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Justin Trudeau reminds Canadians what’s worth being angry about

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First, a confession: A few weeks ago, I lied on the CBC’s At Issue panel — or, at least, I delivered a partial truth. Asked by host Ian Hanomansing whether the SNC-Lavalin affair made me angry, I answered that I don’t do anger because it gets in the way of thinking clearly.

That was true as far as the crisis that has been dominating Canadian politics is concerned.

Over the six weeks of the SNC-Lavalin saga, I have been curious as to its root cause and saddened by the deterioration of the relationship between the prime minister and two of the talented women he recruited in the last election.

I have also been somewhat bewildered by the fact that those who seem to have arrived at the unshakable conclusion that Justin Trudeau is guilty of mortal sins against the justice system have often been the most vociferous in arguing that Canadians do not yet have all the facts they need to make up their minds.

But this week, for the first time, I did feel real anger and, notwithstanding my answer on the CBC, this column is partly written in anger.

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I was a junior radio news editor in the Toronto newsroom of Radio-Canada when I first heard about the mercury poisoning of the Indigenous communities of Grassy Narrows and White Dog.

The story surfaced in the early 1970s, a time when Canada was still relatively innocent about damages to the environment. Ontario’s ministry of the environment was only a few years old, and the federal government would not have a stand-alone department until the end of that decade.

The notion that entire communities could be contaminated with a deadly poison because of air they breathed, the water they drank or, in this case, the fish they depended on for food, was foreign to many of us.

The Japanese though already had a name for what ailed the two Northwestern Ontario communities. They called it Minamata disease from the name of the bay whose mercury-contaminated waters had devastated the health of the communities that fished them.

When Japanese experts first visited Grassy Narrows and Whitedog and found evidence that a similar health crisis was underway, then-Ontario Natural Resources minister Leo Bernier dismissed them as “Japanese troubadours.”

More than 40 years have elapsed since the July morning when I edited reports about the mercury contamination of the English-Wabigoon river system. I am confounded by the notion that the issue is as alive today as it was then, and by what that says about how this country fails its Indigenous peoples.

Canada has had more than half-a-dozen prime ministers since the situation came to light under Pierre Trudeau’s government, and more than 20 ministers of the environment and Indian Affairs.

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Over the same period, Ontario has been governed by parties of three political stripes, including some who professed deep commitments to the environment and/or to the welfare of the First Nations.

And still those Indigenous communities struggle with the consequences of mercury poisoning and have to fight for every inch of government help they get.

For years, they were told the river would eventually clean itself. It did not.

It was only two years ago that a medical centre was promised to the community.

The CBC and the Star, to name just two media organizations, have devoted journalistic resources to document and keep this story in the public eye for decades.

And so, when the prime minister — with the general approval of the well-heeled party donors he was rewarding with his presence on Wednesday night — sarcastically dismissed an Indigenous rights activist who had paid her way into his fundraising venue to call his attention to the enduring plight of the people of Grassy Narrows, his performance was beyond words.

Trudeau did not even have the excuse — used by leader of the opposition Andrew Scheer to explain why he let patently false assertions connecting Hillary Clinton to a child sex ring stand at a recent town hall — of not having heard the protest or known what it was about.

The demonstrator unfurled a banner in his face.

Trudeau’s behaviour was out of character. He has since apologized publicly.

Read more:

Trudeau apologizes for sarcastically dismissing Grassy Narrows demonstrators at Liberal fundraiser in Toronto

His put-down could be construed as a symptom of the impact the SNC-Lavalin affair is having on his performance. There is no doubt the prime minister has increasingly looked anchorless over the course of the ongoing crisis.

Trudeau coupled his apology with a commitment to turn more of his attention to the Grassy Narrows predicament. Maybe he will. But he is hardly the first to make promises.

Would it make a difference if we expended as much energy on keeping his feet to that fire as we have on pursing every SNC-Lavalin angle? I don’t know.

But I am somewhat thankful to the prime minister for having reminded me that some matters are more worth being profoundly angry about than others.

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Pedestrian killed by car in Surrey

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One person has died after being struck by a car on Saturday night in the Newton neighbourhood of Surrey, B.C.

RCMP say a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle around 10:34 p.m, near the busy intersection of 152 Street and Highway 10.

Police say the pedestrian was pronounced dead on scene.

Evidence markers dotted Highway 10 for several dozen metres west of the intersection where a white car sat with front end damage.

The intersection was closed to traffic overnight while collision analysts examined the scene.

Police have not announced any details on what caused the crash.

Anyone who witnessed the collision, saw the vehicle beforehand, or has dash camera footage of the incident is asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

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Mississauga mayor statement after shooting in the city

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The mayor of Mississauga, Ont., says she’s “shocked and saddened” after a teenage boy was killed and five other people were wounded when gunfire erupted in the city west of Toronto on Saturday evening.

Bonnie Crombie called the incident a “senseless act of gun violence” and says her thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families.

Peel Regional Police Chief Chris McCord said at a news conference late Saturday night that according to witnesses, multiple suspects unleashed a barrage of gunfire from semi-automatic weapons near a parkette behind an apartment building at around 6:20 p.m.He said a 17-year-old old boy died at the scene and that five others – a 13-year-old, a 16-year-old, two 17-year-olds and a woman in her 50s – were injured.

McCord said one of the wounded was in serious condition and that the other four suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

No suspect information has been released as officers continued to canvass the area for surveillance footage and police are asking anyone with information on the shooting to come forward.

Crombie thanked first responders who rushed to the scene and she says she hopes to take action in response to the shooting.

“As a member of the police board, I am committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by working to get illegal guns off our streets,” said Crombie in a statement.

McCord has said that “a lot” of shell casings were found scattered over a wide area and that several vehicles were hit by the gunfire.

He said it’s early in the investigation and that many questions about the incident remained unanswered, including the motive, whether the victims were targeted and whether the shooting was gang related.

A music video was being filmed near the scene of the shooting, but McCord said he didn’t know if it was in any way linked to the case.

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Police seeking 7 suspects in shooting in Mississauga

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A 17-year-old boy who was killed in a shooting in Mississauga on Saturday night was an innocent victim, Peel Regional Police say.

Peel Police Chief Chris McCord told reporters on Sunday that investigators believe there were seven shooters involved in gunfire that injured four other teens and a woman in her 50s in a parkette behind an apartment complex.

The shooting occurred on Darcel Avenue near Dunrankin Drive, in the area of Morning Star and Goreway Drive. Police were called to the scene at 6:22 p.m.

Officers have recovered more than 100 shell casings at the crime scene.

McCord said police also believe the shooting was motivated by a rap music video that was filmed in the parkette and released last week.

The teen boy, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene. The five injured people — a 13-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, and two 17-year-old boys — were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police say one of the injured people has been released from hospital and the remaining four are in stable condition

McCord said some of the injured are also believed to be innocent victims.

He said the shooting occurred as people in the parkette were setting up to shoot a music video and an ice cream truck was nearby.

No one is in custody, no suspects have been identified and officers are reviewing security camera video.

Police believe the shooters used semi-automatic weapons, but none of those weapons have been recovered.

Mayor says she is ‘deeply shocked’ by shooting

On Sunday morning, police canvassed the neighbourhood, knocking on doors in the hopes of finding witnesses and security camera video.

Officers also sent out a drone to obtain an aerial view of the crime scene and brought in a metal detector to scan for stray bullets in the grass.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a statement Sunday that her thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

“I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear of this senseless act of gun violence in our city, it’s simply unacceptable. I urge anyone with information to contact police immediately,” Crombie said.

“As a member of the police board, I am committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by working to get illegal guns off our streets.”

Crombie also thanked Peel police and paramedics who “swiftly” went to the scene.

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