Washington: As US government regulators act tough on tech giants over privacy violations and anti-trust activities, Amazon and Facebook spent the maximum in lobbying – around $4 million each – in the second quarter (Q2) this year. The anti-trust regulators in the US are scrutinising Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet over biased market practices and data privacy violations. “Facebook and Amazon each notched a quarterly sum above $4 million for the first time ever in the three-month period from April to June,” Politico reported on Tuesday. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal Facebook spent $4.1 million on lobbying activity while Amazon shelled out just over $4 million. Google shelled out $2.94 million on lobbying in the second quarter. Apple spent $1.81 million on federal lobbying while Twitter spent around $440,000. Microsoft spent $2.7 million on lobbying activity for the quarter. Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook faced two US House hearings on anti-trust issues and Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency ‘Libra’ this month. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boost The House Committee on Judiciary discussed anti-trust issues while the Senate Banking Committee deliberated upon Facebook’s digital currency ‘Libra’ that is slated to arrive in 2020. Amazon is often criticized for undercutting competition on price. “Facebook and Google have struggled with questions around privacy, free speech and election interference. Amazon and Apple meanwhile have grown so large and powerful, some lawmakers say they have become monopolies that need to be split up,” said CNET in a recent report. Facebook has reached a whopping $5 billion settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the Cambridge Analytica privacy violations. Google has abused its market dominance by imposing a number of restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites which prevented Google’s rivals from placing their search adverts on these websites, according to the European Commission. The European Union’s anti-trust regulators in March fined Google 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for abusing its dominance in the online search market by blocking rivals.
Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the Khadyashree Bhawan, the newly constructed head office of the department of Food and Supplies, from Nabanna through remote control on Friday.State Food and Supplies minister Jyotipriya Mallick and principal secretary, Food and Supplies department Manoj Kumar Agarwal were present on the occasion. “Rice and wheat will be distributed from here (Khadyashree Bhawan),” Mallick told Millennium Post. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaKhadyashree Bhawan, a seven-storey building situated at Mirza Ghalib Street, will have a cafeteria and parking facility at the basement. According to the officials, different sections of the Food and Supplies department will be transferred to the Khadyashree Bhawan. The state Food and Supplies minister will also sit there. The inauguration of the Khadyashree Bhawan comes seven months after Mamata Banerjee expressed concern over the middleman menace. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayShe had also reiterated that the government wanted to procure directly from the farmers, thereby increasing the target of the overall paddy requirement in the state. Both the Agriculture and Food Supplies department have started a massive crackdown on the middlemen in all the districts to eliminate the earlier practice prevailing in the state so far. This apart, the state Agriculture and Food and Supplies department has also decided to install an advanced machine at all the Kisan Mandis to ensure better monitoring of the operations.
Gaza City: Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip, the Palestinian health ministry said Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired at Israel from the blockaded enclave. The ministry said another Palestinian was hospitalised in the shooting that came after the Israeli army said an attack helicopter and tank had fired at “armed suspects” along the barrier that separates Israel from Gaza. “We just identified a number of armed suspects from Gaza approaching the security fence with Israel. We fired towards them,” the army said a statement posted on its Twitter account. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USThe latest violence came after Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired three rockets at southern Israel late Saturday, the Israeli army said, in the second such attack in 24 hours. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The army said two of the projectiles had been intercepted by its Iron Dome aerial defence system but it did not specify what happened to the third rocket. Air raid sirens had sounded in the southern town of Sderot and its surroundings. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsOn Friday Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket at Sderot, in what the army said was the first such attack since July 12.In response, Israeli warplanes struck at least three targets in the Gaza Strip early on Saturday but caused no casualties, a Palestinian security source said. The strikes hit a Hamas observation post in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, an unidentified target near Gaza City and open ground near Deir El Balah in the central part of the territory, the source said. An Israeli army statement mentioned only two strikes, against “underground targets belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the northern and central Gaza Strip”. Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, ruled by Islamist movement Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008. And since March 2018, regular protests and clashes have erupted along the border of the blockaded coastal enclave. At least 305 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza or the border area since then, the majority during demonstrations and clashes. Seven Israelis have also been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same period.
New York: Novak Djokovic didn’t want to talk about his improved left shoulder injury or the heckler whose comments helped the defending champion reach the US Open’s last 16. So it’s unclear exactly what medical treatments for his injury or emotional inspiration from a critic helped the world number one defeat 111th-ranked American Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. Djokovic was treated throughout his second-round match for left shoulder pain but dispatched Kudla with no outward sign of trouble. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh “It’s almost pain-free. Has a little bit of pain, but I’m really pleased with the way it went,” Djokovic said. “Today the situation was much, much better than the last match, so we’ll see tomorrow.” Djokovic, who has won four of the past five Grand Slam events and 16 overall, advanced to a fourth-round meeting with three-time Slam winner Stan Wawrinka. They haven’t played since the Swiss 23rd seed beat Djokovic in the 2016 US Open final. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced later Djokovic said he skipped practice on Thursday in favor of treatment on his shoulder but wouldn’t talk about how the setback took place or what he did to ease the pain. “Forgive me, I’m not going to talk about it,” Djokovic said. “I would appreciate if you respect me not talking about it in details. “Please understand me. I’m very glad with the way it went. I am able to play. That for me is a huge blessing today because it was probably the complete opposite two days ago. “I did a lot of things in the last few days to be able to play.” Djokovic was captured on video having a talk with a heckler during his pre-match practice session Friday afternoon, saying, “I’ll come find you. I’ll find you after. Trust me, I’ll find you.” Asked about the confrontation he called a “little chat”, Djokovic said he would locate the heckler, “To have a drink. I liked the guy. I’m going to buy him a drink.” As to exactly what was said, Djokovic kept that between drinking buddies, but did say it was beneficial to his overwhelming effort in ousting Kudla. “We’ll keep it between us. But he definitely helped me. He doesn’t even know, but he did help me,” Djokovic said. “I’m not going to talk about it. I think he did me a favor. Even maybe he didn’t want to do me a favor, he did me a favor, big favor.” Djokovic even had a couple of over-the-top fans against him in the match, but those he accepted as part of the Arthur Ashe Stadium atmosphere for night matches. “Night sessions, New York, crowd gets into it,” he said. “A couple guys that had a couple of drinks more than I guess they were supposed to. But it was all good after.”
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Health Minister John Haggie says Newfoundland and Labrador is close to announcing a plan on provincial funding for the abortion pill.Haggie says he wants counselling services in place as part of “a comprehensive package that we would deliver across the province” before announcing a decision on Mifegymiso funding.The two-drug combination terminates pregnancies of up to nine weeks, as an alternative to surgical methods that are currently covered by the province.The federally approved medical abortion drug has been at least partially covered by every other Canadian province.Medical students and practitioners have written an open letter to the premier and health department asking for universal Mifegymiso coverage, as well as supportive resources for physicians prescribing the drug.Haggie said “it’s not going to be a long process” before announcing the government’s funding package.“We’re very near making a decision and being able to roll out a service rather than simply make an announcement about the availability of a particular drug,” Haggie said in an interview Thursday.He said funding “is a fairly straightforward consideration,” in that the province has a mechanism for funding any approved drug.“My concern at the moment is simply just putting a pill, a drug, on the formulary doesn’t address the bigger issue of how women access the counselling services they need before and after, quite frankly, after they have a termination by whatever method.”Activists say the province has a unique need for alternative abortion access.Mifegymiso costs approximately $350, while a surgical abortion can cost as much as $1,500, not including travel costs to a clinic.The province’s year-round abortion clinics are located in St. John’s, putting it out of financial reach for many low-income patients outside the capital.Haggie did not say whether the province will fully or partially fund Mifegymiso.“Ideally we would like to regard ourselves as the insurer of last resort for those people who do have insurance, but quite frankly that’s often an aspirational thing rather than a practical point,” said Haggie.
OTTAWA – NDP Leader Tom Mulcair plans to vote in the French election this weekend, suggesting his support will be directed toward candidate Emmanuel Macron.Mulcair, who holds Canadian and French citizenship, says it is easy for him to choose between an “anti-Europe, extreme right-winger” Marine Le Pen and Macron.Speaking in French today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested he always looks for those who can bring people together rather than divide them.Mulcair says it is understandable the prime minister made this remark.On Tuesday, former Liberal leader Stephane Dion — now the prime minister’s special envoy to the EU and ambassador to Germany — said Canada prefers to see a president who believes European integration is an asset for the world.The second round of voting for the French presidential election is slated for Sunday.
OTTAWA – The Canadian military’s new top legal officer is hoping her appointment sends a message, namely that the Forces is serious about accepting — and valuing — women in uniform.Commodore Genevieve Bernatchez’s arrival as the Canadian Forces’ first female judge advocate general, or JAG, comes after two decades of work in the office of the JAG, and she’s served as one of several deputies since 2010.In an interview with The Canadian Press, she said her appointment represented a “historical moment” for women in the military as she had “broken that glass ceiling.”It also demonstrates that senior leaders aren’t just blowing hot air when they talk about changing the culture within the Forces, she said, and making it more inclusive to women.After a scathing report in 2015 showed that many women in uniform were being harassed or assaulted, Defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance ordered an end to any inappropriate sexual behaviour.He’s also aiming to see women make up 25 per cent of military personnel within the next decade and is appointing more women to the senior ranks.Her appointment reflects that, Bernatchez said.“I think that when we’re criticizing institutions, saying that they speak but do not act, in this case the words are matching the deeds,” she said.“And that’s wonderful.”Bernatchez’s appointment also comes as the military justice system is looking at big changes.The system is currently in the midst of a major review launched last year in part because of complaints about how sexual crimes committed by those in uniform were being handled.Bernatchez said there’s no doubt that she will bring a different perspective and approach to military justice than her male predecessors.“Being a mother, being a daughter, being a wife has shaped who I am and the way I see things,” she said. “It’s certainly shaped the way I have approached challenges over the course of my career.”She would not reveal what kind of changes she would like to see, saying instead that she would reserve judgment until the review is complete.“The military justice system has places for improvement,” Bernatchez said.“And there’s no doubt in my mind that I have a strong responsibility to ensure that the military justice system is in step with Canadian law and with Canadian expectations.”— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.
EDMONTON – Canada’s health ministers are looking at ways of working together, including an electronic prescription database, to fight the growing crisis in opioid addictions.“(It’s about) ensuring that there is consistent understanding no matter what jurisdiction you’re in about what has been prescribed to different patients (to avoid) further complications down the road,” Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said Thursday.Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the provinces are making progress on ways to fight the scourge.“All of us have a shared understanding that this is a multi-faceted problem and (the solution) needs to range from appropriate prescribing of illicit opioids to provision of pain clinics and alternatives to opioids to making sure we have access to supports (for patients),” said Hoskins.Last month, the federal government reported that at least 2,816 Canadians died from opioid-related causes in 2016 — a total that’s expected to surpass 3,000 in 2017.The Canadian Institute for Health Information warns the crisis is hitting the health system. It says 16 Canadians a day are being hospitalized for opioid toxicity in 2016-17, up from 13 a day two years prior — a rise of almost 20 per cent.The ministers also discussed progress on joint purchases of medical equipment to save money and on progress for a national pharmacare plan.The looming implementation date of legalized marijuana is expected to dominate the final day of talks on Friday.Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor is expected to deliver an update on federal progress ahead of legalized cannabis on July 1.The federal government is beefing up criminal laws and handling the overarching health issues on marijuana such as packaging, health warnings and potency of edible cannabis.The provinces will be in charge of regulating the sale of pot and are free to set the minimum legal age of consumption higher than Ottawa’s plan for it to be 18.Critics have called Ottawa’s timeline too ambitious.In July, premiers and territorial leaders did not call for a delay, but said they might ask for an extension if Ottawa does not help them resolve the issues related to distribution, safety, taxation, justice and public education.Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said Thursday that whether everything will be ready in just over eight months hangs over the entire process.“We’re working very hard to be ready, but … there are campaigns to be implemented, deployed on the networks and so on,” said Barrette.“And on July 1, 2018, there will be no regulations put in place from the federal government on derivative products.”Hoskins said a co-ordinated approach with the federal government is critical to make sure the word gets out on the health implications of legalized marijuana.“(We need to) ensure that individuals who do consume cannabis are doing it with informed knowledge about the risks,” he said.A number of provinces already have preliminary cannabis distribution plans in place. Ottawa and New Brunswick are looking at a minimum age of 19, while Alberta is proposing 18.The Canadian Medical Association says 25 is the safe age health-wise but says 21 would be a more realistic number to keep youth from getting cannabis through the black market.
FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s families minister is asking residents to reach out to people who may be alone for the holidays.Stephen Horsman says people should be on the lookout for signs of social isolation.He says New Brunswickers could invite people to their home for Christmas dinner, or just check in on them.Horsman says people who can’t visit relatives can get in touch through a phone call or video chat.He suggests New Brunswickers visit family members living alone or in care facilities — and to “maybe pack along an extra flower or gift you can give to another resident you think could use some company.”He says if someone says they are lonely, “make a point of helping.”“During the festive season, let us make sure everyone has someone to share the holidays with,” said Horsman, the minister of families and children.People who feel lonely can look for programs at their community centre, join book clubs and other social groups or volunteer for a charity, he says, adding they should let people know they want to spend time with them.
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Ottawa Senators assistant general manager Randy Lee is accused of inappropriately touching and making lewd comments toward a hotel shuttle driver while in Buffalo for the NHL’s scouting combine.Lee was charged with second-degree harassment on Friday after being arrested and spending the night in jail.He appeared in court, where his Canadian passport was confiscated, and was scheduled to appear again Monday.Lee faces a fine and up to 15 days in jail, though Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he doesn’t expect to pursue jail time.The Senators said in a statement that team officials knew of the arraignment and were reviewing the situation.It’s unclear whether Lee has an attorney. He did not appear with an attorney at his arraignment and is no longer staying at the hotel where the alleged incident happened.Flynn said Lee was attending an NHL function Wednesday night as part of the league’s pre-draft scouting combine being held in Buffalo when he requested a shuttle to transport him back to his hotel.Lee first asked the 19-year-old male driver if he could sit in the front seat of the van, and then made lewd comments while placing his hands on the driver’s shoulders, Flynn said.When the driver told him to stop, Lee persisted and began rubbing the man’s shoulders, Flynn said.As they arrived at the hotel about 10 minutes later, “Lee allegedly made a reference to his own private parts and made a vulgar lewd statement,” Flynn said.“The driver was obviously shaken by this,” Flynn said. Flynn said the man immediately reported what happened to the hotel’s security chief.Lee is barred from going to the hotel and having any interaction with the driver.Flynn said he’s not aware of any alcohol being involved.“I’ve got a 19-year-old victim here who probably thinks it’s a cool thing to get an assistant general manager of a hockey team in a car,” Flynn said. “What’s not cool is what happened. And that’s why Mr. Lee is going to have to answer for his uncool behaviour.”Lee has spent 23 seasons with the Senators and just completed his fourth as assistant GM.He was promoted to the job in January 2014 to replace Tim Murray, who was hired to be the Buffalo Sabres general manager.Lee is responsible for overseeing the Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville, Ontario, and developing the team’s prospects. The Senators media guide lists Lee as living in Ottawa with his three children.___Associated Press writer Carolyn Thompson contributed to this report.___This story has been corrected to show that the alleged incident happened Wednesday night, not Thursday night, according to new information from prosecutors.___More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
WINNIPEG – A Winnipeg-area farmer is losing his sunny disposition over the number of people showing up and damaging his sunflowers while taking selfies.Thousands of sunflower shutterbugs have been gathering along a gravel road on the edge of Winnipeg to revel in the rows and rows of the bright yellow flowers of Bruce Stewart’s oilseed crop.“Saturday and Sunday there was at least 1,000 people here on the weekend each day,” said Stewart.“Do you know how many sunflowers are knocked down by 1,000 people? Quite a few.”On Tuesday afternoon, two vans full of people were parked on the side of the road as several people crowded into the crop taking pictures of each other. They walked deep into the sunflowers, touching their heads despite nearby signs that declared it private property.Stewart has been growing sunflowers for many years but it’s the first time on this stretch of land. He doesn’t know if it’s the close proximity to the city or that word has spread online about the beautiful view, but crowds of people have started to show up for photos.While some of the produce paparazzi stay on the road, many wander deep into the field causing damage to the plants. On Sunday, Stewart even spotted people with lights, tripods and light modifiers for a special shoot.Stewart pointed to a sunflower ripped right out of the ground, and another whose head was damaged.“I don’t know what they are doing back there but I guess we will find out when we combine them two months from now,” he said.Others leave behind garbage, Stewart said. On Monday, he had to walk the stretch of road picking up discarded coffee cups.The farmer said he doesn’t mind people taking snaps of the sunflowers and he even put up a sign with his phone number for photographers to contact him. However, he said he wants everyone to understand that going into the field causes damage.“I think they are not educated. They are not up to speed on the whole process,” he said.“It’s just too many generations removed from primary agriculture or primary food production.”As long as people stay on the road, Stewart said they can “take pictures all day long.”“I don’t have to pay for your film or your camera or whatever … I should be charging $5 a head,” he said with a laugh.
HELENA, Mont. – “Superman” actress Margot Kidder’s death has been ruled a suicide, and her daughter said Wednesday it’s a relief to finally have the truth out.Kidder, who was born in Yellowknife and played Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve’s Superman in her most famous role, was found by a friend in her Montana home on May 13.At the time, Kidder’s manager, Camilla Fluxman Pines, said Kidder died peacefully in her sleep.A statement released Wednesday by Park County coroner Richard Wood said the 69-year-old Kidder “died as a result of a self-inflicted drug and alcohol overdose” and that no further details would be released.Maggie McGuane, Kidder’s daughter by her ex-husband Thomas McGuane, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that she knew her mother died by suicide the moment authorities took her to Kidder’s home in Livingston, a small town near Yellowstone National Park.“It’s a big relief that the truth is out there,” she said. “It’s important to be open and honest so there’s not a cloud of shame in dealing with this.”Kidder’s death is one of several high-profile suicides this year that include celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade.McGuane noted that Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation and she urged people with mental illness to seek help.“It’s a very unique sort of grief and pain,” McGuane said. “Knowing how many families in this state go through this, I wish that I could reach out to each one of them.”Kidder struggled with mental illness much of her life, and it was made worse by a 1990 car accident that left her in debt and led to her using a wheelchair for almost two years.Kidder and Reeve starred in four Superman movies between 1978 and 1987. She also appeared in “The Great Waldo Pepper” with Robert Redford in 1975, Brian De Palma’s “Sisters” in 1973 and “The Amityville Horror” in 1979.She later appeared in small films and television shows until 2017, including “R.L. Stine’s the Haunting Hour.” She received a Daytime Emmy Award as outstanding performer in a kids’ series in 2015 for that role.Kidder was a political activist who was arrested in 2011 in a Washington, D.C., protest over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s oil sands.Her final years were troubled by conflicts with people who were down on their luck that she took into her home. Between August 2016 and her death in May, authorities were called to her house 40 times on reports of people trespassing, theft and other disturbances, according to police logs released to the AP under a public-records request.The calls include responses by ambulances five times in seven months, including at the time of her death.Joan Kesich, a longtime friend who found Kidder’s body, said Kidder was fearless and always spoke the truth, regardless of the consequences.“In her last months, she was herself — same kind of love, same kind of energy,” Kesich said. “The challenges that she had were very public. I want what I know about her to be out there because it was glorious. She was really a blazing energy.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will stand firm in its ongoing diplomatic battle with Saudi Arabia.Trudeau says he will always take strong and clear positions in private and in public on questions of human rights.He says that is what Canadians expect of his government.Trudeau was speaking in Montreal this afternoon at a news conference regarding funding for aerospace company CAE.The prime minister added that Canada respects the importance of Saudi Arabia in the world and recognizes it has made progress on a number of important issues.Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic relations with Canada on Sunday in response to a tweet from Global Affairs Canada that criticized the Saudis for the arrest of social activists.
CALGARY (CITYNEWS) – A big part of an Olympic bid is an athletes village but there has been confusion over who would benefit.“All the social housing, in spite of what’s being said out there, is that all that remains intact. We’ve reduced seven per cent of our budget so we’re still putting the largest investment into the community in the history of Calgary and what we’re removing is student housing,” said CEO of Calgary 2026 Mary Moran.She says by doing that they were able to cut $45 million off the original $620-million cost bringing the price tag to $575 million. The total number of units was originally 2,800, but now it’s 1,800.READ MORE: Olympic Oval needs upgrades regardless of 2026 OlympicsMoran says they were looking at possibly removing the bus barn in Victoria Park to make room but that has since changed.“We are still looking at the rivers district and we’re looking at a couple others and we’re in negotiation on those. The housing, that’s just for the athletes, but there’s housing for many workers whether they be part of the Olympic movement or contractors or security people that come into town. And that’s throughout the community.”READ MORE: Is Calgary’s sport legacy slipping away?The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it doesn’t think it’s fair for Calgarians to get funding from other levels of government on something like affordable housing on the condition of hosting a sporting event.
VANCOUVER — A new study by Canadian researchers shows that black bears need different species of salmon rather than huge numbers of them in a short period to be healthy.Lead author Christina Service says it is the equivalent of humans going to an all-you-can-eat buffet for just a couple of days versus having one good meal a day for many months.The PhD candidate from the University of Victoria says if bears have access to a portfolio of different salmon species, then they have access to more and better food for a longer period of the year.The team of researchers used chemical techniques on hair samples from black bears to estimate their salmon consumption, which showed population productivity and health.They studied animals across a 22,000-kilometre stretch along coastal British Columbia’s “Great Bear Rainforest,” in collaboration with the Wuikinuxv, Nuxalk, Heiltsuk and Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations.Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation Chief Councillor and study collaborator Douglas Neasloss says he is concerned that the federal government’s current salmon management focuses on large salmon runs and often ignores smaller runs that contribute to diversity.The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — The BC Centre on Substance Use is proposing a policy to sell legally regulated heroin as part of an urgent response to reduce opioid overdose deaths from a toxic drug supply that is profiting organized crime groups.It is recommending the use of so-called heroin compassion clubs and buyers clubs, similar to those that emerged in the 1980s and 90s to allow access to medical cannabis in response to the AIDS epidemic.“Then as now, compassion clubs functioned to provide a safe place for people to access medical cannabis and connect with a range of health services, while buyers clubs procured life-saving treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS when government inaction limited access to these medicines,” a report from the centre says. It also highlights independent reports that say organized crime groups have used Vancouver-area casinos to launder billions of dollars in cash from their proceeds of crime, including fentanyl trafficking, which Attorney General David Eby has said is troubling.Dr. Evan Wood, executive director of the centre, said an innovative approach to the overdose crisis is needed during a public health emergency declared in British Columbia nearly three years ago and to wage “economic war” on organized criminals benefiting from drug prohibition.The compassion clubs would involve a co-operative model through which powdered heroin would be restricted to members who have been assessed by a health-care provider as having an opioid addiction, provided education about not using alone and connected to treatment as part of a program involving rigorous evaluation, Wood said.“One of the big benefits of this model is that there’s just a massive chasm between where people buy their drugs and public health and treatment services and that’s the gap that so far in the opioid response has been very, very difficult to bridge with people using at home alone and dying of fentanyl overdoses.”The BC Coroners Service has said nearly 3,000 people fatally overdosed in the province in 2017 and 2018 alone, with illicit fentanyl detected in 85 per cent of the deaths last year.The heroin compassion-club model would require the approval of Health Canada, which could either provide an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for research or public health reasons or through another regulation that has allowed B.C. to import injectable pharmaceutical-grade heroin from Switzerland.That heroin has been in use since 2014 for a limited number of drug users being treated at the Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver.Wood said the idea for the compassion clubs came from a small group of people who banded together to buy heroin from dealers and test it to determine if it had been contaminated with fentanyl.“I’ve seen and talked to these individuals,” he said. “I’ve had a patient who had a transformative experience with using heroin instead of fentanyl and so it’s led us to sit around a room and say, ‘OK, maybe we need to have this conversation on regulating the heroin market.’ “Providing users with a regulated and legal supply of heroin would also ensure they get other supports including public health experts, treatment and pharmacy services, Wood said.Dean Wilson, a former heroin addict and peer-support worker for the BC Centre on Substance Use, said he started using heroin at age 13.“Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I hadn’t touched the stuff,” said Wilson, who’s been on treatment using the opioid methadone for over a decade.Wilson, 63, an author of the centre’s report, said he sold drugs and spent time in jail, including for property crimes, to feed his drug habit.A gram of heroin on the street costs between $140 to $200 and can last a couple of days, versus about $3.80 that users would pay for powdered heroin imported from Switzerland, he said.“That’s the thing people don’t realize, that if you had the same gram of heroin from the street you’re looking at about $6,000 a month. But everybody has to steal or generate almost $50,000 of stolen property to get that $6,000.”Erica Thomson, a peer support worker for Fraser Health who also contributed to the report, said she began using heroin at age 15 while growing up as a national competitive swimmer.She went through several treatment programs but repeatedly relapsed before starting her recovery eight years ago.“I think this is another way that we’re starting to stay alive because we’re not getting anything practical that reflects our realities available to us,” she said.Thomson said drug users don’t want to navigate organized crime groups to find a safe supply of heroin that compassion clubs would provide.“You can upscale addiction treatment all you want but addiction treatment isn’t the answer to a poisoned, unregulated, illicit drug market. Right now it’s really about stopping the bleed.”— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter. Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Glen Assoun’s lawyer says the wrongfully convicted Halifax man suffered “every single day” as he waited to be exonerated for a murder he didn’t commit — a wait that was prolonged for months as his case sat on former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s desk.David Lametti issued an order for a new trial on Feb. 28, just seven weeks after taking over as justice minister. The following day — after a five-minute new trial in which the prosecution presented no evidence — Assoun was a free man.He had spent almost 17 years in prison and another four and a half years under strict parole conditions after being convicted of the brutal 1998 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Brenda Way.Sean MacDonald — one of the lawyers for Innocence Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted and which spent years trying to prove Assoun’s innocence — declined to specifically discuss Wilson-Raybould’s handling of the case.But he said in an interview: “I can tell you this much, that Glen Assoun is 100 per cent factually innocent and he suffered every single day while he waited for his exoneration. I can say that Minister Lametti worked with dispatch to make sure that justice was done.”The Halifax Examiner first reported earlier this month that Wilson-Raybould sat for 18 months on the findings of the Justice Department’s criminal conviction review group, which recommended that a new trial be ordered for Assoun. Sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the Assoun case, which may yet be the subject of a public inquiry, have confirmed that report to The Canadian Press.During Assoun’s brief new trial on March 1, prosecutor Mark Scott referred to the “considerable period of time since the minister’s decision has been pending.”Wilson-Raybould herself did not confirm or deny a lengthy delay in dealing with Assoun’s case, but suggested it was just one of many potential wrongful conviction cases that landed on her desk.“It would be entirely inappropriate for me to comment on specific cases or applications made under the criminal conviction review process. … These applications are necessarily confidential in nature,” she said in an email this week to The Canadian Press.“As minister, I took potential wrongful conviction matters incredibly seriously. In order to deal with all such applications more thoroughly, effectively, and impartially, I appointed the Honourable Mr. Justice Morris Fish (a former Supreme Court justice) as special adviser on wrongful convictions in early December 2018. His role was designed to advise me — as minister — on applications under the criminal conviction review process, of which there were many.”However, before anything could come of that appointment for Assoun, Wilson-Raybould was moved to Veterans Affairs in a mid-January cabinet shuffle, replaced by Lametti, a former law professor. Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet a month later amid allegations she was improperly pressured last fall by the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene to stop a criminal prosecution of Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin on bribery charges related to contracts in Libya.Among the examples of what she considered inappropriate pressure, Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee last month that she was urged to solicit a second opinion — from someone like a retired Supreme Court justice — on whether SNC-Lavalin should be invited to negotiate a remediation agreement, a kind of plea bargain. She rejected the idea as interference with prosecutorial discretion.MacDonald said it’s not unusual for a justice minister to seek outside advice on cases in which a miscarriage of justice is alleged. Still, he said the criminal conviction review group at Justice is a “highly professional, specialized group” that spent five years meticulously investigating the Assoun case.Lametti acted swiftly on the group’s advice, saying in his order for a new trial that he had determined “upon investigation that there are new matters of significance, as well as relevant and reliable information, that was not disclosed to Mr. Glen Assoun during his criminal proceedings.” As a result of that investigation, Lametti said he is “satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred.”“It’s extraordinarily rare for a minister to make a positive, factual finding of misconduct in his or her order,” said MacDonald. “And I think that speaks to the level of egregiousness that this wrongful conviction has sort of achieved.”Lametti’s spokesperson, David Taylor, said the minister reviewed the Assoun file “shortly after being sworn-in” as justice minister.“The compelling facts of the case, as well as the health of Mr. Assoun, underscored the need for prompt consideration by the minister,” Taylor said.MacDonald questioned Wilson-Raybould’s suggestion that she had many potential wrongful conviction cases to deal with.“I wouldn’t think that there would be a great deal of applications being processed or reviewed by the criminal conviction review group,” he said.The group screens out the “vast majority” of applications that are deemed to have little merit. It fully investigates only those that appear to be likely or possible miscarriages of justice — “an ultra rare and exclusive club that very few Canadians, fortunately, have found themselves members in. It’s like a rare, albino rhinoceros,” he added.Whatever the reason for the delay in getting the ministerial order for a new trial, MacDonald said Assoun’s suffering was “a horrible thing to watch, in slow motion day by day.”Assoun was out of prison by then but under “unbelievably tight conditions.” He was required to live with his daughter, respect curfews and reporting requirements and, for a long period, had to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. And all the while, MacDonald said, Assoun “walked around with stigma” of being a convicted murderer.Since his exoneration four weeks ago, MacDonald said Assoun is “better but he’s still suffering from debilitating anxiety and post-traumatic stress.”“He’ll be damaged for the rest of his life, in my opinion.”Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The unofficial turnout shows nearly 70 per cent of Albertans voted in the provincial election — the highest in decades.Elections Alberta says about 2,615,000 people in Alberta were registered to vote.Deputy chief electoral officer Drew Westwater says the unofficial turnout was 69.9 per cent based on the numbers published by mid-afternoon Wednesday.He says that’s the highest it has been since at least the early 80s — voter turnout was 66 per cent in 1982.Melanee Thomas, associate professor of political science at the University of Calgary, says she expects the competitiveness of the election led people who normally don’t vote to cast their ballot.She says the fixed election date, which required the vote to be held between March 1 and May 31, could have also been a factor.The Canadian Press
FREDERICTON — Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques took time from his busy schedule on the International Space Station today to encourage young students to pursue science — telling them they are the future.Hundreds of students from across Canada are gathered in Fredericton this week for the 2019 Canada-Wide Science Fair at the University of New Brunswick.Saint-Jacques spoke to the students via a live video link and announced the two winners of the Little Inventors — Inventions for space contest.More than 3,000 students entered the contest, but Connor Brown from Acton, Ont., and Amy Claerhout of Beaumont, Alta., both Grade 7 students, were selected the winners.Brown designed different imprints for the bottom of space boots to identify the footprints of different astronauts on the moon or other planets, while Claerhout designed a mini Canadarm for the washroom on the space station to keep personal hygiene items from floating away.Both students said they would like to see their inventions put to use, and they plan to continue with their interest in science.The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal cabinet’s long-awaited decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is due Tuesday. Here are some other key dates in the history of the original project and Kinder Morgan Canada’s controversial efforts to expand its capacity:October 1953: The Trans Mountain pipeline begins shipping oil with an initial capacity of 150,000 barrels per day. The project initially features four pump stations along its 1,150-kilometre route and a marine dock that connects loading facilities on the east side of Edmonton with ocean tankers in Burnaby, B.C. It is expanded in 1957 and 2008 to eventually pump up to 300,000 barrels of oil per day.Feb. 21, 2012: Kinder Morgan Canada says it wants to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline after receiving support from oil shippers and will begin public consultations.Dec. 16, 2013: An application is made to the National Energy Board (NEB) to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. Construction is proposed to begin in 2017, with the aim of having oil flow through the expansion by December 2019.November 2014: More than 100 people are arrested after they camp out in a conservation area on Burnaby Mountain, east of Vancouver, to block crews from conducting drilling and survey work related to the pipeline expansion. Most of the charges are later dropped.August 2015: The NEB postpones public hearings after striking from the record economic evidence prepared by a Kinder Morgan consultant who was to begin working for the regulator.Jan. 27, 2016: The federal Liberal government says assessments of pipeline projects such as the Trans Mountain expansion will now take into account the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the extraction and processing of the oil they carry. Proponents will also be required to improve consultations with First Nations.May 17, 2016: Ottawa appoints a three-member panel to conduct an environmental review of the Trans Mountain expansion project.May 29, 2016: The NEB recommends approval of the pipeline, subject to 157 conditions, concluding that it is in the public interest.Nov. 29, 2016: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approves the Trans Mountain expansion, part of a sweeping announcement that also saw approval of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement, but the end of its Northern Gateway project.Jan. 11, 2017: B.C. Premier Christy Clark announces her support for the project, saying Kinder Morgan has met five government conditions including a revenue-sharing agreement worth up to $1 billion.May 25, 2017: Kinder Morgan makes its final investment decision to proceed with the development, now estimated to cost $7.4 billion, subject to the successful public offering of Kinder Morgan Canada.May 29, 2017: The B.C. NDP and Greens agree to form a coalition to topple the Liberal party, which could only manage a minority in the previous month’s provincial election. The parties agree to “immediately employ every tool available” to stop the project. The coalition defeats the B.C. Liberals in a confidence motion a month later, paving the way for John Horgan to become premier.Aug. 10, 2017: The B.C. NDP government hires former judge Thomas Berger to provide legal advice as it seeks intervener status in the legal challenges against the project filed by municipalities and First Nations.Dec. 7, 2017: NEB allows Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass Burnaby bylaws.Jan. 17, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada warns the Trans Mountain expansion project could be a year behind schedule.Jan. 30, 2018: B.C. government moves to restrict any increase in diluted bitumen shipments until it conducts more spill response studies, a move that increases the uncertainty for Trans Mountain.March 23, 2018: Green party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart are arrested at a protest against the pipeline expansion; Federal Court of Appeal dismisses a B.C. government bid challenging a NEB ruling that allows Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass local bylaws.April 8, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada suspends non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain expansion project and sets a May 31 deadline to reach agreements with stakeholders.May 29, 2018: Federal government announces deal to buy the pipeline and expansion project from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.5 billion.Aug. 30, 2018: The Federal Court of Appeal overturns the Trudeau government’s approval of the pipeline expansion. In a unanimous decision by a panel of three judges, the court says the NEB’s review of the project was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion.Sept. 15, 2018: Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi orders the NEB to undertake a new environmental assessment of the impact additional oil tankers off the coast of British Columbia will have, with a specific focus on the risks to southern resident killer whales. The NEB has until late February to report back.Sept. 26, 2018: The NEB assigns a new panel to run the hearings and sets deadlines for comments.Oct. 3, 2018: Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi hires former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee a new round of Indigenous consultations. No deadline is set for the completion of the process.Feb. 22, 2019: The NEB recommends to cabinet that it approve the project again, subject to 16 new conditions, and says although an oil spill could be significant, the project provides considerable benefits and there are measures that can be taken to minimize the effects. The federal cabinet has 90 days — until May 22 — to respond with a decision.Apr. 18, 2019: Sohi announces cabinet has decided to push the pipeline decision back until June 18 citing a need to take more time to complete Indigenous consultations.June 18, 2019: Federal Liberal government approves the expansion a second time, requiring that all federal revenue it generates be reinvested in clean energy and green technology, including an estimated $500 million a year in new annual corporate tax revenues and the proceeds from the sale of the entire expanded pipeline back to the private sector. The Canadian Press