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Pressure on Canada to send tanks to Ukraine

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OTTAWA –

Pressure is building for Canada to send some of its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine after Germany’s decision to provide the heavy weapons and approve requests by other countries to do the same.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced his government’s decision today following weeks of hesitation, saying Berlin will send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks.

The goal is for Germany and its allies to provide Ukraine with 88 of the German-made Leopards, which would make up two battalions.

While the Canadian Armed Forces has 112 Leopard 2s in a number of different variations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to say this morning whether Canada will send any of them to Ukraine.

Retired lieutenant-general and former Canadian Army commander Jean-Marc Lanthier says Canada has a moral imperative to help Ukraine, but that any donation will need to be balanced against the long-term impact on the military.

Lanthier says only about half of Canada’s Leopard 2s are operational at any time given maintenance requirements and other factors, and that the fleet is spread thin among different units across the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press.

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Publication ban imposed on details about Halifax student who stabbed school staff

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HALIFAX – The mental health of a 16-year-old who stabbed two people at a Halifax high school was the subject of a sentencing hearing Wednesday, but details about his medical history were immediately banned from publication.

The teen, whose identity is already protected from publication because of his age, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of aggravated assault in Nova Scotia Youth Justice Court. The two victims — employees of Charles P. Allen High School in suburban Bedford, N.S. — were taken to hospital with serious wounds on March 20, 2023, but both have recovered.

During Wednesday’s hearing, provincial court Judge Elizabeth Buckle approved an additional ban to prevent public disclosure of details from the testimony of two expert witnesses — a psychiatrist and a psychologist who provided treatment to the boy after he was arrested for the stabbings.

Buckle said the additional ban was needed in this case because the boy’s name and photograph has been shared widely on social media and linked with previous online media reports that don’t have that sensitive information.

The judge said the new ban applies to details revealed in court about the boy’s family and medical history, including disclosures he made about his mental health during clinical treatment. Making such personal information public would interfere with the boy’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society, she said.

“This is a matter of damage control,” Buckle told the court. The ban also applies to details about the boy’s psychiatric history, but Buckle said general testimony could be reported.

The boy, who was 15 at the time of the offences, had originally pleaded not guilty to 11 charges, including attempted murder.

On Wednesday, Dr. Jose Mejia, a forensic psychiatrist with the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, testified about his interactions with the boy, which resulted in the submission of a psychiatric report to the court. Mejia, who studies anti-social, aggressive and psychopathic behaviours, talked at length about his interpretations of the boy’s psychiatric state, but those details are banned from publication.

When asked how long it would take to effectively deal with the boy’s issues, Mejia said that was unclear.

“It tends to be quite fluid,” he said. “It’s not something that’s going to be solved in a month. It could take several years …. At the end of the day, we depend completely on the individual wanting to do it.”

Mejia went on to suggest the 16-year-old is “at the perfect juncture” to deal with his challenges. “There’s a lot of development that still goes on,” Mejia told the court, referring to the boy’s maturation process. “People change a lot.”

The court was expected to hear a number of victim impact statements, but that plan was shelved until Aug. 19 because Crown and defence lawyers could not agree on redactions. As well, a psychologist is expected to testify about the teen’s mental state during the August hearing.

A statement of facts presented to the court earlier this year says that immediately before the stabbings, the boy was escorted to the school office by a security guard after he was spotted on surveillance footage putting up questionable posters on the school walls. No details were provided about the posters.

The court document says the security guard pulled a butterfly knife from the student’s school bag, then left the office with the weapon and called police.

At that point, the vice-principal heard the boy say: “My life is over, so it’s just as well to do this.” He pulled a folding knife from the bag and stabbed the vice-principal twice as he tried to escape.

Moments later, the boy emerged from the office and stabbed an administrative assistant in the back before fleeing the building.

Once outside, the student “cut his neck with the knife,” which he was still holding when police arrived, the statement says.

Shortly after the boy was arrested, a teacher inside the school told The Canadian Press that the student’s actions were considered out of character, though there had been recent signs something was wrong.

The teacher, who was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the school, said the boy had been previously caught ripping gay pride flags off of walls at school, which prompted earlier meetings with administrators.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.



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Court decision halts enforcement of Ottawa’s kosher slaughter rules

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OTTAWA – A Federal Court decision has put a pause on enforcement of Canadian Food Inspection Agency guidelines for the ritual slaughter of animals.

The decision says there are serious issues with whether the guidelines are unreasonable and if they encroach on Charter rights to equality and freedom of religion.

A group of agencies that certify kosher meat took the government to court earlier this month to ask for an injunction.

The guidelines were posted in 2021 and outline how abattoirs must determine if an animal is unconscious and can no longer feel pain.

The group argued achieving the criteria is seriously slowing down production to the point abattoirs no longer want to provide the service, and has reduced access to kosher meat in Canada.

The decision says the government can’t enforce use of the three indicators of animal unconsciousness under the guidelines until the court makes a final decision on the merit of the court application.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Cooler temperatures on the way for B.C., as crews battle more than 400 wildfires

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Forests Minister Bruce Ralston says it is “clear climate change is arriving faster than predicted” as British Columbia faces storms, wind, lightning and drought as crews battle hundreds of wildfires.

He says thousands of lightning strikes brought by recent summer storms led to the surging number of wildfires, although some relief is expected in the north part of the province where rain and cooler temperatures are forecast.

The BC Wildfire Service says in its report on Wednesday that much of the province is returning to more seasonable temperatures with the exception of the southeast where hot and dry conditions persist, but it notes that Thursday will bring the “coolest temperatures in over a month” across B.C.

There are more than 430 fires burning in the province and 80 per cent of them were started by a series of lightning storms that swept across the province in the last few weeks.

Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma says there are about 550 people under evacuation order and another 5,000 under evacuation alert as of Wednesday.

She says those numbers are currently “manageable” for the province and while that could change very quickly, it is seeing “nowhere near” the number of evacuations it did in 2023.

“However, for those individuals who are evacuated, the impacts are equally as harrowing when you are away from your home and you do not know whether your home and all of your prized possessions and your memories have survived,” she told a news conference Wednesday.

B.C. also saw an influx of travellers from Jasper, Alta., after a fire forced park visitors and 4,700 residents to escape from the town with little notice on Monday.

Ma noted that the only safe route for 25,000 evacuees was to travel along Highway 16 into B.C.

“Alberta has directed evacuees to three emergency reception centers, one in Grand Prairie, one in Calgary, and another in Edmonton,” she said, noting B.C. has worked closely with Alberta to assist them in their evacuation efforts.

In B.C., she noted the number of people under evacuation alert dropped by about 2,000 since Tuesday after the alert covering Williams Lake was lifted. That change came after crews were able to contain the River Valley Wildfire that crept into the city on Sunday. That blaze is currently “being held.”

There are currently four wildfires of note in B.C. including the “aggressive” Shetland Creek blaze that has already destroyed at least six homes.

Jeff Walsh, an incident commander with the BC Wildfire Service, says crews were using heavy equipment on the mountain slopes above Spences Bridge to prevent fire from burning downslope toward the southern Interior community.

The homes lost were in the Venables Valley, near Spences Bridge. Colton Davies with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District says they were among 20 buildings destroyed by the nearly 200-square-kilometre Shetland Creek fire.

Ma said during the news conference that the province is focused on the wildfire fight and returning people safely to their communities. Until then, she said, the province won’t be able to assess the damage, but regional districts may release their own information.

Several communities are in the path of wildfires in B.C. as crews fight the most threatening active blazes. Sixty per cent of the current wildfires remain out of control.

Walsh says in a video update that hot and dry conditions coupled with gusty winds have fuelled erratic and aggressive fire behaviour at the Shetland Creek blaze, driving its spread to the north.

The wildfire service says people using bodies of water near out-of-control fires, such as Shawnigan Lake adjacent to the Old Man Lake wildfire on Vancouver Island, have been told to “keep well away” from aircraft either skimming water or operating in the area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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