Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Program to pay failed refugee claimants up to $2k to go home getting lots of takers

    Members of the Canadian Border Services Agency gather at the Canadian border crossing in Surrey, B.C., on Oct. 16, 2012.The Conservative government's experiment to pay failed refugee claimants to go home apparently is a roaring success.

    The Toronto Star reports that as of June, 2,157 people took advantage of Assisted Voluntary Returns and Reintegration [AVRR] three-year pilot program, which aims to short-circuit the laborious and often costly program of removing unsuccessful claimants.

    And talk about fast: It takes an average 32 days between the time a person registers in the program and when he or she gets on a plane to go home, the Star reported.

    Under the program, which so far is available only in the Toronto area, failed claimants receive up to $2,000 if they apply before filing a legal appeal of their rejection in the Federal Court. The amount drops the further along a claimant is in the post-rejection process, down to $1,000 if they've exhausted their appeals and received a pre-removal risk assessment.

    Recipients get a plane ticket home and money delivered in the form of reintegration assistance in

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  • Python escapes pet store, strangles two young boys in New Brunswick

    Two children were strangled to death after a python apparently escaped from an exotic pet shop. The boys, Noah Barthe, five, and Connor Barthe, seven, were on a sleepover at their best friend's house, which is located above a store called Reptile Ocean in Campbellton, N.B.

    RCMP said in a news release that its major crime unit was investigating after police were called to the apartment at 6:30 a.m. Monday.

    "The boys had been sleeping over at the apartment of a friend, which is located above a reptile store," the Mounties said.

    "The preliminary investigation has led police to believe that a large exotic snake had escaped its enclosure at the store sometime overnight, and got into the ventilation system, then into the upstairs apartment. It's believed the two boys were strangled by the snake."

    Two boys, Noah Barthe, five, and Connor Barthe, seven, were killed after a snake escaped from a reptile store in New Brunswick and strangled them.
    The snake was captured and was in the RCMP's possession.

    Autopsies were scheduled to be performed on Tuesday.

    [ Related video: Teenager owns more than 300 exotic pets ]

    The store's Facebook page was hit

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  • CBSA faces hefty holiday overtime bills while officers waive duties to reduce border wait times

    You might think the lineups to get back into Canada after a long-weekend excursion into the United States are interminable, but it seems they could be much worse without a little-known tweak in the rules.

    Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) apparently has a policy of relaxing the requirements to pay duty and taxes on goods brought over by cross-border shoppers during times of heavy traffic volume.

    Normally, returnees can bring in up to $200 duty-free after an overnight stay in the United States, while trips of less than 24 hours offer no exemption. That latter requirement goes out the window when it's really busy, Jason McMichael of the Customs and Immigration Union told CTV News.

    "During periods of peak traffic, I’ve seen (the federal duty exemptions) raised anywhere from $150 to $200 and more per person in order to alleviate the traffic strains," McMichael, the union's national vice-president, said.

    [ Related: Cross-border policy that lets shoppers avoid duties and taxes frustrates

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  • Alberta Mounties involved in shootings amid national debate over use of lethal force

    Both ASIRT and the RCMP are investigating after a man was fatally shot Saturday night. (CBC)Canadians don't like to think their police are as trigger-happy as their American counterparts but a recent spate of police-involved shootings might trouble many.

    Just days after Toronto was stunned by the shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim on an empty streetcar by a Metro police officer, RCMP in Alberta were involved in two shootings, one of them deadly, as well as a fatal Taser incident, over the space of three days.

    According to The Canadian Press, a Mountie stopped a suspected impaired driver near Ma Me O Beach, south of Edmonton on Saturday night. RCMP said the officer apparently got into a fight with two men in the car and shot both, killing one and wounding the other.

    The National Post reported that relatives identified the dead man as Lance Cutarm and the wounded man as his older brother Larron, both of Pigeon Lake, Alta.

    Another man died Sunday after being stunned with a Taser during his arrest in Leduc, south of Edmonton, on Friday, CP reported.

    And on Thursday night, RCMP

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  • From looting to charity scams, disaster brings out the worst in some people

    Mud and building contents litter the sidewalk during clean up in High River, Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan VerlageDisasters may bring out the best in many people but it also seems to bring out the worst in others. Along with helping hands, there are hands that want to help themselves.

    While crews in B.C.'s Slocan Valley work to clean up a jet-fuel spill from a tanker truck that fell into a creek last week, someone appears to be going around local homes pretending to offer air and water quality assessments, The Canadian Press reports.

    Executive Flight Centre, the company responsible for the cleanup, is warning residents in the southeastern B.C. area to beware of people offering to do inspections on properties near the Lemon Creek spill site.

    The company said the local health authority is not doing door-to-door checks but only responding to individual requests, CP reported.

    Meanwhile, the RCMP are also dealing with two acts of vandalism that targeted a clean-water holding tank set up in the wake of the spill, CP said. One of several tanks used to to dispense water while nearby water sources remain off

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  • Use of federal gun registry in Montreal standoff not likely to revive it outside Quebec

    Montreal police look at a weapon seized from a house in Montreal, Wednesday, July 31, 2013, following a standoff with an armed man.
    Supporters of Canada's largely defunct long-gun registry probably shouldn't hold out hope of its revival in the wake of this week's armed standoff in Montreal.

    Advocates for the registry, which was abolished by the Conservative government, say the fact police used the registry — still accessible in Quebec as the province's legal challenge continues — shows it's an important tool.

    But the registry never had widespread support among other provincial governments, especially in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario, which are key centres for the Conservatives' voting base.

    Montreal police spokesman Sgt. Jean Bruno Latour confirmed to The Canadian Press that officers consulted the registry during the 20-hour standoff.

    [ Related: Quebec loses another gun-registry battle with the federal government ]

    "It's among the procedures that we always do for interventions where firearms could be [present]," Latour said. "Before we do anything else, we must be sure to know who we're dealing with."

    Isidore Havis, 71, is

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  • RCMP dogged by yet another sexual-harassment suit, this time naming high-profile B.C. officer

    Like legal time bombs, sexual harassment suits keep blowing up on the RCMP.

    Another has just exploded, with Insp. Tim Shields, the force's chief spokesman in British Columbia, accused of making sexual advances on a civilian colleague, who also claims other senior Mounties treated he as a sexual object to the point she had to take stress leave, The Canadian Press reports.

    Atoya Montague filed a statement of claim Thursday naming Shields, along with the B.C. and federal governments. She alleges there was a top-down culture of sexual harassment within the RCMP that made officers comfortable enough to make open sexual advances.

    None of Montague's allegations have been proven in court and the RCMP has not yet filed its statement of defence. The Mounties released a statement late Thursday calling her claims "unproven, uncorroborated and unsubstantiated allegations," CKNW News reported.

    [ Related: RCMP inspector, federal and B.C. governments face another harassment lawsuit ]

    The Mounties have been

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  • Incidents of lasers pointed at aircraft on the rise in Canada

    (KITV Honolulu)Does anyone above the mental age of 12 still think aiming a laser at a passing aircraft is good, harmless fun?

    What's the object of this exercise? The only thing I can assume is the person doing the pointing hopes for a reaction, for something to happen. What exactly? Forcing the aircraft to veer out of control, to crash maybe? I suspect if you asked, you'd get a smirking shrug for an answer.

    Another judgment-challenged young man was arrested in Calgary this week for allegedly targeting a police helicopter with a powerful Type 3 laser, The Canadian Press reports.

    The pilot was blinded momentarily while the chopper was on a routine patrol, police said.

    "This caused extreme anxiety of our pilot," Insp. Guy Baker told CP on Thursday. "The potential for eye injury was great.

    "And you can imagine, if you're temporarily blinded and you're operating a helicopter, what kind of precarious position that would put ... the pilot, the people inside the helicopter and of course people living on the

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  • Canada’s Sea King helicopters celebrate 50 years of service

    So what important events took place in August 1963?

    Britain's Great Train Robbery netted the equivalent of $7.3 million. The Beatles first released "She Loves You." Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of Washington's Lincoln Memorial.

    And Canada's navy took delivery of its first Sikorsky Sea King helicopters.

    Most of the notorious Great Train Robbers were eventually caught and imprisoned; the Beatles broke up more than four decades ago and Rev. King was assassinated in 1968.

    But the venerable Sea King is still with us, celebrating 50 years of service long after its replacement was supposed to arrive. Celebrations were planned for Thursday (the day the first two arrived) and Friday, CBC News reported, though you'd be right to suspect the navy would have preferred not to have them.

    [ Related: Adventures and mishaps recalled from 50 years of flying military's Sea Kings ]

    The long-delayed Sikorsky Cyclone was supposed to have arrived in 2008 but now aren't

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  • Paul Bernardo’s transfer to medium security prison denied, but idea sparks outrage

    Paul Bernardo sits in the back of a police cruiser as he leaves a hearing in St. Catharines, Ont., April 5, 1994. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank GunnI'm pretty sure no one wants to see serial killer Paul Bernardo moved to a comfy medium-security prison after Kingston Penitentiary closes later this year. Except of course Bernardo himself and whatever twisted fanboys and girls he's collected in roughly two decades inside.

    And since the no-transfer camp includes Canada's minister of public safety, Steven Blaney, you can be pretty sure Bernardo won't get his wish to have his security status downgraded so he can move to nearby Bath Institution when the last prisoners are transferred out of the 178-year-old Kingston Pen.

    “While I do not control the security classification of individual prisoners, I have received assurances that there are no plans to move this inmate to a medium security institution,” Blaney said in a statement Thursday, reported by Global News.

    The Toronto Sun's Joe Warmington raised the possibility in a story Thursday that Bernardo might get a transfer to "the medium-security comforts of condo-style prison housing" at

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Pagination

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