Beijing: China’s airline industry association has thrown its support behind 13 Chinese carriers seeking compensation from Boeing for groundings of the 737 Max 8. The China Air Transport Association said in a statement Friday that the groundings and delayed deliveries of the planes were causing “serious damage” to the companies’ businesses. It estimated their losses at 4 billion yuan (USD 580 million) should the planes remain grounded through the end of next month. Also Read – ‘Hong Kong won’t rule out Chinese help over protests’ The group said it would “actively support and coordinate member companies to carry out their compensation work.” It was unclear if the push to penalise the American aircraft maker over losses resulting from the grounding of the aircraft was in any way linked to trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. China was among the first governments to order 737 Max jets grounded in March after crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people. Also Read – Pak Army chief accompanies Imran at key meetings in China The Chinese airlines, including major carriers Air China, China Eastern and China Southern, have 96 Max aircraft in their fleets, with more than 30 more due to be delivered this year. Aviation officials from more 30 countries met Thursday with the FAA to hear the US regulator’s approach to reviewing changes that Boeing is making. The company has not yet submitted a final, formal application for approval of its update to a flight-control system that has been implicated in the crashes. That submission will be followed by test flights to demonstrate the changes to FAA experts.
New Delhi: All the 10 coaching centres inspected by the Delhi Fire Service were found lacking the fire safety norms with only one exit route incase of an emergency and inadequate firefighting equipment, officials said on Wednesday. In the wake of the Surat fire tragedy, the Delhi government had directed the city’s fire department to take immediate action for “closing down” coaching institutes operating above fourth floor in buildings in violation of the fire safety norms. Also Read – Cylinder blast kills mother and daughter in Karawal NagarThe Delhi Fire Service has formed four teams, comprising two officials each, to inspect coaching centres in Karol Bagh, Mukherjee Nagar, Laxmi Nagar and Lado Sarai and its adjoining areas. During inspection, it was found the coaching centres were functional with only one exit route as opposed to fire exits and inadequate firefighting equipment, an official said. They have been given 90 days time to ensure they fulfil the fire safety norms and incase they do not comply with, they will be issued showcause notice, he said, adding that they can also seek extra time of 90 days. Also Read – Two persons arrested for killing manager of Muthoot FinanceThe Delhi Fire Service is currently focussing on inspecting building that have a height of 50 metres or above. According to the official, during the time of inspection they see whether there is an area of six metres around the building where fire-tenders can be stationed and there are fire extinguishers in the building. Apart from these parameters, other things they analyse include the presence of a 2,500 litre water tank, 900 lpm water pump, manual electric alarm and if there is a fire or smoke check staircase for an exit route. Aspirants from across the country come to the city to prepare for competitive exams. Areas like Laxmi Nagar, Mukherjee Nagar, Kalu Sarai, Ber Sarai, Jia Sarai, Munirka and Karol Bagh are home to several coaching centres. The Surat fire tragedy, in which 22 students, including 18 girls, of an art and craft coaching institute, lost their lives, has highlighted poor fire safety norms being followed by the institutes, prompting the government and municipal authorities to start inspections of coaching centres. Twenty-two students were killed in the devastating fire that engulfed the four-storey Takshashila Arcade in Sarthana area of Surat on May 24.
New Delhi: Launching a massive crackdown on perpetrators of the IL&FS scam, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has charged the erstwhile top management members of the group’s financial services subsidiary IFIN of forming a “coterie” with its auditors and independent directors to defraud the company while running the business as their “personal fiefdom”.Officials also said it is just a tip of the iceberg in this massive fraud case, involving defaults totalling an estimated amount of over Rs 90,000 crore, as the SFIO’s first charge sheet concerns just one entity, IL&FS Financial Services Ltd (IFIN), and the probe is already underway against the parent firm Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS) and several other subsidiaries. Also Read – Dussehra with a ‘green’ twistIn addition to prosecution of former executive and independent directors of IFIN, among others, and attachment of their properties, the SFIO is also looking to seek interim attachment of all moveable and immovable assets of the auditors including their lockers, bank accounts and jointly-held properties, officials said. The SFIO is also collecting details about all borrowings by IFIN from banks and through market instruments, as also about the role of banks and their officials and of credit rating agencies. Also Read – India receives its first Rafale fighter jet from FranceThe first charge-sheet, filed by the government’s white-collar fraud investigation agency, follows inspection of accounts of close to 400 entities, an extensive forensic audit, data collected from desktops and laptops seized from various IL&FS offices as also e-mails extracted from the IL&FS servers, RBI inspection reports, minutes of meetings, among other documents, as also the assessment reports from the government-appointed new board of IL&FS. The huge scam came to light last year after IL&FS and its subsidiaries defaulted on several debt repayments due to a severe liquidity crisis. As of March 2018, it owed over Rs 90,000 crore to banks and other creditors. The government in October last year superseded the board of IL&FS and appointed a new board, with eminent banker Uday Kotak as its executive chairman. In its charge sheet filed before a special court in Mumbai last Friday, the SFIO has accused 30 entities/individuals of various violations and offences, including of financial fraud. Some of the accused persons are already in judicial custody. The former top-management members of IFIN have been charged with committing fraud with intent to injure the interest of the company, its shareholders and creditors, resulting in wrongful loss to the company. They have been accused of forming a “coterie to control day-to-day affairs of the company and of colluding with others” in using illegal methods on multiple occasions in violation of the RBI directions.
Srinagar: People in large numbers thronged mosques, shrines and Eidgahs in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday to offer prayers on Eid-ul-Fitr even as celebrations were marred in some partsof the valley due to clashes between protestors and security forces. The biggest congregation was witnessed at the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar where thousands of people gathered to offer prayers on the culmination of the holy month of Ramzan, officials said. The Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta in the old city also witnessed a huge crowd. People thronged to Sonawar and Soura shrines in the heart of the city, they said, adding that similar gatherings were held in all districts headquarters and major towns of the valley. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoCClashes broke out in some parts of the old city between protestors and security forces after Eid prayers, the officials said. Similar clashes were reported in Sopore in north Kashmir and Anantnag in south Kashmir, they added. In the Nowhatta area of the city, masked protestors reportedly held banners in support of banned Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and slain militant commander Zakir Musa. However, police officials said they were verifying the veracity of these reports. There were no reports of anyone getting hurt in these clashes, the officials said. The situation elsewhere in the valley remained peaceful, they added. Security forces exercised maximum restraint while dealing with the law and order situation, the officials said.
NEW DELHI: After long struggles, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday launched a project for installation of CCTV cameras in all government schools in the city, saying it will be a “historic milestone”.Launching the project at Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Lajpat Nagar, Kejriwal said over 1,000 Delhi government schools will be equipped with CCTV cameras by November this year. Private schools have already been directed to install CCTV cameras, he said, adding that they will be “strictly” asked to implement the order. Also Read – Bangla Sahib Gurudwara bans use of all types of plastic itemsKejriwal said that his government had to struggle against misinformation campaign of the opposition parties against the project. “It’s a historic milestone in school education in the country and the world as live feed from classrooms will be provided to parents on their mobile phones through an app,” Kejriwal said. Dismissing concerns that the CCTV cameras will compromise privacy of the schoolchildren, the chief minister said the initiative will help improve results of Delhi government schools next year. “There will be no privacy breach, children go to school for education, to learn discipline and become good citizens of the country… they do not go there for anything private,” he said. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderKejriwal said the CCTVs will ensure direct answerability of the government towards people. “We would not provide live feed to the parents if the schools were not running properly,” he said, adding that the cameras will also ensure children’s safety and instil discipline in them. Parents of children studying in Delhi government schools will be able to get live feed of the CCTV cameras through ‘DGS Live’ app which can be downloaded from Google Play Store. After downloading the app, they will receive an SMS from the government control room. They will be able to access live classroom feed after proper verification. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya has become the country’s first government school to have CCTV camera coverage. He interacted with a few parents who supported the move. Citing various benefits of the CCTV cameras, he claimed students and teachers also supported the move. Deputy chief minister also explained the rationale for installing CCTVs in classrooms. He said, “All of you remember that a child died in a private school almost two years ago, and the police investigation into the matter is still on. That’s when the Chief Minister directed the installation of CCTVs in government school classrooms. First we installed CCTVs in the school campus. In the meantime another accident occured where one of our teachers was killed. That incident had happened inside a class room.” “Teachers face allegations of absenteeism from classrooms. No one will now be able to wrongly accuse teachers of skipping classes. During the pilot of this project, I was concerned that everyone may not like CCTVs inside classrooms, but I was surprised to find that both students and teachers gave a positive response for the project. We have observed an identifiable improvement in the behaviour of children in the schools where this project was piloted.” Sisodia said. As part of the project, two CCTV cameras will be installed in each classroom. Entire school premises, barring the washrooms, will be under 360 degree coverage of the cameras and their feed will be monitored from a control room.
New Delhi: Delhiites woke up to a warm Saturday morning with the minimum temperature settling at 31.3 degrees Celsius, four notches above the season’s average. Humidity was recorded at 58 per cent. The weatherman has forecast partly cloudy skies and dust raising winds through the day. The maximum temperature on Saturday is likely to be around 38 degrees Celsius, while the minimum temperature on Sunday is likely to be around 31 degrees Celsius. According to a MeT official, relief from the heat is likely on July 16 as rains are expected on that evening. On Friday, the maximum and minimum temperatures were recorded at 39.2 and 30.6 degrees Celsius, respectively.
New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Thursday termed “truly bizarre” the Bombay High Court asking an activist to explain why he kept a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”. “Welcome to New India,” Ramesh said, a day after the Bombay High Court Wednesday asked Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case accused Vernon Gonsalves to explain why he kept “objectionable material” like a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and some CDs at his home. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details The single-judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal, hearing the bail plea of Gonsalves and others, also said “such books” and CDs prima facie indicated they contained some material against the State. “Truly bizarre that somebody is being asked by a judge of the Bombay High Court to explain why he has copy of Tolstoy’s War & Peace, a true classic. And to think Tolstoy was a major influence on the Mahatma. Welcome to New India!” Ramesh tweeted. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from Thursday The classic novel about Russia during Napoleonic wars became a point of contention after Pune Police claimed the book was part of the “highly incriminating evidence” it had seized from Gonsalves’ house in Mumbai during raids conducted a year ago. Pune Police also read out titles of several other books and CDs allegedly recovered from Gonsalves’ house, which included CDs titled ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ released by Kabir Kala Manch. “The title of the CD ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ itself suggests it has something against the state while ‘War and Peace’ is about a war in another country. Why did you (Gonsalves) keep objectionable material such as books like ‘War and Peace’, books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court,” said Justice Kotwal.
VANCOUVER – In a story that moved Tuesday about cat declawing, The Canadian Press misspelled the name of the registrar of the College of Veterinarians of B.C. Her name is Luisa Hlus.
SMITHS FALLS, Ont. – The death of a dog locked in a car that caught fire has prompted Ontario’s animal welfare agency to issue a warning about the dangers of leaving pets unattended in vehicles.Normand Beauchamp, who is fire chief in Smiths Falls, Ont., says the incident happened around 2 p.m. on Wednesday when a small dog was left in a running car at a Walmart parking lot.He says the owner told firefighters they wanted to keep the dog cool, which is why they left the air conditioning running.But Beauchamp says the car caught fire and the dog had nowhere to go and died.The cause of the fire is under investigation.Alison Cross of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says many things could go wrong if you leave pets unattended in vehicles.She says if you can’t take your pets with you, then leave them at home.
HALIFAX – Two Toronto-area men have been charged in an 18-month, seven-province investigation into a human trafficking ring that allegedly forced ”numerous” Nova Scotia women into the sex trade across Canada.The arrests of Malachi Almonzo Downey, 31, and Sanderico Rekel Beals, 29, follow earlier charges against Lorenzo Trevor Thomas, and police say all three are associated with a Halifax-area street gang known as North Preston’s Finest.“The investigation started as a result of information received that men who were originally from Nova Scotia were in Ontario and were trafficking in women also from Nova Scotia, trafficking and exploiting them across country in the sex trade,” RCMP Supt. Alfredo Bangloy said.“We’ve identified a number of victims, and the investigation remains fluid and it’s our hope that additional victims or their families and loved ones will come forward with information.”The probe, dubbed Operation Hellbender, saw Nova Scotia Mounties travel “across the country in an effort to locate victims of human trafficking from Nova Scotia.”Downey, who lives in Vaughan, Ont., was arrested in Upper Onslow, N.S., on Friday, while Beals, of Scarborough, Ont., was arrested Sunday in Dartmouth.They are charged with human trafficking, laundering crime proceeds and receiving material benefits from sexual services and human trafficking.Bangloy said the busts are a big deal for the Mounties: “There’s been human trafficking charges in the past here in Nova Scotia but none of those investigations were of the scale that this has been,” he said.“The investigation is ongoing and there may be further charges.”Thomas, 31, was arrested by police in Niagara Falls, Ont., on March 27. He’s facing 17 charges, including trafficking in persons, assault, advertising sexual services and receiving a material benefit from sexual services.RCMP officers worked with their provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as with Halifax Regional Police.RCMP said they have set up a tip line for other victims: 902-449-2425.“Our goal is to get victims to safety and link them with resources and support to break the cycle of violence,” Bangloy said.
SECHELT, B.C. – A First Nation on British Columbia’s south coast says its members have caught three Atlantic salmon after thousands of the fish escaped from a farm in Washington state.The Shishalh First Nation in Sechelt says its members caught the Atlantic salmon while fishing for pink salmon on Sunday.A news release from the band says the fish weighed between three and 4.5 kilograms, one was male and the two females had developing eggs.Band officials say there’s a high probability all three escaped Aug. 19 when a pen containing 305,000 salmon collapsed in U.S. waters about 150 kilometres to the south at a Cooke Aquaculture fish farm.Fisheries and Oceans Canada has confirmed one Atlantic salmon was caught off southwestern Vancouver Island on Saturday and officials were checking reports that two more of the non-native species were hooked off Sooke and Esquimalt.Sishalh Chief Warren Paull says the First Nation does not support the farming of non-indigenous salmonid species within its territory and the question is not if, but when Atlantic salmon will enter B.C. streams.Concerns have been raised that escaped Atlantic salmon could compete with their Pacific cousins for food, interbreed with them or introduce disease.“We hope this situation can be contained and monitored, and that future decision making around marine finfish aquaculture will be carried out through developing shared and collaborative decision making processes with First Nations,” Paull says in the release.Michael Rust, science adviser with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s aquaculture office, told The Associated Press last week that farmed salmon tend to be domesticated, raised on feed and are not used to catching fish or escaping predators. Farmed salmon are more likely to be prey than predator, he said.On Saturday, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee directed the Department of Ecology to put any new permits for net pens on hold.The Lummi Nation in northwest Washington state declared a state of emergency last week and directed its members to catch as many of the escaped salmon as possible.The band reports its anglers caught about 20,000 of the fish over the weekend.New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture has said high tides and currents damaged the salmon farm and led to the escape. (The Canadian Press, AP, CFAX)
BATHURST, N.B. – Changes to a controversial Halloween bylaw banning older teenagers from trick-or-treating and setting an early curfew for anyone in disguise were expected to be approved in a northern New Brunswick city Monday night.Bathurst city council was set to vote on proposed amendments that would slacken the existing Halloween bylaw following a final reading Monday night.The new rules would forbid anyone older than 16 from trick-or-treating and set a curfew at 8 p.m., easing the current rules banning teens over age 14 from collecting candy door-to-door, with a 7 p.m. cut-off.Under the proposed changes, teens over 16 found roaming the streets for treats or anyone dressed in public in a “facial disguise” from a zombie mask to a witch’s veil after curfew can be fined up to $200.Bathurst police say they’ll use common sense enforcing the Halloween bylaw if it passes third reading.“If some child is walking around at 8:05 p.m. and has a mask on, we’re not necessarily going to give them a ticket,” said Const. Jeff Chiasson. “But if we do find people over the age of 16 throwing apples or stealing candies from other kids or things like that, that’s where the imposition of the fines would be put into place.”The bylaw gives police a tool to prevent and stop mischief, he said, adding that fines would be used only as a last resort.“We’re not going to be stopping every single person but if there is activity that is consistent with something illegal, it’s more or less a tool that we can use to stop and question that person and say ‘Hey listen it’s 9 o’clock at night, you’re 19 years old, where are you heading?’” Chiasson said.Although he said Bathurst hasn’t seen any crime directly attributed to trick-or-treaters in recent years, Chiasson said there have been some “scary clown” sightings reported.“I think the spirit of this is to prevent any mischief,” he said, noting that before the first iteration of the bylaw was ushered in police received numerous complaints on Halloween night.Bathurst deputy mayor Kim Chamberlain has said the proposed changes to the bylaw don’t go far enough.She argued that the bylaw should be scrapped altogether, calling it an overreach for city councillors to impose Halloween rules.Chamberlain said homeowners can turn out their porch lights if they don’t want trick-or-treaters past a certain hour.As Bathurst debates who can go trick-or-treating when, some school boards across the country have issued guidelines to parents on what costumes children are allowed to wear.But critics say efforts to sanitize Halloween attire and avoid offending anyone have gone too far.A Winnipeg school’s decision to stop students from wearing costumes to class on Halloween has upset some parents, who argue its not fair to deny their kids the fun.Ecole Sage Creek School has opted to have four different themed dress-up days during the week where Halloween falls, including a “tie and scarf” day on Oct. 31.The principal of the Kindergarten to Grade 8 school said some kids wore scary or gory costumes that frightened younger children, or weren’t age-appropriate.Meanwhile, an Ontario school board has warned parents about costumes that represents a stereotype or mocks a culture.— Story by Brett Bundale in Halifax
CALGARY – You might have to pay a little more for the evergreen scent of a natural Christmas tree this year as droughts and increased demand have put pressure on prices.Jimmy Downey, president of the Quebec Christmas Tree Growers Association, says his prices are up about 10 per cent this year for the first rise in close to a decade.He says the increase is because of demand in the Western U.S. after several dry seasons that stunted tree growth there, as well as a younger generation that’s returning to natural trees.Downey says Eastern Canada should have plenty of trees, but British Columbia, which has imported trees from the U.S. in the past, might see some shortages.He says the price increase is a relief because labour and fertilizer costs have been rising even as prices stayed flat, forcing smaller or less efficient growers out of the market.Statistics Canada says the number of hectares devoted to Christmas trees in Canada dropped to 23,787 in 2016 from 28,315 in 2011, while the number of farms fell to 1,872 from 2,381.
TOFINO, B.C. – Long-time residents of Vancouver Island’s west coast admit to being awestruck by the latest storm that has prompted an extreme wave hazard advisory for the region, including Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino and Ucluelet.The advisory was issued Thursday as waves up to nine metres high pounded several popular beaches at the same time as midday high tides.“You’d see people shoulder to shoulder yesterday on the beach that have lived here for 30 years or have been here for 30 minutes, and all of them were … taken aback and in awe,” said Shane Richards, the general manager of the Pacific Sands Beach Resort on Cox Bay near Tofino.“You could feel it, standing 20 feet back from the shoreline, you could feel the waves breaking,” he said, adding the storm was so powerful that waves were breaking at least two kilometres offshore.The swells are powerful enough to pick up and hurl huge logs and the advisory from the District of Tofino said rollers were also breaking much higher than usual, flooding beaches and shorelines.“We’ll have our fair share of clean up to do,” Richards predicted.“If I was to guess, I would say there are probably 80 to 90 substantially sized logs on our property that weren’t here yesterday,” he said, describing waves powerful enough to toss one-tonne logs over the retaining wall that protects the resort’s property.A bulletin from Parks Canada, which administers the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, says some beaches and parking lots within the reserve may have to be closed for safety reasons. The warning will remain in effect until Saturday.Weather warnings for the region have been dropped but Environment Canada says winds of up to 60 kilometres per hour are forecast Friday, rising to 80 kilometres by Saturday.The District of Ucluelet also closed beaches and the popular Wild Pacific Trail and said staff would assess conditions on Friday.“Beaches, shorelines, docks and marinas, and coastal waters should be avoided during this major storm event,” the district said in a release.Storm watchers are advised to use safe vantage points including two in Pacific Rim National Park and one at Amphitrite Point, the most southerly tip of the Ucluelet Peninsula.
WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s children’s advocate will gain new powers next week to work on behalf of more young people and to make more of her findings public.The Progressive Conservative government says portions of a law passed last year are to take effect March 15.The changes expand the role of Daphne Penrose beyond child welfare to examine youth services in areas such as education, health and justice.Another change will allow her to publicly release findings from her investigations into the deaths of children in government care.The additional powers were recommended in 2013 by the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, a five-year-old girl who was beaten to death by her mother and mother’s boyfriend after social workers closed her file.The advocate’s office is currently finishing a review into the death of Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in a Winnipeg river in 2014 after she had run away from a hotel where social workers had placed her.“This (change) will ensure greater public accountability for a range of key public services that protect Manitoba’s most vulnerable children and youth, and aim to make those services more effective and responsive,” Families Minister Scott Fielding said Tuesday in a written statement.The children’s advocate is an independent office of the legislature that has been forbidden from publicly releasing reports into child deaths. The advocate releases general findings in annual reports and appears every year before a legislature committee.
OTTAWA – Canada has slipped six places to 55th spot on an annual list of global freedom-of-information rankings, and is now tied with Bulgaria and Uruguay.The Halifax-based Centre for Law and Democracy and human rights organization Access Info Europe published the list to mark International Right to Know Day.The rating system, launched in 2011, uses a 150-point scale to indicate the strengths and weaknesses of freedom-of-information laws around the world.Canada has dropped down the list partly because other countries have leapfrogged it by introducing better laws, the latest report card says.War-torn Afghanistan, working to rebuild its public institutions, tops the rankings this year, followed by Mexico, Serbia and Sri Lanka.It is tremendous that Afghanistan has passed such “an incredibly strong” right-to-information law, said Toby Mendel, executive director of the non-profit Centre for Law and Democracy.“Although implementation is always a challenge, this law will at least give the country the tools it needs to ensure its citizens can access information from public authorities.”The compilers of the list say they hope Canada’s “poor showing” will be a wake-up call that spurs Ottawa to improve the federal Access to Information Act, which hasn’t been significantly updated since its inception in 1983.The law allows people who pay $5 to ask for records ranging from internal studies and meeting minutes to correspondence and travel receipts. Departments are supposed to answer within 30 days or provide valid reasons why they need more time.The global rankings are based on elements including a law’s general right of access, scope, requesting procedures, exceptions and refusals, and appeal process.Canada’s lax timelines, imposition of access fees, lack of a proper public-interest override, and blanket exemptions for certain political offices all contravene international standards for the right of access, says the report published Friday.“Canada’s antiquated approach to access to information is also the result of a lack of political will to improve the situation.”The Liberal government introduced legislation last year to help modernize the federal law. The bill, currently before the Senate, would give the information commissioner — an ombudsman for users — new authority to order the release of records as well as entrench the practice of routinely releasing documents such as briefing notes and expense reports.But many who testified at a House of Commons committee dismissed the legislation as a step backward.In an analysis of the proposed changes last year, the Centre for Law and Democracy said the measures would give Canada only a modest boost in the global rankings.It said the bill does nothing to narrow or close exceptions in the law that allow federal agencies to withhold information from release.The bill also backpedals on a campaign promise to fully apply the Access to Information Act to ministerial offices.During a public question-and-answer session Friday, part of Right to Know week, information commissioner Caroline Maynard said she plans to flag problematic elements of the bill to the Senate committee studying the legislation.She’s concerned about a provision that would allow an agency to decline to handle a request — with approval from the commissioner — because it is deemed to be too vague or frivolous.“We have concern that this will be limiting some access, and it’s not necessary,” she said.Maynard suggested any such difficulties can be remedied by an existing provision in the law that requires agencies to assist requesters with their applications.The commissioner also outlined some insights into how she plans to clear a backlog of 3,500 complaints that have piled up from dissatisfied requesters over the years.— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter
OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is opening a new front in his party’s fight against the revamped NAFTA deal, saying he would have done better than Justin Trudeau.The United States is measuring its success in the newly revised North American Free Trade Agreement by what it gained, Scheer tweeted Sunday. The Liberal government, on the other hand, is defining its achievement by what it didn’t give up.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland swiftly fired back, accusing the Opposition leader of showing “a lot of Monday morning courage.”Scheer’s broadside comes as Parliament prepares to resume sitting after the Thanksgiving break, offering a glimpse of how the Conservatives will try to persuade the public they could have wrested a superior deal from the Trump administration.Scheer argues his party would not have had to sign the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement because it would have negotiated a more attractive one for Canadians.“Would I have signed this deal?” Scheer asked in his tweet. “I would have signed a better one.”He offered no details about those improvements, and his spokesman indicated he was not immediately available for an interview, having just returned from a trip to India to promote trade with Canada.However, Scheer has accused the Liberals of gaining no new ground in the USMCA deal and making concessions in the auto, dairy and pharmaceutical sectors.The pact’s ink was barely dry when the Conservatives began portraying the Liberal performance at the negotiating table as a fumbling misplay that will cost Canadian businesses, consumers and workers.“The Liberals would like Canadians to believe that this is somehow NAFTA 2.0,” Scheer told the House of Commons earlier this month. “In reality, this is NAFTA 0.5.”The Tories have also pointedly reminded the Liberals that punishing U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs remain in place.The Liberals say the new agreement, which still faces implementation hurdles, will protect billions of dollars of daily trade, supporting millions of Canadian jobs.Freeland has touted several provisions as Canadian wins, including removal of a clause that undermined energy sovereignty and the scrapping of a dispute-settlement mechanism that allowed companies to sue Canada for millions.“Andrew Scheer is showing a lot of Monday morning courage,” she said Sunday in a statement to The Canadian Press. “He and Stephen Harper argued repeatedly that Canada should drop our demands and rush into a bad deal. We refused to capitulate, we held out, and we got a good deal for Canadians.”The NDP has echoed many of the Conservative criticisms of the deal, saying it will hurt dairy, poultry and egg farmers and producers.As part of the implementation process, the new deal is likely to be presented to the House of Commons for discussion.The New Democrats say the Liberals owe it to Canadians to explain the pact and how it will affect their livelihoods.— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter
CALGARY – The father of a six-year old girl who died after being hit by a light-rail transit train says she wandered off as her mother was getting their children ready for school.The girl, who has been identified in a GoFundMe page as Efua Ogbeide, was struck by the train on Monday morning at an intersection near a Calgary CTrain station. She was rushed to hospital where she died from her injuries.The girl’s father, Jeff Ogbeide, told CTV Calgary that his daughter wandered off as her mom was getting her and the other children dressed for school.“She went upstairs to grab a school bag and by the time she came back downstairs the door was open,” he said.Ogbeide said his wife told him that the school bus was there when she came outside and that she waved and the bus left.His wife didn’t know whether she was on the bus so he called the school to make sure. When no one answered, he drove to the school to check whether she made it safely.“I got to the school and they said she was not on the bus and she’s not at school,” said Ogbeide.They later learned she had been hit by the train and taken to hospital.Ogbeide said they didn’t know she had left the home, which is a few blocks from the LRT station.Her father said she has never left like that before and was never allowed to walk alone.“She did not go to school all by herself. My daughter doesn’t go to school by herself,” he said. “The bus always comes to pick her up right in front of my house.”Officials with the Calgary Catholic School District have confirmed the girl attended St. Jude, an elementary school in the southwest neighbourhood of Woodbine.“A letter was sent home to families,” Joanna French, a spokeswoman for the school district, said Tuesday. “We would just let them know of an incident that took place and to keep the family in their thoughts and prayers.”She wouldn’t say what grade the girl was in for privacy reasons.French said members of the district’s critical incident response team were sent to the school to provide counselling for any students or staff struggling with what happened.The Woodcreek Community Association, which includes the Woodlands and Woodbine communities, also expressed sadness on Facebook.“This will be a tough time for our littlest community members,” said the post. “Let’s endeavour to show extra kindness, as we hold them all in our hearts.”The association declined to comment further. (CTV Calgary, The Canadian Press)
OTTAWA – New Health Canada figures say Canadians over 25 smoked more tobacco and cannabis last year than they did two years before.Health Canada closely tracks trends in tobacco, alcohol and drug use among Canadians 15 and older to help develop policies and programs.The prevalence of cigarette smoking among those 25 and up was 16 per cent in 2017, an increase from 13 per cent two years earlier.And 13 per cent of people aged 25 or older reported having used cannabis in the last year, up from 10 per cent in 2015.The federal survey results show little or no change in consumption habits of those in the 15-to-24-year-old age bracket, and little change in the percentage of Canadians who’d used opioids: 12 per cent, down a tick from 13 per cent in 2015.“Problematic substance use has a very real impact on the lives of Canadians, their families and communities,” Health Canada said.“Tobacco use is still the leading preventable cause of premature death and disease in Canada, and in 2017, approximately 4,000 Canadians lost their lives as a result of apparent opioid-related overdoses.”The results pointing to an increase in cannabis use among those 25 and older affirm the importance of continued public-education efforts to inform Canadians about the health effects of marijuana, the department said.The figures come just days after the federal government legalized recreational marijuana use for those aged 18 or 19 and older, depending on the province.In 2017, the overall prevalence of smoking among Canadians aged 15 and up was 15 per cent, representing 4.6 million current smokers, an increase from 2015 when it hit an all-time low of 13 per cent.The government aims to drive the overall smoking rate in Canada to less than five per cent by 2035.The latest survey was conducted from February to December last year through telephone interviews with 16,349 respondents in all 10 provinces.Other notable figures from the survey:— 15 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older had ever tried an e-cigarette in 2017, up from 13 per cent in 2015. However, past-30 day use of e-cigarettes was unchanged from 2015, at three per cent;— Past-year use of cannabis was at 15 per cent in 2017, up from 12 per cent in 2015;— Use of cannabis was highest among youth aged 15 to 19 years (19 per cent) and young adults aged 20 to 24 (33 per cent);— 78 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported consuming an alcoholic beverage in the last year, unchanged from 2015;— 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older indicated that they had used a psychoactive pharmaceutical in the last year, and among those, five per cent reported problematic use of such a drug. Of the three classes of psychoactive pharmaceuticals, opioid pain relievers were the most used.
MONTREAL — A group of young Quebecers is going to court claiming their fundamental rights have been violated as a result of federal government inaction on climate change.The group Environnement Jeunesse announced today it is seeking authorization of a class action lawsuit against Ottawa on behalf of all Quebecers aged 35 and under.The people behind the action say their generation will suffer the worst effects of climate change, depriving them of their right to a healthy environment.A lawyer for the group says the Canadian government’s behaviour infringes on rights protected by the provincial and federal charters of rights.They will seek $100 per person and ask that instead of individual cheques, the total go towards funding measures to slow down climate change.The filing in Quebec Superior Court is the first step in proceedings that could take several years.The Canadian Press