Vigils held for plane crash victims and assisted dying; In The News for Jan. 13

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 13.

What we are watching in Canada ...

The Transportation Safety Board will hold a news conference this afternoon concerning its role in the investigation into the crash of Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752.

The plane was shot down by an Iranian missile moments after taking off from Tehran on Wednesday. All 176 on board were killed, including 57 Canadian citizens and dozens more with Canadian ties.

Iran has admitted the plane was mistaken for a hostile target amid soaring tensions with the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it's been "gut-wrenching" to listen to stories from relatives of 57 Canadians who perished in the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner in Iran last week.

Speaking at a memorial in Edmonton yesterday, Trudeau said he has learned many of the victims came to Canada in search of new opportunities for their families, but those families are now consumed by grief and outrage.

Other memorials were held Sunday across the country.

At the Vancouver Art Gallery, National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan called the crash a national tragedy and said the government will work tirelessly to get answers for grieving families.

At the University of Toronto, many cried throughout the ceremony as speakers listed victims, including a one-year-old. And there was loud applause when various speakers and politicians said Iran would be held accountable.

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Also this ...

The Trudeau government is launching public consultations today on how best to respond to a court ruling that concluded it's unconstitutional to allow only Canadians who are already near death to seek medical assistance to end their suffering.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government accepts the Sept. 11 ruling of the Superior Court of Quebec and will amend the federal law accordingly.

But while the government has agreed to eliminate the near-death requirement, its consultation questionnaire suggests other hurdles could be imposed to ensure what it considers to be a balance between a person's right to choose to end their life and protecting vulnerable individuals who could be pressured into an early death.

Under the court ruling, it has until March 11 to amend the law.

Canadians will have until Jan. 27 to offer their views on how the law should be amended through the online questionnaire being launched today.

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ICYMI (in case you missed it) ...

The unintended release of an Ontario-wide alert about an "incident" at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station on Sunday has sparked a provincial investigation into how such an error could happen and how such future mistakes can be avoided. 

The province's solicitor general said the error occurred during a routine training exercise being conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC).

The PEOC — which is responsible for co-ordinating the provincial government's response to major emergencies — conducts exercises testing the system twice daily, but there was no intention to notify the public, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in an interview.

She said the investigation will examine the sequence of events that led to the alert being sent out and what contingency measures should be in place.

The alert was pushed to cellphones, radios and TVs across the province at about 7:30 a.m., and Ontario Power Generation, which oversees the Pickering plant, sent out a tweet about 40 minutes after the emergency alert saying it was a mistake.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

Icy roads, deadly tornadoes, punishing waves — severe weekend weather has been blamed for 11 deaths and major damage in parts of the American Midwest, South and Northeast.

Tens of thousands remained without electrical power Sunday as a result of the storms a day earlier. Officials in far-flung locations were assessing the damages while utility crews worked to restore power.

The storms toppled trees, ripped off roofs and, in some areas, reduced buildings to rubble. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado with winds of around 210 kph hit a high school in Kershaw County, South Carolina on Saturday, causing extensive damage.

The National Weather Service said it was a tornado packing winds of at least 215 kph that hit Alabama's Pickens County on Saturday, killing three people, while in northwestern Louisiana, three more fatalities were blamed on high winds.

In Lubbock, Texas, two first responders were killed when they were hit by a vehicle at the scene of a traffic accident on icy roads; in Iowa, where a semitrailer on Interstate 80 overturned, a passenger was killed in similar road conditions.

Near Kiowa, Oklahoma, a man drowned after he was swept away by floodwaters, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

Red-hot lava gushed out of a Philippine volcano Monday after a sudden eruption of ash and steam that forced villagers to flee en masse and shut down Manila’s international airport, offices and schools.

Clouds of ash blew more than 100 kilometres north of the Taal volcano, reaching the bustling capital, Manila, and forcing the shutdown of the country's main airport with more than 500 flights cancelled so far.

There have been no reports of casualties or major damage from the eruption that began Sunday.

Police reported that more than 13,000 villagers have moved to evacuation centres in the hard-hit province of Batangas and nearby Cavite province, but officials expect the number to swell with hundreds of thousands more being brought out of harm’s way.

The current evacuation numbers are likely higher since local authorities are busy helping displaced people before notifying the national agency that is collating the figures. Some residents could not move out of ash-blanketed villages due to a lack of transport and poor visibility immediately, while others are refusing to leave their homes and farms.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 13, 2020.

The Canadian Press