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Canadian folk music icon Gordon Lightfoot dead at 84



Canadian folk music icon Gordon Lightfoot, whose evocative and poetic songs are etched into the musical landscape of Canada, has died at the age of 84, according to his longtime publicist Victoria Lord.

Lord says Lightfoot died at a Toronto hospital on Monday evening. The cause of death was not immediately available

Born in Orillia, Ont., Lightfoot was hailed as Canada’s folk troubadour for his soulful music and stirring lyrics. In songs such as The Canadian Railroad Trilogy and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, he explored the country’s history, geography and culture.

“He is our poet laureate, he is our iconic singer-songwriter,” said Rush singer Geddy Lee in the 2019 documentary Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.


“Gordon’s songs are works of art, every bit as relevant as classic poetry,” Tom Cochrane said during his salute to Lightfoot at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala in 2003.

“But even more importantly, Gordon Lightfoot led the way and he showed us … that you can be true to your roots. You can draw on your influences at home and country and you can incorporate those inspirations into the fabric of your work and still be internationally successful.”

From teen promise to folk fame

A childhood performer on local radio and at regional music festivals, Lightfoot wrote his first song, The Hula Hoop Song, in 1955, while still in high school.

“A lot of the images in my songs are drawn from this kind of country,” the singer-songwriter said of Orillia, in a 1967 interview with CBC-TV’s Telescope.

“I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve seen some nice country. I don’t think any of it will ever stay with me or impress me as much as this country here in Muskoka… It’s the country I grew up in.”


Gordon Lightfoot on where he grew up


Gordon Lightfoot talks about the Canadian Shield, and how the images in his songs are drawn from around Orillia. Aired on CBC’s Telescope on Sept. 14, 1967.

After graduating high school, Lightfoot moved to Los Angeles to study at the Westlake College of Music. He returned to Canada in 1959 and worked a variety of jobs in Toronto. He was a choral performer, a dancer on CBC’s Country Hoedown and a folk singer in the Two Tones with Terry Whelan.

In the 1960s, inspired by the music of Bob Dylan, Lightfoot became part of Toronto’s burgeoning folk scene. He developed his songwriting and began working on a debut album. Lightfoot! emerged in 1966.

At the same time, Lightfoot started what would become a highly anticipated, annual concert stand at Toronto’s Massey Hall. Launched in 1967, it happened every year until the mid-1980s, then dropped down to about once every 18 months. In 2005, Lightfoot resumed the Massey Hall event as an annual tradition.

A man strums a guitar while singing on stage at half-time during a Grey Cup match, with several stadium spotlights behind him in the distance.
Lightfoot performs during the half-time show at the 100th CFL Grey Cup game November 25, 2012, in Toronto. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

International recognition

After earning accolades at home in the late 1960s, Canada’s troubadour broke through internationally in the 1970s after signing with Warner Records in the U.S., making a splash at the start of that decade with the release of the single If You Could Read My Mind, now a folk standard.

Lightfoot followed that up, over the next six years, with what became many of his best-known songs, such as Beautiful, Sundown, Don Quixote, Carefree Highway, Rainy Day People and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Some of those songs were written after his first marriage ended during a mercurial, years-long relationship with Cathy Smith, who was later convicted for providing drugs to John Belushi after his overdose death.

“It was one of these relationships where you get a feeling of danger coming into the picture,” Lightfoot said in 2019’s If You Could Read My Mind.


Gordon Lightfoot says he writes songs on ‘the atmosphere of Canada”


Gordon Lightfoot talks to Vancouver teens about not exactly writing songs about Canada. Aired on CBC’s Down Centre on Nov. 13, 1969.

Lightfoot took to the road in the 1970s, touring the U.S. from Alaska to Hawaii and playing a host of European concert dates, including Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, the Montreux Festival in Switzerland and sold-out gigs at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Despite the decline of folk in the late 1970s and ’80s, Lightfoot continued to make his distinctive music, though he also made forays into acting, appearing in the film Harry Tracy with Bruce Dern and Helen Shaver.

In 1987, the much-admired songwriter made headlines when he filed a lawsuit against Michael Masser, who composed the tune The Greatest Love of All. The song became a massive hit after being recorded by Whitney Houston.

Lightfoot claimed Masser’s song stole 24 bars of melody from If You Could Read My Mind. The case was settled out of court, with Masser issuing a public apology.

A man sings and plays a guitar on stage.
Lightfoot performs on 100 Years Young, a CBC variety special for Canada’s centennial on Jan. 1, 1967. (Roy Martin/CBC Still Photo Collection)

Determined performer

In the course of his long career, Lightfoot conquered several illnesses, including a bout of Bell’s palsy and, in his early performing years, alcoholism. He beat the addiction in the 1980s.

In September 2002, the country was on tenterhooks when news broke that Lightfoot had been airlifted to hospital with severe stomach pains, just as he was about to take the stage for a concert in Orillia. The singer had suffered a ruptured artery in his stomach, had to go through several rounds of surgery and was in a coma for six weeks.

After three months in hospital, Lightfoot approached his recovery gamely, vowing to complete a new studio album and return to the stage. He released the album Harmony in 2004 and made his comeback performance that same year at the Mariposa Festival.


Gordon Lightfoot and Alex Trebek on CBC teen dance show in 1963


A young Gordon Lightfoot speaks to Music Hop host Alex Trebek about his writing and recording plans. Aired Nov. 21, 1963 on CBC’s Music Hop.

Though he suffered a minor stroke in 2006, which temporarily left him without the use of some fingers in his left hand, he persisted with a regimen of regular guitar practice and gym workouts aimed at keeping him in shape for the road.

Songs covered by some of music’s biggest stars

He took the premature report of his death in 2010 in stride, and later performed a high-profile Canadian Songwriters’ Hall of Fame concert with The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie while maintaining his own touring schedule.

In addition to early adopters like fellow folkies Ian and Sylvia Tyson, and Peter, Paul and Mary, a wide range of artists recorded Lightfoot’s music, including his idol Bob Dylan. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Petula Clark, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Liza Minelli, Barbra Streisand, Sarah McLachlan and Anne Murray.

“I never heard a cover of one of my songs that I didn’t like,” Lightfoot told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper in 2008.

“Sure, I heard some strange versions occasionally, but they always seemed to do a good job. I would be amazed that people would enjoy my songs enough to want to record them, and it inspired me and made me want to work harder.”


Gordon Lightfoot on crafting his greatest hits

Canadian music legend Gordon Lightfoot talks to Ian Hanomansing about his music, his legacy and some of the darker parts of his personal life during his five decades in the music business.

Lightfoot received an array of tributes recognizing his contribution to Canadian music and culture. There were cover albums, honorary degrees, a postage stamp and even a guitar created in his name. He won a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 1997 and was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada — the order’s highest level — in 2003.

A multiple Grammy nominee with more than 15 Juno Awards under his belt, Lightfoot was inducted into many halls of fame, including the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

“I know he’s been offered this award before and he’s never accepted it because he wanted me to come up here to give it to him,” Dylan quipped onstage during the 1986 Juno Awards gala. “He’s somebody of rare talent.”

Holding a guitar, a man sings in front of a microphone on stage during a benefit concert.
Lightfoot performs during Live 8 Canada on July 2, 2005, in Barrie, Ont. (Donald Weber/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada has lost “one of our greatest singer-songwriters.

Lightfoot “captured our country’s spirit in his music — and in doing so, he helped shape Canada’s soundscape,” Trudeau said in Twitter post.

A consummate entertainer to the end, Lightfoot doggedly refused to give up live shows. He toured the U.K. for the first time in 35 years in 2015, and two years later was part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations in Ottawa.

He released Solo in 2020, a collection of studio recordings that he had kicking around in the vaults for several years. In 2010, he vowed to keep playing up to 70 gigs a year “because I love doing it.”

Lightfoot is survived by his wife, Kim, six children — Fred, Ingrid, Galen, Eric, Miles and Meredith — and several grandchildren.

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Cigarettes in Canada will soon bear their own health warnings – CTV News



Canada will soon require health warnings to be printed directly on individual cigarettes, making it the first country to implement this kind of measure aimed at reducing tobacco usage.

Details of the new regulations were announced on Wednesday, which was World No Tobacco Day. The regulations take effect on Aug. 1 and will be implemented through a phased approach over the next year, the federal government said.

“The requirement for a health warning directly on every cigarette is a world precedent setting measure that will reach every person who smokes with every puff,” stated Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a news release.


“This innovative measure will be accompanied by enhanced warnings on the package exterior, and health messages on the package interior that are internationally unique. The new regulations deserve strong support.”

As part of the new regulations, the government said it will require labels on the tipping paper, which is the outermost paper of the filter section, of individual cigarettes, little cigars, tubes, along with other tobacco products. The labels will be written in English and French. 

King size cigarettes are set to be the first to feature the warnings and will be sold by Canadian retailers by the end of July 2024, followed by regular size cigarettes and little cigars with tipping paper and tubes by the end of April 2025.

The government said the new regulations are part of its strategy to reach a target of less than five per cent tobacco use in the country by 2035.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett said tobacco use continues to kill 48,000 Canadians each year, but the new measure will make health warnings “virtually unavoidable” and provide a “real and startling reminder” of the health consequences of smoking. 

The labels include messaging like “Poison in every puff,” “Cigarettes cause cancer” and “Tobacco smoke harms children.”

The Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Lung Association and Heart & Stroke Foundation were among the organizations that welcomed the news. On Monday, the three national health organizations issued an open letter, calling on Canada’s premiers to push for initiatives to reduce smoking during settlement negotiations with major tobacco companies.

“It’s going to mean that there’s a warning with every cigarette, every puff, it’s going to be there during every smoke break,” Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, told CTV News Channel.

“It’s a very positive measure and I believe that many other countries are going to follow Canada’s example.”

Doug Roth, CEO of Heart & Stroke, echoed those remarks.  

“Canada is now a global leader of the pack when it comes to health warning regimes for cigarettes,” Roth said in a news release.

“Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada and these important new measures will protect youth and support current smokers in their efforts to quit.”

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Imperial Tobacco Canada said governments should “take a step back and look at the science and benefits” of adopting a “tobacco harm reduction regulatory strategy,” such as promoting vaping as an alternative, similar to what the British government has done.

“A robust regulatory framework is required to govern the manufacture, marketing and sale of vapour products,” said Frank Silva, president and CEO of Imperial Tobacco Canada.

“Unfortunately, some governments are proposing extreme measures that will significantly stop vaping products from fully achieving their harm reduction potential, while doing nothing to address the issue of youth access.”

Other measures the government is taking include strengthening and updating health-related messages on tobacco product packages, extending the requirement for health-related messaging to all tobacco product packages, and implementing the periodic rotation of messages.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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How did Canada’s economy perform in Q1? StatCan to update – Global News



The national economy continued to grow overall in the first quarter of 2023 as consumers spent more in the face of recession fears, according to Statistics Canada.

Canada’s economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.1 per cent in the first quarter, beating Statistics Canada’s early estimates of 2.5 per cent. The Bank of Canada’s latest forecasts had called for 2.3 per cent growth in Q1.


Household spending was up in the quarter following two periods of minimal growth, the agency said Wednesday, but housing investment slowed in the first quarter amid higher borrowing costs.

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StatCan said Canadians particularly spent more on new vehicles in Q1. In a note to clients Wednesday, CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham ascribed that increase to relief in supply chain kinks meaning previous car orders could finally be delivered.

Canadians also returned to dining and vacations in the quarter, Statistics Canada said, with spending picking up for food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and travel expenditures.

StatCan had also expected the economy contracted by a modest 0.1 per cent in March, but Wednesday’s release shows economic growth was flat for the month.

Flash estimates for April show growth of 0.2 per cent. Grantham said that was a surprise as the public sector strike in that month was expected to be a drag on growth.

Weakness persisted in Canada’s housing market in the first quarter of the year. New construction was down in every province and territory except the Yukon, StatCan said, while renovations and figures tied to resale activity were also down nationally.

The first quarter GDP figures mark a rebound from what StatCan called essentially flat growth in the final quarter of 2022.

The GDP report comes ahead of the Bank of Canada’s next interest rate decision June 7.

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The central bank, which is focused on returning inflation to its two per cent target, paused its aggressive rate hiking cycle earlier this year.

However, governor Tiff Macklem has signalled that the Bank of Canada is still evaluating whether interest rates need to go higher to tame inflation which ticked higher in April.

Grantham said that while the stronger-than-expected GDP figures raise the odds of an interest rate hike next week, he expects the central bank will continue to wait for more data and revise its inflation and GDP forecasts in July before moving again.

— with files from the Canadian Press

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'Difficult day' expected as Halifax-area fire continues to burn out of control –



If the power or data on your device is low, get your wildfire updates on CBC Lite. It’s our low-bandwidth, text-only website.

Officials are expecting yet another challenging day, as crews from across Nova Scotia battle a wildfire burning out of control outside Halifax that has already damaged 200 homes and businesses.

David Steeves of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources said the fire in the suburbs of Hammonds Plains, Upper Tantallon and Pockwock has grown by roughly 49 hectares to 837 hectares.


Steeves, a technician of forest resources, said the growth is not surprising given the dry and hot weather conditions on Tuesday.

He said Wednesday’s forecast is also not favourable, with dry southwesterly winds expected to gust up to 20 km/h.

The humidity is also expected to be low, at around 20 per cent. He explained that when the relative humidity levels get close to the forecasted temperature, it’s known as “crossover,” which is an indicator of “extreme fire behaviour.”

Steeves said that could create dangerous conditions for crews on the ground.

“Today could possibly be a very difficult day,” he said during a press conference at the incident command centre in Tantallon on Wednesday morning. “Our situational awareness is going to be extremely high.”

A helicopter is seen taking off from a soccer field.
A number of helicopters were dropping water on the blaze. This one is shown landing at a staging area in Tantallon, N.S., to refuel on Wednesday. (Haley Ryan/CBC)

The evacuation zone remains the same, and there is no update on when residents may be able to return. Steeves emphasized that the order “is not what we want to do, it’s what we have to do.”

“This is to keep people alive,” said Steeves.

“This is a very dangerous situation. It’s changing every moment with wind, with fuels, with the lay of the land, how the sun is heating the fuels. Everything is constantly evolving, so we have to take the safest route for the citizens we are here to serve.”

Halifax Fire Deputy Chief David Meldrum said additional resources will be on the scene today, including crews from a number of other communities in the province and from Prince Edward Island.

Meldrum said there are eight fire engines, 14 tankers, two Defence Department trucks and about 100 firefighters working on hot spots and flare-ups.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a new fire was reported on Hammonds Plains Road near the Farmers Dairy building.

While it’s close to the perimeter of the original wildfire in the area, it’s considered a new fire.

The area around Hammonds Plains Road from Farmers Dairy Lane to Giles Drive was shut down and an evacuation order was issued, but it was later rescinded.

Meldrum said he patrolled the area Wednesday morning and it was looking “very good.”

The cause of that fire is not yet known.

Stay out of the woods

During a briefing with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Premier Tim Houston said there is now a provincewide ban on all travel and activity within Nova Scotia’s forests, including hiking, fishing, camping and off-road vehicle use.

Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton pleaded with Nova Scotians to abide by the order, noting there were seven reports of illegal burns on Tuesday after the burn ban was implemented.

“We don’t take this lightly … but we cannot afford to have any more fires,” Rushton told the CBC’s Information Morning.

Officials said on Tuesday that about 151 homes have been destroyed in the suburban communities about 25 kilometres from Halifax that are home to many who work in the city.

A map shows the fire evacuation area and the local state of emergency area in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
A map shows the fire evacuation area and the local state of emergency area, as of 10:25 p.m. AT on Tuesday. (Halifax Regional Municipality)

Terri and Lutz Kottwitz not only lost their home, but also their business.

The couple run ForestKids Early Learning in Yankeetown, which was decimated by the fast-moving fire that started Sunday afternoon in the Westwood Hills subdivision.

“That’s my life. They’re my family,” a tearful Terri Kottwitz said of the children and families that attended the daycare.

Lutz Kottwitz added: “It’s Terri’s purpose in life. It’s everything.”

Terri Kottwitz said they plan to rebuild.

Wooded areas of municipal parks will be closed as of 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Parks such as Shubie Park, Point Pleasant Park and Admiral Cove Park will be fully closed, as they are heavily wooded. Non-wooded areas of parks, like playgrounds and sport fields will remain open for use.

Visuals of homes destroyed by wildfire in Upper Tantallon, N.S.

2 days ago

Duration 0:25

Officials say the fire, which is burning out of control as of Monday morning, is expected to grow.

The restrictions are in place until June 25, “or until conditions allow them to be lifted.”

Mayor Mike Savage said officials are considering reducing the evacuation area boundary so some people who were forced to flee their homes because of the fire might be able to go back sooner.

Savage said a decision will be made Wednesday morning, but that everything hinges on the movement of the wildfire. He said no reductions in evacuated areas would be considered if the risk of fire spreading rises.

“This is dangerous, and it is unpredictable, and fire safety is the No. 1 concern we have,” Savage told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Anyone who wants to help people displaced by the fire can donate to United Way Halifax, which has set up a wildfire recovery appeal, he said.

Information Morning – NS6:26Strategies to guard against smoke inhalation

The Lung association gives us some strategies to guard against smoke inhalation. Michelle Donaldson is director of communications with the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and PEI.

Meldrum said Tuesday that most of the damaged or destroyed structures are single-family homes. He asked for patience from some 16,400 residents who are anxiously awaiting information about their properties.

  • Have a question or something to say? Email: or join us live in the comments now.

Meldrum said Emergency Health Services has seen an increase in respiratory distress calls due to poor air quality, some as far away as Dunbrack Street in Halifax, about 20 kilometres from Upper Tantallon.

Why is the wildfire near Halifax hard to contain?

1 day ago

Duration 1:20

Forest resources technician David Steeves explains the firefighting strategy behind the collective efforts to contain the wildfire in the Upper Tantallon area.

Nova Scotia is offering a one-time payment of $500 per eligible household for those affected by the evacuation order. Residents can apply for that payment through the Canadian Red Cross.

No injuries have been reported and no one has been reported missing.

Officials are investigating what started the initial fire in the Westwood Hills subdivision off Hammonds Plains Road, but officials with the Natural Resources department have said it was likely human activity.

Nova Scotia RCMP Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay said officers are patrolling the affected neighbours 24 hours a day to keep people who should not be there out.

Halifax Regional Police warned residents on Wednesday about a potential scam related to the evacuation orders. They said a member of the public received a call that stated the fire was in their area.

“It is unclear at this time what motivated the call. However, police are taking this very seriously given the timing of the call during a difficult crisis,” a news release said.

“We want the public to know that they will not receive individual calls from official sources asking them to evacuate their homes. Evacuation orders will come from emergency alerts through the proper government channels.”

Evacuation areas

The municipality said the evacuation zone could change, and if people need to leave, they should bring their pets, important documents and medication with them, as well as supplies for 72 hours.

People who live in the areas affected by the local state of emergency should have a bag packed and ready to go because they might need to leave on short notice.

Areas affected by evacuations so far include:

  • Westwood Hills subdivision.
  • White Hills subdivision.
  • Highland Park subdivision.
  • Haliburton Hills.
  • Pockwock Road.
  • Glen Arbour.
  • Lucasville Road to Sackville Drive.
  • Maplewood.
  • Voyageur Way.
  • St George Boulevard, including all side streets.
  • McCabe Lake area.
  • Indigo Shores.

The Halifax Regional Municipality said in a news release Monday afternoon that all residents who have been required to leave must register with 311 (toll-free at 1-800-835-6428, 1.866.236.0020 for hearing impaired only line teletypewriter users).

A middle-age woman and older man stand next to each other with a park and water in the background.
Terri, left, and Lutz Kottwitz said they plan to rebuild the ForestKids Early Learning daycare. (CBC)

School closures

The following schools are closed Wednesday:

  • Bay View High School.
  • Tantallon Junior Elementary.
  • Tantallon Senior Elementary.
  • Five Bridges Junior High.
  • St. Margaret’s Bay Elementary.
  • Kingswood Elementary.
  • Hammonds Plains Consolidated.
  • Madeline Symonds Middle School.
  • Charles P. Allen High School.
  • Harry R. Hamilton Elementary.
  • Millwood Elementary.
  • Millwood High School.
  • Sackville Heights Elementary.
  • Sackville Heights Junior High.
  • Basinview Drive Community School.
  • Bedford South School.

Residents who fled Halifax-area wildfire describe roadsides in flames, homes burning

Shelburne County forest fire still out of control, local state of emergency declared

Comfort centres

The Halifax Regional Municipality declared a local state of emergency Sunday night in order to access additional support. 

Comfort centres have been opened at: 

  • Black Point and Area Community Centre, 8579 St Margarets Bay Rd., opens at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and will remain open until further notice.
  • Beaver Bank Kinsac Community Centre, 1583 Beaver Bank Rd., opens at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and will remain open until further notice.
  • Canada Games Centre, 26 Thomas Raddall Dr., open 24 hours.
  • John W. Lindsay YMCA, 5640 Sackville St., Monday to Friday 5:45 a.m. to 10 p.m, Saturday and Sunday 7:45 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Community YMCA, 2269 Gottingen St., Halifax, Monday to Friday 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A mobile primary health clinic will be available at the Canada Games comfort centre on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The clinic will be able to provide care for non-urgent health issues, like prescription refills, minor respiratory symptoms, sore throat, headache, muscle pain and mental health and addiction support.


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