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Arop, Shukla win 800-metre titles at track and field trials

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MONTREAL – Reigning world champion Marco Arop met the Olympic standard on Saturday in winning the men’s 800-metre final at the Bell Track and Field Trials at Claude-Robillard Sports Complex.

Arop, with the Running Room Alberta team, won the race in 1:43.71, finishing ahead of Zakary Mama-Yari (1:46.59) and Matti Erickson (1:46.79).

Jazz Shukla of Toronto met the Olympic standard in winning the women’s 800-metre final in 1:58.20. Aurora Rynda was second (2:02.03) and Addy Townsend was third (2:03.15).

Craig Thorne won the men’s 100-metre hurdles in 13.65, while Mariam Abdul-Rashid won the women’s 100-metre hurdles in 12.83.

Christopher Morales won the men’s 400-metre final in 45.44, and Zoe Sherar took the women’s 400-metre final in 51.25, just beating Lauren Gale (51.35) to the finish line.

Competition continues Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Saturday, June 29, 2024.

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As N.S. jail death toll mounts, father grieves son and calls for corrections reform

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HALIFAX – A memorial plaque with a laser-etched image of Christopher Young wearing a Santa hat sits on a shelf at his father’s Halifax home.

“That’s how I’ll always remember my son, as a happy guy,” said Gerry Young, 61.

However, the grieving parent said his 33-year-old son’s suicide on April 26 — the fifth of six deaths in Nova Scotia jails in the past 18 months — should be remembered as an example of how the provincial corrections system is failing to protect inmates’ lives.

“I guarantee you this could have been prevented,” he said during a recent interview in his home. Young said his son had tried and failed to kill himself years ago at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility — commonly known as Burnside jail, where five of the deaths have occurred. Staff at the facility should have been on alert for a repeat attempt to hang himself, Young said.

Christopher had been readmitted to the jail shortly before his suicide, after he violated parole conditions for theft and shoplifting convictions.

“Given he was just re-incarcerated I think they should have had him in one of those cells where they put people who are in danger of hurting themselves,” Young said.

After the deaths of Christopher and five other Nova Scotia inmates since January 2023, advocacy groups are calling for deep reforms to the provincial system.

In March, the East Coast Prison Justice Society held a series of panels calling for such things as open and mandatory inquiries into all jail deaths; supports for Indigenous and Black inmates; and improved mental-health and substance-abuse treatment both in jails and in the community.

Its annual report — dedicated to the six dead inmates — says the province must also end the use of prolonged isolation of inmates during staff shortages. Letters obtained by The Canadian Press written by Richard Murray, an inmate who took his own life on Jan. 17 at the Burnside jail, linked his growing distress to the confinements, which he called “the four walls of hell.”

The Progressive Conservative government says it’s committed to improving conditions in the corrections system, pointing to increased staffing at the jails, and a new review committee chaired by the medical examiner, who is charged with looking into deaths in custody. Barbara Adams, the minister of Justice, said after a recent cabinet meeting that the deaths are “tragic,” but that changes have been made to address the concerns over inmate health care.

“Nova Scotia Health is responsible for ensuring that those being admitted to facilities do get assessed by health-care professionals,” she said. She added that inmates “get the health care they need if they should exhibit any suicidal thoughts or behaviours.”

Adams said she’ll look to the recommendations from the review committee chaired by the province’s medical examiner to see if further measures are needed.

However, family members of deceased inmates and advocates say the inquiries into the deaths have been behind closed doors, and that the public is being given almost no details on the circumstances of what occurred in each case. For example, when the Justice Department announced Young’s death, it said only, “he succumbed to his injuries,” leaving out whether he died because of negligence, suicide, violence or untreated health issues.

By contrast, in Ontario a mandatory inquest is held when an inmate dies a non-natural death. In neighbouring New Brunswick, the chief coroner can order public inquests into prison deaths when they are deemed to be in the “public interest.”

Young said the public needs to know the circumstances of his son’s death in order to understand what reforms are needed in the corrections system. Christopher wasn’t dangerous, but rather had turned to petty thefts after becoming addicted to opioids following a workplace accident at the Irving shipyard when he was 19, he said.

He wishes his son had been given access to long-term addiction treatment, rather than warehoused in prisons. “If I’d been a rich man, he would have been … in a two- or three-year treatment program,” said the father.

“He could have made a comeback. He had a lot of support with me,” said Young, who had purchased equipment to open a pressure-washing business and was helping him look for other employment options.

Some relatives of other dead inmates have also gone public with their dissatisfaction, and are calling for improved care of inmates, quickly.

The mother of Sarah Denny, a 36-year-old Mi’kmaq woman from Eskasoni First Nation who died in hospital on March 26, 2023, has said her daughter died after being transferred from Burnside because of complications from pneumonia.

In a recent panel discussion held in Halifax by the East Coast Prison Justice Society, Kathy Denny said infection had compromised her daughter’s lungs, kidney and heart as she entered Burnside — but the seriousness of the risk wasn’t picked up quickly enough. The province has declined to comment on the case.

She is calling for the creation of “a Sarah Denny check,” for which health issues are canvassed upon admission. “A basic check for temperatures, weight, blood pressure, simple things … that could have saved Sarah,” she said.

The brother of 27-year-old Peter Paul said the Mi’kmaq man took his own life at the Cape Breton Correctional Facility in Sydney, N.S., in January 2023. Gilbert Paul said in an interview that his brother had cuts on his arms from previous self-harm attempts, but he says he has learned in followup meetings that he wasn’t evaluated by a doctor when he was admitted to the jail because it was late at night and no one was available.

“(The suicides) shouldn’t be happening,” he said. “In my view we should be able to prevent the deaths in jail.”

Dr. Matthew Bowes, the province’s chief medical examiner, said in a recent interview that a committee reviewing deaths in custody is looking into the Paul case and it will probably be “months” before a report is released. The committee also plans to probe the Sarah Denny case, he added. A committee hasn’t yet been struck for the other cases, including Young’s, he said.

“I want to deliver a really solid set of recommendations and hopefully the public will judge us on the basis of the product we put out there,” he said, noting that provincial regulations prohibit the release of summaries of the cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.



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Wildfire evacuees ordered to leave Jasper find relief after long journey to safety

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GRAND PRAIRIE, ALBERTA – Some wildfire evacuees who were trapped in traffic for hours while leaving Jasper National Park say they are feeling relieved to have found safety.

Addison McNeill, who is 24, says she felt stressed when she got an alert on Monday night to evacuate Jasper about two hours after she moved to the alpine town from Edmonton.

When she got on the road, she says she saw many of Jasper’s 4,700 residents exiting the town calmly along with visitors despite being trapped in gridlock and hot, smoky air for hours.

Evacuees were initially ordered to go to British Columbia but were directed on Tuesday to make a wide U-turn as that province was dealing with its own wildfires.

Since then, reception centres have been set up north of Jasper in Grande Prairie as well as in Calgary and Edmonton, where evacuees are being helped with accommodations.

Jasper resident Leanne Maeva Joyeuse says she feels relieved to have made it to Grande Prairie after having been on the road for nearly 20 hours but she is worried about how the wildfires will affect her town.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

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In the news today: Wildfire evacuees relieved after evacuating Jasper

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Here is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to bring you up to speed…

Wildfire evacuees relieved after evacuating Jasper

Some wildfire evacuees who were trapped in traffic for hours while leaving Jasper National Park say they are feeling relieved they’ve found safety.

Addison McNeill, who is 24, says she immediately felt stressed when she got an alert on Monday night to evacuate the alpine town about two hours after she moved there from Edmonton.

When she got on the road, she says she saw Jasper’s 4,700 residents and other tourists exiting the town calmy despite being trapped in a gridlock and hot, smoky air for hours

Evacuees were initially ordered to go to British Columbia but were directed on Tuesday to make a wide U-turn as that province was dealing with its own wildfires.

Since then, reception centres have been set up in Grande Prairie, located north of Jasper, and Calgary to the south where evacuees are being helped with accommodation.

Here’s what else we’re watching…

BoC expected to cut key interest rate again today

The Bank of Canada is set to announce its interest rate decision this morning as economists widely expect a rate cut.

Forecasters say slowing inflation and a weak economy justify a second consecutive cut by the central bank.

After a historic run-up, the central bank lowered its policy rate for the first time in June, bringing it down from five per cent to 4.75 per cent.

Governor Tiff Macklem signalled at the time that if inflation continues to ease, it would be reasonable to expect more rate cuts.

Last week, Statistics Canada reported the annual inflation rate ticked back down to 2.7 per cent in June after flaring up again in May.

Nygard sentencing hearing set to begin today

A sentencing hearing is expected to begin today in Toronto for former fashion mogul Peter Nygard, who was found guilty of four counts of sexual assault last fall.

The sentencing process has been delayed in part because Nygard’s two previous defence lawyers, Brian Greenspan and Megan Savard, asked to withdraw from the case earlier this year.

Nygard, who once led a multimillion-dollar clothing empire, has also faced health challenges throughout the case, and his health is expected to be raised during sentencing submissions.

He was found guilty on four counts of sexual assault on Nov. 12, but was acquitted of a fifth count, as well as a charge of forcible confinement.

The charges relate to allegations dating from the 1980s until the mid-2000s.

Murder conspiracy accused back on witness stand

One of two men charged with conspiring to murder RCMP officers at the Coutts, Alta., border blockade two years ago will return to the witness stand for a third straight day.

Under cross-examination by the Crown yesterday, Chris Carbert said that he paid $5,000 for the Panther A-15 rifle found under his mattress in a police raid of a trailer in the village the night he was arrested.

He told the court that he had no idea that the rifle was prohibited under Canadian law.

Carbert and Anthony Olienick are being tried together in front of a jury in Court of King’s Bench in Lethbridge.

The two were charged after police made arrests and seized weapons at the blockade in early 2022.

Privacy commissioner probing PC Optimum complaints

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says it’s opened an investigation into allegations that some Loblaw customers have been unable to delete their PC Optimum accounts.

Spokesman Vito Pilieci said in an email that the office has received several such complaints.

He said the office can’t comment further due to the active investigation.

Loblaw spokeswoman Catherine Thomas said in an email that the company has processes to respond to account deletion requests in a timely manner, and that it will fully co-operate with the privacy commissioner’s office.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner oversees compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act as well as the Privacy Act.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.



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