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Seven missing after blaze destroyed Old Montreal building, fire officials say



Fire officials now say at least seven people are missing after a blaze destroyed a building in Montreal’s historic district Thursday.

Investigators initially said one person was believed to be missing in the fire that also injured another nine people.

“The information confirmed in the last few hours, from various sources, allows us to believe that there may be victims inside the debris,” Montreal fire operations chief Martin Guilbault said Saturday.

Guilbault said in a Saturday evening news conference that the building will be slowly taken down beginning Sunday morning.


“We want to announce tonight that we’re gonna take down this building slowly, stone-by-stone, to make sure that the environment inside here is safe for all the people from the fire department and the police department to do their work,” said Guilbault.

More than a dozen emergency responders were still on the scene on Saturday, where a parameter had been set up and part of the street was blocked off. The smell of smoke was still present in the air.

A memorial of flowers was also set up in front of the building where people stopped to pay their respect as they wiped away tears.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, Guilbault said, adding that the investigation is being led by the Montreal police arson squad.

Fire officials said two of the nine injured people suffered serious burns and remain in hospital.

Alain Vaillancourt, a member of the city of Montreal’s executive committee responsible for public safety, said that he had spoken to several families with missing loved ones who came to the site of the fire Saturday.

“(The families) think maybe (they) are in the building,” Vaillancourt said in an interview. “Now, honestly, I am upset by this news. I want to reassure them that we are doing everything in our power so that the investigation progresses quickly.”

During the evacuation of the three-storey building Thursday, six people had to be rescued by ladder.

Earlier Saturday, firefighters were still unable to enter the building that housed an architectural firm and residences.

“At this time, it is not possible to conduct a safe search in the building, which must first be secured,” Guilbault said.

Montreal police arson commander Steve Belzil said that investigators are focused on gathering information from the people who lived in the building. He added that they had already met with the people who were hospitalized.

“As you know, the site is not accessible for us to start our investigation, so a drone allowed us to go and get images,” Belzil said.

Belzil was not able to confirm whether the missing people were tenants of the building or tourists staying in a short-term rental.

“Right now, we’re not talking about arson. It was transferred (to the police) because we have reason to believe that there are victims, deaths,” Belzil explained.

In total, 130 firefighters responded to the fire to keep it from spreading.

Montreal fire Chief Richard Liebmann said Thursday there was some confusion over how many people were inside the Old Montreal building at the time of the fire, because several apartments were Airbnb rentals.

Vaillancourt said the city has been cracking down on Airbnb rentals for several years and called it a “problem.”

“In this sector (the site of the fire), it is not legal to have Airbnb rentals, but we will have to wait for the investigation to be over to find out whether that was the case here or not,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2023.


Protests as men accused of Sikh activist's murder appear in court –




Three Indian nationals accused of murdering Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar have appeared by video in a British Columbia court, with scores of Sikh community members gathering inside and outside the hearing.

Protesters outside provincial court in Surrey, B.C., carried placards honouring Nijjar, a campaigner for an independent Sikh homeland, and waved the movement’s blue and yellow Khalistani  flags.

The three suspects — Karan Brar, Karanpreet Singh and Kamalpreet Singh — wore orange prison jump suits and briefly responded to questions.


A Punjabi interpreter was brought in to help with the hearing for Karanpreet Singh. All of the co-accused will be tried in English.  

Brar and Karanpreet Singh agreed through their lawyers to make a next appearance at the Surrey court on May 21. Kamalpreet Singh has yet to secure a lawyer but will also make a next appearance on May 21.

WATCH | Large turnout from local Sikh community for accused killers’ court appearance: 

Crowds gather at B.C. courthouse where Sikh activists’ accused killers set to appear

19 hours ago

Duration 2:19

CBC’s Karin Larsen reports from provincial court in Surrey, B.C., where the three Indian nationals accused of killing Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023 were due to appear. Scores of people from the local Sikh community gathered outside the courthouse.

A no-contact order submitted by Crown in co-ordination with police lists seven names, including at least three family members of Nijjar.

The order prohibits direct and indirect communication between the accused and individuals on the list. No-contact orders are common in murder cases and often include names of potential witnesses, as well as family members of the victim.

Each of the accused, who were arrested in Edmonton on Friday, face charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in last June’s shooting death of Nijjar, considered a terrorist in India.

The three men are members of an alleged hit squad that investigators believe was tasked by the government of India to carry out the murder.

A group of Sikh men speak informally to each other for a posed photograph.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., in July 2019. Nijjar was shot dead outside the temple in June 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Police said there is an ongoing investigation into possible ties to the Indian government. The arrests have strained an already tense relationship between the two countries. 

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was credible intelligence that India’s government was involved in the killing, a claim that India denies.

Some protesters outside court on Friday carried signs bearing the faces of the three suspects along with the slogan “Indian agents arrested.”

Mug shots of three South Asian men.
From left, Karan Brar, Kamalpreeet Singh and Karanpreet Singh have been charged with Nijjar’s murder. (Submitted by IHIT)

Nijjar, who was the president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, was shot dead in his pickup truck while leaving the temple’s parking lot last June.

He was a key organizer of unofficial referendums for an independent Sikh state in India and was regarded by India’s government as a terrorist.

People carrying signs and flags stand in a row
Supporters of slain Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside provincial court in Surrey, B.C., where three men charged with his murder were due to appear on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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Cellphone emergency alert system testing in Canada – CTV News





The federal government will test its capacity to issue emergency alerts today.

That means Canadians in most provinces and territories will receive a test alert on their cellphones, as well as through TV and radio broadcasts.


The sole exception is Ontario, where the test will take place on May 15.

Provincial and territorial emergency management organizations already conduct regular tests of the system, but this is the first time the federal government will test its capacity to issue alerts.

It will hold tests in eight provinces and territories, while provincial and territorial authorities will conduct tests in another four.

The government says it recently signed an agreement to issue alerts on information of national interest that falls within federal jurisdiction.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2024.

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WestJet issues lockout notice to mechanics' union –




WestJet has issued a 72-hour lockout notice to the union representing the Calgary-based airline’s mechanics. The notice paves the way for a work stoppage to begin on Tuesday.

Last week, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), which represents the carrier’s aircraft maintenance engineers, announced that members would begin taking a strike vote on May 2. Voting will continue until May 9.

WestJet and the AMFA have been negotiating a new contract since September 2023.


In a Saturday morning email to employees, Diederik Pen, WestJet’s president and chief operating officer, said work stoppages could begin as early as Tuesday at noon MT.

“We did not take this action without careful consideration. AMFA publicly issued a strike vote alert last week and actively encouraged guests to fly other carriers several times,” the email said.

Pen said if the work stoppage can’t be avoided, WestJet is prepared to take the following steps:

  • Operating under a reduced schedule.

  • Proactively managing changes and cancellations and ensuring communications with passengers in advance of their flights.

  • Implementing flexible change and cancel options for passengers who wish to make alternate arrangements.

Pen also advised WestJet workers to refrain from booking employee travel.

“Rest assured our focus remains at the bargaining table and we believe, with a commitment from both parties, an agreement is achievable,” Pen wrote to employees.

AMFA regional director Will Abbott, who chairs the union’s WestJet-AMFA negotiating committee, told CBC News that the lockout notice was “not unexpected.”

“We feel that it’s unfortunate that it comes to this, but we remain to negotiate in good faith. Nothing is going to be resolved until we get to the finish line. What needs to be done is a collective bargaining agreement that both sides can live with,” he said.

Issues remain benefits and pay

Abbott says the biggest outstanding issues are what he calls “quality-of-life issues,” including benefits and pay.

“We also have to make sure that we have language that protects the jobs that you do. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have the language to protect your job, you’re not going to earn,” he said.

In a statement posted Saturday to the airline’s website, Pen defended the airline’s latest offer to the union. 

“The WestJet Group has presented an offer to AMFA that would make WestJet aircraft maintenance engineers the highest paid in Canada, with a cumulative wage increase of over 20 per cent across the span of the collective agreement. The offer would also deliver industry leading work-life balance standards and strong commitments to job security,” the statement said.

“We sincerely value the work and contributions of our aircraft maintenance engineers, and our proposed agreement reflects this. We are unwaveringly committed to reaching an agreement to prevent travel disruption, however, we are equally prepared to protect the travel plans of our guests and to provide long-term stability and security for all employees at the WestJet Group.”

Abbott says AMFA plans to keep negotiating, despite the lockout notice. When asked to rate the chances of Tuesday’s work stoppage being avoided, he said he was the wrong person to ask.

“I didn’t serve the lockout, so I can say that question would be in WestJet’s court.”

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