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From floods to fires to weird Arctic weather, Environment Canada releases top 10 weather stories of 2019 – CBC.ca

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As Environment and Climate Change Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips often says: “There’s never a shortage of weather stories in Canada.”

Once again, from coast to coast to coast, 2019 proved to be another record weather year for Canada.

Here are the top 10 weather events for Canada in 2019, compiled by Phillips.

1. Another record-setting Ottawa River flood

In the No. 1 spot is the spring flooding of the Ottawa River.

It was a perfect set-up along the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers: Temperatures were below normal for seven straight months — from October 2018 to April 2019 — meaning the ground never experienced the gradual thaw that often comes with spring, nor could it absorb any falling rain. Upstream, the heavy snowpack was unable to thaw, and the region experienced several rounds of heavy rains over five weeks. 

Pointe-Gatineau, Que., near the meeting point of the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers, on April 29, 2019. (Albert Leung/CBC)

On May 1, the Ottawa River swelled, breaking the previous record in 2017. More than 6,000 residents were flooded out of their homes in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., and hundreds more from Pembroke, Ont. to Sherbrooke, Que. not to mention the flooding of precious farmland. As a result, two people died. 

2. Active hurricane season as predicted

The 2019 hurricane season was a particularly active one, just as the Canadian Hurricane Centre and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration had both forecast

Post-tropical storm Erin was the first to reach Canadian shores, on Aug. 29. It triggered flash flooding, though it was a bit of a blessing to farmers who had endured a dry summer until then.

A crane on South Park St. in Halifax toppled onto a building under construction after Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Nova Scotia. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

But it was Dorian that will be most remembered. The powerful Category 5 hurricane produced winds of 300 km/h over the Bahamas and lingered, almost at a standstill, for 24 hours. Eventually, it made its way to Nova Scotia, transitioning to a post-tropical storm with winds of 155 km/h. It knocked out power to nearly half a million people across Atlantic Canada. The Insurance Board of Canada estimated that Dorian caused $140 million to insured property, with most of it in Nova Scotia.

3. (S)no-good Prairie fall

The West is no stranger to early snowfalls, but 2019 turned out to be a dinger. At the end of September, Calgary experienced a harsh, early, snowy surprise. Over four days, 32 cm fell in the city, the greatest depth of snow left on the ground in 65 years.

City crews in Winnipeg tackle a downed tree following a spring snowstorm. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Southern B.C. wasn’t left out of the snowy mess; 35 to 50 cm of snow was dumped across many mountain passes. And a few weeks later, it was Manitoba’s turn. From Brandon to Winnipeg, snow blanketed the area. States of emergency were declared in 11 communities and more than 6,000 people were evacuated from First Nations communities.  

4. A brutal FFFFebruary in Canada

February is often thought of as the harshest month of winter, and 2019 certainly lived up to that expectation.

Though the planet was experiencing an El Niño event — a warming in a region of the Pacific that typically brings milder weather to parts of Canada — the Arctic air took an icy grip on the country and wouldn’t let go.

A person walks a dog as heavy snow falls in Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

In B.C., along the coast, reaching into the Interior, it was 9 C below normal. In Calgary, February was the coldest month in 83 years. And southern Alberta could just forget about the Chinook: in 2019 it was 14 C colder than normal in the region.

Meanwhile, Toronto received a year’s worth of snow in January and February alone. And Atlantic Canada? The region experienced its coldest February in 25 years.

5. Record heat continues in Arctic

Unfortunately, nothing changed in the Arctic. 

Once again, 2019 proved to be another record warm year. In September, the Arctic sea ice reached its yearly minimum at 4.15 million square km, the second-lowest on record, tied with 2007 and 2016.

The community of Apex is seen from Iqaluit on Friday, Aug. 2. Once again, the Arctic continued to warm during 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“The North is the most important story,” Phillips said. “It will be the most important story of the century.”

And it wasn’t just the climate — it was the weather itself, he said.

On June 2, an EF-1 tornado was spotted near Fort Smith, N.W.T., just the fourth confirmed north of 60 degrees latitude in Canada. In mid-July the Canadian Forces Station in Alert, Nunavut, recorded a searing temperature of 21 C — 14 C warmer than average. And on Aug. 10,  there were several lightning strikes within 500 km of the North Pole, a true rarity indeed.

6. Too dry early, too wet later on the Prairies

While weather may just be an inconvenience to most people, for farmers it can mean the difference between putting food on the table or not.

And in the Prairies, farmers had to deal with some truly inconsistent weather in 2019.

Even before the growing season began, farmers struggled with some of the driest conditions since record-keeping began 133 years ago. Edmonton had its driest spring on record, Regina had its driest March and Winnipeg its driest first half of the year with a measly 91 mm of precipitation (its average is 235 mm from January to June).

But once the rains started, they didn’t stop.

Weather played havoc with farmers in the Prairies during the spring 2019, with many losing crops. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Edmonton recorded 55 days of rain through June to August, tying for the most number of days since 1881. And it wasn’t just the rain: Alberta and Saskatchewan had an early, mid-September snowfall with more of the same — including rain — in October. As a result, many farmers lost large amounts of their crops.

7. How the Grinch stole…Halloween?

Sadly, instead of a treat, many children this Halloween received a nasty trick.

Unfortunately, for kids in the East, it was donning a snowsuit, carrying an umbrella or, well, no Halloween at all.

It was wet and windy in southern Ontario: the town of Stratford received the most with 109 mm of rain. In Port Colborne, winds topped 129 km/h. 

Halloween played a wet and windy trick on many children in Canada’s east in 2019. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Meanwhile, in Chibougamau, Que., 30 cm of snow fell. And there was snow and rain across Newfoundland. 

But it was a delayed Halloween for 20 municipalities across Quebec, including Montreal, as the festivities were postponed by a day.

8. Spring missing in the East

Spring means longer days, the sight of green grass, budding trees and warmer weather. But that just wasn’t the case in much of Canada in 2019. And once again, it was the dreaded Polar Vortex who squelched our fun.

Across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin, it was the coldest spring in 22 years. By the end of May, less than five per cent of Ontario farmers’ crops had been planted. 

Terry Ferguson, right, gets help from friend Peter McMaster to stack sandbags around his Bay Street home in an attempt to keep out the flood waters of the St. John River in Saint John, N.B., on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Stephen MacGillivray/Canadian Press)

In April, the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia had endured almost triple the month’s rainfall with some of the coldest soil temperatures in two decades.

In New Brunswick, Moncton’s average May temperature was almost three degrees colder than average. And once again, farmers felt the crunch across the region.

9. Saint John River floods again

Persistent rain and snow and a lack of thaw was behind the flooding of New Brunswick’s Saint John River once again.

At the New Brunswick-Maine border, the river had its largest stream flow in 67 years. In Fredericton, the river reached its peak at 8.37 metres, breaking 2018’s record, and coming in second highest after 1973.

Spring flowers had a tough job ahead of them as cold weather descended across the east, stretching into Atlantic Canada. (CBC)

It was particularly difficult for residents as they desperately tried to protect their property. Canada’s military was eventually called in to assist after 1,500 people were evacuated. Ultimately, 16,000 homes and buildings were damaged by floodwaters with 145 roads were shut down. 

And while the province is no stranger to floods, Phillips points out that the last two floods — both the 2018 and 2019 ones — were considered to be once-in-a-hundred-year floods. However, the past year saw less of an impact than the year previous.

“There are lessons to be learned from some of these [stories], too, that we realize that the 100-year storm is becoming the 10-year storm,” Phillips said. “So we need to do things differently. We just can’t sit there and [say] ‘Oh,well Mother Nature is going to get us.’ We need to do something about it.”

10. Fewer fires, more burning

After an intense fire season in 2018, it was a fairly quiet fire season in 2019, with fires down 40 per cent across the country.

Roughly 422,000 lightning strikes were recorded in B.C. — which experienced its worst season in history in 2018 — far surpassing the average of 266,000. But the good thing is, it was accompanied by wet weather. 

Though there were fewer fires than in 2018, the 2019 season was still a memorable one for Alberta and Ontario. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But it was Alberta that broke from the trend, where fires consumed an area roughly 14 times that of the average. It was the second-worst season on record. By the end of May, 10,000 people had been evacuated from their homes.

Ontario also experienced severe forest fires. In northwestern Ontario, forest fires caused poor air quality in several First Nation communities for almost two weeks, resulting in 2,500 residents being evacuated. 

In the end

Phillips said there’s a message to be taken away from these weather events.

“There’s no region that I would say had the worst weather,” said Phillips. “It’s not new weather, though … it’s the same old weather that our grandparents talked about, but it’s just that the statistics are different: the frequency, the intensity, the out of season, out of place, anything like that that just seems to make it different than it was.”

And he reminds Canadians: “Mother Nature holds all the trump cards.”

Here is Phillips’ complete list of Top 10 Weather Stories of 2019 including a breakdown for regions across the country. 

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Iran at odds with Canada’s demands after asking U.S., France to help analyze black boxes – Global News

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Iran said it had asked the U.S. and French authorities for equipment to download information from black boxes on a downed Ukrainian airliner, potentially angering countries which want the recorders analyzed abroad.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Iran did not have the ability to read the data and he demanded the cockpit and flight recorders should be sent to France. Kiev wants the recorders sent to Ukraine. Canadian citizens totalled 57 of the 176 people killed in the crash,

The U.S.-built Boeing 737 flown by Ukraine International Airlines was shot down in error by Iranian forces on Jan. 8 during a period of tit-for-tat military strikes that included the killing by the United States of a senior Iranian general on Jan. 3.


READ MORE:
Canada has repatriated first victim of plane downed by Iranian missiles: Champagne

Tehran, already embroiled in a long-running standoff with the United States over its nuclear program, has given mixed signals about whether it would hand over the recorders.

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An Iranian aviation official had said on Saturday the black boxes would be sent to Ukraine, only to backtrack in comments reported a day later, saying they would be analyzed at home.

A further delay in sending them abroad is likely to increase international pressure on Iran, whose military has said it shot the plane down by mistake while on high alert in the tense hours after Iran fired missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq.

“If the appropriate supplies and equipment are provided, the information can be taken out and reconstructed in a short period of time,” Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said in its second preliminary report on the disaster released late on Monday.






0:36
1 person repatriated to Canada following Iran plane crash: Champagne


1 person repatriated to Canada following Iran plane crash: Champagne

A list of equipment Iran needs has been sent to French accident agency BEA and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the Iranian aviation body said.

“Until now, these countries have not given a positive response to sending the equipment to (Iran),” it said. It said two surface-to-air TOR-M1 missiles had been launched minutes after the Ukrainian plane took off from Tehran.

‘MAXIMUM PRESSURE’

Iran’s aviation body says it does not have equipment needed to download information from the model of recorders on the three-year-old Boeing 737.

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General Electric Co has received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to help in the investigation of the crash, a GE spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.


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Under U.S. sanctions law, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) must grant approval for U.S. investigators to participate in the probe and potentially travel to Iran.

GE co-owns with France’s Safran SA the French-U.S. firm CFM that made the plane’s engines.

Trudeau said the data should be downloaded immediately.

“There need to be qualified experts doing that but it’s also a question of technology and equipment and that is not available in Iran,” he told a news conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“There has been broad consensus in the international community that France would be the right place to send those boxes (and) we continue to pressure Iran to do just that.”






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Question of black boxes hangs over Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 investigation


Question of black boxes hangs over Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 investigation

Trudeau also said Tehran’s refusal to acknowledge dual citizenship was posing a challenge when it came to helping support the families of the Canadian victims, many of whom had close ties to Iran.

Iran, which took several days to acknowledge its role in bringing down the plane and faced street protests at home as a result, fired its missiles at U.S. targets in response to a U.S. drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Jan. 3.

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Iran has for years faced U.S. sanctions that limited its ability to purchase modern planes and buy products with U.S. technology. Many passenger planes used in Iran are decades old.

Under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, Iran received sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear work. But Washington reimposed U.S. sanctions after withdrawing from the pact in 2018, a move that led to the steady escalation of tension in recent months between the United States and Iran.


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Iran acknowledges missiles made by Russia targeted Ukrainian passenger jet

European governments say they want to save the deal but have also suggested it may be time for a broader pact, in line with Trump’s call for a deal that would go beyond Iran’s nuclear work and include its missile program and activities in the region.

Iran says it will not negotiate with sanctions in place.

Since the plane disaster, Iran’s judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has said compensation should be paid to families of the victims, many of whom were Iranians or dual nationals.

Canada, Ukraine, Britain, Afghanistan and Sweden, which all lost citizens, have demanded Iran make the payouts

© 2020 Reuters

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Canada’s prison watchdog disturbed by ‘Indigenization’ of correctional system – Global News

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The proportion of Indigenous people in federal custody has hit a record high of more than 30 per cent due to disturbing and entrenched imbalances, Canada’s prison ombudsman warned Tuesday.

The numbers are even more troubling for Indigenous women, who account for 42 per cent of the female prison population, correctional investigator Ivan Zinger said.

The system seems unresponsive to the needs, histories and social realities behind high rates of Indigenous offending, Zinger said in a statement calling for the Correctional Service of Canada to do more to resolve the spiralling problem.


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White and non-Indigenous offenders made up 11% of those in healing lodges last year

At the current pace, within three years one in every three federal inmates will be Indigenous, even though Indigenous people comprise only five per cent of the Canadian population, Zinger said.

“The Indigenization of Canada’s prison population is nothing short of a national travesty.”

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Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the cabinet member responsible for federal corrections, said he was “very concerned” about the numbers and stressed the Liberal government was “absolutely committed” to dealing with the underlying causes.






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Prison watchdog issues scathing report into deadly riot at Saskatchewan Penitentiary

The federal prison service says decisions with respect to sentencing of offenders are beyond its control.

The service does, however, try to influence the time Indigenous inmates spend in custody by providing culturally responsive programs and other efforts aimed at rehabilitation and a successful return to society.

It says effective and culturally appropriate correctional and reintegration support for Indigenous offenders has been a priority for more than a decade.

Zinger said that’s not good enough.


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Indigenous youth overrepresented in Saskatchewan prisons, Stats Canada says

The federal prison service needs to accept its share of responsibility, recognizing that tweaks around the edges of the system simply won’t do, he said.

Indigenous inmates are disproportionately classified and placed in maximum-security institutions, overrepresented in incidents involving use of force and self-harm, and historically have been more likely to be placed in solitary-confinement units, he noted.

Compared to others in the system, Indigenous offenders serve a higher proportion of their sentences behind bars before they are granted parole, Zinger said. Finally, a recent study showed that Indigenous people reoffend, or are returned to custody, at much higher levels.

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Jails to provide clean needles for drug users in prison


Jails to provide clean needles for drug users in prison

The ombudsman says the Correctional Service needs to make dramatic changes to stop the revolving door, better prepare Indigenous offenders to meet the earliest parole eligibility dates and more safely return them to their home communities.

“Reforms of this nature will require a significant and proportional realignment of CSC priorities and resources. The government of Canada needs to lead and direct these efforts,” he said.

No government of any stripe has managed to reverse the trend of Indigenous overrepresentation in Canadian jails and prisons despite many inquiries, judicial interventions, and political promises and commitments, Zinger said.

The correctional investigator, federal commissions and parliamentary committees have called on the government to take steps including:

— Transfer of resources and responsibility to Indigenous groups and communities for the care and supervision of Indigenous offenders;

— Appointment of a deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections;

— More readily available, culturally relevant correctional programming;

— A clearer and more robust role for Indigenous elders.

Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, called Indigenous incarceration rates a national disgrace.


READ MORE:
Canadian prisons ill-equipped to meet needs of older inmates, report says

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“We strongly agree with the correctional investigator that bold and urgent action is required to address this persistent and pressing human rights issue,” she said in a statement Tuesday.

At the conclusion of a Liberal caucus retreat in Winnipeg, Blair said the correctional system, police, courts and society in general all have roles to play in helping reduce the proportion of Indigenous offenders in prison.

The “well-known and challenging” social conditions that give rise to the problem, including generational trauma, substance abuse and lack of access to services must be addressed, he said.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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First remains repatriated to Canada following Iran plane crash – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The remains of one Canadian who was killed in the Iran plane crash have been repatriated, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne confirmed Tuesday.

The remains are the first to be repatriated since 57 Canadian citizens were killed when an Iranian surface-to-air missile struck a Ukrainian aircraft over Tehran on Jan. 8.

Twenty-nine permanent residents of Canada were also killed in the tragedy.

“There’s been one repatriation of remains which took place,” Champagne told reporters following a Liberal caucus meeting in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“We respected the wish of the family to respect their privacy…that’s why this already occurred.”

He added that a number of other families have indicated they would like to see their loved ones’ remains repatriated. While Champagne did not confirm how many, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said on Jan. 17 that 20 families have requested the repatriation of remains.

The news comes as many families are reporting difficulty in repatriating the remains of their loved ones, given that Iran does not recognize the validity of Canadian passports belonging to dual citizens. As a result, the country is maintaining that just three Canadians died in the tragedy — not 57.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trudeau called on Iran to respect families’ wishes when it comes to the countries where they’d like to see their loved ones buried.

“Respecting the wishes of the families lines up not with a question of citizenship, but it lines up also with international laws and practice and with principles around Islam for burials,” Trudeau said.

“So we’ve been insisting on that with Iran and that is what we are hoping they will continue to do.”

The government has also been pushing Iran to compensate the affected families. While Iran has yet to confirm whether it intends to provide such compensation, the Canadian government has provided $25,000 in compensation for each of the Canadian victims of the downed aircraft.

“I want to be clear: we expect Iran to compensate these families. But I have met them. They can’t wait weeks. They need support now,” Trudeau told reporters last week.

The Iranian-led investigation into the tragedy is ongoing, and Canada has been pushing for access to the plane’s damaged black boxes. An early report from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization is calling for technical assistance from the U.S. or France in analyzing the data.

Canada has been clear about one thing throughout the process: it is demanding a credible and thorough investigation.

“The world is watching Iran,” Champagne said.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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