Hundreds of first responders and members of the public turned out Friday for a procession to pay tribute to a slain Ontario Provincial Police officer as calls grew for the federal government to reform its bail policy.
The procession for an OPP cop shot dead carrying 28-year-old Const. Greg Pierzchala‘s body started at the coroner’s office in Toronto and ended in his hometown of Barrie, Ont., about an hour later.
Police officers and other first responders lined up outside the coroner’s office to salute Pierzchala as the procession started.
Hundreds of people — some civilians, some in uniform — packed onto overpasses along Highway 400, raising their hands as a sign of respect, as the hearse and police cars with flashing lights passed by.
Dozens of officers, including Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique, were at the funeral home in Barrie when the procession arrived and a number of officers carried Pierzchala’s coffin inside as their colleagues saluted him.
Police have said Pierzchala was shot dead in an “ambush” attack earlier this week after he responded to a call for a vehicle in a ditch west of Hagersville, Ont.
Pierzchala had been with the OPP for just over a year and he had been notified that he had passed his 10-month probation period hours before his death. He was previously a special constable at Queen’s Park who, as a boy, dreamt of joining the police ranks.
Carrique has said Pierzchala gained his colleagues’ respect during his short time on the force.
“They knew they could rely upon him in the most dangerous and stressful of situations,” he said at a news conference this week.
Insp. Phil Carter, the OPP’s detachment commander for Haldimand County, has called Pierzchala’s death a “crushing loss.”
“It has been an unimaginable and heartbreaking loss for our officers that worked alongside provincial Const. Greg Pierzchala. He was a son, a brother and a friend,” he said at a news conference.
“He is no longer with us and that hurts.”
Pierzchala’s funeral will be held in Barrie on Jan. 4. The OPP is to announce more details in the coming days.
Randall McKenzie, 25, and Brandi Crystal Lyn Stewart-Sperry, 30, each face a charge of first-degree murder in his death.
Court documents show McKenzie had been initially denied bail, and was later granted it upon review, months before Tuesday’s shooting in a separate case involving a number of assault and weapons-related charges.
A warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to show up for a court date in August, the documents show.
Calls have emerged in recent days for the federal government to reform bail policy in Canada.
On Friday, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre urged the Trudeau government to “reverse its catch and release bail policy” — referring to Bill C-75, a law passed by the Liberals in 2019 to update bail provisions in the Criminal Code by instructing police and judges to use a “principle of restraint” for bail.
The law gave courts and police more powers to put restrictions on people accused of crimes, so long as they promised to appear in court.
“What we need to do instead is keep the small number of repeat habitual violent offenders behind bars and when they are newly arrested, deny them bail until such time as their trials are completed,” Poilievre said.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, the OPP commissioner said he was “outraged” that McKenzie had been out on bail.
“I know there’s a lot of interest to see that changes are made to ensure, where possible, people who are charged with violent offences that are firearms related are not in those positions moving forward,” Carrique said during a news conference.
On Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement that a “failed bail system” had led to innocent people losing their lives “at the hands of dangerous criminals who should have been behind bars – not on our streets.”
“Enough is enough. More must be done to fix a system that is far too often sacrificing the safety of our public and police officers instead of cracking down on the perpetrators who repeatedly commit these heinous crimes.”
But Shawn King, vice-president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, said there is no need for the federal government’s bail policy to be reformed.
“The underlying issue that really needs to be addressed here is not changing the bail policies, it’s trying to deal with the underlying conditions that cause these people to offend,” he said.
According to court documents, McKenzie has a history of addiction and pleaded guilty to an armed robbery in 2017, saying he needed money for drugs.
Providing support for offenders who are struggling with addiction would be more efficient than keeping them behind bars, King said.
In part meant to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian jails, Bill C-75 requires courts to consider the circumstances of accused individuals from vulnerable populations when deciding whether bail should be granted.
Court documents do not indicate why McKenzie was granted bail, but say that he is from the Onondaga First Nations of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and has experienced the negative impacts of colonialism.
Procession for OPP cop shot dead.
– With files from David Fraser
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2022.
Forecast: Coldest temperatures this winter coming to Eastern Canada – CTV News
The beginning of February is expected to bring Arctic-like temperatures across much of Eastern Canada, thanks to frigid air from the polar vortex.
“I think it will be a real punch in the face for easterners,” Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told CTVNews.ca. “It’s going to be pretty short-lived and it’s going to be right across the east.”
The cold snap will descend on Eastern Canada between Thursday night and Friday, with temperatures becoming seasonable again on Sunday. In between, much of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada can expect the coldest days yet this winter.
“We’ll see temperatures that are really, brutally cold,” Phillips said from Toronto. “It’s really a one-and-a-half-day wonder.”
According to Environment Canada, as the cold air tracks east, daytime highs will only reach -13 C in Toronto, -20 in Ottawa, -21 in Montreal and -23 in Quebec City on Friday, and -18 in Fredericton, -15 in Halifax, and -18 in Charlottetown on Saturday.
“It’ll be sunny and bright, because it’s Arctic air,” Philips said. “It’s very dry, and it will be crisp”
Overnight temperatures on Friday night could dip as low as -20 in Toronto, -31 in Ottawa, -30 in Montreal, -34 in Quebec City, -28 in Fredericton, -21 in Halifax, and -23 in Charlottetown – all more or less double what’s normal for this time of year.
“The last time it was that cold in Ottawa was 27 years ago,” Phillips explained. “You can go year after year after year and not see a temperature of -20 in Halifax.”
These temperatures do not factor in wind chill, which could make things feel even icier.
“It’s going to be very punishing,” Phillips said. “It’s clearly an Arctic invasion of frigid air.”
The short-lived and bitter winter blast is being blamed on a weakened polar vortex, which causes icy Arctic air to push south, leading to rapid and sharp temperature drops.
There is a silver lining for those who have been missing out on winter activities.
“The second half of winter, according to our models, seems certainly a little colder, more winter-like, than what we saw at the beginning of the winter,” Phillips said. “But everywhere in Canada, we’re now well the beyond the halfway point. There’s more winter behind us than ahead of us!”
While much of Western Canada has been shivering through the winter, it’s been a different story in the unseasonably mild east. Phillips says December and January in Ottawa, for example, were the third warmest on record in 150 years; and both Ottawa and Montreal have experienced no days below -20 this winter, when normally they would each have about 10. Ottawa’s Rideau Canal Skateway is also still closed when it typically opens in January. Warmer winter temperatures, however, have also brought abundant snow.
“If you’re in the east, it’s looking like winter, but it doesn’t feel like winter,” Phillips said. “But it’s going to feel like winter when the cold arrives.”
Canada province experiments with decriminalising hard drugs – BBC
Canada’s province of British Columbia is starting a first-in-the-nation trial decriminalising small amounts of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
From Tuesday, adults can possess up to 2.5g of such drugs, as well as methamphetamine, fentanyl and morphine.
It follows a similar policy in the nearby US state of Oregon, which decriminalised hard drugs in 2020.
Ahead of the pilot’s launch, British Columbia and federal officials outlined the rules under the federally approved exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
While those substances will remain illegal, adults found in possession of a combined total of less than 2.5g of the drugs will not be arrested, charged or have their substances seized. Instead, they will be offered information on available health and social services.
Federal minister of mental health and addictions Carolyn Bennett on Monday called the move “a monumental shift in drug policy that favours fostering trusting and supportive relationships in health and social services over further criminalisation”.
Some 10,000 residents have died from drug overdoses since British Columbia declared drugs to be a public health emergency in 2016, officials said.
“Decriminalising people who use drugs breaks down the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer reaching out for life-saving supports,” said Jennifer Whiteside, the British Columbia minister for mental health and addictions.
Thousands of police officers in the province have been offered training on the rule change, including those in Vancouver, the largest city in the province.
The programme will run from 31 January 2023 until 31 January 2026, unless it is revoked by the federal government.
Some experts have questioned the 2.5g limit, saying that it is not enough to account for the habits of many addicts.
There are some exemptions to the scheme.
The sale of drugs remains illegal. It is also illegal to possess drugs on the grounds of schools, childcare facilities and airports.
Canada legalised the use of recreational cannabis for adults nationwide in 2018.
But the four drugs now allowed in small quantities remain prohibited, meaning there are no plans to sell them in stores, unlike marijuana. Trafficking them across borders also remains illegal.
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Health Canada reviewing safety of controversial breastfeeding drug – CBC.ca
Health Canada has launched a safety review of the psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping or reducing use of a drug commonly prescribed to help women breastfeed.
The agency confirmed the review in an email to CBC News.
“A safety review is currently under way for domperidone and drug withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing the dose of domperidone used to stimulate lactation,” the statement said.
Domperidone is approved in Canada to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Health Canada has never authorized its use as a lactation aid, but it is widely prescribed off-label for this purpose.
The Health Canada review follows a CBC News investigation into severe psychological effects that can occur when some women stop taking the drug. Women who spoke to CBC described anxiety, lack of sleep and thoughts of self-harm severe enough that in some cases they became incapable of caring for their children or returning to work. One woman described multiple attempts to take her own life.
CBC’s investigation also found domperidone is prescribed by some doctors to stimulate lactation at doses three to five times higher than what is recommended by both Health Canada and the drug manufacturer. Because this is not an approved use or dosage anywhere in the world, there are no large-scale clinical trials that shed any light on how often these side effects occur.
This makes it challenging for regulators like Health Canada to evaluate the safety of a drug for an off-label purpose, said Mina Tadrous, an assistant professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto who specializes in drug safety.
“The company may not have intended it for that, so the original clinical trials were not designed for that. And so it means that they have to look at different mechanisms to be able to evaluate the safety of these drugs,” he said.
That can include looking at data from other countries with larger populations, according to Tadrous.
Case studies document concerns
There are, however, case studies documenting the withdrawal effects, including three published in November 2022 in the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding Medicine. Domperidone blocks dopamine receptors in the brain, which stimulates the release of prolactin. This causes lactation, the authors note, but can also cause domperidone to act as an antipsychotic. The authors also noted withdrawal symptoms are typically less severe when women taper off the drug slowly.
The most recent case studies are from the United States, where domperidone is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for any purpose. CBC’s investigation found some American women get the drug from doctors in Canada.
Health Canada will review “all relevant domestic and foreign case reports,” the statement said.
Reviews can result in Health Canada requesting more information, studies or monitoring by the manufacturer. They can also result in warnings to patients and health care providers, changes to how a drug is labelled or, if necessary, the withdrawal of a drug from the market “if the benefits no longer outweigh the risks of the product,” according to the statement released by the department.
“The decision to take action, including issuing a warning, is not based solely on the number of case reports, but on a comprehensive assessment of the information contained in these case reports,” Health Canada’s statement said.
“Should new safety risks be confirmed, Health Canada will take appropriate action and continue to keep Canadians informed.”
WATCH | Women report alarming withrawal effects after taking domperidone as a lactation aid:
The distinction between quantity and quality of reports is important, Tadrous said, because large numbers of reports, especially from non-clinicians, may only indicate people believe there’s a connection between a drug and a reaction.
“That’s the lesson we’ve learned with vaccines, for example, where these adverse event systems are flooded,” he said.
“And so if you base something just on the number of reports without doing a thorough investigation and a different type of study design that reduces bias … you might reach a false conclusion.”
Health Canada has conducted multiple safety reviews of domperidone, most recently in 2021. Previous reviews confirmed the risk of serious abnormal heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death related to domperidone use. These reviews resulted in Health Canada introducing a maximum daily dose recommendation of 30 mg and restricting its use in patients with certain cardiac conditions or taking other drugs.
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