• Peter MacKay talks with members of the flight crew during a ceremony marking the delivery of Canada's first new CH-147F Chinook helicopter in Ottawa June 27, 2013.
    The Conservative government has unveiled another step in its program to reconnect the Canadian Armed Forces with their British roots.

    National Defence Minister Peter MacKay has announced the army will ditch the maple leaf rank designators used on officers' shoulder boards in favour of the "pips" and crowns the Brits use to tell lieutenants (that's leff-tennant, not lou-tennant) from colonels, The Canadian Press reports.

    The army's non-commissioned officers and below will also be referred to by their original British Army and Commonwealth rank designations, CP says.

    So the American-style private will give way to ranks such as trooper, bombardier, rifleman or guardsman, depending on the type of unit, CP reports.

    "Our government is committed to honouring the traditions and history of the Canadian Army," MacKay said in a news release. "The restoration of these historical features will encourage the esprit de corps of our soldiers and reinforce a rich military tradition that will continue to

    Read More »from Canadian Forces to ditch maple leaf designator in favour of British-style ranks
  • The fatal train explosion and corresponding tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Que., this past weekend has captured the attention of our royal friends in England, with the Queen herself expressing remorse over the disaster on Tuesday.

    Governor General David Johnston passed along this message, sent from Queen Elizabeth to all Canadians:

    It was with profound sadness that I learned of the tragic events that have befallen the town of Lac-Mégantic.  The loss of life and livelihoods has shocked us all. Prince Philip joins me in hoping that in time it will be possible to rebuild both the property and the lives of those who have been affected. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

    It's surely a fine note, albeit one that comes four days after the tragic explosion of a runaway train filled with crude oil decimated the small Quebec community.

    But it's surely nice to know that someone in the Royal Family took note of our suffering and ...

    Whoops. Apparently the remorse doesn't end there.

    [ More Brew: Company

    Read More »from Our sad royals: Queen expresses sorrow over Lac-Megantic disaster
  • Special plates for convicted impaired drivers are still under consideration, says Transportation Minister Robert Vessey.Most provinces offer drivers a chance to buy special licence plates, veterans for example.

    But if Prince Edward Island's transportation minister has his way, some drivers will be forced to use plates with a dubious cachet. They'll be publicly marked as convicted drunk drivers.

    The proposal is part of a wholesale revamping of the island province's licence-plate system, consolidating the five existing designs into one.

    "That's something we're still in discussions about right now," P.E.I. Transportation Minister Robert Vessey told CBC News. "It's still something I'm thinking on. We've been talking to law enforcements about it."

    Vessey first raised the idea last year after figures revealed P.E.I. had more impaired-driving incidents per capita than any of the other Atlantic provinces, CBC News said.

    The minister said at the time he envisioned issuing convicted impaired drivers with pink, red or blue plates, or perhaps adding a special letter to their plates or even a decal on the windshield, the

    Read More »from P.E.I. mulls slapping special license plates on cars of convicted drunk drivers
  • Three Cleveland women who were rescued earlier this year after being held captive for more than a decade spoke publicly for the first time on Tuesday, releasing a video that thanked the public for its support and thanked it for their privacy.

    Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight broke their public silence two months after they were recovered from their years-long nightmare being held captive in a two-storey home owned by suspect Ariel Castro.

    In a video posted on YouTube through a public relations firm, the women thanked the public for its support and encouragement during the difficult ordeal.

    "I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal," said Berry, who escaped the home on May 6, 2013 after 10 years of imprisonment.

    "It has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness."

    Gina DeJesus appeared in the video with her parents, who thanked their friends and neighbours for emotional support through the trying ordeal.

    [ Related:

    Read More »from Public message from Cleveland kidnapping victims a sign of recovery
  • A house close to the train wreckage is pictured in Lac Megantic, July 9, 2013.
    As the toll of dead and missing, and presumed dead grows in Lac-Megantic, residents of the eastern Quebec town are coming out of their shock, grieving and angry.

    The weekend derailment of a runaway trainload of oil tank cars that then exploded incinerated the heart of this railway town of 6,000. More than a dozen residents have been confirmed dead and dozens more are missing.

    CTV News reported Tuesday that 1,200 residents of two neighbourhoods near the site of the accident were being allowed to return home. They were greeted with notices that they will need to clean and air out their homes to get rid of the stench of oil.

    But it will take more than that for the close-knit community to recover. Beyond the physical destruction of the Lac-Megantic's historic town centre, family and neighbourly connections have been shredded by the loss of life.

    “You see your neighbour walking by every day. You saw them yesterday, so if you don’t see them today, you know they’re dead,” city councillor Roger

    Read More »from Lac-Megantic residents angry over loss of life, industry and history
  • A woman gets back into her flooded car on the Toronto Indy course on Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto on Monday, July 8 2013.

    Residents of Toronto woke up on Tuesday to find the city had survived fairly well after a sudden evening storm that shut down public transit, overran roads and highways and left thousands of residents without power overnight.

    "Toronto has persevered, we have weathered the storm," Ford said, before underlining the next stages of recovery. Namely, taking the stress off the city's power supply.

    "It is crucial we all reduce our electricity today to help relieve the strain on our hydro system. We are hanging on by a thread right now," Ford said at a Tuesday press conference.

    Hydro officials underlined that need, urging residents to find a way to save some 200 megawatts of power – about 200 large condominium buildings.

    Power was being cut back to Toronto Hydro's key partners, such as city hall and other municipally-run facilities, to help survive the shortage.

    [ Related: Toronto storm sets record amid flooding, traffic chaos ]

    Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli similarly called for energy

    Read More »from ‘Hanging on by a thread,’ Toronto mayor calls for post-storm energy conservation
  • An aerial view of burnt train cars after a train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec July 8, 2013.
    The death toll connected to a massive train explosion in the town of Lac-Megantic, Que., continues to grow, and holes in the narrative of what led to the disaster continue to be filled.

    But authorities are still not entirely clear about how a 73-car train parked 11 kilometres from town managed to get loose and barrel into the populated area, before exploding and turning the lakeside community into a charred war zone.

    For the company being faced with the toughest of questions, however, that narrative is very simple – it's someone else's fault. Ed Burkhardt, chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, says he has no doubt someone tampered with the train before it broke free and began rolling toward town.

    “We have evidence of this,” he told the Montreal Gazette. “But this is an item that needs further investigation. We need to talk to some people we believe to have knowledge of this.”

    The Transportation Safety Board is currently conducting an investigation into what caused the massive

    Read More »from Company at centre of Lac-Megantic disaster says train was tampered with
  • An apparent plea bargain has resulted in guilty pleas by a group of Vancouver drug-gang members for conspiring to murder their rivals, the notorious Bacon brothers.

    According to the Vancouver Province, five members of the United Nations Gang entered guilty pleas in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday, closing a case that began in 2008 when Jonathan Barber, an innocent car-stereo installer, was gunned down on a suburban Vancouver street as he drove Jamie Bacon's Porsche Cayenne SUV.

    The mistaken hit was part of a war over drug turf between the UN Gang and the Bacons' Red Scorpions that would take dozens of lives, including eldest Bacon brother Jonathan. He was killed in August 2011 when his Porsche Cayenne was riddled with bullets outside a luxury resort hotel in Kelowna, B.C.

    [ Related: RCMP arrests suspects in death of notorious B.C. gangster Jonathan Bacon ]

    The two surviving Bacons are in jail. Jarrod Bacon is serving a 12-year sentence for conspiracy to traffic cocaine and Jamie is doing

    Read More »from Vancouver gangsters plead guilty to conspiring to knock off notorious rivals
  • Live: Toronto storm causes flash flooding in the GTA

  • I understand the Royal Winnipeg Ballet wanting to cut loose a young dancer who moonlights as a gay porn actor.

    But I wonder if the Canadian cultural institution is not missing an opportunity here.

    You've probably never heard of Jeppe Hansen, a 22-year-old Danish-born dancer who joined the RWB's dance school on a scholarship last September.

    Hansen told CBC News he viewed his spot at the school as a big opportunity.

    "My identity is built on being a ballet dancer," Hansen said.

    But Hansen apparently also saw other facets to his art, including the world of pornography. He appeared in his first porn video earlier this year, viewing it as a new way of expressing himself, he told CBC News.

    But officials at the RWB weren't as sympathetic to Hansen's desire to explore this particular artistic avenue.

    "They told me … they didn't have any space for me because I did porn," he told CBC News.

    Hansen said he was asked to sign a letter saying he was withdrawing from the school program voluntarily,

    Read More »from Famed Royal Winnipeg Ballet ditches dancer for starring in gay porn video

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