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RCMP diverted attention from errors made during mass shooting investigation: lawsuit

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HALIFAX — The spouse of the man responsible for the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history says she was charged with supplying ammunition to the killer because the RCMP wanted to deflect attention from mistakes made during their investigation.

In a lawsuit filed Oct. 21 in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Lisa Banfield accuses the RCMP and the province’s Public Prosecution Service of conspiring to stage a malicious prosecution that led to a “trumped-up charge” filed on Dec. 4, 2020.

“(The) Nova Scotia RCMP instigated a baseless investigation into the plaintiff’s involvement in the events of April 18-19, 2020 in an effort to draw attention away from the errors committed by the … RCMP in their response to the (killings),” the lawsuit alleges.

The allegations have not been tested in court. The federal and provincial attorneys general — both of whom are named in the suit — could not be immediately reached for comment.

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The statement of claim, filed in the courthouse in Amherst, N.S., goes on to allege the charge against Banfield was intended to create the appearance that the RCMP were doing something after a federal-provincial inquiry was established in July 2020.

As well, Banfield alleges the RCMP failed to inform her of her right to have a lawyer present when she provided recorded statements to the Mounties and later walked them through her actions on the night the killing started in Portapique, N.S.

The document concludes by arguing the charge was unlawful because the Mounties and the Crown failed to recognize that Banfield’s partner, denture-maker Gabriel Wortman, had subjected her to life-threatening violence throughout their relationship.

“(The) actions of the Nova Scotia RCMP and the (Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service) … were a blatant and callous disregard of the plaintiff’s rights,” the lawsuit says.

According to the suit, the RCMP had assured Banfield she was “being viewed solely as a victim” early in their investigation.

And when RCMP first announced charges against Banfield, her brother and brother-in-law, investigators acknowledged the three had no knowledge of what the gunman would do. They were charged with giving the killer .223-calibre Remington cartridges and .40-calibre Smith and Wesson cartridges. All charges were withdrawn by the Crown after the trio took part in a restorative justice program.

The public inquiry, which wrapped up public hearings in September, heard that on the night of April 18, 2020, Wortman beat Banfield and fired gunshots at her before she was handcuffed and shoved in the back of a car that he had modified to look exactly like a marked RCMP cruiser.

Banfield managed to escape and hid in a nearby wooded lot in Portapique, before she fled to a neighbour’s home, where police were called at dawn.

The gunman fatally shot 13 people in Portapique before fleeing the rural enclave around 10:45 p.m. After spending the night in nearby Debert, N.S., he killed another nine people while leading police on a chase that spanned more than 100 kilometres across northern and central Nova Scotia. After 13 hours at large, he was shot to death by a Mountie when he stopped at a gas station north of Halifax.

Banfield was interviewed by RCMP investigators on April 19, 20 and 28 — but she was never told she could have a lawyer with her, the lawsuit alleges.

During a news conference on April 28, 2020, RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell described Banfield as the “first victim,” and he emphasized that she did not have anything to do with the killer’s actions, the document says.

The lawsuit says the inquiry, which started hearings in February 2022, “placed intense pressure on the Nova Scotia RCMP as it threatened to expose errors committed” by the Mounties. That pressure prompted the RCMP to launch a prosecution that caused Banfield to “suffer significant losses for which she claims general and special damages.” The amount of damages sought is not specified.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2022.

 

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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Tick-borne germs increasingly widespread in Canada: study – CTV News

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Researchers from Quebec and Ontario are calling for better testing to track the spread of tick-borne germs as disease-causing bacteria gain new ground in Canada.

Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids that can carry pathogens – bacteria, viruses and parasites – like those that cause Lyme disease. Now, McGill University PhD candidate Kirsten Crandall says pathogens that are local to other regions are beginning to show up across central Canada.

“While the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne pathogen in Canada, other tick-borne pathogens are moving in,” she said in a media release published on Nov. 17.

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In a study published in the medical journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases on Nov. 9, Crandall and her co-authors from McGill and the University of Ottawa warned that two pathogens, Babesia odocoilei and Rickettsia rickettsii, had been detected in Canada outside of their historic geographic range.

Babesia odocoilei causes a malaria-like parasitic disease called babesiosis. Babesiosis can be asymptomatic or it can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea or fatigue.

Rickettsia rickettsii causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever and anaplasmosis, and is normally found in the United States, Western Canada, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia.

Both bacteria can infect animals and humans, and both were found in ticks and small mammals in Quebec. According to the study, climate change, habitat fragmentation and changes in the abundance of tick populations and their hosts are all driving the spread of emerging tick-borne pathogens like these across Canada.

“The presence of these pathogens changes the risk of disease for Canadians and animals in some densely populated areas of Canada,” Crandall said.

Crandall and her team made the detections using methods that went beyond those normally used in tick monitoring studies. By testing ticks at all life cycle stages, they discovered that female ticks can actually pass pathogens to their larval young. They also tested for pathogens not already listed as nationally notifiable diseases in Canada.

She said the findings demonstrate the need for better testing and tracking to detect the spread and potential risk of tick-borne pathogens to humans and animals throughout the country.

“Only two tick-borne pathogens are listed as nationally notifiable diseases in Canada: Lyme disease and tularemia,” she said. “However, we are seeing increased cases of diseases like anaplasmosis and babesiosis in humans in Canada.”

Jeremy Kerr, a professor and research chair at the University of Ottawa’s department of biology, said the study highlights the importance of funding more research into tick-borne diseases that haven’t historically been common in Canada.

“If we don’t know that pathogens are present, we can’t equip Canadians with the information they need to protect themselves,” he said in a statement released on Nov. 17. “COVID has diverted public health resources away from challenges like this one, and we need to remember that these tick-borne diseases are on the move too.” 

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National security concerns prompt bill to modernize foreign investment screening

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The Liberal government says it will make the most significant updates to the federal investment screening law in more than a decade to address evolving national security concerns.

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne plans to table the proposed changes to the Investment Canada Act later today.

Champagne’s ministerial mandate letter directs him to promote economic security and combat foreign interference by modernizing the act to strengthen the national security review process and better address threats posed by investments from abroad.

He was also told to use all tools, including the Investment Canada Act, to ensure protection and development of Canada’s critical minerals.

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Canada sees critical mineral exploration, extraction, processing and manufacturing as keys to becoming a global leader in the production of batteries and other clean technologies.

In October, the government announced plans to restrict the involvement of foreign state-owned companies in Canada’s critical minerals sector amid a global rush for the resources and growing tensions with China.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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‘More to do’ on systemic barriers facing Muslim charities, Trudeau acknowledges

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledges there is “significantly more to do” on the systemic barriers that confront Muslim charities amid concerns from a federal watchdog that his review of the issue also faces roadblocks.

In a statement last month, taxpayers’ ombudsperson François Boileau said his office was having trouble obtaining information needed from the Canada Revenue Agency to conduct his review.

Following her participation in a national summit last year on Islamophobia, Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier asked the ombudsperson to conduct a systemic review of the concerns of certain Muslim charities about their treatment by the revenue agency.

Lebouthillier asked the watchdog to pay particular attention to concerns about the selection of files for audit purposes by the Review and Analysis Division of the revenue agency’s charities directorate.

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A 2021 report by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said the division works with national security agencies to carry out these audits, with little accountability or independent review.

Asked about the ombudsperson’s difficulties today, Trudeau says there is significantly more to do on the overall issue, adding the government will look at what next steps can be taken to ensure accountability and openness.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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