15. 11. 2018
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RCMP found Travis Vader’s fingerprint and DNA on beer can found in missing couple’s SUV

RCMP found Travis Vader’s fingerprint and DNA on beer can found in missing couple’s SUV

EDMONTON — Accused killer Travis Vader’s fingerprint and DNA were on a beer can found in Lyle and Marie McCann’s SUV, RCMP say in newly released court documents.

Two dozen RCMP officers posed as criminals to build the case against Vader, who’s accused of the murders of the St. Albert couple, missing since 2010.

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Related

  • RCMP paid informant for Travis Vader information: court documents

  • Vader’s lawyer alleges Crown stayed charges to buy time to build ‘circumstantial case’

  • Crown calls Vader case a ‘disclosure fiasco’; Defence seeks to have murder charges dropped

  • Charges stayed against Travis Vader in McCann murders

    Three played major roles in the fabricated plot designed to draw in the prime suspect and coax damning evidence from him; 20 more made cameo appearances. All pretended to be part of a criminal organization looking to recruit Vader, according to documents that became public Monday when a judge granted a request from several local news organizations, including Global Edmonton, to lift a publication ban. The documents have not been presented or proven in court.

    In part, the documents read like a sort of laundry list of leads and theories to tie Vader to the 2010 crime.

    A paralegal working with the lead prosecutor even made a “things to do” list. On it was a note about Sheri Lynn Campbell, who used to share a home with Vader and whom he described to RCMP as his alibi.

    Text messages between the pair indicate that Campbell told police Vader was at the home from 2 a.m. on July 2, 2010, to 2 a.m. July 3, the day the McCanns were last seen as they gassed up their motorhome in preparation for a trip to B.C.

    READ MORE: The disappearance of Lyle and Marie McCann

    Two days later, the burned-out motorhome was found at a campground near Edson. Then, on July 16, the Hyundai Tucson SUV the couple had been pulling was found concealed about 25 kilometres east of the town. Inside, RCMP found the beer can, Marie McCann’s blood and Lyle McCann’s hat with a bullet hole in it. They say Vader used the couple’s cellphone at about 2 p.m. that day.

    READ MORE: Evidence ties Travis Vader to missing St. Albert couple’s SUV: Crown summary

    Vader was arrested on July 19, but he wasn’t charged with the murders until April 2012. The bodies of the McCanns have never been found.

    In March 2014, a month before his trial was to begin, Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle stayed the charges, citing a huge gap in disclosure provided by the RCMP to the defence. Doyle said she was confident Vader would be convicted, but was concerned he may not receive a fair trial. Nine months later, the stay was lifted and the first-degree murder charges applied again.

    Vader is fighting to have the case thrown out, accusing the Crown of trying to buy more time to collect evidence. A judge is expected to rule on the abuse-of-process claim at the end of the month. If Vader’s trial goes ahead, it is scheduled to start March 7.

    READ MORE: ‘It appears that the police rushed to a judgement’: Vader’s lawyer 

    The paralegal jotted notes about the disclosure set-back, writing “2 years fought to keep in Vader. MD feels betrayed.”

    The documents released Monday also recount evidence from a man who said Vader gave him a “gold ruby ring” that belonged to the McCanns. The man said Vader took it from the motorhome and kept it at a cabin near his father’s place, along with “a lot more stuff.”

    The documents reveal that, as well as mounting the sizable undercover case, RCMP paid a jailhouse informant for information against Vader.

    In a sworn affidavit among the documents, an RCMP sergeant said as many as 10 undercover operations are going on in Alberta at any given time, lasting from several weeks to several years, with some remaining open indefinitely.

    It’s a dangerous job, said the sergeant, who coordinates undercover operations in Alberta.

    “I am aware of situations where suspects or targets have clearly indicated the intention to kill an officer upon discovery of an undercover operator’s true identity.”

    In one case, an operation was terminated because the suspect became suspicious, the sergeant said. RCMP intercepted audio of the suspect’s girlfriend reading newspaper coverage of the Jason Dix murder trial, when he realized he was the target of the same strategy used against Dix.

    RCMP spent months on an elaborate, undercover “Mr. Big” operation to gather evidence against Dix for the 1994 deaths of Tim Ordzyk, 33, and James Deiter, 24, whose bodies were discovered at a paper recycling plant in Sherwood Park. RCMP first thought they had been electrocuted, but both had been shot in the head three times.

    Dix spent nearly two years in jail and the case was eventually thrown out because of lack of evidence. He sued the Crown and RCMP for malicious prosecution and was awarded $765,000 in 2002. The case remains unsolved.

15. 11. 2018
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Manitoba Ombudsman report leaves questions unanswered in dam purchase

Manitoba Ombudsman report leaves questions unanswered in dam purchase

WINNIPEG —; The Manitoba government was not justified in an initial attempt to buy $5 million in flood-fighting equipment from a specific contractor without bids from others, the province’s ombudsman said Thursday.

But the 35-page report from Charlene Paquin also says that, in the end, the NDP government followed the rules.

The report neither completely clears nor condemns the government in a controversy it has faced since 2014.

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RELATED: Report raises questions over provincial spending on flood fighting equipment

The issue flared when Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton tried to get approval for water-filled barrier tubes called Tiger Dams for flood-prone First Nations communities in the Interlake region north of Winnipeg.

An anonymous whistleblower complained to the ombudsman that Ashton pushed to have the contract awarded to a company run by a friend, who has contributed money to both Ashton’s and the NDP’s election campaigns.

In the end, the contract was put up for open bidding, but was never awarded. The First Nations communities went to the federal government to get the equipment.

RELATED: Manitoba premier welcomes probe into contract

The ombudsman’s report says senior public servants were concerned with Ashton’s attempt to sole-source the contract and pushed to have other equipment considered.

“Individuals we spoke with … indicated that departmental staff did not agree with waiving a competitive procurement process,” the report reads.

“However, as noted previously, the department was directed by the minister … to draft a submission that proposed an untendered contract for Tiger Dams.”

Government rules allow for contracts to be awarded without open bidding in sudden emergencies or when a specific product is needed and there is only one supplier.

“In this case, we did not review any evidence that the … requirements for ‘sole-source’ procurement were met,” Paquin wrote.

The report leaves questions about the actions of Ashton and other politicians largely unanswered, because the ombudsman does not have the power to investigate members of the legislature.

RELATED: Manitoba ombudsman to look at First Nations flood-fight purchasing

A government source, with first-hand knowledge of the discussions, told last year that Ashton made the request to the provincial Treasury Board, which insisted on open bidding.

The matter went to cabinet and Premier Greg Selinger initially backed Ashton’s request, said the source, who would only speak on condition of anonymity.

Selinger said last year he insisted on a full discussion by cabinet and Treasury Board, and then directed the contract be put up for bidding.

Ashton said First Nations communities asked specifically for Tiger Dams, which are distributed by only one company in Manitoba.

“They put forward what they wanted and needed,” Ashton said Thursday.

The ombudsman’s report does not delve into cabinet discussions at the time, but notes that some five weeks passed between when Treasury Board called for open contract bidding and when Ashton’s deputy minister agreed.

“We’ve all learned … we probably should have gone to tender right away. But I want to stress that our government makes no apologies for the intent of what we were doing,” Ashton said, referring to the need to help flood-prone communities.

Kelvin Goertzen, house leader for the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, said the premier should remove Ashton from cabinet.

“The NDP tried to override the civil service,” he said.

“The premier has to decide whether or not this is the kind of direction he wants within his government.”

15. 11. 2018
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Iran sanctions and others a burden for Canada

Iran sanctions and others a burden for Canada

OTTAWA – Canada’s pending decision to lift sanctions on Iran will likely spark cheers at the country’s foreign ministry because the ever-expanding program has posed legal and staffing burdens.

A briefing note prepared for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau describes internal problems associated with one of Canada’s few foreign policy sticks — the sanctions imposed on nine countries, including Iran, North Korea and Russia.

The note was obtained by under the Access to Information Act.

Canada is expected to follow the world in lifting sanctions on Iran because it has complied with a landmark deal with six leading world powers that is aimed at preventing it from developing a nuclear bomb.

WATCH: Trudeau says he’s ‘pleased’ with Iran nuclear deal


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Canadian sanctions are imposed under two separate regimes: the United Nations and its own Special Economic Measures Act, or SEMA.

SEMA has proven problematic for officials at Global Affairs Canada because the number of countries facing sanctions under it has jumped to nine from two since 2010, the memo says, creating a heavy workload and legal headaches.

This has resulted in “greatly increasing the compliance burden for the private sector and creating resource and potential litigation challenges” for the department.

“As these procedural regimes have started to mature, foreign courts have begun to demand that increased procedural fairness be present in the listing and delisting of persons under such sanctions,” it says.

“It is likely that Canadian courts will demand the same procedural fairness in the event that any of Canada’s sanctions are challenged in court.”

A separate briefing note, also written for Trudeau last fall, says it is likely that Canada will be in a position to lift its Iranian sanctions “as early as winter 2016 and as late as summer 2016.”

READ MORE: U.S. imposing new sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile test: Obama

With Iran found to be in compliance with the nuclear deal as of last weekend, it would appear that the lifting of sanctions is imminent.

Trudeau has said Canada will also restore diplomatic relations with Iran, but the prime minister indicated Monday his cabinet will set the timing of that decision during an upcoming meeting.

Trudeau said he was pleased that “quiet diplomacy” led to successful negotiation of the Iran deal and would move it “towards respecting international expectations.”

Speaking to reporters at a cabinet retreat in New Brunswick, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said his fellow ministers would soon decide whether and how to lift the economic sanctions still in place.

Canadian companies won’t be able to compete for Iranian contracts until the sanctions are lifted, giving a leg up to their American counterparts. Dion suggested cabinet would make a decision quickly so as not to disadvantage Canadian companies.

WATCH: Lifting of Iran sanctions could further fuel oil’s slide, loonie drop

It may take longer, he said, to reopen the embassy in Iran.

“That’s something also that we’ll have to do step by step, how to re-engage with Iran when all the links have been cut,” Dion said.

“It cannot be done overnight, but the prime minister said very clearly during the campaign that this is something that we want to do properly in a timely fashion.”

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said the government should be wary about lifting sanctions on Iran, because it has not been trustworthy in the past.

“Let’s remember that once those sanctions are removed that Iran is going to flood the market with cheap oil, which has a huge effect on the Canadian economy as well,” she said.

The deal that Iran forged with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany, is expected to provide it an estimated $100 billion in sanctions relief.

15. 03. 2019
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Search off Hawaii finds life rafts but no sign of 12 Marines

Search off Hawaii finds life rafts but no sign of 12 Marines

HONOLULU – Authorities searching the area where two Marine helicopters crashed off Hawaii have found some life rafts that were carried aboard the aircraft, but still no sign of the 12 crew members who were on board.

The Coast Guard said Monday that three of the four life rafts confirmed to have been aboard the helicopters have been recovered and efforts were being made to recover the fourth. Some of the rafts were inflated, but it was unclear how they came to be inflated, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers said.

There is no indication that anyone was aboard the rafts, based on their condition and the lack of any personal effects, she said.

The search for the Marines entered its fourth day Monday, with plans to search into the night. Conditions have improved since the start of the search, with much smaller swells expected Monday.

Various agencies have been searching above water, below water and along the shoreline since the Coast Guard was notified late Thursday by a civilian who saw the aircraft flying and then saw a fireball.

WATCH: 12 Marines are identified as missing after two helicopters crash


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The Marines were alerted when the CH-53E helicopters carrying six crew members each failed to return to their base at Kaneohe Bay following a nighttime training mission. Hours later, a Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 airplane spotted debris 2 1/2 miles off of Oahu.

The crash was near the north shore, but the search area spans from the western coast of Oahu to the northeast corner of the island. At this point, it’s still a search for survivors, Mooers said.

The Coast Guard assumes the best-case scenario when considering how long someone in the right equipment and right conditions could survive, she said.

READ MORE: 12 feared dead after US military helicopter crash in Hawaii

“We err on the side of caution because the last thing that anybody wants is to suspend the search when there’s still a possibility of finding somebody,” she said.

Marine Capt. Timothy Irish said Monday that aircrews wear personal flotation devices with their flight suits and get additional training on top of survival swimming training. There are various ways that life rafts could be inflated, including a cord being pulled by debris, he said.

Mooers said people have been founds days or even weeks after they’ve been at sea.

Survival would entail overcoming many factors, including surviving the crash, being conscious for impact, being overwhelmed by water, and then facing dehydration, exposure and fatigue, said Mario Vittone, a retired Coast Guardsman who is an expert on sea survival. Vittone said survival seems unlikely, but he noted that he doesn’t know all the circumstances and there’s nothing unusual in the length of the search so far.

The transport helicopters were part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Known as Super Stallions, they are the U.S. military’s largest helicopter, capable of carrying a light armoured vehicle, 16 tons of cargo or a team of combat-equipped Marines, according to a Marine Corps website.

The wing’s commanding general, Brig. Gen. Russell Sanborn, told reporters Sunday he has personal experience with the “emotional roller coaster” families of the 12 Marines are experiencing.

His wife went through similar emotions when he was shot down 25 years ago during Operation Desert Storm and was listed as missing in action, he said.

Some family members were holding out hope that survivors could be found, while asking for privacy as they waited for updates.

“My husband and I want everyone to know that this is not about us,” Donna McGrew, mother of Maj. Shawn Campbell of College Station, Texas, said in a statement. “This is about the families that are suffering, and about all the sacrifices that our military members and their families make on a daily basis.”

The Coast Guard initially reported that the choppers had collided, but Irish said Friday that he did not know if the accident was a collision. The cause remained under investigation.

Mooers said the helicopters carry flight data recorders known as black boxes, but they have not been recovered.

A salvage ship from the Military Sealift Command arrived late Sunday from Pearl Harbor. It is supporting a Navy unit’s efforts to perform an underwater search of the aircrafts’ last known position with sonar and a remotely operated vehicle, the Coast Guard said in a news release. Searches by the unit on Sunday did not find any debris, the release said.

15. 03. 2019
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DeRozan, Lowry combine for 61 points to lead Raptors past Nets

DeRozan, Lowry combine for 61 points to lead Raptors past Nets

TORONTO – Kyle Lowry poured in 31 points while DeMar DeRozan added 30 to lift the Toronto Raptors to their fifth straight win Monday, a 112-100 victory over the beleaguered Brooklyn Nets.

It was a fitting performance by the duo on a night announcers reminded fans to vote the Raptors into next month’s NBA all-star game in Toronto.

DeRozan’s big game came hours after he was named one of 30 finalists for the U.S. Olympic team.

Terrence Ross added 12 for Toronto (26-15), while Patrick Patterson finished with 12.

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Brook Lopez topped the Nets (11-31) with 29 points, while Joe Johnson added 22.

READ MORE: Raptors’ DeRozan named finalist to U.S. Olympic team

The Raptors were playing their first of seven games at home, finally back after an 11-day road trip that culminated with a 106-103 overtime win versus Orlando at London last Thursday.

Toronto’s win streak started with a 91-74 win at Brooklyn on June 6. Since then, the struggling Nets fired coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned general manager Billy King. Assistant Tony Brown is serving as the interim head coach, and the team remains without a GM.

But the Raptors never led by more than nine points, and trailed 84-81 heading into the fourth quarter. A thrilling 10-0 Raptors run that Lowry capped by draining a three-pointer with 3:34 to play finally gave Toronto some breathing room, and a 108-98 lead.

The Raptors would stretch their advantage to 14 points, and in the final minute coach Dwane Casey subbed his starters out of the game to a loud ovation.

Monday was Martin Luther King Day in the U.S., and both teams wore “MLK” in honour of the civil rights activist.

“As a young boy growing up in small-town rural Kentucky, I’ve seen far more than I needed to see and experience as far as segregation and discrimination,” Casey said. “I think the NBA has done a great job of recognizing (what King’s work meant for the league), and making sure that stays in the forefront, because I wouldn’t be standing right here right now if it wasn’t for him.”

The Raptors got off to a slow start, allowing the Nets to shoot 58 per cent in the first quarter. Joe Johnson scored 13 points in the frame, and the Nets took a 29-19 lead into the second.

Toronto roared back in the second and went ahead by a point when Lowry drilled a three with six minutes remaining. But Lopez had three baskets and a pair of big rebounds over the final 2:21 and the Raptors went into the halftime dressing room with a narrow 52-49 lead.

15. 03. 2019
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China economic growth edged down to 6.8 per cent last quarter

China economic growth edged down to 6.8 per cent last quarter

BEIJING – China’s economic growth edged down to 6.8 per cent in the final quarter of 2015 as trade and consumer spending weakened, dragging full-year growth to its lowest in 25 years.

Growth has fallen steadily over the past five years as the ruling Communist Party tries to steer away from a worn-out model based on investment and trade toward self-sustaining growth driven by domestic consumption and services. But the unexpectedly sharp decline over the past two years prompted fears of a politically dangerous spike in job losses.

Full-year growth declined to 6.9 per cent, government data showed Tuesday. That was the lowest since sanctions imposed on Beijing following its crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement caused growth to plummet to 3.8 per cent in 1990.

The October-December growth figure was the lowest quarterly expansion since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when growth slumped to 6.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2009. Growth in the July-September quarter of 2009 was 6.9 per cent.

WATCH: Markets shake after China halts trading again


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Growth in investment in factories, housing and other fixed assets, a key economic driver, weakened to 12 per cent in 2015, down 2.9 percentage points from the previous year. Retail sales growth cooled to 10.6 per cent from 2014’s 12 per cent.

“The international situation remains complex,” said Wang Bao’an, commissioner of the National Bureau of Statistics, as a news conference. “Restructuring and upgrading is in an uphill stage. Comprehensively deepening reform is a daunting task.”

Growth was in line with private sector forecasts and the ruling Communist Party’s official target of about 7 per cent for the year.

Beijing responded to ebbing growth by cutting interest rates six times since November, 2014, and launched measures to help exporters and other industries. But economists note China still relies on state-led construction spending and other investment.

December exports shrank 1.4 per cent from a year earlier, well below the ruling party’s target of 6 per cent growth in total trade. For the full year, exports were down 7.6 per cent, a blow to industries that employ millions of Chinese workers.

READ MORE: Wall Street sees worst-ever start to a year

Forecasters see indications retail sales and other activity accelerated toward the end of 2015, suggesting Beijing’s efforts to put a floor under the downturn are gaining traction.

“The growth picture remains two-sided. The real estate construction slump and weak exports continued to weigh on activity,” said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics in a report.

“Meanwhile, though, consumption continued to expand robustly, supported by solid wage growth,” said Kuijs. “The robust growth in the consumption and services nexus is key for policymakers. They need it to avoid labour market stress.”

Spending on online commerce grew by 33.3 per cent over 2014. Wang said the share of total economic activity accounted for by consumption rose to 56.4 per cent, up 15 percentage points from 2014.

Forecasters expect economic growth to decline further this year, with the International Monetary Fund targeting a 6.3 per cent expansion.

15. 03. 2019
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Study questions link between teen pot smoking and IQ decline

Study questions link between teen pot smoking and IQ decline

NEW YORK – A new analysis is challenging the idea that smoking marijuana during adolescence can lead to declines in intelligence.

Instead, the new study says, pot smoking may be merely a symptom of something else that’s really responsible for a brainpower effect seen in some previous research.

READ MORE: Canadian woman caught with 50 lbs. of pot in foosball table

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  • Some charges dropped for Saskatoon medical marijuana club

  • Celebrity endorsements to branded logos, marijuana industry building brands

    It’s not clear what that other factor is, said Joshua Isen, an author of the analysis. But an adolescent at risk for smoking pot “is probably going to show this IQ drop regardless of whether he or she is actually smoking marijuana,” said Isen, a lecturer in psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

    The study was released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Some prior research has led to suggestions that the developing adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to harm from marijuana.

    Studying the topic is difficult because children can’t ethically be randomly chosen to either take illicit drugs or abstain for years so that their outcomes can be compared. Scientists have to assess what people do on their own.

    For the new work, the researchers examined data that had been collected for two big U.S. studies of twins. They focused on 3,066 participants who were given a battery of intelligence tests at ages 9 to 12 – before any of them had used marijuana – and again at ages 17 to 20.

    They tracked changes in the test scores and studied whether those trajectories were worse for marijuana users than for non-users. Most tests revealed no difference between the two groups, but users did fare more poorly than abstainers in tests of vocabulary and general knowledge.

    READ MORE: Critics calling on Trudeau government to include pardons when revamping marijuana laws

    If smoking pot harmed test scores, the researchers reasoned, people who’d smoked more pot should show poorer trends than those who’d smoked less. But that’s not what the data revealed. Among users, those who’d smoked more than 30 times or used it daily for more than a six-month stretch didn’t do worse.

    The study also looked at 290 pairs of twins in which one had used marijuana and the other had not. The members of each pair had grown up together and 137 sets were identical twins so they shared the same DNA. Again, the pot users did not fare worse than their abstaining twin siblings.

    So, the researchers concluded, pot smoking itself does not appear responsible for declines in test scores. Isen noted, however, that the work says nothing about other potential harmful consequences of smoking marijuana in adolescence.

    Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said that while the study has some limitations, it is important and deserves to be followed up with more research. She noted the government has already launched a project to follow about 10,000 children over time to assess the impact of marijuana and other drug use.

    A prominent 2012 study had indicated long-term IQ harm from pot smoking in teenagers. An author of that research said the new work does not conflict with her finding. Terrie Moffitt of Duke University said her study dealt with marijuana use that was far more serious and longer-lasting than the levels reported in the new work.

15. 03. 2019
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NDG gymnastics group still in limbo after more than two years

NDG gymnastics group still in limbo after more than two years

MONTREAL — The borough of Côte-de-Neige-NDG handed out a $9,000 grant to the Flexart gymnastics organization after it was kicked out of the Snowdon Theatre for renovations.

But it’s hardly a substitute for a practice space.

“Nothing has happened,” said parent Petra Kocur.

Flexart was a long-time tenant of the closed Snowdon Theatre until October 2013, when officials told them they had to find new digs due to safety concerns.

More than two years later, the theatre is still closed and the membership of the group is less than half of what it was, Kocur said.

Officials believe that, as the recipients of a $9,000 grant given out Monday night, the group is benefiting from city efforts.

Borough Mayor Russell Copeman said the city has tried to find a permanent home for the group in vain.

“I don’t think the issue is money, the issue is space,” he said.

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15. 02. 2019
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Courts to decide public access to prized fishing lake

Courts to decide public access to prized fishing lake

NEAR MERRITT – A small lake adjacent to the Okanagan Connector is known for producing giant-sized Rainbow trout.

But for many years, public access to Corbett Lake has been blocked off by the owners of the lake’s fishing lodge.

The Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club believes the lake should be accessible to everyone.

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“He fenced off the public access and put up no trespassing signs and everybody thought that was a legal thing to do but in fact it wasn’t,” says club spokesperson Rick McGowan. “It’s a public road and you can’t close a public road without going through the highways road closure process, which has never happened.”

McGowan says they’ve got the legal documents to prove their point.

To push the issue, club members ice-fished the lake twice in the past year.

Some were charged with criminal mischief and ordered by the courts to stay 400 metres away from the water.

“We don’t look at it as civil disobedience,” says McGowan. “The crimes being committed are on the other side for the illegal blocking of public roads.”

The club claims the Douglas Lake Ranch is also wrongly blocking public access to two prime fishing lakes south of Kamloops.

McGowan says they look forward to arguing the issue in court.

“It’s private entrepreneurs wanting to lock the public out to take control of those lakes. That’s what’s going on.”

One of the owners of Corbett Lake Lodge turned down an interview request by Global Okanagan News, referring us their recent advertisement in the Merritt Herald newspaper.

It says the provincial government has determined the land around the lake is private property and the owners have the legal right to close off public access.

McGowan says people from all over the province have donated more than $100,000 to help fund the club’s legal fight, adding he’s willing to go to jail over the issue.

“We want to fight this fight to protect public spaces for all future generations.”

15. 02. 2019
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B.C. wineries look for clarity in wine labelling

B.C. wineries look for clarity in wine labelling

BURNABY – When it comes to wine labels, John Skinner is all about seeking the truth. The owner of Penticton-based Painted Rock Estate Winery has been fighting to ensure wines produced in other countries are labeled accurately.

He, along with several small and medium wineries, doesn’t want those wines confused with British Columbia wines. 

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“If you pick up a bottle that says ‘cellared in Canada’ or ‘bottled in British Columbia’ and you don’t know that the juice came from Chile, that undermines the brand of British Columbia wines that we are trying to build on the international stage,” Skinner says.

Several wineries in B.C. say the marketing and labelling of some wines sold in our province are too similar to Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines, which are made from 100 per cent B.C. grapes.

B.C. VQA certified wines must meet rigorous standards. Wines not bearing the B.C. VQA symbol and not tasted for quality may be labelled “product of British Columbia.” These wines are still made from B.C. grapes, but have not gone through the B.C. VQA certification process.

Blended wines, on the other hand, are often labelled “cellared in Canada from imported and domestic wines” or “bottled in B.C.” There is nothing to indicate the country where the grapes came from, so those same bottles often end up in the B.C. wine section of a liquor store.

Under Canadian federal law, all wine sold in Canada must contain a statement of origin on the label. However, the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency is currently allowing wineries to only say the bottle is a blend of international and domestic wines, rather than listing which countries the grapes originated from.

Wine lawyer Mark Hicken says, “From the perspective of the larger wineries that are producing those blended wines, their view is that they are compliant with the federal law because they are following what the federal agency is telling them, but the smaller wineries would like to see an actual statement of origin on the label.”

Skinner adds, “When people are producing wines and making them sound like they come from British Columbia and deceiving the consumer, the consumer has a jaundiced view of British Columbia wines and we can’t tolerate that anymore.”

Cellared in Canada wine often contains grapes bought in bulk from places like Chile, California, and Australia. Commodity wines often sell for less than $11 a bottle. About 30 per cent of the B.C. wine market is made up of this type of wine. Lesley Brown from Trialto Wine Group, a premium wine agency, says, “There’s a majority of consumers purchasing those wines [who] believe they are Canadian wines and that’s an issue.”

Skinner says, “Any other food product requires you to say where it came from – except this stuff. This is appalling.” Still, he adds, “This will be solved because the consumer will not tolerate this anymore.”

15. 02. 2019
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Ready or not: multi-family recycling soon mandatory in Calgary

Ready or not: multi-family recycling soon mandatory in Calgary

CALGARY – There’s something new rolling out at apartments, townhouses and condos around Calgary.

Recycling for multi-family units must be in place by Feb. 1 according to a new city bylaw.

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Related

  • Two thirds of multi-family homes in Calgary still without recycling

    “We allowed 16 months between when the bylaw was approved from when we’re going to enforce to allow that uptake of service to multi-family complexes,” said Parnell Legg, a waste diversion specialist with the City of Calgary.

    The city suggests about 40 per cent of condo boards are already on board and more are likely waiting for the February deadline.

    BluPlanet is among dozens of private companies specializing in multi-family recycling removal. It picked up contacts for over 10,000 new homes in 2015.

    “It’s been astronomical,” said Stuart Van Berkle, operations manager for BluPlanet Recycling.  “The growth has been almost too much to handle at some points.”

    He worries many condo units are late setting up recycling contracts – and may have a difficult time finding a company able to take them on by the end of the month.

    “I think there are some buildings that are a little more behind but… we’re doing about 50 new buildings a month so that’s pretty much all we handle for now. I think some other companies are getting pretty busy as well,” said Van Berkle.

    It’s a challenge for condo boards – fitting the new cost into the budget as well as fitting the bins into their complexes.

    “I think, in most condominiums, the space is very limited. I mean, most were built to only accommodate the garbage bins,” said Marian Rodriguez, a property manager with Diversified Management Southern. The company oversees over 50 properties and she said most are prepared for the new bylaw.

    The city said there will be an education period, but $250 fines could be considered by animal and bylaw services if condo boards are not in compliance.

    It could be a big adjustment.

    “Most of our condominiums have started this recycling business around the end of December through January,” said Rodriguez. “We’re finding a lot of people are using the recycling bin as their garbage disposal.”

    Rodriguez suggested condo boards in compliance haven’t seen any big reduction in waste so far, but stresses education will be important going forward.

    If the bylaw works, the city suggests about 25 per cent of waste from multi-family homes can be diverted from landfills.

15. 02. 2019
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Commute with a smile: Driver Jon offers more than your typical LRT ride

Commute with a smile: Driver Jon offers more than your typical LRT ride

EDMONTON – Jon Morgan has been an LRT operator for five years, but he doesn’t just offer passengers a ride from point A to point B; he entertains them as well.

“I point out interesting things about each station, some of the artwork they can find at the station,” Morgan said.

Morgan is being praised by riders for his positive attitude and wealth of knowledge. As his train moves along, he tells passengers about nearby landmarks, parks, local history and even some lesser known fun facts about the area.

ChangSha Night Net

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    “That’d be the original garage Edmonton Transit opened up back in the late 1970s, when Edmonton first opened its LRT system,” he said as the LRT approached Colliseum Station.

    When the train got to Commonwealth, he pointed out nearby amenities, restaurants, and, of course: “the home of your 2015 Grey Cup Champions!”

    “I love our city and I like to learn as much as I can about our city, relay it across to the people,” he said.

    Plus, his goal is to make his riders just a bit happier.

    “I just like to brighten people’s days as much as possible,” Morgan said.

    “It’s really rewarding, really rewarding. To see them have a smile on their face at the start of the day, or the end of the day. I just want to make sure they’re having a good day.”

    His approach seems to be working. Edmonton Transit has received phone calls and social media comments celebrating Morgan’s style.

    “Jon’s great,” Edmonton Transit spokesperson, Jennifer Laraway, said. “When we hear feedback that one of our operators has made their day, that’s what we like to hear.”

    WATCH: Edmonton Transit Peace Officer raps 

    Morgan is in good company. Laraway said other LRT operators try to put a personal touch on their routes as well.

    “We’ve heard of stories where they’re singing their announcements as they arrive into an LRT station, or, if it’s the holidays, wearing a Santa Claus hat, even singing jazz,” she said.

    “If you’re a transit user, you know what that means in that kind of community. It puts a smile on your face and it makes your commute that much better.”

    Kevin Hearn rides Morgan’s train everyday.

    “It’s nice,” he said. “It gives it a little bit of life when we’re riding the train, especially when he’s telling you information about places where you can shop, that sort of thing.”

    Passenger Carolynn LaJeunesse agrees Morgan’s routes brighten people’s days.

    “It kind of puts a smile on your face for the day.”

15. 02. 2019
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Canadian travellers report illnesses at Cuban resorts promoted and operated by Sunwing

Canadian travellers report illnesses at Cuban resorts promoted and operated by Sunwing

TORONTO – Unsanitary washrooms, unsafe food handling practices, unrelenting stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea: these are some of the complaints being reported about popular Canadian vacations destinations in Cuba promoted and operated by Sunwing Vacations of Toronto.

“It’s very severe, and I am struggling a week later,” said Amanda Klein of Medicine Hat, Alta., who recently returned from Cuba and says she is still experiencing stomach problems.

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UPDATE: More Canadian vacationers come forward with reports of illness on Sunwing trips

Klein, 26, spent a week with her boyfriend and two other Canadian couples at the Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Hotel in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba between Jan. 5 and 12.

But within days of the Canadians’ arrival, Klein says five of the six guests were violently ill with vomiting and diarrhea.

Klein says the group stopped eating at the all-inclusive resort–which they booked through Sunwing Vacations–after witnessing troubling food-handling practices.

READ MORE: Sunwing under fire after Cuban resort outbreak

“Numerous staff put their hands in food, licked their hands and put their hands in the food we were supposed to eat,” she said.

She said her group became alarmed when they watched staff members clearing tables in the buffet restaurant.

“They would collect the dirty dishes from the tables, and if it looked like they weren’t used, then left them on the table,” Klein told Global News, adding many of the dishes were dirty.

In 2015, Global News reported extensively on illnesses at the resort that affected Canadian vacationers. Last week, visitors to the Memories resort and certain other Cuba resorts began reporting sickness similar to those that were documented last year.

READ MORE: Sunwing offers compensation to Canadian travellers after outbreak at Cuban resort

When Marcy Mullings of Hamilton began reading new Facebook complaints about the resort, she got worried and called Sunwing in search of answers.

But she says the tour operator denied there were any problems.

“They said you can’t believe everything you read; they said it’s a hoax, that someone is trying to tarnish Sunwing’s name,” Mullings said.

Unconvinced by the response, Mullings says she asked to speak to a supervisor and requested that she could change the vacation she booked with her family to the resort later this month. She said Sunwing refused.

Klein is among a growing number of Sunwing customers who contacted Global News to complain about becoming ill at the Memories Paraiso Azul resort. Many have posted their accounts of poor conditions and illnesses on Facebook and on GlobalNews长沙夜网.

But, Sunwing says it’s is not aware of a significant problem at the resort in Cuba.

“To date the hotel management team at Memories Paraiso Azul has advised us that they have not been made aware of any such cases,” said Jacqueline Grossman, senior director of marketing for Sunwing Vacations.

Grossman says the health and wellbeing of its customers is the company’s “primary concern.”

She acknowledged, however, that travelers have reported illnesses to Sunwing.

“In the past week our customer service department has received information from 10 clients complaining of gastro-illness during their stay at this resort over the last month,” Grossman said.

Sunwing travellers say they got sick at other resorts in Cuba in the last month, too.

Anne Cameron of Mississauga, Ont., just returned with family members from the Memories resort in Varadero, Cuba. In addition to becoming ill along with other Canadian travellers, Cameron said she was “disgusted” with conditions at the four-star resort, especially the public washrooms.

“They were clogged with feces and toilet paper to the brim. In some cases there were urine and feces on the floor,” Cameron said.

Some Sunwing customers who got ill or frustrated with conditions at the Memories Paraiso Azul resort, which Sunwing ranks 4.5 stars, complained to the company and demanded compensation.

Lorna Hoffman and her husband stayed at the resort last April.

“It was a horrible time as we were there without running water for three days, piles of dirty dishes at poolside all week and hamburgers served on toilet paper,” Hoffman said.

After paying $2,400 for the trip, Hoffman says she reluctantly agreed to $108 compensation. But nine months later, Hoffman hasn’t even received the token amount.

“We still have not received the $108 even after submitting another form a second time as asked. Still haven’t received the cheque,” she said. “Sunwing does not care about their customers at all!”

Klein says complaints about the resort can’t be ignored.

“People need to know this is a bad place,” she said. “They need to change something or close their doors.”

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