WATCH: Alleged foreign interference: Johnston defends decision against public inquiry
David Johnston, the special rapporteur chosen by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to look into allegations of foreign interference in Canada, is resigning his position, Global News has confirmed via a senior government source and a copy of Johnston’s resignation letter.
The former governor general has faced weeks of scrutiny over what the opposition parties called a conflict of interest due to his ties to Trudeau’s family and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
The House of Commons last week passed a non-binding resolution calling for Johnston to step down over the “appearance of bias.”
“There are a lot of sources for us for smoke at the moment,” Hassell said.
“We’re in hazy conditions right now, expected hazy conditions continuing tonight. You may get a little bit of a break from the haze Saturday … but considering the forecast generally over the Prairies, it would not surprise me if we saw smoke or at least haze over southern Manitoba over the next few days.”
On average, Hassell said, lightning is responsible for about half of wildland fires, and the number of recent thunderstorms in the region certainly isn’t helping.
“You can get lightning travelling a great distance from the core of the storm,” she said, “meaning an area that is not getting any rain from that storm gets hit by lightning, then a fire starts, and there’s nothing to stop it right away.
“It can be sort of a weird feedback loop or cycle with the thunderstorms, lightning and the fires.”
Exacerbating the situation is the fact that many areas on the Prairies are dealing with dry conditions, meaning any vegetation is not going to be able to withstand catching fire — whether it’s due to lightning or anything else.
Cailin Hodder, a fire operations manager for the province, said all but one active blaze in the province was caused by lightning or another natural cause.
There are currently 14 fires burning across the province, with three new starts in the last 24 hours.
Hodder said some remote fires go undetected until they are of significant size, but the province uses satellites and drones to monitor blazes that would otherwise go unseen.
As for anticipating fires, the province is monitoring upcoming forecasts but Hodder said they’re preparing for the changing weather to increase the level of danger for a fire.
“As we kind of really get into the middle of June, we might see some areas with extreme fire danger levels in parts of Manitoba,” she said.
Hassell said southern Manitoba should expect more heat early next week, with cloudy conditions and possibly more thunderstorms for Wednesday and Thursday.
“We’ll have a little bit of everything that summer weather can give us.”
Luke DeSilva is an outdoor labourer and while working in E.T. Seton park in Toronto, he says he frequently encounters swarms of mosquitoes.
“There’s definitely a huge increase in the population,” DeSilva said.
“You’re trying to stay focused on your job and they’re just getting you a little frustrated and annoying you,” DeSilva said.
Phil Wong, environmental health manager at Welling-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said the mosquito season starts in the spring; while tracking hasn’t started yet, field crews have also noticed a spike in the insect’s population.
“We are starting our trapping season in the next couple weeks so we will be able to confirm that, once we start trapping, but right now it’s just from folks in the field,” Wong said, adding that shorter, milder winters have allowed more mosquitoes to survive the season.
“Depending on how bad the winter is and how cold it is and how much rain, we will see a direct influence on how many mosquitoes there are,” he said.
Wong said mosquitoes enter Canada from all over the world through imported goods, and can bring viruses with them across the border.
“We call them vectors, because they spread diseases,” Wong said. “The main one we’re concerned about is West Nile virus, and it spreads through a certain species of mosquitoes,” he said.
A study published in the Lancet last year predicted that the rising global mean temperature will increase the climatic suitability of malaria and dengue, particularly in already endemic areas in the African region, the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The population at risk of both diseases might increase by up to 4.7 billion people by 2070, the 2021 study showed.
As the warmer weather progresses, Wong said there are things people can do to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
“They bite mostly between dusk and dawn,” Wong said.
“So if you can limit your activity outdoors or make sure you’re wearing loose light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants, that will protect you from getting bit.”
Homeowners are also encouraged to check their windows and screens to ensure mosquitoes stay out of indoor spaces, and to remove standing water, which attracts the insects. Wong said bug sprays are also effective.
“You can use repellants like deet,” he said.
Mosquitoes will be trapped and monitored in the coming weeks and Wong said the spike cannot be confirmed until later this season.
Legacy Christian Academy is a Qualified Independent School run by Mile Two Church, and the lawsuit alleges that students were subject to physical and sexual abuse. None of the allegations have been tested in court.
The rally is being held at the Lawson Heights northeast parking lot from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m.
“We’re also protesting that their policies don’t line up with the human rights code,” Caitlin Erickson, a former student and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said Friday.
She claimed there’s been mistreatment of students at the school, and that the province hasn’t mandated proper curriculum to this school, as well as other Qualified Independent Schools.
Independent schools in the province have been under the microscope since August 2022 when the lawsuit was launched, and the province of Saskatchewan was later added to the lawsuit.
Erickson said she’s seen a lot of community support, noting she’s received messages from people saying if they can’t be at the rally, they are supporting them in spirit.
She said this has nothing to do with religious freedom and attacking religion, pointing to other churches who have denounced Mile Two Church after the allegations came out.
Back in November, Living Skies Regional Council, the United Church of Canada in Saskatchewan released a statement supporting Erickson and “all the survivors of Legacy Christian Academy.”
“The experiences they have described should never be associated with any place of learning, or with any Christian context. As we said in an earlier statement, we reject the theology and practices surrounding beliefs espoused by the school. We reject transphobic and homophobic beliefs associated with some expressions of Christianity, including Legacy Christian Academy,” read the statement.
Erickson said this wasn’t an issue that was going away, noting she and the other former students will continue to be a voice in the community.
“When you’ve failed that many people, it’s time to close your doors and walk away,” Erickson said.
Erickson said there’s a bias that the current provincial government has regarding education, noting public educators are frequently crying out about a lack of funding, yet schools like Legacy Christian Academy get government funding and can charge tuition on top of that.
“I don’t think taxpayers in our community are OK with that either, with public dollars going to this place when our public schools are suffering so immensely.”
Erickson stressed that people who come out to support the rally need to keep 50 metres away from the schools due to the rules within the education act.
The Saskatchewan NDP called on the province to freeze funding for the school back in August 2022 after former students alleged paddling, exorcisms and discrimination due to one of the students being gay took place at the school back when it was known as Christian Centre Academy.
“Outwardly anti-LGBTQ2S+ sentiments and violent discipline have no place in our schools,” Saskatchewan NDP leader Carla Beck said in August.
Red flags have been raised in other areas in regard to the church, the school and its former members.
The former athletic director of Legacy Christian Academy (LCA), Aaron Benneweis, was charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation while he was in a position of power.
Jennifer Beaudry, a 2013 graduate of LCA, reported Benneweis to the police in August 2022. Forty-six-year-old Benneweis turned himself in to the Saskatoon Police Service on Jan. 31, and was released on conditions after his arrest.
Concerns about the curriculum at the school have been raised on several fronts.
Last November, a biology textbook from the school that was part of the ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum and SAICS (Saskatchewan Association of Independent Church Schools) received scrutiny after it was found stating that dinosaurs and people co-existed with each other, using the theme of dragons throughout history to support that theory.
A freedom of information request came back with emails last week noting that LCA offered an unapproved Advanced Placement computer sciences course from September 2020 until April 2021.
Another freedom of information request from the NDP highlighted other issues within the school, showing that the provincial government was working on addressing gaps in the curriculum for the school in November.
Beck also took issue that Qualified Independent Schools saw increased funding in the provincial budget this year.
“We see that the Sask. Party government this year increased funding to Qualified Independent Schools by 25 per cent.”
“(These reports) show that there was a surplus revenue fund created once the Sask. Party began funding these schools, and a clear lack of oversight and proper financial record keeping,” Beck added.
The proposed class action is scheduled for its first appearance in July.
Global News reached out to both the Ministry of Education and Legacy Christian Academy for a response.
When asked why public funding is still going towards Legacy Christian Academy after several calls to freeze or stop funding, the Ministry sent the following statement:
“The Education Act, 1995 makes provision for the registration of independent schools. This provision allows parents/guardians to educate their children in accordance with their conscientious beliefs, which may include faith-based education, and provide them with a legitimate exemption from a public or separate school.”
“The Government of Saskatchewan believes in the importance of supporting parental choice and the ability to access faith-based education in Saskatchewan.”
– with files from Brooke Kruger, Nathaniel Dove of Global News, and Kelly Skjerven
The discussion around fireworks in London, Ont., returns next week to city hall where councillors will restart the debate around them with an option for banning them in backyards.
In a report before the Community and Protective Services (CAPS) committee next week, staff will present two options for councillors to consider for the future of fireworks in the city.
The first option would allow for consumer-grade (backyard) fireworks on three days: Victoria Day, Canada Day and Diwali. Sales would be permitted five days in advance of each holiday, and fines would be increased for breaking the rules.
The second option bans the sale and setting off of backyard fireworks in the city.
Both options would still allow higher-grade “display” fireworks to be set off with a permit obtained through the fire department, with community firework displays on Victoria Day, Canada Day, Diwali and New Year’s Eve.
“I want to make sure when we bring this forward, we do it right,” Coun. Corrine Rahman tells Global News.
“I want to hear from the public as much as possible.”
As part of the report, city staff suggest a public participation meeting be held on Aug. 15 to gauge further residents’ opinions beyond a survey completed last summer.
In that survey, residents indicated they were unfamiliar with the city’s fireworks bylaw and over half said fireworks are not enforced well.
Of the over 2,300 responses, 41 per cent of Londoners say they would support a complete ban on fireworks. Fifty per cent said no, and nine per cent said they were unsure.
While most do not support a complete ban, over 56 per cent say they support only allowing fireworks on pre-designated dates at public events.
Victor Anber, a co-owner of K&H Distributing Fireworks, says banning fireworks would not be practical for municipal law enforcement officers.
“It’s ludicrous and somebody needs to think this out,” said Anber, who wrote a letter to the committee outlining his concerns with banning fireworks.
Instead, Anber says the focus should be education for residents purchasing backyard fireworks.
“There is such a thing as the ‘good neighbour’ flyer that our company and people that we supply hand out that tells people to be considerate of your neighbours.”
However, Deanna Ronson, one of the organizers for Londoners for Quiet Fireworks, says fireworks are too harmful not to consider an outright ban.
“I don’t believe that someone personal joy over an activity is enough justification for continuing to harm others,” Ronson tells Global News.
Ronson says traditional fireworks are not environmentally friendly and cause distress to people with nervous system disorders, PTSD and autism, as well as pets and wildlife.
Instead of continuing to use traditional fireworks, Ronson says she hopes the city bans backyard and display fireworks, transitioning to drones or light shows for public events like Canada Day.
The CAPS committee meeting gets underway at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
The federal government is increasing security funding for Pride events, in response to a surge in open aggression towards the LGBTQ2 community by far-right groups. As Touria Izri explains, this rise in hostility is preventing some people from running for public office.
Hundreds of people rallied against what an organizer calls “gender ideology” near three west-end Ottawa schools today, as hundreds more joined a counter-protest in support of transgender rights.
Police arrested five people in connection with the protests but wouldn’t share more information about why.
The protest against gender identity being taught in schools was organized by activist Chris Elston, while community groups Horizon Ottawa and Community Solidarity Ottawa mobilized the counter-protest.
Police closed a stretch of Broadview Avenue in Westboro between Carling Avenue and Tillbury Avenues and divided the crowd into several groups along the street.
Notre Dame High School is located on that section of the street, and Broadview Avenue Public School and Nepean High School are located another block away.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has urged the protesters to move their demonstrations away from the schools.
“Adults should never make children and youth feel threatened or intimidated. Protests that are intended to provoke students, staff, families and/or community members to generate attention or social media traffic are completely unacceptable,” the board said in a press release ahead of the planned protest.
Neighbourhood resident Tris Harrison said he has two kids who attend Broadview Avenue Public School, one in kindergarten and another in Grade 2.
Harrison said while he respects protesters’ democratic rights, the demonstrations are unfair and disruptive to the children in nearby schools.
“I don’t want my (kids’) school used as a prop,” he said.
It’s been one year since the City of Edmonton released its safety plan after two men were beaten to death in Chinatown on May 18, 2022. The killingS sparked outrage from the community and a demand from then-justice minister Tyler Shandro for city council to create a plan to manage a situation he called “extremely concerning and inappropriate.”
While there are different opinions on steps taken since then in an effort to address the situation, at least one area business owner has offered an optimistic look at changes being made.
Will Chen, owner of Van Loc, a restaurant in Chinatown, said he’s noticed improvements over the past year.
“I think it’s gotten a lot better. The streets are definitely cleaner,” he said.
“The city and the folks taking down the tents make it a little bit nicer for people to walk around.”
On June 9, 2022, the city released its Downtown Core and Transit System Safety Plan, a 30-page document that describes a dozen recent actions and four longer-term actions.
Actions taken – some of which were taken directly after the killings and some of which had been in the works for years – broadly look to answer three challenges: addressing law enforcement when it comes to street crime and disorder; addressing root causes by getting vulnerable people the supports they need through housing and mental health and addictions treatment; and returning vibrancy to Chinatown and downtown.
While some who frequent Chinatown have said the situation was improving, they all agree there is still work to do.
When it comes to front-line initiatives aimed at cracking down on crime and disorder, the city, police and province have taken a number of steps since the release of the June 2022 safety plan.
Healthy Streets Operations Centre (HSOC)
Who: Police, peace officers, paramedics
What: Enforce law, provide visible presence of police
Where: Hot spots of crime and disorder: Chinatown, downtown, Kingsway
When: Teams deployed beginning of December 2022
Why: Community members wanted increased police presence, paramedics help divert ambulances
How: Teams patrol “hot spots”
On the first anniversary of the killings, the Edmonton Police Commission (EPC) received a presentation on the results of the program that launched in late 2022.
Police said crime severity went down in the time and areas where HSOC operated. In November, the crime severity index was around 115 and it dipped in February to 77.5 before rising to 85.8 in March, the most recent month for which data was provided, according to police.
The crime severity index is a measurement of crime that accounts for Edmonton’s population, the number of crimes occurring and the seriousness of the crimes, according to the Edmonton Police Service.
Insp. Angela Kemp said teams intervened nearly 3,500 times in what she called “proactive engagements.”
“It stops public complaints because the individuals on our teams are engaging with the public and community members in this space before situations can escalate,” she said.
Who: Alberta Sheriffs (through the provincial government), EPS
What: Fifteen-week pilot project that partnered sheriffs with HSOC officers to expand hours and service capacity
Why: Increase police visibility, “to deter crime and protect people from criminals”
How: By adding “more boots on the ground”
The Alberta government said in a news release in late April that the teams with sheriffs had recovered nearly $125,000 in stolen property and seized $50,000 worth of street drugs.
A spokesperson for the province added the continuation of the partnership would be considered once the cabinet of the new government was chosen and sworn in.
Community Outreach Transit Team
Who: City of Edmonton transit peace officers, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society outreach workers
What: Help people in need of support with the resources they need, including housing, mental health, substance use and addiction resources
Where: Transit facilities including stations, LRT cars and buses
When: Starting July 2021
Why: “Some disorder observed is rooted in core social issues such as lack of housing, mental health and substance use,” according to a city report
How: Teams aim to deliver compassionate, trauma-informed supports to marginalized individuals
In a report given to city council on March 20, the city said numbers could not always effectively convey the impact and complexity of the team’s work. Nonetheless, the report said in the first year the teams made 2,700 contacts where members shared information about programs. In about one in five of those contacts, specific referrals were made and transportation was facilitated, according to the city.
The city said 250 different people were followed up on with ongoing support in the second half of the year.
Integrated Care Centre (ICC)
Who: Edmonton police, peace officers, paramedics, Radius Community Health and Healing
What: People detained for public intoxication are connected to medical supports and can get referred to an addiction treatment program
Where: Former holding cells at the police headquarters downtown
When: Opened March 29, 2023
Why: “Ensure that individuals get access to the health and social supports they may need to stem their crisis”
How: Twelve peace officers and four paramedics can help up to 17 people at a time
Global News asked Edmonton police how many people had accessed the ICC since it opened but that data was not available in time for publication, according to police.
Public Spaces Bylaw Review
Who: City of Edmonton
What: The city is reviewing three bylaws that address what people are allowed to do in public spaces
Where: Transit, parks, sidewalks, food courts, other public areas
When: The city wrapped up public engagement in May, new bylaw to be considered by council in Q3 2023
Why: Promote consistency and clarity
How: Consolidate three bylaws into one
A spokesperson with the city said administration was seeking feedback on the bylaw because while most people agree it’s not appropriate to, for example, use drugs in public spaces, many have differing ideas on how to address it.
“We want to have an overarching bylaw that governs all public spaces but has the ability to focus on particular areas that maybe need some specific attention,” deputy city manager Gord Cebryk said in an interview in May.
Human-centred Engagement and Liaison Partnership (HELP) Unit
Who: Edmonton police, outreach agencies
What: An effort to break the cycle of arrest, remand, release that many vulnerable people fall into
Where: City-wide, every day 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
When: Launched Jan. 4, 2021
Why: “Front-line patrol officers don’t have the vast skill set or resources to treat each vulnerable person’s specific needs”
How: Constables team up with social workers to provide referrals to services, follow-ups and case-management plans
Edmonton police said HELP teams divert one person from the justice system every day, with 889 referrals in 2021, 2,641 in 2022, and 664 in 2023 as of mid-April.
Police and Crisis Response Team (PACT)
Who: Edmonton police and mental health therapists from Alberta Health Services
What: Some therapists patrol with EPS members while others are placed in dispatch to support 911 dispatchers and police
When: Started in 2004
Why: Support people calling with mental health concerns and free up police resources
How: Mental health therapists connect people to supports and stabilization services
In a news release in mid-April, Edmonton police said PACT saw 5,031 referrals in 2021, 6,692 in 2022, and 1,772 so far in 2023.
In addition to the above programs, EPS, the city and the province have all committed at one time or another to providing more police officers in “high harm and high disorder” neighbourhoods.
Are these programs working?
Christina Trang, whose father Hung Trang was killed in the May attacks, lauded the HSOC for helping improve the area.
“I think the team being in and around the community and engaging and trying to help where they can, whether it’s social services, whether it’s medical, all that brought to the community has been very helpful and maybe it’s even been able to help offload any emergencies,” she said.
“The Healthy Streets Operations (Centre) is definitely a start to getting vibrancy back into Chinatown, where we can create a little more safety for everybody.”
Trang is now working with the Chinatown and area business improvement association, working to return vibrancy to the neighbourhood.
Chen said the increased police presence has made residents and business owners feel safer.
“Just seeing police officers and peace officers walking around, it helps with a sense of safety and community. And they’re always nice, smiling, waving,” he said.
LISTEN: Co-owner of Van Loc Wilson Wong is working to make his restaurant a ray of sunshine for Chinatown
Chen said he doesn’t feel threatened by the presence of vulnerable people in the neighbourhood.
“I don’t worry about it too much. I mean, they’re normal people just like you and me, and sometimes they just want some dignity,” he said, adding he serves them as customers too.
“I think we’re on the right path right now. Personally, I would like it to happen a little bit faster.”
Temitope Oriola, a criminologist at the University of Alberta, said increasing police presence may actually artificially increase the rate of crime in an area.
“In deploying more police resources, it’s important that we understand that we may end up, at least in the short term, actually ballooning the rate of crime, because we now have more resources, more police cars and cruisers and boots on the ground enforcing the law and therefore increasing the likelihood that we would see more crime,” he said.
At the same time, what Oriola said what he calls “performative enforcement” can help people feel safer in the core..
“It’s essentially a show of officer presence in specific designated spaces that produces a sociopsychological effect of assuring members of the public that we are doing something and all of that,” he said.
“Objectively speaking, the numbers may be the same or the numbers might have gone up, but you would have tackled, at least in the interim, the feeling (of safety) among members of the public.”
But this is a temporary reprieve, Oriola said, as more police will not permanently fix crime and disorder so long as the root causes are not addressed.
Oriola said police organizations have a tendency to come up with new programs with new names in response to public demands instead of focusing on ones that already exist.
“The problem is often this frenetic pace with which they come up with all kinds of programs and therefore shifting attention almost automatically to the newly formed program until the next one is formed,” he said.
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he believes the city is doing what it can but there is more work to do.
“We have a long, long way to go to make Edmonton a safer community,” he said.
Sohi said the city has allocated resources for safety on public transit, hired new transit peace officers and more social workers and stabilized police funding.
“Anecdotally, we hear people’s experiences of feeling safe as well as feeling unsafe,” he acknowledged.
Elliott Tanti, spokesperson for social agency Boyle Street Community Services, said any time there is an increase in law enforcement in an area, the houseless community feels it.
“While I appreciate that the more visible presence of police in the area does help to make some feel safer, it’s only one piece… (of) what needs to be a much more diverse range of supports for the area,” he said.
“Our police chief has said this, we’ve said this: We’re not going to arrest our way out of the challenges that we’re facing in our community.”
This article is the first in a three-part series examining Edmonton’s core one year after the city introduced a “safety plan” following the killings of two men in Chinatown. The second article on homelessness, mental health and addictions will be published Saturday and the third article on revitalizing the neighbourhood will be published Sunday.
An emotional night in downtown Vancouver as the parents of Paul Schmidt visit his memorial outside the Starbucks where he was stabbed to death. Christa Dao reports.
A date has been set for the murder trial of a man accused of fatally stabbing a B.C. father outside a Vancouver Starbucks in broad daylight.
Inderdeep Singh Gosal has been charged with second-degree murder in the grisly killing, which was caught on camera and shocked the city.
The BC Prosecution Service confirmed Friday a preliminary trial date has been set for April 22, 2024, with pre-trial hearings set for the month prior.
Paul Stanley Schmidt, 37, was stabbed outside the coffee shop at Granville and Pender streets on March 26 after a “brief altercation,” according to Vancouver police. He was rushed to the hospital but did not survive.
His mother told Global News he was with his wife and young daughter at the time, and had allegedly asked the suspect not to vape near his daughter.
“We’ve lost our son and it’s devastating. Paul had a great life. He lived for life, he lived for his family, and to have that ripped away from him is just cruel and unacceptable,” Kathy Schmidt said in an interview at the time.
Gosal was arrested at the scene and charged the following day. At the time, police said they did not believe the two men knew one another.
Following Schmidt’s death, graphic videos of the killing circulated on social media, prompting pleas from the victim’s family not to share the images.
A local humane society suspects three “malnourished and undersocialized” dogs picked up off Oakville, Ont., streets within the last few days could possibly be related.
Stephanie Aleksich, animal protective services manager for the Oakville and Milton Humane Society (OMHS), says they’re seeking information and assistance after the trio arrived with a list of ailments associated with neglect.
“We do think that they are somewhat related and possibly by the same owner,” Aleksich said. “So right now we don’t have any idea but are hoping that with the public’s help, we can identify who the owner or owners are.”
An older female dog who is diabetic and blind in one eye was picked up after a call from residents reporting a dog running at large on Kerr Street last week.
Two other younger dogs were turned in to the Cornwall Road location Monday by a passerby who found them roaming near a plaza on Maple Grove Drive.
“They also were severely malnourished and extremely undersocialized to where they were terrified of people,” explained Aleksich.
The outlet is seeking the background of the dogs amid its own investigation but could not speak about potential animal welfare charges since that’s under the purview of the Solicitor General’s office.
Sentences for those found guilty of abuse through an Ontario court can include jail time, six-figure fines and lifetime bans on animal ownership.
Aleksich says they are seeing an increase in dogs being turned in across the region, including many with behavioral challenges, which complicates fostering of the animals.
The OMHS relies 100 per cent on donations from the community to protect vulnerable animals. Donations can be made via their website.
At present, the facility is seeing an increased intake of dogs, cats and rabbits.
“We are actually in a rabbit crisis right now,” said Aleksich. “We have over 30 in our care, so we’re definitely looking for foster homes for them.”