Keeping watch: Security cameras to monitor crime, community spaces in Drayton Valley

Come the end of September, 10 locations in Drayton Valley will be under the constant, steady watch of CCTV cameras — eyes in the sky for the central Alberta community of 7,000.

The town, 145 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, says it's not trying to make residents feel like Big Brother is watching.

Instead, the aim is to deter and help investigate crimes.

"This is more safety and security related, as well as making the day-to-day life of our community better through new technology," Coun. Amila Gammana told CBC News last week.

Five cameras will monitor intersections, providing analytics on traffic flow. The other five will livestream scenes from outdoor community spaces to the town website, so people can see if parks are busy and the town can gather insights on public use and maintenance needs.

Faces and licence plates captured on the livestreams will be blurred automatically, but that doesn't bring much comfort to resident Cheyanne Gauthier.

She said cameras would be more useful in back alleys and residential areas, instead of places like the skate park, Rotary Park and the Omniplex parking lot.

Eric Risberg/Associated Press and Kory Siegers/CBC

"My privacy concerns are about children — that's the biggest thing — [particularly in] public places where these cameras are going to be and how safe the security is in the day of technology where everybody can get into anything," said Gauthier, a mom of three.

"Do we really know how safe this is for our community?"

Video taken during the six-month pilot project will be stored on an encrypted server, said Douglas Self, a representative for Telus, which is funding the project.

When you don't have the information blurred or encrypted, it can be used for snooping, for non-essential purposes. - Ann Cavoukian, Global Privacy & Security by Design Centre

Encryption — coding or locking video so it's not easily accessible — is critical, former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian said.

"When you don't have the information blurred or encrypted, it can be used for snooping, for non-essential purposes," said Cavoukian, now the executive director of Toronto-based Global Privacy & Security by Design Centre. 

"That's why the blurring aspect is excellent."

Notices should be posted beside each camera, Cavoukian said.

The town has yet to determine if it will post signs in all 10 locations, said Coun. Fayrell Wheeler, but there will be notices on the outer edges of the community.

Cavoukian also said privacy can be protected by requiring a warrant when police request access to footage.

The town won't be doing that. Instead, RCMP will file formal requests for footage they believe serves an investigative purpose.

Peter Evans/CBC

"We wanted to help the RCMP in any of their investigations as much as we could," Wheeler said, adding the project complies with Alberta's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

She said the project could serve as an innovative, technology-based method for enhancing community safety, as opposed to hiring more RCMP.

'Anything's worth a shot'

Local RCMP say they'll request access only for investigative purposes.

Traffic violations won't be included in the scope of the project.

"There's not going to be anyone sitting in front of a monitor watching people while they go everywhere. It's only going to be an as-needed basis," Staff Sgt. Malcolm Callihoo said.

"[Security cameras are] something that can assist us if something were to happen. I think it's a very positive step that the town is taking."

Peter Evans/CBC

Drayton Valley saw a rise in property crime with the economic downturn in 2014, Callihoo said. Crime has been on the decline in recent months, but vehicle theft, vandalism and break-and-enters remain a problem.

It's something Dale Blatkewicz sees often.

His business, Bald Eagle Plumbing & Heating, sits across the street from the recycling depot, where one of the cameras will be posted.

Peter Evans/CBC

The town hopes it will deter people from dumping garbage at the depot, but Blatkewicz is more concerned with stopping the property crime he sees in the area. He had to lock up the scrap copper he used to keep in the yard after some was stolen.

"You look at a lot of the big cities that have these cameras all over the place. Does it help? I don't really think so," he said. "But they can try. Anything's worth a shot."

Blatkewicz said he's a fan of the opportunity the cameras provide for monitoring and protecting the safety of children playing in public spaces.

"For privacy for me, I'm not that worried about it," he said. "Is it really going to do anything? I guess we'll have to wait and see."

The pilot could continue or expand if the town deems it a success. That will depend on public use of the cameras and if they prove useful for deterring and investigating crime.

  • Wet'suwet'en supporters building pipeline through minister's St. John's office
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    CBC

    Wet'suwet'en supporters building pipeline through minister's St. John's office

    Supporters of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs — and opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline — built a symbolic "pipeline" Thursday inside the St. John's office of Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan.About 25 people are occupying the office in St. John's, and some aren't saying when they plan to leave. Indigenous members brought drums and are leading the group in singing of traditional songs, and some of the protesters have written "Reconciliation is Dead" on miniature Canadian flags.Others are constructing a "pipeline," made of PVC pipe, through O'Regan's office. According to Robert Leamon, a member of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation, it's a symbol of the disruption that a gas pipeline will cause in the Wet'suwet'en nation."It is obviously not a good situation to be in that there's a pipeline being built on the land, where it's getting in the way of everything else you are trying to do," he said. "Indigenous people have been trying to live peacefully on this land for generations." Tensions between supporters of the Wet'suwet'en, police and government have begun to bubble over the last week as protesters have attempted to shut down rail lines across the country, some engaging in scuffles with officers.Protests are being held to show solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline project that would cut through Wet'suwet'en territory in northern British Columbia.The St. John's protest on Thursday has been peaceful.Office staff have been welcoming to protestors and say there is no plan to ask them to leave. In a statement, the Department of Natural Resources said O'Regan and his staff "staff welcome the opportunity to speak to constituents about their views.""Our work on this matter has always focused on finding a peaceful and lasting resolution in a way that builds trust and respect among all parties involved," says the statement.Leamon said the group was targeting O'Regan's office because they believe he has the power to "put an end" to the conflict."He's the minister of natural resources, so he's clearly a very influential player in the way that pipelines proceed in this country," he said.  "So yeah, we absolutely are hoping that he will step up and bring truth to the conversation around reconciliation."In mid-February a group in St. John's blocked traffic on downtown streets on a Saturday, and about 100 people showed up to a Muskrat Falls announcement at Memorial University to stand in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation. A small group in Corner Brook took to Remembrance Square to do the same.Stan Nochasak, an Inuk from Labrador who now lives in St. John's, said he has great environmental concerns about the Coastal GasLink pipeline. He said he decided to attend the protest at the last minute to support other protesters across the country."We all need land, and when you destroy it you eventually destroy generations," he said. "We can't see it, but the spirit has an eye that can see ahead of time." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • World harshens its virus response as epidemic worsens by day
    News
    The Canadian Press

    World harshens its virus response as epidemic worsens by day

    BANGKOK — Saudi Arabia cut travel to Islam’s holiest sites, South Korea toughened penalties for those breaking quarantines and airports across Latin America looked for signs of sick passengers as a new virus troubled places around the globe.With the number of sick and dead rising, the crisis gave way to political and diplomatic rows, concern that bordered on panic in some quarters, and a sense that no part of the world was immune.“Viruses don’t know borders and they don’t stop at them,” said Roberto Speranza, the health minister in Italy, where northern towns were on army-guarded lockdowns and supermarket shelves were bare.As outbreaks grew sharply Europe and the Middle East, air routes were halted and border control toughened. But for an illness transmitted so easily, with its tentacles reaching into so many parts of the world, leaders seemed willing to try anything to keep their people — and economies — safe.Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for schools across the country to close for weeks, a decision that impacted 12.8 million students.“The most important thing is to prevent infections,” said Norinobu Sawada, vice principal of Koizumi primary school, "so there aren't many other options."In South Korea, the hardest-hit country outside China, four Busan markets known for colorful silks and a dizzying array of other wares were shuttered while the country’s military sent hundreds of its doctors and soldiers to aid in treatment and quarantines.The global count of those sickened by the virus exceeds 82,000, with China still by far the hardest-hit country. Recent days have seen sharp spikes in South Korea, Italy and Iran.South Korea reported 256 additional cases Friday, raising its total to 2,022, with most occurring in the region around the city of Daegu. Many cases there have connections to a church and health workers are testing thousands of its members.China's National Health Commission reported 327 new cases and 44 deaths over the previous 24 hours, most of them in Wuhan, the city where the COVID-19 illness emerged in December. Mainland China's total cases are now 78,824 with 2,788 deaths.Even the furthest reaches of the globe were touched by the epidemic, with a woman testing positive in Tromsoe, the fjord-dotted Norwegian city with panoramas of snow-capped mountains. Health officials said the woman had travelled to China.In Iran, the front line of Mideast infections, officials loosened rules barring the import of many foreign-made items to allow in sanitizers, face masks and other necessities, and removed overhead handles on Tehran’s subways to eliminate another source of germs. Peru put specialists on round-the-clock shifts at its biggest airport, Argentina took the temperature of some new arrivals and El Salvador added bans for travellers from Italy and South Korea.The holy city of Mecca, which able-bodied Muslims are called to visit at least once in their lives, and the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina were cut off to potentially millions of pilgrims, with Saudi Arabia making the extraordinary decision to stop the spread of the virus.With the monarchy offering no firm date for the lifting of the restrictions, it posed the possibility of affecting those planning to make their hajj, a ritual beginning at the end of July this year.“We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm,” the country said in announcing the decision.Disease has been a constant concern surrounding the hajj, with cholera outbreaks in the 19th century killing tens of thousands making the trip. More recently, another coronavirus that caused Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, prompted increased public health measures, but no outbreak resulted.It wasn't just governments that were taking action: Cologne Cathedral, one of Germany's main religious sites, was emptying its basins of 'holy water' to prevent the spread of infection. And Facebook cancelled its annual conference for developers.COVID-19’s global creep had some countries warning people to obey containment measures.Singapore charged a former Wuhan resident who has the virus and his wife for allegedly lying about their whereabouts as officials tried to stem further infections. In Colombia, which has yet to report any cases, officials reminded residents they could be jailed for up to eight years if they violate containment measures. And in South Korea, the National Assembly passed a law strengthening the punishment for those violating self-isolation, more than tripling the fine and adding the possibility of a year in prison.“It came later than it should have,” said Lee Hae-shik, spokesman for the ruling Democratic Party, calling for further non-partisan co-operation to address the outbreak.Countries’ efforts to contain the virus opened up diplomatic scuffles. South Korea fought prohibitions keeping its citizens out of 40 countries, calling them excessive and unnecessary. China warned Russia to stop discriminatory measures against its people, including monitoring on public transit. Iran used the crisis to rail against the U.S., which it accused of “a conspiracy” that was sowing fear.___Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Contributing to this report were Tong-hyung Kim and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark; and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo.Matt Sedensky And Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press

  • New coronavirus case escalates US response
    News
    The Canadian Press

    New coronavirus case escalates US response

    VACAVILLE, Calif. — Public health officials were retracing the steps of a Northern California woman on Thursday believed to be the first person in the U.S. to contract the highly contagious coronavirus without travelling internationally or being in close contact with anyone who had it.The diagnosis, confirmed Wednesday, marks an escalation of the worldwide outbreak in the U.S. because it means the virus could now spread beyond the reach of quarantines and other preventative measures. But state health officials were quick to reassure the public on Thursday that such a scenario was inevitable and the risk of widespread transmission remained low.Solano County Public Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas said public health officials have identified dozens of people — but less than 100 — who had close contact with the woman. Those people are quarantined in their homes. A few have shown symptoms and are in isolation, Matyas said.The case raised questions about how quickly public health officials are moving to diagnose and treat new cases. State and federal health officials disagreed about when doctors first requested the woman be tested.Doctors at the UC Davis Medical Center said they asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the woman for the virus on Feb. 19. But they said the CDC did not approve the testing until Sunday “since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria” for the virus, according to a memo posted to the hospital's website.CDC spokesman Richard Quartarone said a preliminary review of agency records indicates the agency did not know about the woman until Sunday, the same day the woman was first tested.Quartarone said the agency is concerned about reports of delayed testing and is “investigating this carefully.” He said the CDC can test about 400 specimens per day.California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state was limited in how many people it could test because it only had 200 testing kits. But he said federal officials have promised to send many more in the coming days.“I’m not going to politicize this moment And I’m not going to point fingers," Newsom said. “We have had a very strong working relationship with the (Trump) administration.”Investigators were focused on tracing the woman's movements to figure out how she got the virus and who else she may have unwittingly infected. The woman first sought treatment at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, a city of more than 100,000 people about 59 miles (95 kilometres) from San Francisco.Ten experts from the CDC arrived Thursday and were heading to Vacaville to help with the search, said Dr. James Watt, interim state epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health.With the patient as ground zero, they are interviewing immediate family members. Then, as with any similar case, they are expanding the net to include more distant family members who may have been in contact, social gatherings like church that the patient may have attended, and any possible time spent at work or events like a concert.They are not too worried, for now, about casual contact, because federal officials think the coronavirus is spread only through “close contact, being within six feet of somebody for what they’re calling a prolonged period of time,” said Watt, who was the state’s deputy epidemiologist for 10 years before he took the interim post two months ago.“That’s more than casual contact at a grocery store,” Watt said. “That’s where our focus is going to be. ... What was the pattern of disease transmission?”All of the 59 other cases in the U.S. have been for people who had travelled abroad or had close contact with others who travelled.Earlier U.S. cases included 14 in people who returned from outbreak areas in China, or their spouses; three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated by the federal government to the U.S. from where the ship was docked in Japan.Some of those people have been treated at Travis Air Force Base, located in Solano County where the Northern California woman lives. But there is no evidence the woman has any connection to the base, said Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health.The global count of those sickened by the virus hovered Thursday around 82,000, with 433 new cases reported in China and another 505 in South Korea.The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that can cause colds or more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.Officials are advising people to take steps to avoid infection with coronavirus or other respiratory infections like colds or the flu, including washing hands with soap and water and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.___Beam reported from Sacramento, California.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Don Thompson And Adam Beam, The Associated Press

  • 'Finer focus on job creation:' Alberta government files red-ink budget
    News
    The Canadian Press

    'Finer focus on job creation:' Alberta government files red-ink budget

    EDMONTON — The Alberta budget is counting on oil and gas bouncing back while recognizing it's time to put more money and effort into areas such as high-tech and tourism.But with a bottom line still deep in the red, Premier Jason Kenney's government continues to hold the line on program spending while pursuing job, benefit and salary cuts from thousands of public-sector workers."We recognize that our unemployment rate remains stubbornly high in this province," Finance Minister Travis Toews told a news conference Thursday before introducing the 2020-21 budget in the legislature."While we've had a jobs focus from Day 1 as a government, we will be putting an even finer focus on job creation going forward."The budget projects a deficit of $6.8 billion on revenues of $50 billion. Debt is expected to rise to almost $77 billion by spring 2021 and to almost $88 billion by 2023.It predicts better times ahead in the oil sector as pipeline projects come on line and exports increase. Natural resource revenue, about 10 per cent of total income, is expected to grow by 15 per cent by 2022-23.The budget forecasts the oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate to average US$58 a barrel in the upcoming year. It is currently hovering at about $50 due mainly to the novel coronavirus outbreak that is reducing demand in China."We are not predicting a boom time in the next two years. These projections I believe are credible, but they're cautious," said Toews.It's a government in need of good news.Kenney's United Conservatives were elected last April on a promise to focus on oil and gas and bring jobs back to Alberta by reducing the corporate income tax rate and red tape.But since last June, 50,000 full-time jobs have been lost. The unemployment rate was 6.9 per cent in 2019 and is forecast to be 6.7 per cent this year. The province is aiming for five per cent.Kenney has been criticized for scrapping targeted tax incentives brought in by the previous NDP government to lure high-tech startups.To counter that, the budget's signal feature is what's being called a "Blueprint for Jobs." Its centrepiece is $200 million to support research and innovation, and to attract talent in areas such as artificial intelligence, aviation, tourism and financial tech.On the expense side, the government continues to follow the advice of a third-party panel chaired by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon. The panel found that Alberta is paying more and getting less in return for its public services. It urged streamlining and reform, rather than tax increases, as the best way to balance the books while not compromising service.To that end, the budget maintains operational funding at current levels for core services: $8.2 billion for kindergarten to Grade 12 education and $20.6 billion for health.The Opposition NDP has said that when population growth, inflation and other factors are weighed in, those numbers represent significant cuts affecting front-line workers and forcing families to pay more for services such as school busing.NDP Leader Rachel Notley disparaged the budget as a plan for more public sector cuts and service fee hikes underpinned by unattainable growth projections that are out of step with private sector forecasts."While families scramble to make ends meet, Jason Kenney's plan is to pile public sector job losses on top of private sector job losses," said Notley."He refuses to accept that his economic plan has failed. And instead of reversing course, he is doubling down."Albertans will pay more. Much more."The government is forecasting it will spend $26.7 billion on public-sector compensation with continued tight controls on salaries and compensation. Full-time equivalent jobs are expected to drop by 1,436 this year, mainly through attrition.Guy Smith, head of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said the budget is more fuel for the smouldering dispute between its members and the government."I thought this government was about creating and supporting jobs, and all we're seeing is job losses in the frontlines of the public service," said Smith."Albertans are going to notice it when they try to get services from the province."Funding for compensation to doctors is to remain stable at $5.4 billion, but the Alberta Medical Association says coming changes to billing will be devastating to many rural and family practices.The government still plans to have the budget balanced before the end of its mandate.It is forecasting a $700-million surplus in 2022-23.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2020Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

  • Meeting back on with federal, B.C. governments: Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Meeting back on with federal, B.C. governments: Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief

    A meeting between the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, the federal government and the British Columbia government is set to take place Thursday after it was abruptly cancelled Wednesday, one of the leaders of the First Nation said.Chief Na'Moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said the meeting is scheduled in the afternoon and will continue Friday."It was abundantly clear to us that both levels of government had cancelled the discussions we had planned," he said.By Wednesday evening, he said he and the other hereditary chiefs were told the cancellation was due to a "miscommunication."He said talks broke down after they refused to ask other First Nations and their supporters to remove rail blockades throughout the country."In our law, we can't do that," he said. "We can't tell another sovereign nation what to do and we would not expect them to do that to us."A spokesman for the office of the B.C. premier said Wednesday that the report of a rescheduled meeting was "promising," but the provincial government was not in a position to confirm it until Thursday morning.Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks as a show of support for the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, who oppose a natural gas pipeline project cutting across their traditional territory in northwestern British Columbia.Also Wednesday, protesters behind rail blockades in Quebec and Ontario ramped up their actions as government officials accused them of compromising public safety.In a video posted on the Real People's Media website, demonstrators in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., were shown standing on rail tracks as a CN Rail train approached, then jumping out of the way at the last second.Ontario Provincial Police said a handful of protesters also lit fires near and on railway tracks at a secondary camp that remained in place after a raid on another, larger blockade earlier this week.The latest disruptions were denounced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who called the protesters' actions unsafe."It is extremely concerning to see people endangering their own lives and the lives of others by trying to interfere with the trains," Trudeau said.Meanwhile, Quebec Premier Francois Legault suggested provincial police had not moved in to dismantle a blockade on the Kahnawake Mohawk territory south of Montreal because those on the reserve are armed, potentially with assault rifles. His comments, which came as protesters on the Mohawk territory south of Montreal reinforced a blockade that has been in place since Feb. 8, were rejected by the First Nation, which stressed the demonstration is a peaceful one.Kenneth Deer, the secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, said the protesters are not armed and the suggestion that there are AK-47s at the site is "highly irresponsible and ludicrous."Earlier in the day, Deer spoke out against a possible intervention by outside police, saying any efforts to forcibly remove the site would be seen as an "act of provocation and aggression that will exacerbate an already volatile situation.""Ultimately, coercive state-sponsored force is the wrong way to make peace," Deer said in a statement.The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador also took issue with Legault's statements, urging him to be more careful in discussing the issue."Premier Legault is making very dangerous and offensive comments by suggesting the presence of weapons in Kahnawake," AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard said in a statement."He certainly did not consider the consequences of his words for community members who live with the memories of 30 years ago on a daily basis."The rail company obtained an injunction on Tuesday to end the blockade. Travel disruptions have continued in recent days after several high-profile blockades were dismantled by police in B.C. and Ontario earlier this week.The agency responsible for a major commuter rail service covering much of southern Ontario said Wednesday it was not anticipating any of the delays and cancellations that brought trains to a standstill during the previous day's rush hour.Metrolinx, operator of the GO Transit network, suspended service Tuesday on multiple routes as a series of protests sprang up in and around Toronto.City police said they arrested three people at the demonstrations. They said Wednesday morning that officers provided protesters with an injunction and began moving them from rail tracks.The federal governments could not immediately be reached for comment.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 26, 2020— With files from Liam Casey in Toronto, Dirk Meissner in Victoria, Amy Smart in Vancouver and Teresa Wright in Ottawa.Daniela Germano, Morgan Lowrie and Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

  • 7 assessed, 5 given naloxone at downtown clinic amid reports of 'tainted drug supply'
    News
    CBC

    7 assessed, 5 given naloxone at downtown clinic amid reports of 'tainted drug supply'

    Toronto Fire Services says seven people were assessed and five people were given naloxone at a Toronto Public Health office downtown on Wednesday evening — amid what the chair of Toronto Board of Health is calling "a spike in overdoses in recent hours."Toronto Fire Capt. David Eckerman said emergency crews were called twice to 277 Victoria St., near Dundas Street East and Yonge Street, for medical incidents. The address houses The Works, a supervised injection service.The calls came as Coun. Joe Cressy, the chair of the Toronto Board of Health, said in a tweet that the city has received a number of reports of a "new tainted drug supply" and an increase in overdoses on Wednesday night.The first call came in at about 5:15 p.m., while the second call came in at about 8:10 p.m.When firefighters arrived for the first call, paramedics and police were there, and they were told that two men in their 50s were unconscious from a suspected fentanyl overdose. Naloxone was administered.When firefighters arrived for the second call for reports of people having trouble breathing, five people were being assessed by staff, three of whom were given one dose of naloxone. Then the three received a second dose of naloxone.Lenore Bromley, spokesperson for Toronto Public Health, said in an email on Wednesday night that staff are looking into the situation."Our staff were responsive and alerted local paramedic services right away. Our top priority is to ensure the health and safety of our clients and the broader community," she said.  "In situations where potential overdoses may occur, we always work to ensure that people receive the appropriate medical care, as needed.  We will continue to look into this matter and have obtained a sample for drug checking to understand the further details," she added.Toronto Public Health is extending the hours of The Works in response and Toronto paramedics are on alert, he added."We are in the process right now of actually testing some of the substances that our clients use in order to understand what they may have been tainted with," said Cressy, who represents Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York ."When we have those details, we'll be able to issue more clear alerts in terms of substances on the streets that need to be avoided."Cressy said the arrival of a tainted drug supply can lead to a spike in overdoses."The last thing we want is people overdosing on their own without the supports around them to ensure it doesn't become fatal," he added.

  • News
    CBC

    Man says strangers threw garbage while yelling racial slur and waving gun, prompting hate crime probe

    Police are seeking assistance from the public after a man in Calgary's Valley Ridge community was threatened and subjected to a racial slur.Around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a man was walking from his vehicle to his home, located in the 100 block of Valley Crest Close N.W.A grey Nissan Altima pulled up next to the man, and the passenger in the vehicle threw garbage at him and yelled a racial slur at him.The passenger then showed the man what appeared to be a handgun before the vehicle drove away.Const. Craig Collins with the Calgary police hate crimes unit said incidents where people are targeted due to their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation are very concerning."The fact that a firearm may have been used to further intimidate this man makes this case even more serious," Collins said in a statement.The man who was threatened said there were three suspects in the vehicle, all believed to be Caucasian.The passenger who brandished the weapon is described as having a medium build and short hair.Police said that hate-motivated crimes are those where the offender was motivated by bias, prejudice and hate.If a person is found guilty of a crime, hate motivation is considered by the courts and can be an aggravating factor during sentencing.Anyone with information or security footage is asked to contact the police non-emergency line at 403-266-1234, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

  • From forestry to hospitality: Family-owned contracting firm branches out with hotel, brewery
    News
    CBC

    From forestry to hospitality: Family-owned contracting firm branches out with hotel, brewery

    Two generations ago, the Majors were a family of foresters. Now the family business is branching out into something new: a hotel and a brewery.Hew & Draw, Corner Brook's first new hotel in decades, gets its name from the biblical phrase "hewers of wood and drawers of water," once disparagingly used to describe Canada's economic dependence on natural resources. One of the owners of Major's Contracting says they've chosen to embrace it instead."[Those occupations] were tough and dangerous," said Dean Major. "We want … the hotel to reflect that identity as well as celebrate the refinement and modernization of those careers which still make up the backbone of our economy."With the family construction and engineering company growing and looking to diversify, the first idea was a microbrewery. But when Major's bought the former Bargain Shop department store on West Street, they had to come up with a plan for all that extra space."We had to wrap around the business plan of what best accompanies a microbrewery," he said. "[The hotel] wasn't the first idea that was floated but after a couple of iterations, it just made sense."Even with a half-dozen hotels and motels in the small city, including one right across the street, Major says there's a strong business case for the 36-room boutique hotel, which features a tap room and restaurant run by local chef David Vatcher. (Full disclosure: both Major and Vatcher have partners who work at CBC Corner Brook.) Bringing the outside inWhether you're sitting in front of the lobby fireplace or walking through the halls to your hotel room, you'll find nods to the heritage and the beauty of western Newfoundland throughout the hotel.The walls are covered with custom-ordered wallpaper featuring Newfoundland motifs like pine martens and caribou. The headboards are made from warm, cosy plaid that director of operations Autumn Gale says is reminiscent of the plaid coats commonly worn in the forestry industry.Gale says her favourite feature is not one people notice right away."We wanted to be a little different so we've taken our beds and face them out of the window so that when you come into your rooms you're not looking at a TV. You're looking at Corner Brook," she said."We want people engaged in our community and make sure they're experiencing as much as possible."Sustainability was also a big part of the hotel's design.There are water bottle-filling stations throughout the hallways and each room is equipped with a french press, a kettle and locally roasted coffee measured into refillable metal tins. In the bathrooms you'll find refillable containers of Newfoundland-made soap and shampoo instead of single-use plastic shampoo bottles. Brew and a bite to eatWhile the hotel isn't accepting guests until March 1, the brewery — Boomstick Brewing — and its retail shop are up and running. The brewery, named after the large logs used to create booms where pulpwood collected after rolling down the Humber River, has seven different beers on offer. With names like the Webber, Half Marathon and Lone Flamingo, each can shares the folklore behind each brew. Those same old boomsticks have been reclaimed to make the tables in the tap room and restaurant.There are still a lot of boxes to be checked and double-checked before the Hew & Draw's grand opening but Major and his family are excited to share it with the public. Between the hotel, the beer and the food, he hopes they've tapped into something people are craving.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Winter storm picking up after a slushy start
    News
    CBC

    Winter storm picking up after a slushy start

    Snowmagedden2020 started as a bit of a wet firecracker, but is picking up steam.From a worst-case scenario of 40 or more centimetres, it's now a prediction of 10 to 20 centimetres in downtown Ottawa and 10 to 15 centimetres around Pembroke and Maniwaki before it ends late tonight.Ottawa got 2.4 cm of snow and 3.8 mm of rain before midnight, and it mostly rained in the early hours, but heavy snow started falling before sunrise.A winter storm warning remains in effect for the entire region — except for Prince Edward County, where there's a wind warning of gusts up to 90 k/h, and Kingston and Belleville, one of a few regions in southern Ontario without a warning.Kingston should only get five more centimetres of snow today on top of the snow and freezing rain it's received, with some of it blowing around in gusts up to 60 km/h this afternoon.Easterly winds could gust up to 40 km/h in Ottawa switching to westerly winds gusting to 50 km/hr near noon.The temperature will fall to -4 C by this afternoon in the capital, with an overnight low today of -12 C and a wind chill making it feel like -20.Pembroke's wind chill should approach the serious frostbite risk threshold of -25.The next three days look generally cloudy and a bit colder than normal, without much snow.

  • New head of public library service got rid of 'hundreds' of books at Kings Landing library
    News
    CBC

    New head of public library service got rid of 'hundreds' of books at Kings Landing library

    The new head of the New Brunswick Public Library Service got rid of a significant collection of books at the Kings Landing library when he was in charge of the historical settlement, according to a former employee.Darrell Butler helped build up the Kings Landing library over more than 40 years as the chief curator and manager of heritage resources.The books dealt with topics such as the history of agriculture, wagons, furniture and ceramics, and staff used them for research and reference, said Butler."The books were very specialized and, well really, they were collectors' items, some of them individually worth over $100," he said.But in 2016, when Kevin Cormier was the CEO of Kings Landing, Butler discovered some of the books for sale at Value Village in Fredericton."I walked in one day and said, 'Gee that looks like a book that I donated to Kings Landing.' And I opened it up and there was my name inside the book, so I knew it was the book that I had donated."He also found some books that had been donated to Kings Landing by a prominent citizen in memory of her mother, he said.Butler estimates "hundreds" of books worth "well over $50,000-$60,000" were lost."I was quite concerned about it and I wrote to the chairman of the board of directors of Kings Landing," said Butler, who was on extended leave at the time because of a heart condition."Unfortunately I never heard back from them," Butler added. "But three days later Kevin Cormier called me and demanded I return my BlackBerry and my computer to Kings Landing."Cormier has not responded to requests for interviews.Last week, he was named executive director of the province's 64 public libraries. It's a contentious appointment given his apparent lack of library training or experience.The current CEO of Kings Landing, Mary Baruth, confirmed in an emailed statement that "several years ago, senior management" directed the collections manager to review the library's books, magazines, periodicals and journals "for their relevance to the collection."'Extraneous' books donated"Sources that contained information related to the mandate, and that could be used as reference material, were kept for use in the reference library and/or collections centre," said Baruth.Those deemed "extraneous" were boxed and donated to the Canadian Federation of University Women's annual book fair in Fredericton, she said."It is our understanding that some of these materials donated to the book sale may have eventually made their way to other used book retailers, charity and consignment shops."Baruth could not explain why the collection was purged since she was not with Kings Landing at the time. But she did say, "It is not unusual for libraries and museums to periodically review reference materials as new editions and digitized versions become available and to discard or donate reference materials not related to their mandate to charitable causes so that others may benefit from their use."She continued: "Kings Landing has an extensive primary archival and library collection that is the cornerstone of its history, research, exhibit and interpretation plan and it remains intact."'It's tragic'Butler disagrees. He contends only about one-third of the collection remains."It's tragic," he said. "It was a very good research library. It was specialized. We had journals and texts that you couldn't get anywhere else in New Brunswick."He cites as an example being able to compare farm wagons in New Brunswick to those in England to see the cultural influences."Without those books, it's gone," said Butler. "You don't have it. And it's not [all] online, as people said to me at the time," If the information is online, he said, it doesn't go into the same level of detail as some of the publications.If the Kings Landing library couldn't keep all of the books for some reason, Butler questions why they weren't instead donated to the New Brunswick Museum or the New Brunswick Public Library Service."I guess what I'm saying is that perhaps Kevin wasn't quite as aware of the value of the research library at Kings Landing as one would expect him to be if he had a strong history and museum background."Retired over difference of viewsButler said he retired because he didn't agree with some of the other controversial changes Cormier was making, which included cutting back on re-enactments and replacing them with static exhibits."I just said I couldn't be associated with it because I was the person … that was responsible for the historical accuracy of Kings Landing and the approach he was using was contrary to everything that I knew about historical settlements and how they should operate," said Butler.Last March, Cormier announced plans to resume using costumed characters in the three old houses.Although Cormier didn't have experience in museums, he did do research, attend conferences and get up to speed "as best he could" when he worked at Kings Landing, said Butler.But "his vision for Kings Landing was unorthodox," focused more on it being a tourist attraction than a place to teach people about New Brunswick history, he said.Despite their differences, Butler said Cormier has people skills and is an innovative thinker.

  • Port Charlottetown projecting 'another record year' for cruise ships despite coronavirus fears
    News
    CBC

    Port Charlottetown projecting 'another record year' for cruise ships despite coronavirus fears

    Port Charlottetown is projecting "another record year" for visiting cruise ships despite concerns about the new coronavirus.Ninety-seven ships are expected to make a stop in Charlottetown bringing an estimated 154,000 passengers and just over 70,000 crew members. Last year, 128,000 passengers visited Charlottetown.Corryn Clemence, cruise development officer with Port Charlottetown, says there are no indications at this point that fears over the coronavirus will affect the number of ships or passengers expected. "I think it's something that everybody is aware of and we're certainly watching," said Clemence. "Most of our passengers are predominantly North American. We do get some European and some from Australia but I don't foresee this impacting our region."   'Might actually be a positive impact'The port is actually expanding its south berth to meet the increased interest in P.E.I. When the work is completed in June, it will be able to dock two cruise ships at the same time.Up until now, only one large cruise ship could berth. The other ships would be anchored in Charlottetown harbour and passengers ferried into port.The project will cost $12 million. Brenda Gallant, director of marketing with Tourism P.E.I., said it's early yet, but P.E.I. may actually see an increase in cruise ship traffic because of coronavirus. "There's actually some talk around the cruise industry where we might see an increase in cruise in North America as a result of a decrease in cruise in Asia," she said. "So, that might actually be a positive impact." 'Wait-and-see approach'Two cruise ships arrive in Charlottetown on April 29, kicking off the 2020 season. There will be four ships over the season making their first-ever stops in the port. The last ship is scheduled to arrive in port Nov. 1Brett Tabor, travel agent at Maritime Travel in Charlottetown, said Prince Edward Island residents are taking a "wait-and-see approach" when it comes to booking cruises. He's had a couple of cancellations and business is down this week, which he blames on coronavirus concerns. Tabor said he reminds customers that coronavirus or other outbreaks do not just happen on cruise ships.But, he said, the highly publicized outbreak on board the Diamond Princess — where 600 passengers were quarantined — has caused concerns in the cruise line industry."Definitely, people are questioning whether now is the right time to take a cruise," said Tabor.Deals coming for cruises Tabor said he's not going to let concerns over coronavirus stop him from taking two cruises this year, which he has already booked. He's planning cruises to Canada's West Coast and a second cruise to the Middle East. "I'm keeping an eye on the situation but, personally, I am still travelling."The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents more than 50 cruise line companies representing 95 per cent of the cruise ships on the water, said in a statement to CBC News that the industry's "priority right now is on the health and safety of our passengers and crew."In addition to the enhanced screening procedures that must be implemented by every CLIA member cruise line as a condition of membership, by the time passengers and crew have reached a cruise ship they have, in many cases, gone through one or more health screenings already — especially those traveling to meet their ships via plane," the statement went on to say.There may also be an upside to concerns over the coronavirus.  Tabor said if people want to take a cruise, there will be bargains coming in the months ahead. "I think they are coming soon," he said."Cruise lines are going to have a bit of trouble filling cabins as much as they would like to so I think there will be some deals."More from CBC P.E.I.

  • 1950s Japanese cat's brain helps Canadian researchers solve mercury poisoning mystery
    News
    CBC

    1950s Japanese cat's brain helps Canadian researchers solve mercury poisoning mystery

    In the 1950s, a Japanese cat known as "717" helped solve the mystery of a mass poisoning in Minamata, Japan. Now, almost 70 years later, a piece of brain tissue from the same cat has led a Canadian researcher and her co-authors to believe they have solved a toxicological mystery.Their breakthrough could eventually help save lives by treating and preventing some types of mercury poisoning. "It was really, really cool to see how science can answer questions from the past," said Ashley James, a PhD candidate in toxicology at the University of Saskatchewan.Minamata and Grassy Narrows poisonings not the sameJames compared the Minamata case with the mercury-poisoning at Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong), Ontario, the site of one of Canada's worst environmental disasters. Research suggests 90 per cent of the Grassy Narrows population still experiences symptoms. Scientists originally thought that the poisoning in Minamata was caused by the same type of mercury — methyl-mercury — as in Grassy Narrows.James's research, based on the decades-old feline brain tissue, suggests the two poisonings were caused by different materials. Starting in the 1950s, people in the city of Minamata, Japan, started showing symptoms of nervous system damage, including loss of control of bodily movements, speech and swallowing, and sometimes death. Cats in the area were showing similar symptoms. SNC Hospital director Hajime Hosokawa wondered if wastewater from the nearby Chisso Corporation's chemical plant — which was emptied into the local seafood source of Minamata Bay — could have been responsible.In 1959 he started experimenting on the cats, including cat 717, to test the theory that the poisoning came from eating seafood in the bay. The cats eventually started showing symptoms of neurological illness and, in the same year, a report concluded that mercury poisoning was the suspected cause of the disease in humans.About 2,265 people have since been certified by the Japanese government as having what is now called "Minamata disease" — more than 1,700 of them have died. Beliefs exist that the number of people affected could be higher.There are different "species" of mercury — each made up of a different molecular compound.Knowing which compound caused the poisoning could give scientists in the medical field more knowledge to develop treatments.Until recently, scientists thought the poisoning in Japan was caused by the less-toxic form of "inorganic" mercury, which was released from the plant and then turned into "organic" methyl-mercury when it was dumped in the water.Synchrotron finds answers in cat brainJames's research, completed with co-author Susan Nehzati and other researchers, concludes that the Japanese poisoning was caused by a completely different type of organic mercury that was discharged directly from the plant in a deadly chemical form. The discovery was made using the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, an extremely powerful x-ray machine in California."The product that we actually think was produced is something called alpha mercury acid aldehyde, which is known chemically,, like we know the structure of it, but there is nothing known about it in terms of toxicology, like how would it affect you if you consume [it]," said James.  She said the findings could help provide those answers. James hopes it can help medical scientists develop better treatment for an illness that continues to cause harm in Canada and other parts of the world."If you were poisoned with mercury you'd go to the hospital and they would give you a substance which kind of binds up the mercury and then you would eliminate it out of your body," said James."So if we can understand better how it works in your body, what it binds to, what those molecules look like, we can hopefully advance knowledge ... and possibly lead to something better in terms of treatment."James said the next phase of her research will be to look at human brain tissue affected by mercury poisoning to build the knowledge needed to protect human populations.

  • Assessments — and taxes — going up on 244,000 New Brunswick properties
    News
    CBC

    Assessments — and taxes — going up on 244,000 New Brunswick properties

    About 244,000 New Brunswick properties, including most homes, will be getting assessment and tax increases when bills are mailed out across the province next week but there will be no major changes to pulp and paper mill taxes - at least not yet.Service New Brunswick's Valerie Kilfoil said a reevaluation of the six mills, requested by Premier Blaine Higgs and anxiously awaited in several communities, will not be complete until later this summer."Currently the Heavy Industrial Team is finalizing physical inspection of the mills and are busy analyzing data as it pertains to this industry," Kilfoil said in an email to CBC News.  Service New Brunswick mails 470,000 assessment notices and $1.3 billion in associated tax bills to all New Brunswick property owners every March 1st.Only 430,000 of those properties are subject to annual market fluctuations in value (timberland properties have had assessments frozen since 1994) and this year 244,000 of those market based assessments are going up.  It's 60,000 more assessment increases than last year.  According to Service New Brunswick most of the increases are small but 28,000 of the hikes will be five per cent or more. The agency also says there are 89,000 properties getting assessment reductions, and 136,000 that will remain unchanged although about 30 per cent of those are forest properties that benefit from an ongoing 26 year old assessment freeze.Assessment increases in the province, driven by new construction, property improvement and growing market values, will be about $1.5 billion more than decreases and add more than $20 million to property tax bills.Most of the larger increases will be dispersed throughout the province but one area that can expect a number of them is Haut-Madawaska.  Service New Brunswick conducted a "re-inspection" of properties in the rural northwestern community of 4,000 last year and assessments are increasing by an average of 6.8 per cent.Also likely to see increases are residents of Gagetown.  The village suffered two straight years of property value declines following extreme flooding along the St. John River in 2018 and 2019 but values — and tax bills — are expected to rebound this year.Assessments have yet to rebound for the province's six pulp and/or paper mills including two in Saint John and one each in Edmundston, Atholville, Nackawic and Lake Utopia.In 2013 the group was collectively awarded assessment reductions of $130.7 million by Service New Brunswick because of an international  slump in markets. That saved the group $5.9 million per year in property tax, much of that paid to their host communities.Last fall Service New Brunswick announced it was reviewing those reductions to see if markets for paper products had improved enough to undo some or all of the tax relief,  an issue of significant interest in the mill communities.Last week Saint John Liberal MLA Gerry Lowe said he is open to supporting a Higgs government budget if he sees movement on industrial property tax issues and specifically mentioned the 2013 reduction won by mills as a sore point.In response Premier Higgs said it was he who asked for the review and agreed property taxes should go back up if markets have changed."I have said these very words to the department: I want the same conditions looked at that caused those rates to go down and compare markets today," said the premier."Whatever conditions were set then and if they're different, then we should be applying that same logic and the rates should change accordingly."But Kilfoil says the review is still ongoing with the aim of a September 1 completion date.  Any changes the review triggers would not take effect until 2021.

  • Ontario Liberal Party front-runner Steven Del Duca wants protected land to save his private pool
    News
    CBC

    Ontario Liberal Party front-runner Steven Del Duca wants protected land to save his private pool

    Steven Del Duca, the front-runner in the race to become the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, and his wife want the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to hand over a section of protected land to save an in-ground pool they've built, CBC News has learned.Del Duca and his wife, Utilia Amaral, live on a cul-de-sac in Vaughan. Their backyard is nestled against public parkland that's part of the Humber River watershed. It's considered environmentally sensitive land and is controlled by the TRCA.Del Duca and his wife built the pool last summer without all the necessary permits — and it's too close to the parkland, according to municipal bylaws. "It's embarrassing," Del Duca told CBC News."I found out based on what I will call an honest mistake and the discussion we had with our contractor. It was alarming for me obviously as someone who has grown up in this community and has served publicly in the past. I knew it was a mistake."City of Vaughan bylaws stipulate the pool should have been built at least 7.5 metres from the public parkland. Instead, it was built just 1.5 metres away.  Del Duca and his wife have asked the TRCA to hand over the land. In exchange, the couple has proposed giving the conservation authority a slightly larger section of their yard that leads down an embankment into a marked potential flood zone.The provincial agency confirmed it's considering the swap."TRCA staff are reviewing and will be reporting back to a future executive committee," Michelle Sirizzotti, chief of staff to agency CEO John MacKenzie, wrote in an email to CBC News.Watch: CBC reporter John Lancaster questions Liberal leadership candidate Steven Del DucaIn April, Del Duca's wife took the first step in getting approval for the pool by applying to the TRCA for a permit.They needed the TRCA's blessing because provincial regulations require any construction near protected land to be approved first by the conservation authority. If successful, the couple could then apply for construction permits from the City of Vaughan.TRCA documents show that almost immediately there were problems. The city stepped in and told the TRCA that the section of land Del Duca wants had been encroached on for years by the homeowners. According to TRCA documents, Amaral blamed the previous owners for the encroachment and pitched a land swap to help rectify matters. "I want to make sure the values are equal or better to the benefit of the conservation authority and the public," Del Duca told CBC News.The land swap is still under review, but the TRCA agreed to issue the pool permit.The authority's executive committee approved the permit during a meeting on Sept. 6, 2019, according to a TRCA spokesperson.A copy of the permit is among 34 pages of documents obtained through a freedom of information request that was reviewed by CBC News. The documents show the permit was actually issued on July 23, 2019 — weeks before the TRCA meeting.Sirizzotti said there's nothing unusual about the discrepancy between the date the permit was issued and the executive committee's approval months later.The move was "consistent with TRCA approved policies and procedures," she said in an emailed statement.While the TRCA signed off on the pool plans, Del Duca didn't apply for the necessary city permits.He said they started construction anyway.According to the TRCA documents, someone complained. But by that time, the pool was about 60 per cent complete. Only then did Del Duca and Amaral apply for city construction permits. The city denied the couple's permit application in August of last year because the pool was too close to the backyard lot line.Del Duca concedes they continued with construction and finished the pool anyway. "We had concerns about trying to stop a project like this around safety. We have young daughters and we wanted to make sure that we were able to put it in a position so that in the off-season like we find ourselves now, that it was secure and safe for them," he said.The couple still doesn't have the required city permits and may have to fill the pool in if the TRCA doesn't allow the land swap."We understand that there's a possibility that could happen. We will work with the city and the conservation authority. And again I want to stress I accept full responsibility," Del Duca said.Rob Ford blasted for wanting TRCA landThis isn't the first time that a high-profile GTA politician has wanted a piece of public land that is under protection by the TRCA.In 2012, Rob Ford, then the mayor of Toronto, faced intense public criticism after he and his wife applied to purchase TRCA land that was adjacent to their Etobicoke home.The Fords cited late-night trespassers and the need to build a new fence around their home to protect their children.TRCA's executive committee denied the Fords' request by a vote of nine to one, stating the need to protect the land for conservation purposes.The TRCA hasn't yet scheduled a date for a vote on Del Duca's request for public land, saying only that it will happen at a future meeting. In the meantime, land surveys and appraisals will have to be completed.Del Duca said he's offered to pay for the work.If successful, Del Duca said he'll work with the city to get the necessary permits.

  • Trump plays down threat of coronavirus in U.S.
    CBC

    Trump plays down threat of coronavirus in U.S.

    U.S. President Donald Trump played down the threat of the coronavirus while detailing how the government is preparing if the outbreak worsens on U.S. soil.

  • Climate activists jubilant as expansion of Britain's Heathrow Airport blocked
    News
    Reuters

    Climate activists jubilant as expansion of Britain's Heathrow Airport blocked

    The planned expansion of London's Heathrow Airport was declared unlawful on environmental grounds by a court on Thursday, a ruling that could sink the $18 billion project that has been dogged by decades of dispute and indecision. In a victory for climate change campaigners, an appeal court judge said that a failure to take into account the government's commitments on climate change was "legally fatal" to the plans to build a third runway at Europe's busiest airport. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been a vociferous opponent of the expansion, which was approved under the previous government.

  • New glitches emerge in Ontario's teacher strike payment system
    News
    CBC

    New glitches emerge in Ontario's teacher strike payment system

    Ontario parents are reporting new problems with the Ministry of Education's payments for school days lost to teacher strikes, including applications being rejected for unknown reasons.  The province has sent emails telling parents their children's information "could not be verified," even though their children are actually eligible for the payments.The Ford government is offering parents $25 or more per child for each day their school is shut down as a result of the ongoing labour dispute with the province's four teachers' unions. The money comes from the wages that teachers and education workers forego each day they strike. Parents apply via a website, by entering their child's name, school board and school, along with their own address and contact information. However, multiple parents have CBC News their applications for funding were inexplicably rejected. "The information you provided on your child could not be verified against our Ministry records," read rejection emails parents shared with CBC News. "We have removed your application from the system so that you can submit another application.""It's really frustrating because they played it up that this was going to be an easy process," said an Oakville mother whose kids attend the French-language Viamonde school board.She has not received payments for two of her five eligible children, and the email she received does not indicate which children's applications were rejected. CBC News agreed not to name her to protect the identity of her children, and that of her husband, who is a provincial employee."Being approved for three but not for two, and not telling me where I made the mistake, is really frustrating, the mother said in an interview Wednesday. "How at this point do I know if I'm doing it properly and if I'll ever get the money that has been promised?"More than 756,000 applications have been made for the financial support program, according to an education ministry spokesperson.  "Rejections occur when the information submitted in the application does not match ministry records," said spokesperson Ingrid Anderson in an email to CBC News."Parents are encouraged to check with their child's school to verify the information they have on file and ensure it matches the information in their application."Anderson could not say how many applications had been rejected on those grounds, nor how much has been paid out by the government so far. The rejection emails encourage parents to phone a toll-free helpline if they have any questions. However, the line was experiencing such heavy call volumes Wednesday that it was frequently impossible to get through, with the line ringing busy. Those who do get through are greeted with a recorded message. "If you are calling for details regarding your application or payment status, please note that our staff are unable to access personal information or payment-specific information," the message says.It goes on to tell callers that hotline operates will relay their inquiries by email to ministry staff, who will investigate and respond.The helpline handled 1,600 calls on Tuesday, said the ministry spokesperson.

  • Hopes for supernova are dimming as Betelgeuse brightens
    News
    CBC

    Hopes for supernova are dimming as Betelgeuse brightens

    It appears that the hopes of people who wanted a nearby star to explode have been dashed. After weeks of unprecedented dimming, Betelgeuse — a star in the constellation Orion — is beginning to brighten again.Both professional and amateur astronomers had been keeping a close eye on the unusual dimming of the red supergiant star, as its brightness decreased to the lowest in recorded observational history. Some had hoped that its fading was indicative of an impending explosion, a supernova.But the fact that Betelgeuse is brightening is exactly what professional astronomers were expecting.Betelgeuse is a fascinating star to astronomers. The red supergiant is 14,000 times more luminous than our sun and roughly 1,400 times larger. It is surrounded by dust and gas that, if it were at the centre of our solar system, it would stretch all the way to Neptune.It is also a semi-regular variable, meaning that its brightness waxes and wanes in cycles. When red supergiants die, they do so in a spectacular fashion, exploding as a supernova. And while Betelgeuse is at the end of its lifespan, astronomers believe that it still has roughly 100,000 years or more to go. But because these types of stars aren't completely understood, they can't be certain.And that's where the hope lay with Betelgeuse's dimming.But astronomers had hypothesized that two of its three cycles — one that is roughly 430 years, one that is roughly six years and one that is roughly between 100 to 180 days — had converged, leading to its extreme dimming. And they believed that somewhere at the end of February, it would begin to recover.'Still very cautious'So Betelgeuse's brightening is right on schedule, which supports their hypothesis. However, they're still waiting for more data."At this point we're still very cautious about screaming, 'Oh, we were right! We know what's happening!'" said Stella Kafka, chief executive officer of the American Association of Variable Star Observers, an organization that monitors variable stars. "But the data shows us Betelgeuse's brightness is increasing."Though it appears that Betelgeuse won't go supernova, it's provided a wealth of information on a class of stars that aren't well understood. And that, in and of itself, is exciting, Kafka said. As well, the strangeness of Betelgeuse has been widely reported, and it's resulted in non-astronomers looking at the night sky, something that Kafka thinks is remarkable."It's really exciting that we're all in this together. It's one of those things that the whole community, the whole world is looking at Betelgeuse trying to figure out what's going on," she said. "We're learning from it."Another important takeaway from the recent activity on Betelgeuse is that it serves as a reminder that the sky isn't as static as we may think; that it can change even in our lifetimes, Kafka said. And studying something relatively nearby that is evolving sheds some light on how our solar system and life on our planet may have begun."That's why astronomy is so interesting to everybody. It satisfies this fundamental question … where do we belong?"

  • Ransomware attack handled properly by province, expert says
    News
    CBC

    Ransomware attack handled properly by province, expert says

    A privacy expert says the P.E.I government followed best practices in its transparency and handling of a recent ransomware attack, based on information that has been released to date.The malware was discovered on the government's server network on Sunday afternoon. Government officials said the virus was active for 90 minutes before it was contained.The public was alerted to the attack in a press release on Tuesday evening."There's kind of a tendency when this happens to lock your doors and pull down the blinds and not talk to anyone until you figure out every single detail, but this kind of coming forward and providing lots of details … I hope gives people confidence and reassurance," said Mike Smit of the School of Information Management at Dalhousie University. "It's not uncommon for breach notification to go out upwards of six months after the breach actually happens."Government officials said the attack was ransomware, which is a type of virus that blocks access to a computer system or data, usually through encryption, until the victim pays the attacker and receives a key to undo the encryption.P.E.I. government officials said they did not pay ransoms to attackers and they have not been in contact with whoever planted the malware."We never talk about systems that are 100 per cent secure," Smit said. "What we do is we put in time and money and energy to make them as secure as we possibly can and to respond appropriately if indeed there is a gap somewhere, knowing that there will always be that gap."Officials said the malware came from outside of Canada, and the incident is under investigation.Investigation continuesOfficials do not believe Islanders' personal information was extracted during the incident. "If through that investigation we do find that some citizen data has been impacted or left the network, we will absolutely update the public at that time," said John Brennan, director of business infrastructure services with the province.Though the province has not confirmed how the virus got into its systems, Brennan said generally individuals within the networks are targeted through the sending of emails with contaminated downloads or website links. "Viruses are always evolving and, for organized crime, this is their new channel to gain revenue," he said."Our defences are always evolving as well, and I would say in this case it was a new type of virus. However, our systems did alert us early which allowed us to take preventive steps and minimize the impact."He added that government is not sharing specifics of the incident at this time, as revealing information could set the network up for future attacks.The investigation includes two streams, Brennan said: investigating how the virus got onto the server and restoring the data from before the malware was attached, so as not to bring it back into the network. "Unfortunately it's going to take the time it takes. We're not putting a hard timeline around it," Brennan said."We are not going to take any action to restore that data until we're very confident that the network is secure again."He said the virus could have been laying dormant for some time. The province contacted federal government cybersecurity organizations and there are 30 people on his team working on the investigation. More from CBC P.E.I.

  • Richmond County's all-male council says no to funding for women's conference
    News
    CBC

    Richmond County's all-male council says no to funding for women's conference

    The all-male Richmond County council has decided not to lend financial support to a leadership conference that would encourage more women to run for office in eastern Nova Scotia.The Town of Port Hawkesbury is hosting a conference in May to encourage more women to run for municipal and First Nation band elections.Organizers have asked local governments to provide financial aid to help participants with child care and travel costs.Several are on board, but not the men on Richmond County council.Warden Brian Marchand said councillors did not oppose the idea at Monday's meeting, but they didn't support it, either."It's not that I'm against it," he said. "It's good for these things to be put on and people should have the ability to go to them on their own."Marchand said candidates should pay for their own training, but he also said the idea might have received more support if the conference had included men and women."There are many women that are mayors and wardens right across this province and probably right across this country," he said."There are many women in politics right across the spectrum from provincial to federal, so I don't think they're at a disadvantage in any sort of a way as opposed to men."Coun. James Goyetche said he has spent 23 years on Richmond council and it was only in the last three years that councillors were all male.He said a former warden was female and she was also head of what is now the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities.Goyetche said female politicians have served Richmond County well, but it's not up to taxpayers to support them."That's up to the electorate to decide," he said."I think it would be kind of irresponsible on my part, and kind of stupid, to use taxpayers' dollars to encourage somebody to run against me."Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said only 22 per cent of politicians in the 10 municipalities and six Indigenous communities in eastern Nova Scotia are women."Gender equity certainly starts with an acknowledgement that it's not a level playing field for women in politics," she said.Since Monday, she added, private businesses and citizens in Richmond County have called to offer financial help for participants."All kinds of support in the community has been coming forward," Chisholm-Beaton said.She said Marchand has since contacted her and told her the issue may come back to council."I don't think the door has been permanently closed," she said.MORE TOP STORIES

  • Why this professor supported ex-convict Rohan George in his pursuit to practise law
    News
    CBC

    Why this professor supported ex-convict Rohan George in his pursuit to practise law

    An ex-gang member once convicted of manslaughter who graduated from the University of Windsor's law school in 2017 has just been granted permission to practice this month.About 15 years ago, when he was 19 and living in Toronto, Rohan George and another person abducted a man from his place of work, forced him into a car, and stabbed him in the back four times as he resisted. The victim was dropped off at a park, where he died.George was charged with first-degree murder, and eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was granted full parole in 2009, after serving three and a half years in custody.The Law Society of Ontario requires all people applying to the bar to declare anything that might impact good character. George disclosed his past, which triggered a hearing last November.One of the people who vouched for George at that hearing was Jillian Rogin, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor. Rogin said she worked with George as his first-year supervisor at Community Legal Aid."He was an an amazing student. I recall guest lecturing in one of his classes and he asked me a question ... I don't remember what his comments were, but I remember saying to the professor afterwards that was one of the best questions I've ever heard from anybody," Rogin said."He must have been two weeks into law school and I asked for volunteers to work on a systemic advocacy project that was over and above the regular workload of a volunteer. He and another student volunteered and I worked with them closely on the research and he was very conscientious about his work at the clinic and very diligent."It wasn't until his third year of studies that he informed Rogin of his conviction, she said, adding the news came as a shock — but didn't change the way she viewed him as a student."The first day that he came and spoke to me about it, he came to me because it was time to start thinking about articling," she said. "He wanted to be honest with any potential employer, which he's not obligated to do, but he wanted to be.""As soon as he told me, I immediately wanted to support him in so many ways ... I can say that I don't recall coming across somebody who had been through the criminal legal system and had such insights into their actions and such compassion."In extensive submissions to the law society panel, George described how he had turned his life around. A key moment, he said, came when he learned the concept of "active remorse."Rogin said she had a "very lengthy conversation" with George about how a person can reconcile their past mistakes and contribute to the world in a meaningful way. I think that term [former gangster] — that's not totally accurate and is there to inflame the public's view. \- Assistant law professor Jillian Rogin"It was a profound conversation. I learned from him. I didn't introduce that concept to him. That's for sure," said Rogin.Rogin refers to her appearance at George's November 2019 hearing as something which was "worthwhile" for her to do, calling media reports which refer to George as a "former gangster" to be nothing more than hyperbole. "I think that term — that's not totally accurate and is there to inflame the public's view. So I would consider that negative commentary," said Rogin, adding online comments from the public seem to be "misguided and not based in any kind of reality.""There were comments that he got a free ride in university and that it was on the taxpayers' dollar ... That's totally false. There's nothing about that that's true."If anything, Rogin said George's past transgressions may actually benefit him as a lawyer."One of the aspects of being a lawyer that's very difficult to teach is the gravity of the responsibility. When you're holding the future of somebody's livelihood in your hands, their liberty, their children, that is something that Rohan already knew coming into law school," she said.She adds George's answer to what "good character means to him" — which is something many applicants for the law society have to write — is now used as a teaching tool in Rogin's classes about ethical practice."My sense of the faculty is that there's overwhelming support for Rohan to become licensed as a lawyer. I believe there were 26 letters of reference from various law faculty and staff at the law school including the dean and the associate dean supporting his application."In a brief phone conversation with CBC News, George said he's going to take a "pause to reassess and recalibrate" before starting to practice law. He adds it's important for him to ensure he still has the same passion for the profession.The University of Windsor was the first school that accepted George to its law school, he said."As soon as I got the acceptance, I took it and I didn't look back ... I'm forever going to be a Windsorite,"  said George. "My end goal is to end up in Windsor."

  • Opera star Domingo cancels Madrid shows, defends conduct after sexual harassment claims
    News
    Reuters

    Opera star Domingo cancels Madrid shows, defends conduct after sexual harassment claims

    Spanish opera star Placido Domingo has withdrawn from planned performances of "La Traviata" at Madrid's Teatro Real following complaints he sexually harassed women, defending himself in a statement on Thursday in which he partly walked back an earlier apology. Domingo had apologised on Tuesday to the women who accused him of sexual misconduct after an investigation by the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) labor union concluded he had behaved inappropriately with female performers.

  • Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to meet with federal government after 'miscommunication'
    Global News

    Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to meet with federal government after 'miscommunication'

    The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs are expected to meet with ministers from the federal government on Thursday after an original "miscommunication" by Ottawa saw the meeting abruptly cancelled Wednesday evening.

  • Police watchdog's investigative file, recommendations on Colten Boushie case now in hands of RCMP
    News
    CBC

    Police watchdog's investigative file, recommendations on Colten Boushie case now in hands of RCMP

    The ball is in the RCMP's court now that a police watchdog agency has completed its probe into how the Mounties investigated the August 2016 shooting of Colten Boushie, and made recommendations to the force.Boushie, a 22-year-old from Red Pheasant Cree Nation, was shot and killed during an altercation with Biggar, Sask.-area farmer Gerald Stanley in August 2016. A jury at Stanley's trial found him not guilty of second-degree murder in February 2018.After the trial, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) launched an investigation into whether the RCMP's investigation of Boushie's death was reasonable. It also looked at whether RCMP members discriminated on the basis of race.Last week, the CRCC confirmed it has finished its investigation. The commission gave the RCMP its findings, along with some recommendations, on Jan. 20, 2020.It now falls on RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to respond to the CRCC's interim report and indicate which recommendations, if any, the police body will act on, a spokesperson for the CRCC said in an emailed statement."If no action is to be taken, the commissioner must provide reasons," said spokesperson Kate McDerby.RCMP response coming 'as soon as feasible'Under current legislation, the RCMP is not bound by any deadline, McDerby said. "The review and delivery of this response to the CRCC rests solely with the RCMP," she said. Cpl. Caroline Duval, a spokesperson for the RCMP, said in an emailed statement that some of the commission's findings are "complex" and any of them could have far-reaching implications for the organization. "As a result, there are many factors that need to be considered before preparing a response," Duval said. "These include existing case law, our legal authorities, our budget and potential impacts on our service to the public, amongst others."Given the numerous factors to consider, the high volume of relevant material to be reviewed and the complexities of the recommendations and findings, the time required to prepare a thorough and well-founded response can be difficult to predict."Duval said the RCMP's response to the CRCC report has been prioritized despite other challenges and pressures, "so that the commissioner will be able to provide her response as soon as feasible."The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission announced its investigation on March 6, 2018, just weeks after Stanley's acquittal. The commission is an independent agency that conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP's handling of a file.The RCMP has already cleared its officers of any wrongdoing following an internal investigation.Duval said the RCMP fully supports the CRCC's work, "as we understand there are outstanding questions." According to documents previously obtained by CBC News, the CRCC review was held up in part by the "RCMP's delays in responding to and delivering relevant materials" to the commission."The RCMP acknowledges there is a delay in responding to CRCC interim reports, due in part to the number of interim reports and the volume of relevant material to be analyzed," Duval said in her emailed statement. "Efforts are currently underway to address this imbalance."Concern about evidence preservationStanley's jury trial heard that RCMP officers who were tasked with securing the scene at his farm did not tarp over the vehicle in which Boushie was shot before rain washed away some evidence — an oversight that troubled the Boushie family following the trial.The family also raised concerns about how RCMP members notified them about Boushie's death.Debbie Baptiste, Boushie's mother, previously told CBC News that on the night he was shot, RCMP officers entered her home with weapons drawn before informing her of her son's death.Baptiste said that after she collapsed on the floor, one RCMP officer told her to "get it together" and then asked, "Have you been drinking?"In a previous statement, the RCMP said it was not the officers' intention to cause any pain, and that they had received a tip that an armed person might have been in a trailer matching the description of the one Baptiste lived in."The response to any major incident is often dynamic and complex," the RCMP said. "In addition to doing the next of kin notification, the officers also had to ensure there was no risk to officer and public safety."

  • Had an accident in Saint John? You may get a bill from the city
    News
    CBC

    Had an accident in Saint John? You may get a bill from the city

    Saint John Council will vote next month on a proposal to charge fees to recover costs for many fire department responses.One of those charges would see bills mailed to non-residents involved in car accidents inside city limits.The fees are included in a long list of options under consideration to deal with the city's anticipated $10 million deficits in 2021 and 2022.Other emergency response fees are being considered for commercial, industrial or institutional fires, hazardous material calls and such things as high angle or water rescues and elevator incidents.Rothesay body shop owner David Brown thinks the motor vehicle response charge is a bad idea that will only create division between communities, and might even discourage people from calling 911."I think that's ridiculous," said Brown, who owns Autobody Plus. "I hope that never passes, anything like that where we start to segregate towns and start to isolate people. We should be light years past that by now."Saint John deputy chief Rob Nichol says the department currently does not have fees for any emergency service.  But such charges are not unusual in some Canadian provinces.Ontario and Alberta communities have the option to charge vehicle owners directly or indirectly for responses to motor vehicle accidents.Ontario also pays local fire departments $450 dollars for the first hour for a response to accidents on provincially designated highways.Those fees are then passed along to the vehicle owner.Alberta's Safety Codes Act allows municipalities to charge for any emergency service they choose.For the City of Red Deer, that extends to all emergency responses, even house fires.In the case of motor vehicle accidents the car owner is charged $615 for the first hour or part hour that emergency responders are on scene, and half that amount for every half hour beyond that.The fee is the same for both residents and non-residents.The Insurance Bureau of Canada says many, but not all, motorists in New Brunswick will then be able to pass those fees along to their insurance companies."Insurance would cover it if you had collision coverage," said Amanda Dean, the bureau's vice president for the Atlantic region. "It's optional. If it's an older vehicle, you don't necessarily have that coverage."Leased vehicles, in all cases, would be covered.But Dean says, if insurers find themselves processing a lot of those claims, it could lead to an increase in car insurance rates.