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Man found guilty of murder in 2018 Toronto van attack, life in prison likely

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – A man who plowed a rented van into dozens of people in Toronto in 2018 is guilty of murdering 10 people and attempting to murder 16, a judge ruled on Wednesday, dismissing a defense argument that a mental disorder left the driver unaware of how horrific his actions were.

Alek Minassian, 28, told police he was motivated by a desire to punish society for his perceived status as an “incel” – short for involuntary celibate – because he believed women would not have sex with him. Minassian had pleaded that he was not criminally responsible.

The defense failed to prove Minassian’s autism spectrum disorder deprived him of the capacity to know his actions were wrong, Judge Anne Molloy said in a verdict, live-streamed on YouTube following a trial held virtually due to the pandemic.

Molloy referred to Minassian as “John Doe” to try to deny him the notoriety he said he desired.

“Mr. Doe thought about committing these crimes over a considerable period of time and made a considered decision to proceed. His attack on these 26 victims that day was an act of a reasoning mind notwithstanding its horrific nature and notwithstanding that he has no remorse for it, and no empathy for his victims.”

“This case has in many ways and on many days been a struggle,” Molloy said. “This accused committed a horrific crime – one of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured – for the purpose of achieving fame.”

Minassian’s lawyer argued his autism spectrum disorder prevented him from knowing what he was doing was wrong when he drove the van into pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk.

The attack took place in April 2018 when Minassian drove a rented van down a busy sidewalk on a major street just north of Toronto, hitting one person after another. Those killed ranged in age from 22 to 94.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled and Minassian is likely to automatically get a life sentence, according to criminal lawyers following the case. A sentencing hearing will also allow for victim impact statements.

Minassian’s lawyer Boris Bytensky said he had not yet had a chance to read the entire ruling but he had “tremendous respect” for Molloy even if the verdict was “disappointing.”

He would not say whether Minassian would appeal. “Whether he chooses to appeal or not to appeal is his decision.”

Molloy read the names of the people Minassian killed and injured, listing their injuries: from fractured bones to bleeding brains.

“He had a functioning, rational brain, one that perceived the reality of what he was doing…. He chose to commit the crimes anyway. Because it was what he really wanted to do.”

The outcome was unsurprising given the evidence presented at trial, said Toronto criminal lawyer Daniel Brown.

“It’s not to say that others couldn’t avail themselves of a ‘not criminally responsible’ defence but in Mr. Minassian’s situation, he simply couldn’t.”

First-degree murder carries a life sentence without parole eligibility for 25 years. The question, Brown said, is whether the prosecution will seek to “stack” parole ineligibilities, for example so that 10 first-degree murder convictions render Minassian ineligible for parole for 250 years.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Grant McCool, Jonathan Oatis, Howard Goller and David Gregorio)

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Iran indicts 10 over Ukraine plane crash, prosecutor says; Canada demands justice

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has indicted 10 officials over the shooting-down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020 that killed all 176 people on board, a military prosecutor said on Tuesday.

In a report published last month, Iran’s civil aviation body blamed the crash on a misaligned radar and an error by an air defence operator. Ukraine and Canada, home to many of those who died, criticised the report as insufficient.

“Indictments have been issued for 10 officials involved in the crash of the Ukrainian plane…and necessary decisions will be taken in court,” Gholam Abbas Torki, the outgoing military prosecutor for Tehran province, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA. He did not elaborate.

In Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “tremendously concerned about the lack of accountability” from Iran about the disaster.

Canada, along with its partners, will continue to press Tehran to deliver justice and compensation for families of the victims, he told a briefing when asked about the indictments.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight on Jan. 8, 2020, shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport.

The Iranian government later said the shooting-down was a “disastrous mistake” by its forces at a time when they were on high alert in a regional confrontation with the United States.

Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.

 

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)

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Canadian oil producers CNRL, Cenovus plan new emissions targets, no pivot to renewables

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CNRL

By Rod Nickel and Nia Williams

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) -Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL) and Cenovus Energy Inc, two of Canada‘s biggest oil producers, said on Tuesday they would set new goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but not pivot away from their core businesses.

Oil sands producers, which extract some of the world’s most carbon-intense crude, face investor pressure to reduce their environmental impact. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to raise Canada‘s carbon price steeply over time to position the country for carbon-neutral status by 2050.

CNRL’s corporate emissions-cutting goal will be announced in the second quarter, President Tim McKay said at the Scotiabank CAPP Energy Symposium, which is being held remotely.

The company cut carbon intensity per barrel by 18% between 2016 and 2020 and sees carbon capture as a way to further reduce its environmental toll, McKay said.

It does not plan major investments in renewable energy as European oil majors have done.

“The preference is to stick with what we know and what we’re good at,” McKay said. “There’s going to be a need for oil long-term.”

Cenovus is also planning new emissions-cutting targets and might invest in renewable power partnerships.

“Where we’re likely to remain is focused on oil and gas production,” Cenovus Chief Executive Officer Alex Pourbaix told the symposium. “But don’t look for us to become a late-entrant renewable-power developer.”

Suncor Energy Inc is on track to achieve its goal of cutting the emissions intensity of production by 30% versus 2014 levels by 2030, said Chief Financial Officer Alister Cowan, and is now talking about updating its target beyond 2030.

Imperial Oil Ltd could adopt technologies of parent company Exxon Mobil Corp like carbon capture and biofuel blending, Senior Vice President of Finance Dan Lyons said.

“When it comes to wind farms and solar farms, that’s not really in our wheelhouse.”

Sticking to fossil fuels will jeopardize the businesses long-term, said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada.

“They will go the way of Blockbuster Video once Netflix arrived,” Stewart said.

Canada‘s transition to a low-carbon economy could displace up to 450,000 oil and gas workers over the next three decades, TD Economics said.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Peter Cooney)

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Saskatchewan sees bigger, C$2.6-billion deficit to fight pandemic

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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Saskatchewan forecast on Tuesday a C$2.6-billion ($2.07 billion)deficit in the current 2021-22 fiscal year, up from last year’s C$1.9 billion, as the pandemic drives up costs.

The province, whose economy relies on farming, oil production and mining, is running a larger deficit so it can effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said.

Canadian provincial governments, like the national government, have run bigger deficits since the pandemic began, trying to slow its spread and buttress economies that lockdowns have hit hard.

With government debt rising, credit rating agencies are watching closely for provincial strategies to tame deficits, TD Economics said in a report last month.

Saskatchewan expects to continue running deficits until balancing the books in 2026-27, the provincial government said while introducing its new budget.

The Saskatchewan Party government, led by Premier Scott Moe, forecast spending to increase by 7% to C$17.1 billion from last year, including costs such as vaccinations, tests for infection and purchases of protective equipment.

It forecast provincial revenues for the 2021-22 fiscal year at C$14.5 billion, up nearly 3% from last year.

Saskatchewan’s real gross domestic product looks to grow 3.4% in 2021 after contracting 4.2% last year, the government said.

The budget assumes an average North American oil futures price of $54.33 per barrel during its fiscal year, generating C$505.1 million in royalties.

Neighboring Alberta estimated in February that its 2021-22 budget deficit would shrink to C$18.2 billion, as its economy starts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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