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N.W.T.’s 2022 wildfire season has nearly doubled five-year average for area burned

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YELLOWKNIFE — The 2022 wildfire season in the Northwest Territories is shaping up to be one of the most severe in the past five years.

“We’re well on our way to doubling our five-year average for area burned,” said Mike Westwick, a wildfire information officer for the territory.

“It’s been a significant year for fires after a few years where we had a slight downturn.”

So far, 238 fires have burned nearly 4,300 square kilometres of land across the territory, compared to a five-year average of around 2,300 square kilometres.

Over the past decade, an average of about 200 fires burned some 6,300 square kilometres each year. That includes the 2014 wildfire season, the worst on record in the territory, where 385 fires burned roughly 34,000 square kilometres of forest.

The Department of Health and Social Services has issued wildfire smoke exposure advisories for residents in Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Tulita, Fort Smith, Fort Providence, Kakisa, Fort Simpson, Jean Marie River, Wrigley and Yellowknife.

Westwick said long spells of hot, dry weather have contributed to the wildfires this summer. He said this wildfire season is lasting slightly longer than usual as hot temperatures persist in the southern part of the territory.

More than 100 active wildfires are still burning across the N.W.T.

That includes a fire about 16 square kilometres located approximately 20 kilometres southeast of Wrigley.

Fire crews have used bulldozers to build a fuel break between the fire and things that could burn, such as trees near Smith Creek. It would serve as a base for controlled burning to reduce the amount of fuel available if conditions allow.

Westwick said the fire does not currently pose a risk to the community, but that could change quickly.

Another wildfire affected roughly 220 square kilometres south of Wrigley earlier this summer, burning down two cabins in July, one belonging to the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation.

“This has been a difficult season,” said Kyle Clillie, acting band manager for the First Nation. “Since July, fire has been burning around our community and creating smoke, and it’s very stressful on the community members.”

Another wildfire burning 38 kilometres southeast of Fort Smith grew significantly Tuesday. Fire crews have set up sprinklers to reduce the risk of the fire, approximately 236 square kilometres in size, to cabins and Taltson Dam infrastructure.

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation removed staff from dam facilities, located within eight kilometres of the fire, out of an abundance of caution.

Fire crews are allowing other wildfires that don’t pose any risk to communities or infrastructure to burn out naturally.

“The boreal forest is a landscape that’s primarily shaped by fire. It’s the most important force that’s shaped our landscape over millennia,” Westwick said.

He said to prevent added strain on limited resources, people should avoid having fires in areas where the fire danger is high unless necessary and to ensure that any fires they do start are properly extinguished.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

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Iran protests: Canada sanctioning 'morality police' – CTV News

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Canada will be imposing new sanctions on Iran as a result of a continuing violent crackdown on protesters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

The sanctions will be levelled on “dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” the prime minister said.

“We’ve seen Iran disregarding human rights time and time again, and now we see with the death of Mahsa Amini and the crackdown on protests,” Trudeau said, referencing the death of a 22-year-old who was detained for allegedly violating the country’s forced veiling laws. Her death has sparked outrage and has prompted a wave of international demonstrations, seeing some women cut their hair or burn their hijabs in revolt.

“To the women in Iran who are protesting and to those who are supporting you, we stand with you. We join our voices, the voices of all Canadians, to the millions of people around the world demanding that the Iranian government listen to their people, end their repression of freedoms and rights, and let women and all Iranians live their lives and express themselves peacefully,” Trudeau said.

While no official notice of the new sanctions has been published by Global Affairs Canada, the prime minister noted they come in addition to outstanding measures Canada has taken against Iran.

In an email to CTV News, Adrien Blanchard, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said that Trudeau “announced Canada’s intention” to issue these sanctions, pledging more details “in due course.” 

Joly, as well as MPs from all parties, have spoken out about the escalating tensions and use of force against civilians in Iran, with the House of Commons unanimously passing a motion last week offering “solidarity to the women of Iran who are fighting for their rights and freedoms.”

With files from CTV News’ Michael Lee 

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Maine power workers cross border without incident to help in Nova Scotia

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OTTAWA — Nova Scotia Power says there were no issues delaying American power crews from crossing the border to help repair the electrical grid from the devastation of hurricane Fiona.

On Sunday, the utility company and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston had both said an issue related to the controversial ArriveCan app was delaying power crews from crossing into Canada.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said this morning that the order making the app mandatory and requiring that foreign citizens be vaccinated to come to Canada will expire on Friday.

Power crews helping to restore electricity are considered essential workers and are exempt from the border measures.

In a new statement Monday afternoon, Nova Scotia Power spokeswoman Jacqueline Foster says there was some confusion about the app but it is now confirmed there were no problems.

Versant Power says 15 line workers and two mechanics left Bangor, Maine, for Canada early Monday morning without issue, and Central Maine Power reports more than a dozen two-person crews and 10 support workers crossed the border without incident at around 7 a.m. Monday.

“We now know there were not any issues with ArriveCan,” said Foster. “Our contractor crews have made their way over the border and we are grateful to have them as part of our restoration efforts here in Nova Scotia.”

The Canada Border Services Agency reported that it cleared 19 power trucks at the Third Bridge border crossing in St. Stephen, N.B., just after 7 a.m. Monday. The CBSA said the average processing time was between 30 and 60 seconds per vehicle.

The ArriveCan app has been fodder for heated political debates for months and Conservatives have repeatedly demanded that the government shut it down.

During question period on Monday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre cited the allegations that ArriveCan delayed power crews to demand that the app be scrapped ahead of schedule.

He asked, “Will the prime minister suspend the ArriveCan app today, not Saturday, so that no more holdups happen at the border for those who are trying to help those in desperate need?”

Trudeau said he can “confirm that there were no delays at any border because of ArriveCan or otherwise.”

The utility company had said Sunday that crews were physically stuck at the border, but confirmed a few hours after question period on Monday that this had never been the case.

Foster suggested the error was a result of “confusion” after a concern arose Friday — before the storm actually hit — that crews from Maine might not be able to cross the border because of ArriveCan.

No New Brunswick border crossings reported issues over the weekend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

 

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Former top civil servant, medical association president appointed as senators

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OTTAWA — Ian Shugart, a longtime bureaucrat and the country’s top civil servant during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been tapped for a seat in the Senate.

Dr. Gigi Osler, a Winnipeg surgeon, University of Manitoba professor and president of the Federation of Medical Women in Canada, is also set to become a senator.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the picks today after the two were recommended to him by the independent advisory board for appointments to the upper chamber.

Shugart, who will represent Ontario, stepped down as the clerk of the Privy Council in early 2021 to undergo cancer treatments and formally retired in May after a long public service career.

Trudeau also appointed him to the King’s Privy Council today, adding his name to a list that includes past and present cabinet ministers and people “honoured for their contributions to Canada,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Osler, who will represent Manitoba, became the first female surgeon and the first racialized woman to hold the presidency at the Canadian Medical Association in 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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