Stabbed cop back on job

The Edmonton police officer who was run down and then stabbed during an attack that also injured four other people on Sept. 30 is back on the job.

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, had been handling crowd control at a Canadian Football League game at Commonwealth Stadium when he was hit by a speeding car that rammed through a barrier and sent him flying five metres through the air.

The driver then got out, pulled out a large knife and began stabbing the 10-year veteran, who fought back as he was lying on the ground.

Chernyk suffered stab wounds to the face and the head but was released from hospital relatively quickly.

Over the last couple of weeks he has been honoured at both CFL and National Hockey League games in the city, and returned to work Thursday.

Police Chief Rod Knecht credited the officer's recovery to his being "a real resilient individual."

"I know he asked to work the Eskimos game on Saturday night," Knecht told reporters. "He's back to work and doing well. He did a great job."

Hours after Chernyk was injured, a driver of a cube van with police cars in pursuit drove down Jasper Avenue and hit four pedestrians.

Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, a 30-year-old Somali refugee, is facing 11 charges including attempted murder, dangerous driving, criminal flight causing bodily harm and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.


Trudeau's letter to Amazon

As Canadian cities compete with each other — and dozens of jurisdictions south of the border — for Amazon's new $5-billion headquarters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pitched Canada to the company's founder.

In a letter addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Trudeau makes a general case why any prospective Canadian suitors could prove attractive as the retail behemoth's next corporate home.

Trudeau's letter, which starts with "Dear Jeff," does not single out any of the bidding cities, which include major centres like Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa alongside acknowledged longshots like Halifax and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Instead, Trudeau outlines commercial, cultural and social reasons why Amazon should call Canada home to its new headquarters — dubbed HQ2 — and the 50,000 jobs expected to come with it.

"Canadian cities are progressive, confident, and natural homes for forward-thinking global leaders," Trudeau's letter reads. "They are consistently ranked as the best places to live, work and play in the world."

Canada's business advantages include costs among the lowest in the G7, universal health care that lowers the cost to employers, stable banking systems, and a deep pool of highly educated prospective workers from both at home and abroad, according to Trudeau.

The letter also touches on increased government investment in skills development, culturally diverse, walkable cities and streamlined immigration processes — an apparent dig at U.S. President Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies.

At least one major bidder seized on that contrast as part of its formal proposal.

"We build doors, not walls," reads the cover letter from the group co-ordinating the bid from Toronto and several surrounding municipalities. "Those doors open to highly skilled economic immigrants and international students who can easily become permanent residents and citizens."

'Terry Fox of modern day'

Gord Downie's openness about his diagnosis with terminal brain cancer will leave a lasting legacy that makes him "a Terry Fox in the modern day," says a radiation oncologist who treated the late Tragically Hip frontman.

"He is an icon for Canadians everywhere. What Terry Fox did for cancer lives until this day, and what Gord has done for brain tumours I think will live on for generations to come," said Dr. Arjun Sahgal, director of the Cancer Ablation Therapy Program at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital, in a phone interview Thursday.

Downie revealed his diagnosis with glioblastoma — an invasive brain tumour with one of the poorest survival rates of any cancer — in May 2016. He died Tuesday night at age 53.

In the 24 hours after his death was announced, donation activity to a research fund named in his honour "increased notably," said Pamela Ross, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of the Sunnybrook Foundation.

As of Thursday afternoon, donations for the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research had reached $1.8 million, up about $100,000 from the previous day.

"We have never had daily expectations for this fund," said Ross. "The activity has increased and I think that's obviously in response to the tragic news of his loss and people's interest in simply doing something."

The fund will support the Gord Downie Fellowship in Brain Oncology and construction of the G. Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre.

"It's helped us and motivated us further to really try to invent the future of health care, now with brain tumours at the forefront," said Sahgal.


Pot raids challenged in court

The law under which the owner of two medical marijuana dispensaries was charged last year was unconstitutional because a valid program making medicinal pot readily available did not exist at the time, an Ontario court heard on Thursday.

As a result, charges of possession for the purposes of trafficking and having proceeds of crime laid against Marek (Mark) Stupak should be thrown out, his lawyer Alan Young said.

Stupak, 44, operated two "medical marijuana compassion clubs" known as the Social Collective in Toronto. Police charged him in May 2016 under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act as part of a series of city-wide raids in an operation known as "Project Claudia."

Young cited a 2000 ruling from Ontario's top court that Parliament could not criminalize marijuana use without a program to make medicinal marijuana available to ill patients who needed it.

Other courts, he said, regularly struck down restrictions on reasonable access to the drug. However, Ottawa failed to ensure that access, and dispensaries such as Stupak's sprang up to fill the gap, Young said.

Project Claudia made a "concerted effort" to close down all the dispensaries in Toronto but police messed up because they had no law to back their enforcement action at the time of the raids, Young said.

In October 2013, Ottawa began shutting down an existing but criticized program under which patients could grow their own pot or have someone grow it for them for free. The program was replaced in April 2014 with one in which growers were licensed to grow and supply medical marijuana to patients.

However, the new scheme also ran afoul of the courts, Young said. As a result, no valid medical program was in effect between October 2013 and August of 2016, when the government brought in new rules for medical marijuana, court heard.

"The government dropped the ball and there was a gap," Young told Superior Court Justice Heather McArthur. "There was a two-year period where patients were left in the dark and in the cold."

The gap, he said, left patients and their suppliers exposed to criminal sanction. Additionally, if a patient has a right to use and to access the drug, the government must make clear that those who distribute to them are exempt as well, Young said.

Legal aid lacking: top judge

The old adage goes something like this: a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

But Canada's top judge blames a lack of legal aid funding for what she says is the major challenge facing the criminal system — access to justice, especially for the poor and marginalized.

"We have a justice system to be proud of but it does not always do the job it was created for," Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, told a public lecture Thursday at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's.

She especially emphasized the number of people who struggle to represent themselves after being denied legal aid.

"The cut-off can be quite low," she said of funding restrictions.

"Lost in a system they don't understand, and that seems incompatible with their reality, the accused lose faith in the system and in justice itself, and they give up. Is that access to justice? I don't think so," she told the audience.

"We all have heard criticisms of the justice system for occasionally producing a wrongful conviction."

Self-represented defendants are more likely to plead guilty, to be denied bail and to be convicted, McLachlin said.

"If I had a wish that some genie would fulfil, I'd say it would be to somehow impress attorney generals — people involved in the justice system and governance — with the vital importance of spending a little more on justice and making sure people are represented."

It was one of her last public lectures as chief justice before she gets set to retire in mid-December after 28 years on the country's highest court. She has been in the top job for almost 18 years.

McLachlin said while health and education spending have increased, spending on the justice system has been stagnant or declined across Canada in recent decades.

Yet she says various studies show that rehabilitating offenders pays off economically.

Still in ICU after wildfire

A father and son who were badly burned while fighting a grass fire on their land in southwestern Saskatchewan are still in a Calgary hospital's intensive care unit.

The family of Ron Wedrick and his son Evan says they are being treated at the Foothills Medical Centre by a team of burn treatment specialists.

The two men, who are 43 and 25, were first taken to hospitals near their Gull Lake property on Tuesday before being airlifted to Calgary.

A family statement says Ron Wedrick's wife and their two daughters — as well as Evan's wife and their newborn daughter — have been with the injured men in hospital.

Grass fires whipped up by high winds gusting to more than 100 km/h threatened several towns and villages in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan earlier this week.

A family friend says Ron is stable and able to communicate by writing, but his son's condition is critical.

A GoFundMe page started by Kaile Migneault has raised more than $50,000 for the family in less than 24 hours.

"While most families were at home taking shelter from the storm, Ron Wedrick and his son Evan were out fighting fires," Migneault wrote on the page.

A GoFundMe page was also collecting money for the widow and four young children of James Hargrave, a volunteer firefighter from Alberta, who was killed when the water truck he was driving rolled before being hit by a pickup truck.

The fires in the two provinces spread quickly and prompted a number of evacuation orders — all of which had been lifted by Thursday.

About 150 evacuees from Coleman, a mountain community in Alberta's Crowsnest Pass, were the last to be allowed to return.

An Alberta Emergency Alert said the fire in that regional was being held and an evacuation order had been lifted.

Relaxing pot rules at airports

Travellers who are prescribed marijuana for medical reasons have fewer hurdles to clear at airport screening points due to a change in policy by the agency responsible for security.

The Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority confirmed on Thursday that its airport screeners are no longer calling police when a passenger presents a prescription and is carrying 150 grams or less.

"We decided to change that policy because of the exponential growth in the number of passengers travelling legitimately with medical marijuana," said Mathieu Larocque, a spokesman for CATSA.

Previously CATSA screeners would call police when they found marijuana, even if a passenger had a prescription from a doctor.

"It added time to the screening process, to wait for the police officer to arrive and to verify documentation and in most cases the documentation was valid," Larocque said.

"We had received some complaints regarding that."

Police officers have been called to check documentation nearly 3,000 times so far this year, Larocque said. In previous years the number of calls was closer to 200.

Police will still be called to a screening point if a passenger doesn't have an official prescription or the amount of marijuana exceeds 150 grams.

The primary role of screening officers is to look for security threats to aircraft and not to watch for drugs, Larocque pointed out.

"Screening officers do not search for it, if they find it during the course of their search for threats to civil aviation then they ask for documentation."

CATSA changed its guidelines at the beginning of October after consulting law enforcement agencies, airports, airlines and Transport Canada.

Province steps into pot biz

New Brunswickers are getting a glimpse of how legalized marijuana may be sold in the province.

Although the provincial government hasn't yet announced a retail model, NB Liquor has put out a tender call for "cannabis retail" spaces across the province.

The tender seeks 3,000-square-foot spaces in 15 communities that include parking and delivery truck space. Some cities will get multiple stores — including three in Moncton and Saint John, and two in Fredericton.

The tender also includes images of what the stores may look like — upscale-looking outlets similar in appearance to newly built liquor stores, with floor plans specifying locations of vaults and displays.

It includes maps showing the limited areas in each community where stores may be located. They must be 300 metres from schools, playground and daycares, with preference given to locations near major grocery and retail outlets.

The retail spaces are to be "substantially completed" by the end of May. The deadline for the bids closes November 10.

Ottawa has introduced legislation to legalize recreational weed by July 1, but left distribution and regulation to the provinces.

Last month, the province created a new Crown corporation to oversee recreational marijuana sales, and signed deals with two suppliers. Finance Minister Cathy Rogers said the Crown corporation will not directly conduct retail operations.

A New Brunswick legislature committee has recommended selling marijuana through government-operated stores to anyone 19 years or older.

A Deloitte report last fall suggested recreational marijuana could be worth about $22.6 billion to the Canadian economy.

Wildfire evacuation lifted

About 150 evacuees from a southwestern Alberta mountain community that was threatened by a wildfire are being allowed to return home.

An Alberta Emergency Alert says the fire in the Crowsnest Pass region is being held and an evacuation order has been lifted.

Anyone returning to the town of Coleman must obtain a re-entry permit and information package.

Although residents are free to return, they are being asked to avoid the area if possible to allow emergency crews to continue their work.

Highway 3, the only highway through the pass, has also been reopened, but caution is advised.

Grass fires whipped up by high winds on Tuesday threatened several southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan villages and prompted a number of evacuation orders — all of which have been lifted.

A volunteer firefighter was killed and two men trying to protect their property were injured during firefighting efforts.

Liquidation begins at Sears

Sears Canada begins its liquidation sales today at its stores across the country as it prepares to shut its doors for good after 65 years.

A Sears Canada spokesman says customers can expect deep discounts of up to 50 per cent off at its 74 department stores, and up to 30 per cent off at its eight Home stores.

Liquidation sales at its 49 Sears Hometown stores are due to start today, or shortly, but discounts there will vary, the spokesman adds.

The sales are expected to last between 10 to 14 weeks.

Sears Canada timed its liquidation sales to take advantage of the busy holiday shopping season.

The national retailer has been in creditor protection since June, but was unable to find a buyer which would allow it to keep operating.

Is there life out there?

Sara Seager has pledged to spend the rest of her life searching for another Earth among the billions of stars that inhabit our night sky.

"That's our goal: to find life out there," the Toronto-born astrophysicist says in a distinctly assured monotone, as if describing a walk to the local mall.

The highly acclaimed professor says the lofty objective is well within reach for the first time in human history. And she should know.

"Forty years ago, people got laughed at when they searched for exoplanets," she says, referring to planets found beyond our solar system. "It was considered incredibly fringe because it's so hard ... But there's this shifting line of what is crazy."

Seager, who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is considered one of the world's leading experts on exoplanets. She has been profiled by The New York Times, CNN and Cosmopolitan, and won a MacArthur "genius" grant.

In the field of astronomy, she is a certified rock star.

Ultimately, her research could help answer some of the biggest questions facing humankind. But first, Seager and her team have plenty of work to do.

Free Bentley with condo

A luxury penthouse in the heart of a developing area of downtown Edmonton has hit the market and it comes with a perk — a free $200,000 car.

The 3,000 square-foot, two-storey condo is on the 32nd floor of the Ultima Tower and boasts a 360-degree view of the city including the new hockey arena and the upscale Ice District, part of the arena-related downtown development.

David Sanche with Westrich Pacific Developments says the penthouse is listing for $3.13 million, and they're going to throw in a 2013 Bentley Continental GT.

He says they've already received one call from an interested party in Vancouver.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit includes motorized shelving, high-end finishes throughout the home and a two-car garage.

A parking stall in the same building sold for $75,000 earlier this year.

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