have another turn, but recommends Calgary take more time to determine whether it’s a good idea.In a presentation to city council on Monday, CBEC chairman Rick Hanson said the details of how the IOC may help Calgary reduce its costs — as well as what will be in the host city agreement — need to be fleshed out.When the committee was formed, it was expecting a September deadline for Calgary to decide on a bid.But the IOC has extended the invitation phase for 2026 bids, so the city has another year to mull it over.“We didn’t feel that we should rush to a conclusion or any kind of recommendation without considering all current and relevant facts,” Hanson told councillors.“And sometimes these current and relevant facts arrived very late in the game.”He said it’s reasonable to expect the city will have the information it needs by early next year.So far IOC officials have been accommodating and have shown interest in the debate underway in Calgary, he said.“At the end of the day you need to start negotiations and conversations from the position of respect and good faith and right now we’ve got good faith,” Hanson told reporters.“We’ve got the belief that they want to see successful bids come forward.”The bid exploration committee told city council last month that the price tag to hold the 2026 Games would be about $4.6 billion. It said the Games would generate almost half that in revenue, but another $2.4 billion would be needed.Hanson said Ottawa could fund up to half the shortfall if certain criteria are met. Without the support of the federal and provincial governments, a bid would be a no-go, he added.The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., cost $7.7 billion.Calgary’s estimate is lower in part because the city could reuse venues from 1988.Sion, Switzerland, and Innsbruck, Austria, are among Calgary’s potential rivals for a 2026 bid.Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s not expecting to see a draft host city contract until after next year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea“So it’s a bit anticlimactic, really. We’ve done all this work to get to this point, but it’s a bit hurry up and wait,” he said.“I suspect that council will probably make the decision to say, ‘We’ve done this great work. Let’s put it on the shelf, pens down for a little while. Let’s see what the IOC comes up with.’”The city’s administration is to make its recommendation at council next week, and Nenshi is expecting they, too, will call for a pause.The committee says it has produced 5,400 pages of analysis. The work came in about $2 million under its $5-million budget.A motion put forward by Coun. Sean Chu to have a plebiscite on the Olympic bid was defeated 13-2 on Monday, with many councillors saying there is not enough information to even know what question to ask.Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith, who was recently appointed to the IOC, was in Calgary to observe Monday’s session and said she thinks Calgary would do a terrific job hosting.“I think Calgary has shown what it can do in the past, with the Games in 1988, how they pulled everything together with the floods, how they really have a can-do attitude.”last_img read more

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New Brunswick committee on recreational marijuana finding no consensus chairman

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first_imgFREDERICTON – A committee of the New Brunswick legislature studying marijuana legalization wrapped up a week of public hearings Friday with lots of unanswered questions and little consensus.Committee chairman Benoit Bourque said presenters were split on whether the minimum age should be 19 or 21, and whether cannabis should be sold at government-run stores or by the private sector.There are also no clear answers on how to deal with enforcement for impaired drivers or employees on the job, he said.“I consider it normal that we still have unanswered questions. All of these questions will be submitted to government and will be very seriously considered to see how we can best answer and tackle these questions,” Bourque said.All 10 provinces are trying to be ready with regulations by July 2018, when the federal government plans to legalize recreational marijuana possession and use.While the New Brunswick Medical Society said Friday it would like to see the minimum age for marijuana use set at 25, it’s willing to settle for 21.When asked why not have it at 19 — consistent with smoking and alcohol — society president, Dr. Lynn Murphy-Kaulbeck, said it might make sense to make 21 the common age for all three.“I think we’re all very well aware of the health detriments and consequences that come with smoking, there’s no question to that,” she told the committee. “I think there is a strong argument probably to move alcohol to 21 as well.”But others, like the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers, say 19 is the appropriate age for marijuana use.Miguel LeBlanc, the association’s executive director, said younger people are already using it.“If youth go in the black market on the streets to get cannabis you don’t know what you’re smoking. It could actually be more harmful. We’re saying that it should be 19,” he said.Emily Leaman, of the Public Health Association of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, agreed 19 should be the legal age. She said strict regulations are needed if weed is to be sold in stores.“We recommend they not be co-located with pharmacies or in locations that currently sell alcohol or tobacco, and that they not be located near where children and minors may be,” Leaman told the committee.Moe Sihota, a consultant for cannabis producer Zenabis LP, said his company would like to see medical marijuana sold through pharmacies, with recreational cannabis sold by the private sector.Last month, a working group appointed by the provincial government presented a report recommending sales be handled by something similar to a Crown corporation.Laurie Manzer, a veteran who uses medicinal marijuana, said he would not want to see cannabis distributed through government-run liquor stores.“I know a lot of my friends do have addiction problems with alcohol and other drugs and are using a cannabis therapy to quell that addiction. It’s not good for these people to go into a liquor store and have to purchase their medicine,” he said.Manzer stressed medical and recreational marijuana should be regulated separately.“If a 12-year-old dying of cancer requires cannabis by a doctor’s recommendation, we don’t want something to happen like this — a recreational law applied inherently setting usage at 18 years old regardless of medical need,” he said.Manzer also said he’s worried the demand for recreational cannabis could limit the supply for medicinal users.Sihota acknowledged that could be an issue, but said he believes the federal government will ensure medicinal needs are met.Tim Petersen, president of WorkSafeNB, said on-the-job impairment is going to be a difficult issue. He said employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment, and employees have a responsibility to say if they are impaired and can’t do the job.He said there are many unanswered questions about how to test for impairment.“All the people who are working on this have found that trying to figure out levels of impairment through testing is quite challenging. That may be the biggest challenge that we may face,” he said.Meanwhile Fredericton city officials told the committee they were concerned municipalities will be stuck with the bill for the detection of impaired drivers.The committee won’t be making any recommendations, but will summarize all the presentations in a report for the provincial government by Sept. 1.last_img read more

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Man charged after accidentally shooting girlfriend in abdomen police

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first_imgHARTLAND, N.B. – Police say a New Brunswick man accidentally shot his girlfriend in the abdomen Sunday afternoon.RCMP Sgt. Marc Fortin says police were called to a home in Cloverdale, near Hartland, around 2 p.m. Sunday where they discovered a 19-year-old woman had been shot.He says the Moncton woman underwent surgery in Fredericton and will make a full recovery.Fortin says he cannot elaborate on what happened, but investigators have determined the firearm was discharged accidentally inside the home.Her 27-year-old boyfriend is in custody facing two firearms-related charges.He says the man is being held until a court appearance Wednesday to face charges of careless use of a firearm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.last_img

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Father charged with seconddegree murder in BC sisters deaths

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first_imgOAK BAY, B.C. – The father of two girls who were found dead in a Victoria-area home on Christmas Day has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder.Andrew Berry, 43, was arrested and charged after he was released from hospital, RCMP said in a release on Wednesday.Police have said they were called to a residence in Oak Bay on the evening of Dec. 25 where officers discovered the bodies of two children inside.They also said an injured man, whose condition was not disclosed, was found inside the home and taken to hospital.A friend and a family member have identified the girls as Chloe Berry, 6, and her sister Aubrey Berry, 4.Trisha Lees, who was acting as a spokeswoman for the family, has said the children’s mother notified police when her former common-law spouse hadn’t returned the girls as scheduled.Lees declined to comment on the charges.At a candle-light vigil for the girls on Saturday, Ricky de Souza, the principal of St. Christopher’s Montessori School where Aubrey attended, said the girl’s death leaves a hole in the schoolHe said the four-year-old was a kind and gentle person who was the angel Gabriel in the School’s recent Christmas nativity performance.Stuart Hall, Christ Church Cathedral School principal, said Chloe was a peacemaker at their school and was always the first person to offer help to her classmates.“Chloe has left us all wounded,” he said of her death.Oak Bay’s acting mayor, Hazel Braithwaite, told the ceremony that the deaths have taken a toll on the entire community.“We have all been shaken by this tragic event,” she said.A decision from the B.C. Supreme Court shows Berry and his estranged common-law wife had a dispute over custody of the girls.Court documents show the girls’ mother, Sarah Cotton, was concerned about their father’s parenting abilities.The documents say Berry wanted to split custody of the girls evenly with their mother.Instead, in a decision last May, the court granted Cotton more parenting time because of her flexible work schedule and because she had been the girls’ primary caregiver for most of their lives.Bernard Richard, British Columbia’s child and youth representative, said last week that his office has started gathering documents, but it’s too early to say whether they will launch a formal investigation into the case.Police said on Wednesday the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit continues to investigate the deaths.last_img read more

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Albertan who posed as US veteran on Nov 11 guilty of unlawful

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first_imgRED DEER, Alta. – A man who posed as a U.S. Marine veteran during Remembrance Day ceremonies in central Alberta has pleaded guilty to unlawful use of military uniforms and medals.A third charge against Peter Toth, 59, was dropped.Toth was sentenced Wednesday in Red Deer to 18 months of probation and 200 hours of community service.Court heard that he has since destroyed the uniform and military decorations.His lawyer said Toth has struggled with depression, understands that what he did was wrong and feels remorse.Last November a group called Stolen Valour Canada began looking into a report of a man claiming to be a former U.S. Marine who attended ceremonies on Nov. 11 at schools in Red Deer.A picture taken at one event shows Toth dressed in a desert camouflage uniform festooned with military medals and ribbons.Stolen Valour officials said he was wearing rank badges in the wrong place, incorrect insignia and claimed to have been wounded in Afghanistan in 2005 despite saying he had retired from the military in 1985.Outside court, Gord Swaitkewich, a former soldier who is a spokesman for Stolen Valour Canada, said justice has been served.“It was a little bit of a process but any win is a win,” Swaitkewich said.Swaitkewich said his next order of business is to get the veterans license plate from Toth’s vehicle removed.“He is not a veteran, he has no legal right to have that plate.”Robert Dale, a retired sergeant, said he was also gratified with how the case turned out.“We’re not going to stand by for somebody stealing valour from our fallen,” Dale said.“He claimed he was in Afghanistan? We lost 185 people in Afghanistan and for him to do what he did is like him desecrating their graves and we’re not going to stand for it.”Dale said they hope the publicity of Toth’s case will send a message to the public that soldiers deserve respect. (RD News Now)last_img read more

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Northcentral BC communities under expanded evacuation orders and alerts

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first_imgThe board chair of the Bulkley-Nechako region has had a long week and expects the next one will not be any better, as more evacuation orders and alerts are in effect for an area of north-central British Columbia nearly surrounded by forest fires.“I’ve had better weeks,” said Bill Miller in a phone interview from Burns Lake, B.C., a community 1,000 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.The 35-kilometre stretch of land under evacuation order is west of the community of Fort St. James, in a mostly rural area, while an expanded evacuation alert includes several properties near the district municipality’s western edge.Miller said they have been lucky with the most recent evacuation area expansion, as no properties or families in the area have been forced out in a zone mostly made up of camping and recreational sites.However, he said if the fires continue to burn eastward, it will begin to affect residents in Fort St. James, and they need to be prepared to leave immediately if the alert is upgraded to an order in the next three to five days.“The alert has expanded significantly to cover the community of Fort St. James and some other First Nations communities as well,” said Miller.The wildfire burning near Shovel Lake that prompted the evacuation orders has grown to roughly 300 square kilometres and is one of the largest in the province, though Fire Information Officer Marg Drysdale of the BC Wildfire Service said the 2017 fire season had some much larger blazes.“We had fires last season which were well over 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometres),” said Drysdale from the scene of the fire.Drysdale is part of an incident management team dealing with several fires in the area she called the VanJam complex due to its proximity to the town of Vanderhoof and Fort St. James.She said they have 73 firefighters and 53 pieces of heavy equipment, including bulldozers and water tankers, split into two flanks to keep the fire from spreading toward the communities.She added the lack of rain and continual hot, dry weather with gusting winds have challenged crews, though the fire did not grow overnight.“It’s a bad fire season, there’s really no other way to put it,” she said.She said two other incident management teams from Australia and New Zealand were also working in the area, supporting the BC Wildfire Service crews.BC Wildfire Service chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek said there were nearly 600 blazes burning across the province, though the southern portion of the province did receive some rain over the weekend.The northern part of the province was not so lucky.“Unfortunately, we are not seeing a lot of relief in sight from the weather,” Skrepnek said.Miller said he expects residents and communities living along the Cunningham forest service road to evacuate the area if access along the road is cut off or restricted.He said when he left work in Burns Lake on Saturday afternoon, the smoke from the fires had darkened the skies so much that it seemed as if the sun had already set.last_img read more

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