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Grizzly bear's deadly attack

Yukon's coroner's service says a grizzly bear that fatally attacked a woman had climbed inside her home before chasing her outside and mauling her.

Claudia Huber, who was 42 years old, died of her injuries on Saturday following the attack near Johnsons Crossing, located about 136 kilometres southeast of Whitehorse.

The coroner's service says the family dog started barking when it saw the bear approach the property, alerting Huber's spouse and prompting him to grab his rifle.

The bear climbed through a window into the home and the couple fled, but the bear pursued them and attacked Huber.

The coroner's service says Huber's spouse shot the bear dead and took Huber to a medical clinic, where she died of her injuries.

A necropsy on the bear has been completed, while an autopsy on Huber has been scheduled.

The Canadian Press




Driver mows down soldiers

Quebec provincial police say two pedestrians who were struck deliberately by a motorist today were members of the Canadian Forces.

Police ended up shooting the man after a car chase in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal.

The shooting occurred after the man hit two pedestrians with his vehicle in a parking lot.

He then took off in his vehicle, triggering the chase that ended with the man losing control and his car rolling over several times.

There are reports the man was brandishing a knife when he emerged from the car.

Police say one of the soldiers is seriously injured, while the other's wounds are less serious.

Police spokesman Guy Lapointe says the suspect's life is in danger.

The Canadian Press


Ebola vaccine concern

A prominent law professor is urging the federal government to terminate an American company's licence for a Canadian-made Ebola vaccine.

The company, NewLink Genetics, doesn't have the capacity to develop the much-needed vaccine, argues Amir Attaran, a professor of law and population health at the University of Ottawa.

"The mistake Canada has made has been to keep this bad marriage with NewLink and try to make it better. Canada should either be terminating the licence agreement outright or simply issuing another licence on non-commercial terms to someone else," Attaran told The Canadian Press in an interview.

"Either of those would work. Neither of them have been done. And that's absolutely shameful."

Brian Wiley, NewLink's vice president for business development, said in an email that the company would not comment on Attaran's suggestion.

Attaran said he has written to federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose outlining why he believes Canada should strip NewLink of the vaccine licence. Her department's press office did not immediately respond on Monday to queries about Attaran's proposal.

Canada began shipping 800 vials of the vaccine to Geneva on Monday, having donated the vaccine to the World Health Organization. The donated vaccine will be used in clinical trials aimed at determining whether it is safe to use in people and what an effective dose is.

The vaccine, known as VSV-EBOV, was designed by scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. It was licensed to NewLink, of Ames, Iowa, in 2010. NewLink's chief focus is the development of cancer vaccines.

At the time, Canada's options for commercializing the Ebola vaccines or drugs its scientists were developing were limited. Prior to this outbreak, fewer than 3,000 people had been known to have been infected with Ebola, in sporadic outbreaks in poor African countries over a period spanning nearly 40 years.

The prospects for recouping the considerable costs of developing and licensing a drug or vaccine were nil. The major players in the pharmaceutical world — those with deep pockets and regulatory know-how — weren't interested.

It appears from filings the company made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that NewLink paid merely $205,000 for the rights to the vaccine, Attaran said. The company is also required to pay Canada royalties — the rate will be in "the low single-digit percentage" of the price — on sales of the vaccine.

Many of those involved in charting the Ebola response believe an effective vaccine will be needed to bring this raging epidemic under control. And although another — made by scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health — is further along in the testing process, many scientists point to the Canadian vaccine as the better option.

For one thing, the Winnipeg-designed vaccine is expected to require only a single dose. It is thought the American vaccine will require a priming dose followed by a booster with another vaccine that will serve to stimulate the immune system.

A two-dose regimen — with two different vaccines — would be hugely challenging to deliver, especially in countries where the health-care systems have collapsed under the weight of the Ebola outbreak.

As well, in studies in primates the Canadian vaccine was shown to be effective at both protecting against infection and mitigating the severity of the disease when given after an animal was infected. There are no data to suggest the American vaccine would work in both pre- and post-exposure scenarios.

Because of these advantages, many are eager to see VSV-EBOV tested and to see the scale up of production of the vaccine.

But the fact that the licence is held by a small company with no experience bringing a product through the regulatory process and with no vaccine production capacity of its own is seen to be impeding the ability to make, test and — if it is safe and effective — eventually disseminate the vaccine in Ebola-affected countries.

The first human clinical trial of the vaccine began last week in Bethesda, Md. It had been expected that it and other trials would have begun weeks earlier, but there were delays that people knowledgeable about the process attribute to NewLink's size and inexperience.

In its most recent annual report, filed on March 31 of this year, its Ebola vaccine appears to be almost an afterthought, rating only a single mention. NewLink described itself as a "development stage company" and noted that it has incurred significant losses since its inception. At the end of 2013, the company's accumulated deficit was $136 million.

The company has been receiving significant assistance from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that fosters development of drugs and vaccines for bio-threats like pandemic influenza and anthrax.

The contract between Canada and NewLink gives the Canadian government some options it could employ if it believes NewLink lacks the capacity to develop the vaccine. And Attaran insisted the government should have exercised one of these options before now.

"West Africa is burning, he said. "It is past time that Canada terminate the contract with them (NewLink)."

Attaran noted that in the four years since it acquired the licence to the vaccine, NewLink had not conducted a single human trial with it until now.

In the licence agreement, Canada retains the ability to make or have made the vaccine for use in Canada during an emergency.

It also has the right to let other manufacturers make the vaccine for use in other countries "for compassionate care purposes" if NewLink has not received regulatory approval for the vaccine in the target country. At the current time NewLink has not received regulatory approval for VSV-EBOV anywhere.

The Canadian Press


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Canadian Pacific merger derailed

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. said Monday that talks with U.S. peer CSX Corp. have ended without a deal, putting a damper on the Calgary-based company's hopes for an expanded North American rail network.

CP (TSX:CP) said no further talks are planned with CSX of Jacksonville, Fla. It did not say specifically why the "exploratory conversations" ceased or when they ended, but noted that regulatory concerns generally appeared to be a "major deterrent" to major railways joining forces.

"CP proposed an integrated coast-to-coast combination that would improve customer service, promote competition, alleviate congestion in North America — specifically the key Chicago gateway — and generate significant shareholder value," CP said in a release.

"Such a business combination would offer creative alternatives for shippers, greater fluidity, increased capacity and improved efficiency industry-wide."

CSX declined to comment on Monday. A report in the Wall Street Journal more than a week ago said CSX had rebuffed CP's overtures.

CP's Canadian network stretches from Vancouver to Montreal and the populous U.S. Northeast. Canadian Pacific also has an extensive network in the U.S. Midwest, including at the major rail hub through Chicago.

CSX's system also reaches Chicago and traverses much of the eastern United States from Florida to the U.S. border with Ontario.

The combination would have created a US$62-billion railway capable of moving crude from North Dakota's prolific oilfields to refineries on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

"The North American rail industry is confronted today with the challenges of moving more freight than ever and the prospect of moving even more as oil production, crop yields and consumer demand grow alongside the economy," CP said.

"CP is convinced that the significant problems that beset the industry now will only worsen over time if solutions aren't put in place immediately. A pro-competition, customer-friendly, safety-focused railway combination is one such solution that could not be ignored on its merits by regulators."

CP chief executive Hunter Harrison is scheduled to expand on his views on North American transportation policy in a conference call with the financial community and media on Tuesday, when the company discusses its third-quarter results.

Analysts have said there would be plenty of benefits from this potential railway link-up for both railways. But they expressed doubts that such a deal could easily get the blessing of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

Nearly 15 years ago, Harrison's former employer, Canadian National Railway Co. (TSX:CNR), attempted to merge with Burlington Northern Santa Fe, now owned by Warren Buffett's firm. But the CN-BNSF deal was ultimately called off after U.S. regulators declared a 15-month moratorium on major railway mergers.

On its quarterly conference call last week, CSX did not address the CP talks specifically. But CEO Michael Ward said regulators would likely balk at approving mergers between the biggest North American railways because of concerns over service.

Shares in CP were off one per cent at $222.45 in early afternoon trading Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. CSX shares were down more than two per cent at US$33.10 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Canadian Press


Hurricane howls just off coast

Hurricane Gonzalo howled just off southeastern Newfoundland early Sunday dumping heavy rain but the fast-moving storm left little trace besides pounding surf.

Gonzalo struck a glancing blow in the capital St. John's and on the Avalon Peninsula before racing out into the North Atlantic.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre said about 48 millimetres of rain was recorded at St. John's International Airport on Sunday morning.

Meteorologist Chris Fogarty said the province "dodged a bullet."

"It pretty much tracked exactly where we thought it would and the winds over land were quite gusty and very heavy rainfalls but ... things stayed quite quiet over land," Fogarty said from Halifax.

"It was definitely a close call. If it tracked about 200 kilometres farther north, they would have gotten some very damaging winds."

Fogarty said wave heights were continuing to increase Sunday morning on the southern coast of the Avalon Peninsula, reaching up to 12 metres. He said low tide was expected to help ease any effects of the crashing surf.

Sharon Topping, who lives in Trepassey on the Avalon's southeast coast, said there was no major damage or debris on the roads but the sea was churning. She took a drive farther east early Sunday.

"The waves there are phenomenal," she said of remote Cape Race on the southeast tip of Newfoundland where the distress signal from RMS Titanic was received April 14, 1912.

"The ocean is furious."

Topping said she was prepared for much more severe weather but was relieved to see Gonzalo go quietly.

"You've got to be prepared for the worst."

Onshore wind blasts up to almost 70 kilometres an hour drove pouring rain sideways early Sunday at Cape Spear southeast of St. John's. Those conditions weren't enough to put off more than 350 runners who showed up for a 20-kilometre road race from the iconic lighthouse to Cabot Tower on Signal Hill.

The scenic but hilly course is billed as the toughest endurance race of its kind in eastern North America, and that's on a good day.

"I'm crazy," Doug Grouchy of St. John's laughed before he and other runners took off at 8 a.m. local time.

"We've done it every year and we couldn't stop for a hurricane," Carolyn Jones of nearby St. Philip's said of the gruelling race, now in its eighth year.

Race director Steve Delaney said 357 people finished.

The Canadian Press


Today on Parliament Hill

The Senate national security and defence committee is set to discuss security threats facing Canada today on Parliament Hill.

Jeff Yowarski, deputy director of operations for Canada's spy agency CSIS, is among those scheduled to appear before the committee.

The hearing comes with Canadian fighter-bombers and surveillance aircraft slated to be in the Middle East by the end of the month, ready to conduct bombing missions against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant by early November.

Gerald Cossette, head of Canada's financial intelligence agency, will also appear at the committee hearing.

He says his organization, the Ottawa-based Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, is actively helping police and spies follow the money flowing into the coffers of Islamic extremists fighting overseas.

It's passing along information to investigators as part of the government's effort to combat the militants who have occupied parts of Iraq and Syria.

Other events in the nation's capital today:

  • Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will be at a Sussex Drive restaurant for the launch of his memoir, Common Ground.
  • NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks at the Credit Union Government Relations Forum.
  • First Nations National chief Ghislain Picard holds a Parliament Hill news conference to discuss the Canadian Human Rights complaint against the government for discrimination against First Nations children.
The Canadian Press


Trudeau: focused on economy

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is signalling the tax cuts promised by the Conservative government could lead to a political showdown ahead of the 2015 federal election.

Trudeau suggested in an interview today with CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada that a Liberal government would prioritize investment in infrastructure, education, and research over any tax relief.

He says he's made a promise as leader of the party to build an economy with a strong and growing middle class.

Trudeau made the comments in response to a question on Radio-Canada's Les coulisses du pouvoir about the cost of those planned investments, and whether it would be politically difficult for him to reverse any cuts given to taxpayers.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver hinted last week cuts could be announced as soon as the annual fall economic update.

Oliver has said plans to balance the budget in 2015 remain on track despite the falling price of oil.

The Prime Minister's Office chastised Trudeau for his remarks, saying the government is intent on providing tax relief to Canadians.

In contrast, spokesman Jason MacDonald says, Trudeau will hike taxes to "spend billion of dollars" expanding government.

A Trudeau official, meantime, said the government has focused on tax cuts while the Liberals are focused on jobs and growth.

The Canadian Press


Disabled Russian ship secured

A disabled Russian cargo ship was en route to port in British Columbia for repairs and the rescue operation was declared officially over Sunday. Now the debate begins.

In the end, the Samushir was secured but with a battle already brewing over oil tanker safety off the West Coast, the incident raised questions about the response to the vessel drifting since Thursday near the coast of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, a marine sanctuary off the North Coast.

"It was luck," Peter Lantin, president of the Haida Nation, said Sunday of the crisis averted.

He commended the Canadian Coast Guard for its response but he said it was pure chance that the coast guard, with all the cuts it has faced, was available. Even then, it took 20 hours to reach the remote vessel.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea issued a statement thanking rescuers for their quick response.

"Through close co-ordination between the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of National Defence, the Government of Canada was able to take immediate action to halt the Russian-flagged ship Simushir from drifting into shore," she said.

Not everyone agrees.

The Haida quickly realized there was little they could do.

"The news coming in was it's going to hit shore and we have to get ready for that," he said. But "we were helpless. We were sitting, watching a disaster happen in our back yard."

B.C. is engaged in a divisive debate over two proposed oil pipelines connecting the Alberta oilsands to West Coast ports.

The federal government has approved Enbridge's (TSX:ENB) $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, B.C., while Kinder Morgan's $5.4-billion expansion of its existing Trans Mountain line to Metro Vancouver is now before the National Energy Board. Combined, they would result in more than 600 additional oil tankers a year plying West Coast waters.

The B.C. government also has designs for a trillion-dollar liquefied natural gas industry that would add hundreds more tankers to that tally.

Ottawa has made a flurry of announcements about marine safety since Northern Gateway ran into trouble, including improved liability coverage and increased tanker inspections.

The Simushir was seen as a test of whether sufficient safety measures are in place.

The results were "discouraging," said Darryl Anderson, a marine transport analyst at Wave Point Consulting in Victoria.

"It was encouraging that the coast guard, with the limited resources they have, did take charge," he said. But "they don't have the capacity. We haven't funded the coast guard properly for a number of years — and not just this federal government."

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak declined an interview request Sunday.

On Friday, as the ship awaited help, she said there will be a lot to be discussed after the incident is over, including the length of time it took a tugboat to reach the vessel.

The province is working with the federal government on a "world-class" spill response regime, Polak said.

"We knew that the spill response capability here currently is not sufficient for our current vessel traffic. That’s not news; that’s something we’ve said for some time," Polak said.

"I’m pleased to say that in recent months, we’ve had that co-operation from the federal government."

It took almost two days for an ocean-going tugboat to reach the Simushir. The Barbara Foss was sent from Washington state, and Anderson wondered why B.C. doesn't have a dedicated tug stationed along the coast, which has been recommended repeatedly since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid arrived more than 20 hours after the Simushir lost power. The coast guard vessel's tow line broke three times, though the Reid did successfully tow the cargo ship away from Haida Gwaii.

Others agree with the federal fisheries minister that the incident showed the strength of emergency response on the West Coast.

"#Ecofearmongers can stand down," Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap said on Twitter after the tug arrived.

Lt. Greg Menzies of the Canadian Forces' Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria said Sunday that the centre would monitor progress but it was no longer a search and rescue operation but a commercial salvage operation.

The two Canadian and one American coast guard vessels left the scene to return to their regular duties and three Canadian and American aircraft on standby on Haida Gwaii also departed.

The Canadian Press


Changing rainfall global issue

Siberian wildfires so intense they melted the permafrost beneath them. Flooding in Alberta that paralyzed a major city. Toxic algae blooms in Lake Winnipeg that have grown 1,000 per cent since 1990.

They're all linked, say the authors of a new United Nations-sponsored book entitled "Water, Energy and the Arab Awakening," being released Monday. In it, 16 authors — including former prime minister Jean Chretien — argue that the world can no longer afford to ignore the effects of climate change on rainfall patterns and their consequences for human security.

"There's a nexus between water security, food security and energy security," said editor Zafar Adeel. "We're beyond the point where you can deal with these three areas as separate silos."

Just look at what happened in 2013, said Robert Sandford, one of Canada's leading water scientists and one of the contributing authors.

In June, flooding submerged downtown Calgary. Two weeks later, Toronto was hit with more rain in two hours than it usually sees in a month.

Meanwhile, the Global Nature Fund declared Lake Winnipeg the "Threatened Lake of 2013" as longer, heavier rains have been flushing so much runoff into it that efforts to reduce the resulting amount of fertilizers and animal waste aren't keeping up.

And in northern Siberia, an outbreak of hundreds of wildfires was followed by rainfall so intense it flooded more than a million square kilometres.

"Many of our recent floods were similar in a number of ways," wrote Sandford.

Storms seem to get stuck in place instead of moving along. Their internal dynamics look more like tropical storms than those from temperate regions.

Recent research suggests declining Arctic sea ice may be behind those effects. Although that theory remains controversial, Sandford said some sort of thread runs between a warmer Arctic, a weaker jet stream and extreme weather events.

Those effects are compounded by so-called atmospheric rivers, the great, high-altitude air currents that carry moisture around the globe such as the Pineapple Express that dampens North America's west coast. As the atmosphere gets warmer, those rivers can carry more water — seven per cent more for every degree Celsius.

It was the collision of three such rivers that led to the flooding in Russia.

The changes are happening across the entire northern hemisphere, said Adeel.

"In the Arab region, we've seen a confluence of population impacts, social challenges, combined with water scarcity, combined with impacts on food security. When you have a confluence of all these factors coming together, that's really where the explosive situations occur."

The book proposes that a 180-kilometre pipeline bringing water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea would improve the region's environmental, energy and peace prospects.

"Canadians may not think this matters," said Sandford. "It should matter to Canadians that our hydrology's changing, but we should also be really concerned that the hydrology of the entire northern hemisphere that we know is changing.

"It's going to affect the Middle East, it's going to affect places far from us, and that's going to have a huge impact on us also."

The Canadian Press


If Ebola arrived in Canada

A man who recently travelled to Sierra Leone walked into a southern Ontario hospital last week, feeling unwell. Four minutes later, he was in quarantine and being tested for the Ebola virus. Those tests proved negative.

Should a similar test ever prove positive, according to sources familiar with the procedure who agreed to speak to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity, this is what would happen next.

It would start with a technician at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, where the testing takes place, who would notify Dr. Gary Kobinger, the lab's chief of special pathogens, of the results.

Kobinger would double-check the sample. Once satisfied it was indeed positive, he would advise Steven Guercio, acting head of the laboratory.

Guercio would then notify four key people: Canada's new chief public health officer, Dr. Gregory Taylor; Krista Duthwaite, associate deputy minister of the Public Health Agency of Canada; Judith Bosse, assistant deputy minister of the agency's infectious disease prevention and control branch; and Theresa Tam, head of the agency's health security infrastructure branch.

Finally, Taylor and Outhwaite would notify federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose that Canada had its first confirmed case of Ebola.

The phone in Dr. David Mowat's office, meanwhile, would be ringing off the hook. Mowat, Ontario's interim chief medical officer of health, would get calls from everywhere: the local medical officer of health, the laboratory, Public Health Ontario, the hospital and the infectious disease doctor.

"If it's two o'clock in the morning, they will test it at two o'clock in the morning," Mowat said in an interview. "They'll have the results at three o'clock in the morning. They will call right then. For Ebola, that's exactly how it works.

"We've had results in the middle of the night before now. Mercifully, they've been negative results, but we get them."

Those phone calls would set off a chain of events shaped by Canada's past experiences with infectious-disease outbreaks: SARS in 2003 and the swine-flu pandemic of 2009.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has two teams of public health experts and epidemiologists on standby in case a patient tests positive for Ebola — one in Winnipeg and another in Ottawa.

Since Ottawa is closer to Belleville, that team would race to the hospital. They'd bring laboratory expertise to quickly confirm the diagnosis, and any needed supplies, such as masks, gloves and face shields.

They'd be responsible for the hands-on treatment of the patient, who would remain in quarantine.

Back in Ottawa, the agency would alert the World Health Organization. And Ambrose and Taylor would hold a news conference to notify Canadians and allay public fears. The hospital might also hold a news conference of its own.

After that, the agency would send out daily updates, much like it did in 2009.

The plan reflects preparations that have been underway for some time.

Last week, Ontario designated 10 hospitals across the province as referral centres to treat potential cases of Ebola because they already have sophisticated infection-control systems in place.

On Sunday, the federal government announced it had started a joint exercise with Nova Scotia public health officials to ensure Canada is ready in the event of its first case of the disease.

One of Ottawa's Ebola rapid response teams deployed to Halifax to practise working with provincial and local public health officials.

The Sunday drill followed a smaller one that took place on Friday in Ottawa to test the teams' ability to quickly assemble the proper gear and equip one of the four dedicated Transport Canada aircraft currently on standby in the capital and Winnipeg.

Behind the scenes, Ambrose has been busy. She held a conference call last week with her provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure they are fully prepared to deal with the disease should it make an appearance in Canada.

The minister has also met with representatives of the national nurses' union, which has complained of inadequate personal protective gear, training and preparedness for nurses, who would be on the front lines.

Ambrose said she reassured the nurses that they have her full support and that the government is committed to ensuring they have everything they need to feel safe.

Meanwhile, in addition to $35 million already pledged to the World Health Organization, the UN and humanitarian aid groups working in the affected region, Ambrose announced another $30 million Friday for the containment effort. Canada has also donated up to $2.5 million worth of personal protective equipment.

PHAC has also sent two mobile labs to Sierra Leone. One of the lab teams is working with Medecins Sans Frontieres to provide rapid diagnosis; the other is helping to improve infection prevention and control procedures.

Those teams check in every day with officials in Canada to update them on the situation on the ground.

Canada has also offered to donate a Canadian-developed experimental vaccine, currently undergoing clinical trials, to the WHO.

 

The Canadian Press


Trudeau: cuts could be reversed

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is signalling the tax cuts promised by the Conservative government could lead to a political showdown ahead of the 2015 federal election.

Trudeau suggested in an interview today with CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada that a Liberal government would prioritize investment in infrastructure, education, and research over any tax relief.

He says he's made a promise as leader of the party to build an economy with a strong and growing middle class.

Trudeau made the comments in response to a question on Radio-Canada's Les coulisses du pouvoir about the cost of those planned investments, and whether it would be politically difficult for him to reverse any cuts given to taxpayers.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver hinted last week cuts could be announced as soon as the annual fall economic update.

Oliver has said plans to balance the budget in 2015 remain on track despite the falling price of oil.

The Prime Minister's Office chastised Trudeau for his remarks, saying the government is intent on providing tax relief to Canadians.

In contrast, spokesman Jason MacDonald says, Trudeau will hike taxes to "spend billion of dollars" expanding government.

A Trudeau official, meantime, said the government has put forward a poorly designed tax cut while the Liberals have offered a counter-proposal focused on jobs and growth.

The Canadian Press


Agency follows militants' cash

 

Canada's financial intelligence agency says it is actively helping police and spies follow the money flowing into the coffers of Islamic extremists fighting overseas.

The Ottawa-based Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as FinTRAC, has passed along information to investigators as part of the government's effort to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, says centre director Gerald Cossette.

Many Canadians have never heard of the centre, which keeps a relatively low profile compared with other national security agencies.

However, financial intelligence has become a "key component" of terrorism investigations by the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Cossette said during a recent talk hosted by Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

"With ISIL, we have seen very clearly the devastation that terrorist groups can inflict when they have access to substantial resources," he said.

The agency's access to information about banking and other financial transactions allows it to see links between people and groups in Canada and abroad that support terrorist activities — including radicalized Canadians bent on waging guerrilla-style war in strife-ridden Iraq and Syria.

"Our main role in such an operation would be to respond, basically, to the demand for information from our security partners — be it CSIS or the RCMP," Cossette said in an interview after the session.

"In fact, we did disclose to them information about a certain number of individuals already."

The centre zeroes in on cash linked to terrorism, money laundering and other crimes by sifting through data from banks, insurance companies, securities dealers, money service businesses, real estate brokers, casinos and others.

Institutions must report large cash transactions or electronic fund transfers of $10,000 or more, as well as any dealings where there are reasonable grounds to suspect money laundering or terrorist financing.

In turn, FinTRAC discloses intelligence to law enforcement and national security partners.

Overall, the centre made 234 disclosures last year specifically related to terrorist financing and threats to the security of Canada — a 450 per cent increase from 2008.

It is difficult to pin down how many of those disclosures were related to possible travelling extremists, Cossette said.

"When we do receive requests, let's say from CSIS or the RCMP, they do not necessarily specifically mention that it's about somebody who wants to travel abroad," he said.

"It may be somebody operating here, it may be somebody abroad, it may be somebody coming back, somebody going. So it's not as specific as saying, this guy is going — or may be going — so therefore we need information."

In some cases, banks have begun using open source information — such as news items — to build cases that end up proving useful to intelligence officials, Cossette said.

In one recent case, a financial institution noticed a customer's name appeared to match that of someone mentioned in a news story detailing alleged extremist ties. The institution then used Facebook to confirm its suspicions and passed details of the customer's transaction to FinTRAC.

"So they were successful at meshing their information with the open source information," Cossette said.

The centre then sent the details to CSIS, which found the information "of interest," he added.

In essence, banks are saying: "This this appears weird to us, we're following the news, we see some of these names," Cossette said.

"They do read the paper. They may even flag some individuals."

In other cases, CSIS or the RCMP will approach FinTRAC seeking information about a particular group or individual, he said. "Lots of the requests do in fact come from national security agencies. So it works both ways."

The centre also takes a big-picture look at how money moves to discern trends.

"Do you see a different pattern now than what we saw, let's say, before the Syrian war? Do you see (an) organization of individuals who used to transfer money to Country X now sending it to Country Y, when we know that Country Y may in fact be transferring the money to the original country of concern?"

Cossette is scheduled to appear before the Senate national security and defence committee Monday to discuss threats facing Canada.

During the Carleton session, he was asked how the agency, which has a $53-million annual budget, determines whether it is providing value for money.

Cossette cited the centre's growing intelligence output. But he said it was difficult to put a price on sort of information the agency provides.

"You cannot assess the value of intelligence."

 

The Canadian Press


Call for inquiry into native women

The Canadian Public Health Association is joining a growing chorus of calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

In a statement to be released publicly on Monday on its website (www.cpha.ca), the organization is also calling on the federal government to assess any actions taken as a result of previous inquiries, reports and investigations into missing and murdered native women.

It also urges the Conservatives to heed a call from the World Health Organization to develop and implement an integrated action plan for violence prevention that addresses its root causes.

Those efforts should be led by First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners and engage all levels of government and civil society, the association says.

The Canadian Public Health Association is a 104-year-old organization founded by a small group of doctors who were concerned about the state of public health in Canada.

The voluntary, non-governmental association calls itself the independent voice for public health in Canada.

Human rights groups, First Nations and opposition parties are all urging the Conservative government to call an inquiry into hundreds of murdered and missing aboriginal women, but the government is resisting.

The Canadian Press


Sask. gas fire extinguished

A fire that burned for almost a week at a natural gas pumping station in Saskatchewan is finally out, but affected residents are still waiting for the all-clear before they can return home.

SaskEnergy spokeswoman Casey MacLeod says the flames at the facility near Prud'homme, northeast of Saskatoon, were extinguished after work began Friday night to replace a damaged wellhead.

But MacLeod says on Sunday the workers will install a plug further down the well to seal it off, and residents won't be permitted to return until that job is completed.

The wellhead leads to one of seven underground caverns used to store natural gas for the winter when demand for heating is greater.

The company has said that an escape of gas on Oct. 11 led to an explosion and fire that damaged the TransGas facility, but there were no injuries.

Four families within two kilometres of the site have been affected by the evacuation.

TransGas is a subsidiary of Crown-owned SaskEnergy.

MacLeod said crews from the Safety Boss, an Alberta company, sprayed foam to quell the flames right before a crane lowered the new wellhead into place.

She explained the new wellhead has a stack on top where the gas could then vent into the air while workers bolted it securely into place.

There is no estimate yet of how much natural gas burned over the past week, but MacLeod said the fire won't cause a shortage in Saskatchewan this winter and won't affect gas prices.

She said there are 26 storage caverns in Saskatchewan, and that prices for natural gas are set in the spring.

The old wellhead will be sent to a lab for examination to determine the cause of the gas escape, MacLeod said.

The Canadian Press




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