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Trudeau government suggests most Canadian marijuana users and employees won't face problems at US border

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WASHINGTON – The Canadian government does not think legal marijuana users, workers and investors will face widespread problems crossing into the United States despite a U.S. warning that they will continue to risk being barred, a Canadian spokesperson suggested on Friday.

Senior U.S. border official Todd Owen told the website Politico that the U.S. will not do anything to accommodate Canada’s imminent marijuana legalization. Owen said Canadians who earn money from the industry or consume its products will still face the possibility of being deemed inadmissible.

“We don’t recognize that as a legal business,” said Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the office of field operations.

But border officers have considerable discretion, and they do not ask most travellers about their drug use or their occupation. A spokesperson for Bill Blair, the Canadian minister of border security, suggested that the government does not expect large-scale U.S. hassling after legalization takes effect on Oct. 17.

A spokesperson for Bill Blair, the Canadian minister of border security, suggested that the government does not expect large-scale U.S. hassling after legalization takes effect on Oct. 17.

The government did not offer any criticism of the U.S. policy. Blair’s office, like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself earlier in the week, suggested that the government would not lobby the U.S. for changes — though Blair’s office did not say this directly.

“The United States has the sovereign jurisdiction to deal with people crossing the border into their country, just as we have the same powers for those entering into Canada,” the spokesperson said.

The Star contacted 15 Canadian companies in the cannabis industry on Thursday and Friday. In an indication of industry concern about the policy, only one person was willing to speak on the record.

Terry Lake, the former B.C. Liberal health minister who is now a vice-president at cannabis company HEXO Corp., said the issue has been “largely overblown.” He said he has crossed the border without incident since he joined the industry.

“I haven’t heard of this being widespread,” Lake said. “So I don’t think there’s any sort of systematic approach by the U.S. border services to target people. I think it very much is an individual situation, that the individual officer makes a judgment call.”

There are a smattering of known cases in which Canadians with ties to the U.S. legal marijuana industry have been given lifetime bans. They include venture capitalist Sam Znaimer and executives of a B.C. agricultural equipment company.

Any admission of past drug use makes someone “inadmissible to the United States,” a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a Friday email, and “working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry… may affect a foreign national’s admissibility to the United States.”

But border officers do not ask most travellers about their drug use or their occupation.

“It’s definitely on people’s radars, but you have to realize there are scores of Canadians coming in and out of the U.S. in this industry on a weekly basis, and the number of incidents we’ve heard about is very minimal,” said Chris Walsh, founding editor and vice-president of Denver-based Marijuana Business Daily.

Others connected to the industry remain uneasy, partly because the U.S. government has refused to provide clarity about what kind of investment or employment in a cannabis company might get someone barred. Such companies are publicly traded on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges.

A Canadian lawyer who advises these companies would only speak on condition of anonymity to avoid producing more Google results connecting the lawyer to the industry. Before a recent family vacation in the U.S., the lawyer “scrubbed” their phone and tablet of information about their work.

“I’m worried that I will be subject to a ban,” the lawyer said. “I can’t give them any other ways to find me than they already can.”

Despite their view that there have not been major problems to date, both Walsh and Lake said it would be ideal if the Canadian government could convince the U.S. government to provide legal assurances to people in the industry.

“That would be very helpful for all of us, and take away some uncertainty. But again, until we see it become a widespread issue, there’s probably little incentive on their part to do that,” Lake said.

Pressed on whether they would seek any U.S. changes, the Blair spokesperson said: “Officials have discussed the changes to our cannabis laws in virtually every conversation that they have with their American counterparts, including the previous and current Secretary of Homeland Security. We want to make sure that the United States fully understands how we are changing the law and the reasoning behind it.”

In a CBC interview on Tuesday, Trudeau said he “certainly won’t” try to “impress upon the U.S. who they have to let in or not.”

Owen told Politico that officers would not begin to ask every Canadian about marijuana use. They might ask, Owen said, if “other questions lead there,” or “if there is a smell coming from the car,” or if a dog detects marijuana residue.

Canadian marijuana users who are asked about their drug use can choose to remain silent rather than offering an admission. Their silence may get them turned away that day but may help them avoid a permanent ban.

Asked what advice the government would give legal users, the Blair spokesperson said: “Although the possession of cannabis is legal in some U.S. states, cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law. Canadians who wish to enter the United States or any other country have to adhere to its laws. Previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by U.S. federal laws, could mean that you are denied entry to the U.S. Involvement in the legal cannabis industry in Canada could also result in your being denied entry.”

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8

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Quebec election: Climate change becomes focus of party rivals in Gatineau

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It’s important to put politics aside to show support for victims of the tornado in Gatineau, François Legault says.


Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault cut short a visit to Ste-Anne-des-Plaines and cancelled a scheduled visit to the Eastern Townships on Saturday afternoon to visit Gatineau.


Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

GATINEAU — Two of the five worst rainstorms in 90 years, the worst floods on record and, on Friday evening, a tornado — this western Quebec town has seen all four in less than 18 months.

For Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin the cause is clear: climate change.

“Are we going to take this threat seriously? It’s not a theory, it’s people who are displaced, people who suffered, people who have lost everything,” Pedneaud-Jobin said on Saturday. “In Gatineau, we’ve suffered a lot, we’re continuing to suffer and one of the main sources of that, it’s clear, is climate change.”

Standing beside Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Massé and François Legault, the Coalition Avenir Québec leader, it was the second time in a few hours the mayor had appeared alongside two rivals for the premiership of Quebec who had temporarily put aside their difference to show their support for the tornado-ravaged community.

“It’s important for citizens that are going through very tough times to understand that all the leaders are together,” Pedneaud-Jobin said said of the visits. “I think it’s a show of solidarity and it does count when you’re going through tough times. It’s also an occasion to speak about real problems that will need real solutions in the future.”

Earlier in the day, it was Parti Québecois Leader Jean-François Lisée and Philippe Couillard — who temporarily suspended his campaign to act more as premier than Liberal leader — who visited victims of the storm.

By 4:30 p.m., the mayor said, the majority of people who had been displaced by the tornado, and spent the night in a temporary shelter in a CEGEP, were in the process of returning to their homes. While many would be returning to broken windows and rooms still without electricity, the buildings were at least structurally sound, Pedneaud-Jobin said.

For those whose homes were damaged, it could take much longer, he said.

The area most affected by the storm is a poorer one, Pedneaud-Jobin added.

The next step, according to Legault, is to compensate victims.

“We’re talking about many poor people and they may have lost all the assets that they’ve built in their life, so it’s important that they know as fast as possible how much will they get back from the government,” he said.

For Massé, it has to go further than money — community support is needed for the victims, she said, many of whom are new arrivals and may have lost everything all over again.

“For me, it’s very important to be here all together, to show solidarity, but also at the same time to acknowledge we have problems with climate change and we have to do something,” she said.

Legault also talked about showing support for the community.

“It’s not the time for politics,” Legault said earlier in the day. “It’s important that we’re all united today behind the premier.”

The CAQ leader said he also sees a connection between extreme weather and climate change.

“There have always been tornadoes, but it’s obvious that now, because of climate change, there are more extreme events,” Legault said.

However, one CAQ candidate, Éric Girard told HuffPost Québec he isn’t sure about the link between extreme weather events, including heat waves, and human-caused climate change. According to the article, which was published on Monday, Girard describes himself as a “climate skeptic.”

“He said we cannot attribute one specific happening to this but, clearly, we see the numbers, it’s clear that the climate change increased the kind of situation we see here today,” Legault said.

For Legault, the largest contribution Quebec can play to fighting climate change is exporting hydro power — which will allow for the shutdown of coal and oil plants in other party of North America.

“There’s no wall,” he said. “We’re all on the same planet.”

But while Legault has called for more electricity exports from Quebec, he has opposed the Apuiat wind farm on Quebec’s North Shore.

He said Quebec needs to sign more export agreements — and build transmission infrastructure — before it builds additional power-generation facilities, adding a dam can store energy in a way a wind farm can’t.

Legault’s climate plan has faced criticism from other parties.

“We have a credible plan to fight global warming. And the parties that don’t are on the wrong side of history,” Lisée said.

Before heading to Gatineau, Legault met with the mayor of Laval and other mayors from Montreal’s North Shore,

In Laval, Legault was scheduled to talk with local mayors about transportation — he wants to expand the Réseau express métropolitain train network in Laval and extend Highway 19. Legault has called for the expansion of other highways and the building of a third connection — a bridge or tunnel — between Quebec City and Lévis.

Massé said politicians can’t talk about fighting climate change and expanding highways at the same time.

“It’s clear that it’s incompatible, except for questions of safety and I don’t think that’s the main reason Mr. Legault wants to extend highways,” Massé said.

She said her party’s climate plan isn’t about winning the provincial election, it’s about saving the planet.

Christopher Curtis contributed to this story.

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'WAR SCENE': Capital region still reeling after intense tornado rips through

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OTTAWA — Parts of Canada’s national capital were still reeling Saturday after a powerful tornado carved paths of destruction through residential neighbourhoods — snapping huge trees, tossing cars and obliterating homes along its way.

The tornado inflicted heavy damage late Friday as it churned across pockets of Ottawa’s west and south ends, as well as densely populated sections of the neighbouring Quebec city of Gatineau.

The storm’s bite continued to be felt across a wide swath of the region many hours later, with more than 150,000 customers still without power Saturday afternoon. Hydro Ottawa CEO Bryce Conrad compared the magnitude of the damage to the power grid to the debilitating ice storm of 1998.

The human toll was also significant. Authorities said dozens of people suffered injuries, however there were no reports of fatalities or of missing people.

The Ottawa Hospital tweeted that two people were in critical condition, one was in serious condition and two others were stable. Officials established shelters for those who couldn’t return home and they said crisis counselling would be available.

On the north side of the Ottawa River, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said more than 700 of his citizens were impacted by the storm and about 100 people took refuge in a shelter Friday night at a local college. More than 215 buildings suffered damage or were destroyed in his city — affecting a total of 1,686 housing units, he added.

In areas lashed by the tornado, scenes of the havoc were everywhere. The winds tore the roofs from numerous large buildings, bounced large sections of metal bleachers across soccer fields, knocked over hydro poles and cracked thick trees like twigs.

“It looked like it was something from a movie scene or a war scene,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told reporters Saturday recalling what he saw in the area of Dunrobin, where some 60 buildings were wiped out or partially destroyed.

“Literally, it looks like some bomb was dropped from the air.”

Much of Dunrobin, a semi-rural community about 35 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa, remained cordoned off by police Saturday afternoon.

It was eerily quiet inside the police perimeter of one of Dunrobin’s most-damaged neighbourhoods — and only a few trees were still standing. Personal items were strewn everywhere — a baby blanket, a life jacket, mattresses, lawn mowers, a fridge, a kitchen sink lying on the grass and even a love seat wrapped around a telephone pole.

A car, windows shattered, lay on its side in front of a house. Fluffy, pink insulation — sucked out of ravaged homes — covered the neighbourhood.

Looking at one house, the blue sky could be seen through an open door. Its roof had vanished.

Some houses had nothing left at all and lay flat on the ground, covering their vehicles.

Officials warned people not to re-enter their homes until they had been deemed safe as firefighters went door-to-door to determine whether structures were still sound. In Dunrobin, authorities said many buildings that had emerged from the tornado partially intact would likely have to be torn down.

Conrad informed people in the Ottawa area to brace for a multi-day power outage following what he described as a “cascading failure” of hydro resources.

“Last night’s storm was devastating to our electrical infrastructure, arguably as bad if not worse than the ice storm in 1998,” Conrad told reporters.

He said there were 200 separate outages across the Hydro Ottawa network and 147,000 customers without power. Hydro Ottawa only serves some of the people left without power because of the tornado.

To put it into perspective, Conrad said the electrical load that comes into Ottawa on any given day this time of year is about 1,000 megawatts. The storm took away about 400 megawatts from the supply.

“That’s what we’re working with — that’s why we are dark,” he said, listing off communities around the western, southern and some central parts of Ottawa.

Environment Canada confirmed Saturday that indeed a tornado struck the capital region. Meterologist Simon Legault said there was evidence of powerful winds between 180 and 220 kilometres per hour, which would correspond with an EF2 category tornado.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a statement Saturday on the tornado.

“On behalf of the government of Ontario, I want to tell the people of Ottawa that my thoughts are with them as they work to recover from the tornado and storm that impacted the Ottawa area yesterday; especially to the people of Dunrobin who saw immense damage to their homes and community,” said Ford, who also thanked first responders and hydro crews.

In Gatineau, leaders of major political parties took a pause from the province’s ongoing election campaign to visit areas walloped by the tornado.

Setting aside their political differences, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard and Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee visited one of the most devastated parts of Gatineau together. Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault and Manon Masse, a co-spokesperson for Quebec solidaire, were scheduled to arrive in the area later Saturday.

“It’s so surprising and terrible to see the disaster the way it struck the homes,” said Couillard, as he toured Pontiac, Que.

Couillard added he was moved when he heard a story about a man in the community who had built his house with his own hands.

“And it’s completely vanished, almost completely vanished.”

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'It's like a war zone': Ottawa power outages could last for days

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Ottawa officials also said there had been six ‘traumatic’ injuries in Ottawa, in addition to 25 minor injuries reported so far

Power outages caused by a tornado and vicious storm that tore through this region could take days to resolve, say officials with the city of Ottawa.

The outages are being compared to those witnessed in this area during the infamous 1998 ice storm.

“It will not be hours. It could be days,” Mayor Jim Watson said Saturday at city hall, where top city officials provided a briefing.

“There are no fatalities, I’m pleased to report. There are no reports of missing persons.”

Six people suffered traumatic injuries because of the storm. Five of them were from the Dunrobin area and taken by paramedics to hospital. One person was transported from the Craig Henry community near Hunt Club and Greenbank Roads. The Ottawa Hospital said Saturday that two of the patients were in critical condition, one was listed and serious and two were in stable condition. Twenty-five others received less-serious injuries.

On Saturday afternoon, 137,000 Hydro Ottawa customers and 2,000 Hydro One customers were without power in the City of Ottawa. (Here is Hydro Ottawa’s service update page  giving status of outages and estimated restoration.) Hydro-Quebec, meanwhile, said it had 114,000 customers in the dark, noting the regions hardest hit had been the Outaouais, Laurentides and Abitibi.

Power was returning gradually in pockets across the city late Saturday afternoon and was restored at the Civic Hospital after 4 p.m.

By the afternoon, the city of Gatineau had begun an organized return for about two-thirds of displaced residents. Firefighters and engineers had determined that most of the buildings in the hardest hit area of Gatineau, north and west of the intersection of Lucien-Braille and the Gatineau Autoroute, were safe, even though they were still without power. The water service there, though, was said to be fine. Residents were being asked asked to register at the emergency centre before boarding buses to travel to the buildings. Officials said the buses were expected begin at 3 p.m. and expect the operation to last four or five hours.

Meanwhile, in the light of day, the scale of the damage done was revealed, from roof-less buildings in Gatineau to flattened homes in Dunrobin, to the tree- and branch-strewn properties around Ottawa.

Firefighters climbed over downed trees to get into homes to check on residents in Nepean’s devastated Arlington Woods neighbourhood.

Dozens of 100-year-old white pines were snapped like matchsticks and trees had crashed through roofs, windows and on cars.

“It is like a war zone,” said Parry Patton who lives in the neighbourhood and was looking in on a friend’s damaged home.

At one home on Parkland Crescent, a tree pushed through the front window into the living room.

Nearby, a section of Greenbank Road remained closed where utility poles snapped in half, in one case, sandwiching a truck and a car underneath.

Premier Doug Ford said in a statement he would be visiting the capital Sunday.

“I want to tell the people of Ottawa that my thoughts are with them as they work to recover from the tornado and storm that impacted the Ottawa area yesterday, especially to the people of Dunrobin who saw immense damage to their homes and community,” he said. “I especially want to thank the first responders and hydro crews who have been working around the clock to help people.”

“I’ve told my officials that the provincial government will provide whatever resources are required to support Ottawa as they work to recover.”

Bryce Conrad, the president and CEO of Hydro Ottawa, underscored the magnitude of the damage to the local power system.

“Last night’s storm was devastating to our electrical infrastructure, arguably as bad, if not worse, than the ice storm in 1998,” Conrad said.

A major portion of the power outages relate to a loss of supply from the provincial electrical grid coming in through Hydro One, Conrad said. A Merivale transformer station owned by Hydro One has been crippled.

“It will take multiple days to restore that station. When that station comes back online, power will flow. In the meantime, we are working to try to redirect power to try to restore power where we can, but that transformer station is a problem for us at the moment.”

Damage to Hydro One’s power grid was “extensive and widespread” across the province, Hydro One spokeswoman Alicia Sayer said.
“This our biggest challenge and it could be several days before power is fully restored to Ottawa and surrounding communities,” she said.

Click here for complete tornado coverage

Hydro One can reroute power, but most of Ottawa’s power will still have to go through the Merivale station, she said.
“Our crews are still assessing damage and looking at what needs to be done to make the repairs.”

Hydro Ottawa needs that Hydro One station to power other Hydro Ottawa stations so that communities can get their power back.

“It is the top priority for Hydro One. It is our top priority. We will actually allocate our resources to help restore that transformer station as quickly as we possible can because it is a cascading thing,” Conrad said.

On top of that, there are between 80 and 90 hydro poles down across Cedarview, Greenbank, Meadowlands and Albion Road. Crews are working on restoring those polls.

Conrad asked for the city’s patience as hydro workers try to restore power. The expectation is power will come on in communities at different points in time, he said.

Amid the outages Saturday, there were long lines at some of the gas stations and restaurants that were open.

At Drummond’s Gas on Bank Street, customers were bringing portable cans for generators and the like.

One man said he’d run out of gas right at the entrance. He had been driving for an hour and 10 minutes from Barrhaven.


Drummond’s on Bank Street.

Bruce Deachman /

Postmedia

Watson said MPP Lisa MacLeod and MP Catherine McKenna have offered support but the city doesn’t require help from the other levels of government at this time.

The mayor said the city doesn’t require any volunteers in the storm-damaged areas, since they are well-staffed with city emergency services. Later this weekend, the city will have a contact number for residents to make donations.

Watson toured the Dunrobin tornado site Friday.

“You could see that it looked like it was something from a movie scene or a war scene,” Watson said. “Literally, dozens and dozens, my understanding is 60 buildings, destroyed or partially destroyed in the Dunrobin area.”

Residents in Dunrobin needing shelter can go to West Carleton High School on Dunrobin Road.

In the Hunt Club-Riverside area, there’s an emergency reception area at the Canterbury Recreation Centre on Arch Street.

The city is working on establishing a welcome centre in Knoxdale-Merivale ward.

The centres will remain open for as long as they’re needed, Watson said.

Watson said the hardest-hit areas include Dunrobin, Craig Henry, Arlington Woods, the Hunt Club-Riverside area and the Paul Anka-McCarthy area.


Cleanup continues following a tornado in Dunrobin, Ont., west of Ottawa, on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. The storm tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines in the Ottawa community of Dunrobin and in Gatineau, Que.

Justin Tang /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Knoxdale-Merivale Keith Egli said it’s going to be difficult to get updates to residents without electricity.

“The difficulty is people having no power, nobody has old-school radios, your phone might not be working, your internet might not be working, but we’ll continue to put out information as best we can. I’ll be on the street talking to people and passing it on as well,” Egli said.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said extra police resources were called in where the power was out. Extra police presence will continue throughout the outage.

Pierre Porier, head of emergency management, encouraged people to stock up on supplies if they’re able to. There will be information from the city about what services remain available. Services in the downtown and east-end of the city are still available, he said.


A tree crashed into the kitchen of the home of Jolene Dickson and Jason Nicholson near Kinburn.

Joanne Laucius, Postmedia /

OTTwp

Firefighters are going door-to-door assessing building damage in storm-affected areas.

The city says people can call 311 for any information they need. In the event of life-threatening situations, people should call 911.

The O-Train is not running. A replacement Route 2 bus service has been activated.

In the aftermath of the storm, dramatic images and stories were emerging.

This video was taken by a Gatineau resident:

The Redblacks said this afternoon’s game would go ahead as planned.

With files from Blair Crawford and Elizabeth Payne, Norm Provencher

More to come . . .

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