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Canada preps for Ebola cases

Canada's Health Minister and the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada say the country has been preparing in case an Ebola case arrives in Canada.

Rona Ambrose and Dr. Gregory Taylor insist the risk of that happening remains low, but say much work has been done to beef up the country's ability to respond should it happen.

The two spoke at a news conference called to address concerns raised by Tuesday's announcement that a Dallas, Texas, hospital diagnosed Ebola in a man who recently travelled to the state from Liberia, one of the hardest hit countries.

Taylor says the Public Health Agency has worked with Canada Border Services Agency and with airlines to advise them on what to do about passengers who appear to be ill while flying or when trying to enter the country.

Hospitals have been alerted to be on the lookout for possible cases among people who have travelled to West Africa.

Taylor says the Public Health Agency is considering sending doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to hospitals that have been designated to look after Ebola cases if they occur, so health-care workers could use it if they have a risky exposure to a patient.

The vaccine was developed at the agency's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Provincial laboratories are working to develop the ability to test for Ebola, with Quebec's facility already capable of doing so, Taylor says. Provincial labs in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia will soon be able to test for the virus as well, he says.

"They can rule out Ebola very, very quickly," Taylor says. "And if they get a preliminary positive they will ship that to our laboratory (in Winnipeg) and we will do a definite positive to be absolutely certain. And that's part of the preparedness in case somebody does get through, comes to Canada with Ebola."

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are struggling under the largest Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen. The outbreak, which probably started last December, went unnoticed until March in a part of Africa where Ebola had never been seen before, but sudden deaths aren't uncommon.

The World Health Organization's latest figures — released Wednesday — suggest at least 7,178 people have been infected with the virus and nearly 3,338 have died. Before this outbreak, the largest outbreak of Ebola involved fewer than 450 cases.

The Canadian Press


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1845's HMS Erebus - found

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the shipwreck found in the Arctic last month is HMS Erebus, the vessel on which Sir John Franklin himself sailed in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845.

The discovery of the wreck, found some 11 metres below the surface in the Queen Maud Gulf, was confirmed Sept. 7, but was not identified until now.

The two ships of the Franklin Expedition and their crews, 129 members in all, disappeared during an 1845 quest for the Northwest Passage.

Since 2008, Parks Canada has led six major searches for the lost ships, which were the subject of many searches throughout the 19th century.

The mystery of exactly what happened to Franklin and his men has never been solved.

Four vessels — the Canadian Coast Guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Royal Canadian Navy's HMCS Kingston and vessels from the Arctic Research Foundation and the One Ocean Expedition — led the search this summer.

 

The Canadian Press


Costs of not controlling Ebola

The revelation that a man with Ebola was diagnosed in a Texas hospital could be seen as the first case of the dreaded disease discovered in North America.

Or you could see it as a spark, flying far from a raging conflagration.

Disease experts in North America insist that the health systems in the United States and Canada are sufficiently different — more advanced, blessed with steady supplies of clean needles, protective equipment and clean water — that the case in Dallas is not likely to trigger a large outbreak.

But they also warn that as long as West Africa is engulfed in the worst Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen, such sparks will continue to fly.

Will they land in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya? Mumbai, India? The banlieues of Paris? It's anyone's guess, but that they will continue to scatter seems inevitable, experts say.

And that means the world's only choice is to urgently mount the response needed to slow and eventually stop the spread of a virus that may be killing as many as 70 per cent of people being infected, they insist.

"The best way to sum it up in my mind is a good offence in West Africa is the best defence for everyone else. And that's ultimately what has to happen," said Dr. Kamran Khan, a Toronto-based expert who uses global flight data to predict spread of infectious diseases.

The international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has taken the medical lead on this and all recent Ebola outbreaks, puts it more bluntly.

"If you don't want this to spread further, you need to increase the means locally to treat and contain the epidemic," Dr. Joanne Liu said.

"The best way to contain the epidemic of Ebola is by increasing the response locally. It's not by barricading ourselves in our home countries and cutting the air flights."

Reached on a plane about to depart Montreal for Geneva on Tuesday night, Liu said the Dallas case will show North Americans a little bit of what all the fuss has been about.

Local and state health authorities, aided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, will spend days figuring out the man's every move from the time he entered the United States (on Sept. 20) to the time he transferred to an isolation room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital (Sept. 29).

Even if a case should come to Canada, health officials think it would be contained. The precautions hospitals in the developed world take to prevent spread of diseases within their walls should be enough to keep Ebola in check, said Dr. Allison McGeer.

The head of infection control for Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, she pointed to things like the spacing of patient beds, the regular cleaning of rooms, hand-washing rules, personal protective equipment and needles designed for safe use and disposal.

As well, hospitals and health systems have been planning for Ebola — and the Texas case will inspire them to spend even more time on preparedness.

"There's no important message about risk to North Americans from this (case in Dallas) but there's a very important message about risk to people in West Africa and we really need urgently, all of us, to be ramping up the response to that outbreak," McGeer said.

 

The Canadian Press


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Medication warning

Health Canada says it is banning imports of some medications and drug ingredients produced in India due to concerns about quality.

The agency took the action against Apotex Pharmachem India, Apotex Research Private Ltd. and IPCA Laboratories.

It says it has ”significant concerns” with the manner in which research data is collected and reported, raising serious doubts about quality and safety.

The agency says until it is satisfied that production processes at the three sites meet international standards, it will keep these products off the market.

Health Canada stresses there are ‘‘no specific safety issues‘‘ with products now on the market from those companies, nor has a recall been requested.

It adds that consumers should not make any change to their medication without first consulting with a healthcare professional.

Health Canada also said certain medically necessary products may be excluded from the ban on the condition they are tested by an independent third party.

The move follows a recent report that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned imports from an Apotex factory in Bangalore after discovering problems there.

But the Toronto Star investigation suggested Health Canada’s attempt to ban imports from the facility was ignored by the company and that the now-banned drugs continued to be sold in Canadian pharmacies.

A full list of the banned medications and ingredients has been posted here.

The Canadian Press


Sun Media apologizes to Trudeau

Sun Media apologized on Monday for an on-air rant by its outspoken provocateur, Ezra Levant, about Justin Trudeau and the Liberal leader's famous parents.

The apology aired at the beginning of Levant's Sun News Network show. It was read by a narrator; Levant didn't deliver the mea culpa.

"It is the view of Sun News that this segment was in poor taste and should not have been aired," the apology's narrator intoned.

"We understand why many viewers found both the content and language of this segment to be offensive. We apologize to Mr. Trudeau, his family and to our viewers."

Levant's show then began.

The right-wing columnist and on-air personality has been in hot water for a Sept. 15 tirade over a photo of Trudeau kissing a Toronto-area bride on the cheek as her bridesmaids looked on.

In his monologue, Levant maligned Trudeau for the kiss, suggesting he'd forced himself on the wedding party. He also slurred Trudeau's mother, Margaret, and his late father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

The bride and her father-in-law stated publicly that they asked Trudeau to pose for photos, and encouraged him to kiss the bride. They said Trudeau secured the groom's OK before planting the kiss.

As a result of Levant's comments, Trudeau said he would no longer speak to Sun Media reporters until there was an appropriate response from the chain, Canada's largest newspaper publisher.

The Liberals said they accepted the apology.

"We look forward to Sun News journalists resuming participation in Mr. Trudeau's press conferences," spokeswoman Kate Purchase said in an email.

A video of the rant — and a column repeating many of the same slurs against Trudeau — was still on Levant's blog as of late Monday. Levant did not reply to a request for comment.

The rant became the subject of social media disdain that showed no sign of abating following the apology, with online critics assailing Levant for not personally expressing regret for his comments.

The Canadian Press


Ban on flavoured tobacco?

Health groups want other governments to follow Alberta's lead and pass legislation to ban flavoured tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

Alberta's law was passed last December and is to be phased in over time, starting later this year.

On Monday, federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said her government is proposing regulatory amendments that would further restrict access to flavoured tobacco products.

Flavoured tobacco is on the agenda at the provincial-territorial health ministers' conference, which starts today in Banff, Alta.

Kate Chidester of the Heart and Stroke Foundation says governments need to protect young people from the serious health hazards of tobacco.

She says an estimated 153,000 adolescents in Canada use flavoured tobacco products.

The Canadian Cancer Society says for such a ban to be effective, it must include menthol cigarettes.

"Menthol is the most popular flavour among youth," Angeline Webb, a society spokeswoman, says in a release. "We cannot allow tobacco companies to make tobacco more attractive, addictive and harmful to youth."

The coalition of health groups notes the federal government approved legislation in 2009 aimed at banning some flavoured tobacco products.

But it says the bill exempted menthol cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigar and pipe tobacco.

The groups say this omission means that legislation has not been effective in reducing tobacco use by young people.

"We don't need another patchwork of inconsistent and inadequate provincial and federal laws," said Leigh Allard of the Lung Association of Alberta/N.W.T.

"Youth across Canada deserve just as much protection as youth in Alberta."

The Canadian Press


Magnotta's trial looks at evidence

Luka Rocco Magnotta's first-degree murder trial has resumed with more testimony and photos from a Montreal crime-scene technician.

Caroline Simoneau was the first witness to take the stand on Monday after the judge and lawyers addressed the jurors.

This morning, she's going through evidence gathered by Ottawa police, where body parts were mailed by the accused.

The jury of eight women and six men will hear evidence over several weeks in connection with the slaying and dismemberment of Jun Lin in Montreal in May 2012.

The trial is expected to last betwen six and eight weeks and feature some 60 witnesses.

On Monday, Magnotta pleaded not guilty to the five charges against him, including first-degree murder.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer advised the jurors that Magnotta had admitted to committing the crimes and that their task would be to determine his state of mind at the time of the acts.

Magnotta's lawyer, Luc Leclair, told the court his client has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder shortly before the slaying and that he suffered from schizophrenia.

The jurors also heard from Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier, who told them he will show evidence that Magnotta had been planning a murder for six months.

Magnotta, 32, is also charged with committing an indignity to a body; publishing obscene material; criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; and mailing obscene and indecent material.

The Canadian Press


Fire destroys Corner Gas set

A building made famous by the hit television series "Corner Gas" about small-town Saskatchewan life burned to the ground on Sunday night.

Grant Clarke, mayor of the small town of Rouleau where the former CTV comedy was filmed, said hundreds of people watched as flames engulfed the building.

The structure was used as the local supermarket Foo Mar T in the show that featured the fictional town of Dog River.

It had become home to a business manufacturing orthopedics.

Clarke said the fire was reported around 5 p.m. as 180 people attended an anniversary party at the nearby town hall.

"Someone came in and said there's smoke coming out of the adjoining business," said Clarke.

The fire had grown quickly by the time emergency crews arrived.

"By that time, there was too much smoke and heat. Really they weren't able to get into the building."

Police said no one was hurt and no other buildings were damaged.

Clarke said the flames were out by about 9 p.m., but fire crews worked overnight to put out hot spots.

Residents of the 500-person town who weren't at the party also came out to see what was going on.

"When the fire alarm went, they ran down as well," said Clarke, who added that his first reaction was one of disbelief.

One of the questions will be whether the business owner wants to rebuild, the mayor suggested.

"You're sad for the owners because you know them personally, and you're disappointed for the town as well, because it's another business in trouble."

There was no word on the cause, although the RCMP said they did not consider the blaze suspicious.

Brent Butt, the show's creator and star, acknowledged the fire on Twitter.

"Ok…so apparently the building that played the old Foo Mar T on CornerGas has burned down in Rouleau, SK. Hope no one was hurt," he tweeted.

Clarke said crews were waiting Monday for the fire marshal to arrive before they started the cleanup.

"The building is completely gone."

 

The Canadian Press


2-year-old girl found

Update:

Provincial police say a two-year-old girl who was missing overnight in a rural area of southwestern Ontario has been found.

Const. Larry Plummer says Brooklyn Honderich was found safe this morning and has been taken to hospital as a precaution.

He says the girl was found by a volunteer at the edge of a cornfield in a bean field, quite a distance from where she went missing.

Plummer says paramedics checked the girl over and "she seems to be in very good health."

The girl's parents had reported her missing Sunday night after she wandered away from a farm where the family keeps livestock in a barn near the village of Norwich, south of Woodstock.

A major search operation began immediately, involving members of several provincial police detachments along with canine units who combed through area cornfields overnight.

More than 25 police officers were involved in the search effort, as well as numerous volunteers and a police helicopter.

The girl was found at about 10 a.m.

"It's all worked out well, said Plummer, "It's a very happy ending story.


A massive search is continuing this morning in a rural area of southwestern Ontario for a missing two-year-old girl.

The Brant County Ontario Provincial Police detachment says Brooklyn Honderich's parents reported her missing just after 7 p.m. Sunday.

They said she had wandered off from their farm about seven kilometres east of the village of Norwich, which is just south of Woodstock.

Cst. Stacey Culbert, the media relations officer with the Oxford County detachment of provincial police, says a major search operation was begun immediately.

“We have OPP members from Brant County, Oxford County and (the) neighbouring detachment of Norfolk County as well, as are OPP canine units on scene as well as the OPP helicopter.”

Culbert estimated that more than 25 police officers were involved in the search effort, as well as numerous volunteers.

Police were also asking area residents (on Caley and Baseline roads) to check their properties and out buildings for any sign of the child.

Brooklyn is described as being 39 inches tall and 29 pounds with light brown shoulder length hair in pony tails.

She was last seen wearing tan coloured overalls, a blue and white striped tank top and grey Capri-style pants.

The Canadian Press


Toronto women trained in WW1

TORONTO - Decades before they were allowed in the military, when tending wounded soldiers was as close as they got to the front lines, hundreds of Canadian women picked up arms hoping to defend their country and free up men to fight in the First World War.

A century after the conflict, few records remain of the Women's Home Guard, a "vibrant and popular, albeit brief, movement in wartime Toronto" launched to great fanfare in 1915 only to fade from public view following weeks of infighting and mounting backlash, according to an expert on the group.

In its first two weeks, the organization — led by a militant suffragette and a former concert musician — enlisted as many as 1,000 women eager to learn military drills, fencing and shooting, Kori Street wrote in her research titled "Toronto's Amazons: Militarised Femininity and Gender Construction in the Great War."

Dressed in a Norfolk-style service tunic, long slit skirt, peak cap, military belt and knee-high boots, the Women's Home Guard practised marching in formation and performed physical exercises on the sprawling lands of their founder, Jessica Clare McNab, the daughter of a prominent Toronto lawyer, the historian said.

"The Home Guard was literally to free up those who were standing guard at home," Street said in an interview.

"So you don't need a squadron of folks from the light infantry to be sitting around at home, you can send them overseas to help the real war effort because we have a squadron of women who can guard the munitions factory or who can operate home defence and keep the streets safe."

While most histories of the First World War chronicle the volunteer efforts of women and the gruelling work of more than 2,800 nursing sisters, there is little mention of their struggle to carve out a military or paramilitary tradition of their own.

In wartime, women were thrust into what had previously been male-only spaces as they stepped in for the growing number of men sent overseas to do battle. But even then, traditional gender roles endured.

"There's a pretty hard and fast framework in the First World War for what women are and aren't allowed to do," said Sarah Glassford, co-editor of "A Sisterhood of Suffering and Service: Women and Girls of Canada and Newfoundland during the First World War."

Most channelled their patriotic energies into knitting socks, rolling bandages and fundraising. Nursing was the "most dramatic" option for those keen to serve their country, Glassford said.

At the same time, the growing militarization of Canadian society in the lead-up to the war had seen women form cadet-style groups and drill forces without raising eyebrows, Street said.

So when an ad was posted in the newspaper on Aug. 17, 1915, calling for women to join a new paramilitary group aimed at protecting home ground, it was welcomed by prospective members and observers alike, she said.

Enrolment in the first few weeks was so high that city council voted to provide the Home Guard with a tent to carry out its recruiting. Similar groups later cropped up in other cities such as Edmonton, Montreal and Hamilton.

No membership lists for the Toronto group have been found, but newspaper records show early recruits appeared to belong to influential families.

"These are middle-class women trying to find their footing," Street said.

The movement began to fall out of favour after a bitter and public dispute between McNab and her second-in-command, a vocal feminist named Laura McCully.

McCully accused McNab of poor organization and bookkeeping, and alleged she had a dictator-like approach to leadership. The argument played out in the newspaper and eventually roped in Lt.-Col. James Galloway, a retired militia colonel who agreed to conduct the drills.

The group split into two factions, but continued to operate at a lower level even as media coverage dwindled, Street said. It's unclear what became of it and its members as time went on.

"The vitriol that comes back is because the women, in having a public argument, they had gone too far," she said.

McCully defended the movement in an op-ed the following year, calling those who mocked it and its troubles "misguided."

"These women are made up of wives, sisters and sweethearts of the men at the front, and their earnestness is convincing," she wrote in the April 1916 issue of Maclean's.

"One hears them on drill nights talking over the news and comparing notes regarding the German treatment of prisoners and the stories of cruelty which are forever seeping through. Nothing loud or threatening is said, but there is an undercurrent of feeling so intense that the enemy might get a surprise if only it could be loosed on them in an effective way."

By then, however, the war had reached new peaks of violence, making the concept of a force of middle-class women seem "more ridiculous," Street said.

The group's short-lived success shows gender roles were constantly being renegotiated during that time, speaking to "a much more complex and interesting history of women than perhaps we've talked about (regarding the First World War), particularly in Canada."

The Canadian Press


Propane tank explosion

A propane tank explosion in a Montreal apartment building has left five people injured, including one critically.

Police say a 63-year-old man remains in hospital with life-threatening injuries from the blast and ensuing fire.

Authorities had originally reported two individuals were in critical condition.

A firefighter also had minor injuries.

Firefighters say a preliminary investigation indicates the explosion occurred near a ground-floor staircase.

Roughly 100 firefighters were on the scene shortly after the 2 p.m. explosion, along with police and paramedics.

Police cordoned off several streets while experts examined the building to ensure it was stable.

Spokeswoman Lynn Duncan said the investigation was transferred to the police arson squad to determine what exactly went wrong.

"The initial cause would be a propane tank explosion, causing a fire that was quickly controlled by the firemen," she said.

The Canadian Press


Up to $300k spent on flights

 

The Prime Minister's Office is defending a decision to give a European Union delegation a free plane flight home last week at a cost that one media report estimated at more than $300,000.

Jason MacDonald says a Canadian Forces Airbus was offered as a courtesy to ensure "that no elements" of Friday's Canada-EU summit were cut short.

Two top European Union leaders, Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, were in Ottawa where they signed a Canada-EU free-trade agreement.

The CBC is reporting that adding a Toronto reception to the visit would have made it impossible for the EU delegation to catch a commercial flight from Ottawa and make it to a Saturday meeting in Brussels.

The CBC says Prime Minister Stephen Harper authorized the use of the Airbus that he normally uses on foreign trips.

Sunday's CBC report estimated the cost of the flight to be in the neighbourhood of $338,055, basing its calculations on government figures from 2012 on the estimated hourly cost to operate the aircraft.

An initial email response from MacDonald did not contest the CBC's cost estimate, instead touting the benefits of the trade deal and the summit.

"Friday's Summit allowed business leaders to meet and discuss the opportunities the Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement present," the email said. "The Airbus was offered as a courtesy to our European Union guests."

Harper has touted the trade deal as a major achievement for his government, which faces an election next year.

Last year he flew to Brussels with great fanfare for a signing ceremony on an agreement in principle.

Concerns were raised last week that some EU members might try to scuttle the deal, but Van Rompuy, the European Council President and Barroso, the European Commission President, both joined Harper in dismissing any suggestion the deal faced any significant difficulties.

It must still be approved by all 28 EU members and the Canadian provinces.

The Canadian Press


Officer found dead at HQ

Police in Ottawa are mourning the death of one of their own after an officer was found dead inside the police headquarters building.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau issued a statement Sunday, identifying the officer as Staff Sgt. Kalid (Kal) Ghadban, 43.

Bordeleau said the 22-year veteran was a well-respected and well-loved member of the city's police service.

The statement from Bordeleau said Ghadban "succumbed to injuries" Sunday afternoon after an "incident" at the police station.

Ontario's police watchdog has been called in.

The Special Investigations Unit is automatically brought in when someone dies as a result of police actions.

The statement said more information would be released when it was available.

The thoughts and prayers of those at the Ottawa Police Service are with Ghadban's family, Bordeleau said.

"Those who have worked with him know him as an excellent example of a hard-working, dedicated officer who loved his job," he said in the statement.

"The news of his death pains us all."

The Canadian Press


Memorial for slain officers

A booming two-gun salute thundered over Parliament Hill on Sunday as three Mounties killed in a shooting rampage in New Brunswick were remembered, along with a Toronto police constable and a Saskatchewan conservation officer who also died in the line of duty last year.

Hundreds of police and peace officers from across Canada and as far away the U.K., along with pipe and drum bands, marched onto the hill to honour the five slain officers.

"There's nothing we can say and there's nothing we can do that will ease the pain of your loss," said an emotional Dennis Brock, president of the Canadian Peace Officers' Memorial Association, as he spoke to the family and friends of those killed.

"All of us in the law enforcement family share your sorrow."

Constables Douglas Larche, Dave Ross and Fabrice Gevaudan were killed and two other RCMP officers were injured on June 4 in Moncton.

Toronto police Const. John Zivicic died last November after his cruiser was involved in a collision. Saskatchewan conservation officer Justin Knackstedt was killed after being hit by an SUV while he was directing traffic at the scene of a crash in May 2013 near Saskatoon.

With their families seated on the Parliament Hill lawn, the five were honoured in a memorial held annually for those killed while keeping the country and Canadians safe.

The remembrance is held on the last Sunday of every September and was established in 1998 by the federal government to give Canadians the opportunity to express their appreciation for the work of police and peace officers.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told the memorial the officers represented all of those who protect Canada's citizens and communities from people who threaten them.

"As police and peace officers do in Canada every day, these fallen officers stood for us against elements that threaten the safety and security of our communities," said Blaney.

"They stood for us against those who would do harm to our country, our communities and our families."

Justin Bourque, 24, has pleaded guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with the Moncton shootings. He has yet to be sentenced.

The first Canadian police officers memorial in 1978 honoured 14 officers. There are now more than 840 names of fallen officers on the list, which has been expanded over the years to include all officers killed in the line of duty.

The names of the five honoured Sunday will be added to a granite stone that stretches along the base of a police memorial pavilion which was erected behind Parliament's Centre Block in 1994.

 

The Canadian Press




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