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Parks Canada clamps down on crowded national park in the Rockies

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As of 2023, private vehicles are no longer permitted at Moraine Lake in Alberta’s Banff National Park, in an attempt on Parks Canada’s part to handle the overcrowded tourism.

Banff has seen tourism increase in the last decade, especially at Lake Louise, prompting concern among locals and environmentalists about the national park’s conservation efforts.

Harm to the national park may not be caused by the tourists themselves, one expert says, so much as how they get there.

“We have a car problem, not a people problem in our parks,” Clara-Jane Blye, an instructor of recreation management at Dalhousie University, told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.

Blye says the overwhelming number of vehicles being driven to Moraine Lake is making the site more crowded without contributing to conservation efforts at the national park.

Parks Canada says 900 personal vehicles are able to park at Moraine Lake each year, but the demand is so high 5,000 vehicles are still turned away annually. While parking is still allowed in designated areas such as the Lake Louise Lakeshore, tourists no longer able to park on Moraine Lake Road will have to take the Parks Canada shuttle bus or use local transit. The only personal vehicles permitted on the road are those with a disability tag.

Blye says, by having tourists rely on the shuttle, it will limit the amount of vehicles while still bringing in people to enjoy the park and not feel so overcrowded when they’re there.

“We need to balance ecological integrity. Parks have a dual mandate of welcoming visitors and welcoming Canadians while also protecting the natural environment that these parks are there to preserve,” she said.

Additionally, Blye says tourists should consider visiting other national parks across the country.

“We are so fortunate in Canada to have amazing parks and protected areas. We’ve got mountains and lakes all over so it doesn’t have to be Banff,” she said.

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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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Member of Canada Soccer support team detained in France for alleged drone use

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PARIS – The Canadian Olympic Committee says a “non-accredited” member of Canada Soccer’s support team has been detained by French authorities in Saint-Étienne for allegedly using a drone to record New Zealand’s women’s soccer team during practice.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee said in a statement Tuesday that team support members alerted police after a drone was flown over the women’s soccer team’s practice on Monday, leading to the detention.

The NZOC said it registered a complaint with the International Olympic Committee’s integrity unit and asked Canada for a full review.

The COC said in a statement released Tuesday it is “shocked and disappointed” over the allegation and apologized to the NZOC and New Zealand Football.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee stands for fair-play and we are shocked and disappointed,” the statement said. “We offer our heartfelt apologies to New Zealand Football, to all the players affected, and to the New Zealand Olympic Committee.”

Canada, the defending Olympic women’s soccer champion, is scheduled to open its tournament against 28th ranked New Zealand on Friday in Saint-Étienne.

The COC said it is reviewing next steps with the IOC, Paris 2024, Canada Soccer and FIFA. The COC said it will provide an update Wednesday.

“Canada Soccer is working closely and cooperatively with the Canadian Olympic Committee on the matter involving the Women’s National Team,” Canada Soccer communications chief Paulo Senra said it a statement. “Next steps are being reviewed with the IOC, Paris 2024, and FIFA. We will provide an update (Wednesday).”

It’s not the first time a Canadian soccer team has been involved in a drone controversy involving an international rival’s training session.

In 2021 at Toronto, Honduras stopped a training session ahead of its men’s World Cup qualifier against Canada after spotting a drone above the field, according to reports in Honduran media. The teams played to a 1-1 draw.

French security forces guarding Paris 2024 sites are intercepting an average of six drones per day, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said Tuesday.

Attal added the drones are often operated by “individuals, maybe tourists wanting to take pictures.”

“That’s why it’s important to remind people of the rules. There’s a ban on flying drones,” he said, according to multiple news outlets.

“Systems are in place to allow us to very quickly intercept (drones) and arrest their operators.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Physicality and endurance win the World Series of perhaps the oldest game in North America

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CHOCTAW, Miss. (AP) — As the drummers walk onto the field, the players behind them smack their hickory sticks to the beat. The rhythm envelops the stands and a palpable sense of anticipation flows through the crowd.

Indigenous peoples have been playing stickball for hundreds of years, and every summer since 1975, teams have competed in Mississippi to become champion of perhaps the oldest game in North America.

A game of physicality and endurance, stickball is often referred to as the grandfather of field sports and the annual tournament in Mississippi is the game’s premier event. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has been producing some of the country’s best players for generations. A team from Mississippi will almost certainly be the one to beat in any tournament or exhibition game in the country.

No pads, no timeouts, no mercy

As the July sun set on another sweltering day, hundreds of people gathered at the Choctaw Central High School football field and sat down on the Indian blankets they had draped across the metal seating. Others lined their folding chairs along the chain-link fence to get a glimpse of the action.

Stickball, known as ishtaboli in the Choctaw language, is played with 30 players on the field, each carrying two netted sticks called kabotcha, and a small woven leather ball painted bright orange, called a towa.

Stickball fans say it remains pure. There are no pads, no timeouts and no mercy. Players typically don’t even wear shoes. It is not uncommon for people to leave the stickball field with broken bones from full contact, or gashes from taking a stick to the face. Any player possessing the ball can expect to be tackled or torn down by their jersey or breechcloth.

“It makes your heart just beat like a drum. Just the intensity of the sport,” Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Cyrus Ben said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what color jersey or what team, it’s being Choctaw.”

Although the game is high-contact, it is so respected by the Choctaw, and so central to their cultural identity, that no hit is taken personally, no matter how intense. Players often slam each other so hard that their sticks go flying through the air, and they simply get back up, nod to each other, and race down the field after the ball.

Variations on stickball have traditionally been played by several tribal nations using rules created by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Players are not allowed to hit each other with their sticks, although that happens routinely when players huddle around a loose ball. Late and early tackles are prohibited, and anything above the shoulders is off-limits.

The field is never empty

Chief Ben, like many here, was given a pair of sticks as soon as he could walk. Some recall sleeping with them above their pillows and a ball underneath. Boys and girls play together in the youth tournaments the night before the men’s and women’s championship games every year at the Choctaw Indian Fair. All over town you will see kids with sticks poking out of their backpacks.

The field is never empty. Children play stickball before every game — living out their fantasy of one day claiming victory on the same field. Between that, the snow-cone stand, and the almost fanatical way the assistant coaches scream from the sidelines, it’s as familiar as any Friday night high-school football game.

This year, Koni Hata, the 2023 men’s champion and one of the most dominant teams in the modern era of stickball, defended its dynasty in both the men’s and women’s title games against neighboring Choctaw communities such as Pearl River and stickball powerhouse Bok Cito.

The finals started with the women’s championship, Bok Cito Ohoyo taking on Koni Hata Ohoyo, which was looking for its second threepeat in the last seven years. Scoreless at the end of regulation play, the game was decided in sudden death when Bok Cito Ohoyo center shooter Leia Phillips scored with a running midfield shot.

“I said, ‘yeah, it’s my time to shine, this is my shot right here, you worked all year for this,’” Phillips, the women’s tournament MVP, said after the game.

Blood, gashes and breaks

The men’s game between Koni Hata and Pearl River was highly physical, and several skirmishes for the ball ended with sticks shooting through the air “like my 9-iron,” one announcer said. Several players were treated by medics for a variety of injuries including a bleeding eye and a gash across the forehead. Earlier in the tournament a player suffered from a broken nose.

Pearl River had no trouble scoring during tournament play, racking up an impressive 41 points in its first three games. They scored in the first half, but the point was negated for having 31 players on the field. Koni Hata scored in the second half but that point was also taken away for having too many players on the field. But Pearl River scored late in the fourth quarter and took home the ceremonial drum presented by Chief Ben.

As the Choctaw Indian Fair was winding down, Jackie Morris, the coach of the team from the community of Bok Cito, waited in line for a hot dog. He made sure that every passing Bok Cito player had a chance to sign the drum slung over his shoulder.

“This is what we play for,” he said, patting the trophy. On the field nearby, drums and sticks beat together.

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