Category: Canada

Quebec man found guilty of first-degree murder in slaying of ex-wife, stranger

ST-JEROME, Que. – A Quebec man was found guilty of first-degree murder Saturday in the stabbing death of his ex-wife and the fatal beating of an elderly motorist he carjacked while on the run from authorities.

Ugo Fredette was automatically sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years after a jury returned two verdicts in the killings of Veronique Barbe, 41, and Yvon Lacasse, 71, on Sept. 14, 2017.

But as Fredette, 44, was found guilty of committing two premeditated murders, the eligibility for parole could be consecutive, extending parole inadmissibility to 50 years.

The case will return before Quebec Superior Court Justice Myriam Lachance next week.

The Crown argued Fredette killed Barbe by stabbing her 17 times in their St-Eustache, Que., home because he couldn’t accept the end of his relationship with her.

He fled the home with a six-year-old boy, travelling through a number of Quebec towns before stopping at a rest stop in Lachute, Que.

That’s where he came across 71-year-old Lacasse.

The prosecution had argued he was killed so Fredette could switch from his employer’s vehicle to one that allowed him to continue to flee authorities more discreetly.

Fredette was finally arrested on Sept. 15, 2017, in Ontario.

The accused had argued in favour of a manslaughter verdict in both cases – admitting to causing the deaths of both victims, but insisting that he’d reached his breaking point on the day both were killed and didn’t intend to kill anyone – a defence rejected by jurors.

Jennifer Lacasse, daughter of Yvon Lacasse, said it was a relief and justice was served, but it would never bring back her father.

“The scenario that Mr. Fredette created, he’s the only one that believes it,” she told reporters outside the courtroom.

The prosecutor, Steve Baribeau, also echoed that opinion, calling Fredette’s version of events “farfetched and implausible” and rejected wholly by jurors.

Twelve jurors – nine men and three women – had been sequestered since Wednesday after receiving final instructions and were into a third day of deliberations when they announced they’d reached unanimous verdicts.

Barbe’s mother, Claudette Biard, told reporters she’d been waiting for this moment for two years.

“It’s certain that for me, it won’t bring back my daughter, but at least we can have some peace and serenity, but without ever forgetting,” Biard said through a trembling voice.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2019.

– with files from Any Guillemette of Cogeco Nouvelles.

The Canadian Press


Mural in Edmonton that offered thanks to young Swedish climate activist defaced

EDMONTON – A mural of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg that recently appeared in Edmonton has been defaced.

The mural features a portrait of the 16-year-old girl against a bright blue background.

It was painted on what is known as a free wall not far from a light-rail transit station near Commonwealth Stadium.

The work captured the public’s attention last week when a video by the person believed to have created it was shared on Twitter.

Before it was defaced, it read “Thank you, Greta” and “Thank you, Beaver Hills Warriors” – a reference to the grassroots environmental group that helped lead a large climate change rally with Thunberg in Edmonton on Friday.

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out, and a slur and a message telling Thunberg to leave Canada were written over top in French.

There was no immediate word on who may have been responsible.

Thunberg was among thousands who walked through the city’s downtown to rally at the legislature, vastly outnumbering a group of oil-and-gas industry supporters at a counter-rally.

In a speech at the event, she repeated her message that the future of the planet is at stake and action must be taken to fight climate change, but she refrained from any direct criticism of the Alberta oilsands.

Thunberg spent part of the weekend near Fort McMurray doing interviews, which a local First Nation said will be part of an upcoming BBC documentary.

The Mikisew Cree First Nation said Thunberg’s interviews focused on environmental concerns over oilsands development and climate change.

She was presented with a blanket and the First Nation said in a statement that it was honoured to “join forces” with Thunberg as she leads the way in “protecting our planet from the climate crisis.”

Thunberg arrived in Fort McMurray on Friday night and met with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam, who said he told her to get Europeans to lobby oilsands investors for greener technology to extract Alberta energy. (CTV Edmonton, The Canadian Press)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2019.

The Canadian Press

Canadians cast their ballots after divisive campaign, and amid tight polls

OTTAWA – Now it’s time for what politicians always say is the only poll that really matters.

Canadians will cast their ballots today in the country’s 43rd general election after what federal leaders themselves have called a nasty and divisive campaign.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer have spent weeks arguing the decision is between which of the two historical governing parties will be in office.

But NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has drawn support from progressive voters and the Bloc Quebecois has surged in Quebec, which could scuttle hopes of a majority government and put either party into the position of power-broker in a hung Parliament.

Elizabeth May is hoping her Green party can capitalize on its recent success in provincial votes and translate that to more seats in the House of Commons.

And Maxime Bernier, who has spent much of the campaign trying to protect his own seat in Quebec, will find out whether his upstart People’s Party of Canada is a movement or a footnote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2019.

The Canadian Press

Scheer won’t say if Conservatives hired consultant to ‘destroy’ People’s party

TORONTO – With election day less than 48 hours away, Andrew Scheer suddenly found himself in the hot seat Saturday as reports linked the Conservative party to a co-ordinated effort to smear former caucus colleague Maxime Bernier and his nascent populist People’s Party of Canada.

The Globe and Mail reported that strategist Warren Kinsella and his firm Daisy Group were hired to “seek and destroy” Bernier’s party and portray its supporters as racist. A source with direct knowledge of the project said the client was the Conservatives, the Globe reported.

The Conservative leader, whom polls suggest is locked in a neck-and-neck duel with Liberal rival Justin Trudeau, refused to confirm, deny or even acknowledge the report during a news conference in Toronto that featured few questions about anything else.

“We don’t offer comments on contracts that may or may not exist on vendors we may or may not have a relationship with,” he said, repeatedly.

Bernier formed the People’s Party of Canada – a populist, libertarian movement steeped in nationalist sentiment and aimed at draining support from the right-wing flank of the Tories – after he narrowly lost the Conservative leadership race to Scheer.

“This is the kind of dirty politics that fuels Canadians’ cynicism about politics,” Bernier told a news conference of his own, adding that he had filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Canada Elections, the office that enforces Canada’s election laws.

“This secret campaign is an attack on the integrity of our democratic process. We had suspected for a long time that many of the supposed scandals of the last month had been fabricated by opponents.”

He even suggested that Kinsella’s so-called “seek-and-destroy” campaign might have had a hand in the satirical Rhinoceros party’s decision to field a candidate also named Maxime Bernier in the leader’s Quebec riding of Beauce in hopes of confusing voters.

Kinsella didn’t confirm or deny the project to the Globe, but said generally his firm has worked on anti-racism campaigns. Later in the day, after his social media accounts vanished from the internet, he posted a statement on his website defending his work, which he said ended “many months ago.”

“It was always going to be disclosed, by law. It was in no way inappropriate or wrong,” Kinsella wrote. “Opposing organized bigotry is always appropriate and right. We were and are fiercely proud of the work we did.”

In the statement, Kinsella implied that details about the campaign were leaked by a former employee – a “hater” – who “made anti-Semitic, intolerant remarks and stole from our company” before going on to assist Bernier’s party, which he insisted is undeserving of sympathy.

“We don’t help racists,” he wrote.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the allegations are troubling and called on Scheer to address them directly.

“Canadians should expect transparency from leaders,” Singh said during a campaign stop in B.C., where the New Democrat frontman is seeking to capitalize on momentum few observers would have anticipated at the start of the campaign.

“They should be able to answer those type of questions. If there’s evidence to suggest he was involved in the hiring of someone for a certain task he should be able to answer those questions.”

Justin Trudeau, for his part, used the report to buttress his now-familiar charge that the Conservatives are using dirty tricks and misinformation to propel their election effort.

“I think we’ve seen throughout this campaign that the Conservatives have had to use the politics of fear and division and indeed just make stuff up in order to try and get their message across,” the Liberal leader said.

Contrary to the facts, Scheer has been insisting that Trudeau is “openly talking” about a coalition with the NDP after Monday’s vote, one that would raise the GST, personal income taxes and cancel social transfer payments to the provinces in order to finance their big-ticket promises.

Trudeau has urged the need for a “progressive government,” but repeatedly refused to answer a variety of questions Saturday about minority scenarios, sticking instead to a message that Canadians have an important choice to make on Monday and stressing issues of affordability, gun control and fighting climate change.

Trudeau was in the midst of a marathon day of campaigning – he started early near Niagara Falls, Ont., with plans to end with a late-night rally in Calgary after a stop in Winnipeg along the way.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa Centre, the Liberals brought in heavy hitter Jean Chretien, with the former prime minister helping to rally the troops at an event for Catherine McKenna.

Singh was in Vancouver, where a real-life example of his momentum in the polls presented itself, as a line of people wrapped around a downtown city block to get into a rally with at least 400 people were already in attendance.

Earlier in the day, Singh touted his plan to build 500,000 affordable housing units and fight speculation and money laundering that drive up housing prices.

The Green party’s Elizabeth May was spending her day in and around Vancouver, boosting local candidates with sign-waves and door-to-door canvasses, but she finishes with a big regional rally at Canada Place featuring environmentalist David Suzuki.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2019.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press



UN report highlights ‘abhorrent’ housing conditions for Indigenous people

A United Nations report is highlighting the role “abhorrent” housing conditions play in the poverty and exploitation that Indigenous people face in Canada and around the world.

The report, presented to the UN General Assembly on Friday, examines the lack of access to secure housing both in cities and on reserves and its effect on the rights of Indigenous people in countries including Canada, Australia and Tanzania.

“The Special Rapporteur finds that housing conditions for Indigenous peoples around the world are overwhelmingly abhorrent and too often violate the right to adequate housing,” the report reads.

“(Indigenous people) are more likely to suffer inadequate housing and negative health outcomes as a result, they have disproportionately high rates of homelessness and they are extremely vulnerable to forced evictions, land-grabbing and the effects of climate change.”

Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, noted that housing shortages are severe enough in Canada’s North that some people in Indigenous communities are forced to sleep in shifts.

“There’s 15 people living in a home that’s the size of a trailer, so of course they have to sleep in shifts when there’s only so much room,” she said.

The report also highlights poor water systems on many Canadian reserves.

“In a country with more fresh water than anywhere else in the world, 75 per cent of the reserves in Canada have contaminated water, with communities such as Attawapiskat declaring a state of emergency,” it reads.

The report also says Indigenous people in Canada and around the world who live in urban areas deal with racism from landlords, presenting another hurdle to accessing housing.

The report linked a lack of housing as a factor that exacerbates Canada’s ongoing problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“Lacking secure, adequate housing, Indigenous women often become the targets of further violence because of their gender and their Indigenous identity,” it says.  

Farha said one of the main goals of the report was to link the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP) to the UN’s legislation on the right to adequate housing.

“The right to housing under international human rights law is something that is legally binding on governments in Canada,” said Farha. “That’s really important because the UN’s DRIP isn’t a legal instrument in the way that the treaty for the right to housing is.”

She said she hopes making that connection will put more pressure on the Canadian government to act on issues that predominantly affect Aboriginal people.

Farha said Indigenous people – and particularly Indigenous women – should be involved in the development of strategies to tackle housing shortages.

“I think governments around the world need to completely alter their relationship with Indigenous peoples and really recognize their self-determination and admit that there are ongoing wrongs that needs to be addressed,” she said.

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press


Thunberg interviews leaders for documentary, Alberta Indigenous group says

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg continued her tour of Alberta’s oilsands region on Saturday, an Indigenous group says, conducting interviews that the group says will be part of an upcoming BBC documentary.

The Mikisew Cree First Nation says in a news release that Thunberg spent the day on the shores of Gregoire Lake near Fort McMurray with members of the First Nation, and that her interviews focused on environmental concerns over oilsands development and climate change.

Mikisew Chief Archie Waquan presented Thunberg with a blanket, stating in the news release that the First Nation was honoured to “join forces” with Thunberg as she leads the way in “protecting our planet from the climate crisis.”

Thunberg arrived in Fort McMurray on Friday night and met with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam, who said he told the 16-year-old to get Europeans to lobby oilsands investors for greener technology to extract Alberta energy.

Earlier Friday, Thunberg addressed thousand of people at a climate rally at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton.

Melody Lepine, who is the Mikisew Cree’s director of government and industry relations, says the First Nation agreed to participate in the BBC documentary some time ago, but only learned in the last few days that Thunberg would also be involved.

“That was pretty exciting,” Lepine said Sunday, speaking from Fort McMurray.

Thunberg has been making international headlines for criticizing world leaders who she accuses of letting down youth by doing too little to tackle climate change.

Lepine said when she was interviewed by Thunberg, she told the activist about the importance of the boreal forest as well as the impacts her community might see from climate change.

But like Adam, Lepine said her community isn’t calling for an end to oilsands development.

“I sort of said this is home to many people and it’s not fair to just put a stop to development here without any plan in place. These projects have been here for over 30 years, and some of these projects are planning to be here for another 30, or 50 or 60 years,” Lepine said.

“And so there’s a lot of work to do in decommissioning and cleaning and reclamation, so we talked about maybe diversifiying the economy here for making sure any transition off fossil fuels is not going to hurt the economic engine of Canada here.”

In March, the Mikisew Cree applauded the announcement of a new 16-hundred-square kilometre wildland park that was created after three energy companies returned oilsands leases to the province and a fourth company agreed to sell back its leases.

The First Nation also noted in its news release an Indigenous energy company is part of what it says is Canada’s largest off-grid solar project. 

“I shared some of the success stories like that, that it is possible to reach a balance in environmental protection and economic development and industrial development in the region,” Lepine said.

Thunberg posted pictures on Sunday of her meetings with the region’s Indigenous leaders on Twitter, saying she was “honoured” to meet with them while in Treaty 8 territory.

She has said she plans to keep touring the Americas through a UN climate conference in Chile in December.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2019.

-By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – The chief of a northern Alberta First Nation says he gave climate activist Greta Thunberg a message during a quietly arranged meeting in Fort McMurray on Friday night.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says he told the 16-year-old Swede that Europeans are major investors in the area’s oilsands, and she needs to get people to lobby those investors for greener technology to extract Alberta energy.

Adam says the meeting in a Fort McMurray office was arranged earlier this week, and was kept secret in order to prevent pro-oilsands campaigners from disrupting it.

Thunberg was in Edmonton earlier Friday for a rally at the Alberta legislature that drew thousands of people, but also attracted a small counter-rally of trucks that drove past, blasting their horns.

Thunberg has turned her protest against climate change into a global movement that has seen her speak plainly to world leaders and forums, chastising them to do something before it’s too late to reverse catastrophic weather changes.

Adam says it was a privilege to meet with Thunberg, and says she mostly just listened to him talk about the history of First Nations in the area and their concerns about oilsands development.

“You have to go back to Europe and you have to tell the European investors, why are you investing in the oilsands if you want to promote green energy?” Adam said he told Thunberg.

“Tell them to invest in better technologies to enhance how to produce oil from the oilsands,” he added.

“That’s what you call sustainable development.”

United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney had said he hoped Thunberg would recognize efforts made by Alberta’s oil and gas industry to reduce its emissions, but said he had no plans to meet with her.

Thunberg stayed away from any direct criticism of Alberta’s oilsands while in Edmonton on Friday.

Adam said Thunberg has now left the Fort McMurray area.

“I don’t know why the world is so scared of her. She stands about four feet tall and she’s probably, I’m guessing about 110 pounds, that’s about it,” Adam said, dismissing those who criticize Thunberg’s views because she’s young. 

“We talk to our kids every day and sometimes our kids give us meaningful answers that we are looking for.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2019.

The Canadian Press

More beef products recalled due to possible E. coli contamination

Whole Foods is the latest grocery chain affected by a recall of hundreds of beef and veal products across Canada due to possible E. coli contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has added more than 50 beef products sold at the chain to the list of 800-plus recalled items.

Potentially contaminated products were also sold at Walmart, Pusateri’s and other retailers across Canada.

The food safety watchdog has been investigating possible E. coli 0157:H7 contamination in some beef and veal products sold by Ryding-Regency Meat Packers Ltd. and St. Ann’s Foods Inc. since late September.

That’s when the CFIA suspended the food safety licence for the slaughterhouse and processing plants, which are both in Toronto.

The agency says there haven’t been any reported illnesses associated with the products, but symptoms of sickness can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert for some raw beef products imported from Canada that are linked to the growing beef and veal product recall.

The USDA says the products were distributed to institutions and retailers in Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2019.

Online: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/accountability/food-safety-investigations/est-99-and-est-639-e-coli-/eng/1570137688624/1570137910930

The Canadian Press

Montreal loses to Sydney, Australia in bid to host WorldPride 2023

Sydney, Australia has beaten out Montreal in the quest to host WorldPride in 2023.

The Australian city captured 60 per cent of the vote, while Montreal received 36 per cent and Austin, TX got three.

Montreal’s bid to host the international LGBTQ celebration was spearheaded by the organizers of the city’s annual pride festival, which attracts thousands of tourists and brings in some $15 million annually.

Their submission included a four-minute video highlighting the city’s diversity that ended with a brief cameo by Quebec superstar Celine Dion wrapped in a pride flag.

The host city is chosen by an international association of pride co-ordinators, and was announced Sunday morning in Athens, Greece.

Toronto became the first North American city to host the event in 2014.

The Canadian Press

24 hours to go: final day of federal campaign will be anything but sedate

OTTAWA – In 24 hours, it will be up to Canadians – but until then it’s coming down to the wire.

The contenders in Monday’s federal election are staging one final, frantic barrage of sales pitches before voters go to the polls, and they’re doing it in and around Vancouver, where a host of seats are still up for grabs.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer kicks off his day in Stanley Park before visiting a number of local ridings, culminating in a rally at a hotel near the city airport.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is also on the West Coast, staging visits with voters and candidates in Port Moody and Surrey, B.C., before a final rally in Victoria.

The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh is also in the region, mainstreeting in Vancouver and Surrey, B.C.

Green Leader Elizabeth May is expected to focus on her home territory of Vancouver Island, while People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier wraps up his campaign in his Quebec riding of Beauce.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2019.

The Canadian Press