Two Alberni teens missing, their truck found on fire - Canadanewsmedia
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Two Alberni teens missing, their truck found on fire



Two missing Port Alberni teens last seen near Dease Lake in northern B.C. were looking for work in Whitehorse or Alberta, family members say.

Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are considered missing after police found their vehicle on fire about 50 kilometres south of Dease Lake, a community of about 300, on Friday. A body of a dead man was discovered two kilometres away at a highway pullout. Police have confirmed the body is not that of either of the missing men.

RCMP aren’t ruling out a possible connection between the missing teenagers, the body discovered nearby and a double homicide last week on the Alaska Highway.

Schmegelsky’s grandmother, Carol Starkey, said McLeod and Schmegelsky left Port Alberni on July 12 to find work in Whitehorse. When they arrived in Whitehorse a few days later, they decided it wasn’t what they had expected. Starkey, who was last in touch with her grandson on July 13 or 14, isn’t sure what their plans were after that.

Schmegelsky had been living with his grandmother for the last two years. “He was a great kid. I really enjoyed having him,” she said.

Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, a media relations officer for the RCMP, said in a press conference Monday that it is unusual to have two simultaneous major crime investigations in northern B.C. She recommended “heightened vigilance and awareness” for anyone travelling in the area.

The missing men have not been in contact with their family for the last few days. They were last seen travelling south from the Super A general store in Dease Lake at about 3:15 p.m. on Thursday.

Police said it’s unclear what their travel plans were at the time they went missing.

Alan Schmegelsky, Bryer’s father, said the pair, best friends since elementary school, had been working night shifts at Walmart in Port Alberni to save money for the trip.

“They’re best friends who did everything together,” Schmegelsky said. “They even got jobs together at Walmart. They were just out on an adventure.”

Schmegelsky said he travelled to Port Alberni from his home in Victoria every other week to visit his son. He was on his way on July 12 when he received a message from Bryer saying he and McLeod were headed to Alberta and might not have Internet access for a while.

He said he assumed the two were heading to Red Deer, where Bryer’s cousins live. He has been trying to contact him every day since.

Schmegelsky described his son, who did not finish high school, as “a smart kid” who was into computer games, curious about his ancestry and just starting to become less introverted. Schmegelsky said neither Bryer nor Kam is violent or into drugs.

He said both Bryer and Kam love to play games that simulate war and involve hunting and camouflage. He thinks the instincts they learned from playing those games could help explain where they are now.

“These kids are smart,” he said. “If they sensed any kind of danger, they would have gone into the woods and hid. With no cellphones and no GPS, they probably got lost in the woods.”

Schmegelsky, who is separated from Bryer’s mother, said the last time he saw his son was on June 28, and he learned Bryer was missing when he saw a story in a newspaper.

“No one contacted me,” he said. “But they should have. I shouldn’t be sitting in Starbucks seeing my kid’s picture.”

He has since been in touch with an RCMP officer, who told him they were looking into whether there is a connection between this case and that of two tourists found dead on the side of the Alaska Highway.

The bodies of 23-year-old Australian Lucas Fowler and 24-year-old American Chynna Deese were found about 470 kilometres from the missing men’s burning vehicle on July 15. RCMP confirmed Monday the two were victims of gun violence.

RCMP are investigating the deaths, and have released a sketch of a man who was seen speaking to Fowler the day before the couple’s bodies were found. Police said they are interested in speaking to the man.

Dease Lake RCMP released a sketch of the man found dead close to the burning vehicle, and are working to identify him. He is estimated to be about 50 to 60 years old, and described as Caucasian and five foot eight inches to five foot 10 inches tall with a heavy build, grey hair and a grey, bushy beard.

McLeod and Schmegelsky were travelling in a red and grey Dodge pickup truck outfitted with a camper with the B.C. licence plate LW6433.

McLeod is described as six foot four and about 170 pounds. He has dark brown hair, brown eyes and facial hair. Schmegelsky is also six foot four and weighs about 170 pounds, according to RCMP, although his father said he is closer to 125 pounds.

RCMP are also investigating the disappearance of two Surrey men considered missing after their vehicle was found near Logan Lake, between Merritt and Kamloops. Ryan Provencher, 38, and Richard Scurr, 37, were last seen about 12:30 p.m. on July 17 in Surrey. They were driving a 2019 white Jeep Cherokee.

Anyone with information about the missing Port Alberni men is asked to call Dease Lake RCMP at 250-771-4111. Information about the identity of the deceased man can be shared with RCMP at 1-877-543-4822 or 778-290-5291.

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Twitter users voice opposition of UCP plan




UCP plan

Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) said if elected, schools will operate under rules for gay-straight alliances that were developed before the NDP came to power.

UCP leader Jason Kenney outlined his party’s education platform for the April 16 provincial election at the private Calgary Jewish Academy on Monday.

He said his government would proclaim the former Progressive Conservative government’s Education Act of 2014 to replace the NDP’s amended School Act.

The Education Act included a provision to allow gay-straight alliances — clubs meant to make LGBTQ kids feel safe and welcome — in schools if students wanted them.

“We support those as an opportunity for young people who might be facing harassment or bullying to get that peer support and so we will encourage schools to comply with that legislation,” Kenney said.

Albertans were quick to jump on Twitter to weigh in on the issue, using the hashtag #QueerkidsAB, which was trending across Canada on Monday and into Tuesday morning. Those opposing the UCP’s plan said it would harm LGBTQ students in Alberta.

Kristopher Wells, an associate professor who specializes in sexual minority issues at Edmonton’s MacEwan University, accused Kenney of taking a “back-door route” to undo progress the NDP has made on LGBTQ rights.

“This is an attack on LGBTQ rights in the province,” Wells said.

“It’s a move to undermine gay-straight alliances and has the ability to do real harm to LGBTQ students, who remain amongst one of the most vulnerable groups of students in our schools today.”

The New Democrats said at the time there were some loopholes in the Tory legislation that some schools were using to delay or deny students trying to set up the clubs. That’s why the NDP amended the School Act to take protections for LGBTQ students further.

A flashpoint of the NDP legislation was a prohibition on school officials telling parents if their kids joined the clubs. Last summer, a coalition of faith-based schools, parents and public interest groups lost a bid to have a judge put the law on hold until there is a ruling on its constitutionality.

Commenting on how a UCP government would deal with any pushback from religious schools on gay-straight alliances, Kenney said: “Our approach would be one of co-operation rather than one of confrontation.”

Kenney also said his party would ensure all sex education in the province covered the topic of consent.

Other planks of the United Conservative platform include lifting a cap on charter schools and requiring clear and understandable report cards.

Education funding would be maintained or increased, while at the same time, UCP will seek more efficiency. The NDP’s curriculum review which Kenney has previously threatened to put through “the shredder” if it strayed too far from learning fundamentals — would be put on hold to allow for broader consultations with parents, teachers and experts, Kenney said.

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Ontario’s government to Fund Municipalities




Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is giving municipalities “transitional funding” next year, even as the province downloads public health and child care costs onto cities.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement to a packed room of 2,000 mayors, councillors and policy advisors at the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa on Monday.

Ford said the funding will give municipalities more time to search for savings, while also helping protect “the future of public services.”

“So you can continue to deliver important services people rely on every day, including public health and child care,” Ford said in a mid-morning speech.

While Ford provided few details on the transitional funding, sources in the Premier’s office said the province is trying to limit the financial hit to municipalities, especially when it comes to public health.

The government will standardize the cost sharing arrangement of local public health units – the province will pay 70 per cent starting in 2020, while municipalities will carry 30 per cent of the burden.

However, government sources said if the public health costs borne by the municipalities were to rise by more than 10 per cent, the province would provide funding to offset the additional amount.

“It provides them more of a cushion for those changes,” the source said.

The costs of creating new child care spaces – currently fully bankrolled by the province – will also be split in 2020, with municipalities taking over 20 per cent, while the province pays the rest.

The government said that cost sharing agreement will eventually grow to a 50/50 split by 2021.

Downloading costs is a top concern for the representatives of 444 municipalities at the AMO conference, with many expressing apprehension about the net effect to their bottom lines.

“We’re a little nervous,” Jerry Smith, a councillor with the Township of Perth East, said.

“We’re not 100 per cent sure of what is going to happen, we’ve had so much downloaded to the municipalities.”

But, Ford stressed that the current fiscal situation of the province, which is carrying a $10.3 billion deficit, is his top priority.

“We can’t continue throwing money at the problem as our predecessors did into top-down, big government schemes,” Ford said.

“That is neither compassionate or sustainable.”

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Elections Canada warns climate change discussion could be partisan




OTTAWA — A pre-election chill has descended over some environment charities after Elections Canada warned them that discussing the dangers of climate change during the upcoming federal campaign could be deemed partisan activity.

An Elections Canada official warned groups in a training session earlier this summer that because Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has expressed doubts about the legitimacy of climate change, any group that promotes it as real or an emergency could be considered partisan, said Tim Gray, executive director of the advocacy group Environmental Defence.

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier speaks during a candidate nomination event for the upcoming federal by-election in the riding of Outremont in Montreal, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.

Any partisan activity — including advertising, surveys, or any kind of campaign costing at least $500 — would require a charity to register as a third party for the election, an onerous requirement that could jeopardize a group’s charitable tax status, Gray said.

It is “discouraging” that Environmental Defence and other charities may have to zip their lips about climate change being real during the campaign period “because one party has chosen to deny the existence of this basic fact,” he added.

“Obviously climate change is real,” said Gray. “Almost every credible institution on the planet is telling us to get our act together and do something about it.”

One party has chosen to deny the existence of this basic fact

Last fall, the United Nations climate change panel, made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world, said if the world doesn’t act faster to cut global emissions the planet will face irreversible and catastrophic consequences.

Five of the six political parties expected to have any chance of winning a seat in the upcoming campaign agree that climate change is real and caused by humans. Bernier, however, is the one outlier: he believes that if climate change is real, it is a natural cycle of the earth and not an emergency.

“The main reason for climate change, it is not human activity,” Bernier said Sunday in Gatineau, Que., where his party was holding its first convention.

“There is no climate change urgency in this country.” he said in a speech in June speech. He also disagrees that carbon dioxide, which experts say is responsible for three-quarters of greenhouse emissions globally, is bad.

“CO2 is not ‘pollution,”‘ he tweeted. “It’s what comes out of your mouth when you breathe and what nourishes plants.”

Because of that, Elections Canada is warning that any third party that promotes information about carbon dioxide as a pollutant or climate change as an emergency could be considered to be indirectly advocating against Bernier and his party. Activities can be considered partisan by Elections Canada even if they don’t mention a candidate or party by name, the agency’s rules say.

An Elections Canada spokesman confirmed “such a recommendation would be something we would give.”

Gray says the impact is stifling the conversation about climate change at a critical time.

“At this point, unless I can get greater clarification, after the writ is dropped we would stop doing anything online that talks about climate change, which is our entire mandate,” he said. “You feel you’re being drawn into this space where you’re being characterized as being a partisan entity for putting up Facebook ads that say climate change is real, which seems ridiculous to me.”

Environment groups in Canada are still on edge after spending much of the last five years fighting against the Canada Revenue Agency accusations and worry that if Elections Canada accuses them of being partisan, it will attract another round of audits for partisan activity. Gray said the two may have different definitions of partisan, but the fear is still having a chilling effect.

“We need to ensure that we’re not saying things that are going to be considered to be illegal by Elections Canada.”

Climate change is a scientific fact

It doesn’t mean Gray is forbidden from giving interviews about climate change during the campaign, he said. Rather, it would affect any kind of activity the group undertakes that costs more than $500, such as a Facebook ad campaign.

In 2012, the former Conservative government unveiled a $13-million audit program to seek out charities the Conservatives alleged were abusing their tax status with partisan activities. The probes went after two dozen environment, human rights, anti-poverty and religious groups — none of them considered partisan — for going beyond a rule that limited their spending to no more than 10 per cent of their funding on political advocacy work.

The program was launched as the Conservatives called many environment groups “radical” and a “threat” to Canada.

The Liberals promised to end what they called a “witch hunt” against any civil society groups that opposed the government’s policies. It took more than three years, but eventually legislation was changed last year to lift the 10 per cent limitation. The non-partisan rule, however, remains.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, called the Elections Canada warning “shocking.”

“Climate change is a scientific fact,” she said. “It’s not an opinion.”

The situation is “contributing to ongoing confusion” about what environment charities can and cannot do, and will give fuel to pro-oil groups that want to silence their opponents, Abreu added.

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