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CBC has "graphic" evidence

The emergence of "graphic" evidence that its former star radio host Jian Ghomeshi had caused physical injury to a person is what prompted the CBC to fire him, the broadcaster said Friday.

In a memo to staff, executive vice-president Heather Conway said it wanted to provide some information to staff ahead of the weekend on the situation involving the co-founder and host of the "Q" program.

"On Thursday, Oct. 23, CBC saw for the first time graphic evidence that Jian had caused physical injury to a woman," Conway said.

"We determined that Jian's conduct was a fundamental breach of CBC's standard of acceptable conduct for any employee."

Conway said Ghomeshi advised the corporation in the spring that the Toronto Star was looking into allegations by an ex-girlfriend that he had engaged in non-consensual "rough sex."

Ghomeshi, who was fired last Sunday, has insisted having only consensual "rough sex" with women and said he was the victim of a disgruntled ex. As many as nine women — two named — have since come forward to allege he attacked them physically and sexually without warning. Ghomeshi said Thursday he would meet the allegations "directly."

None of the allegations has been proven. His lawyer did not return a call Friday.

According to the CBC memo, he also had a letter from two journalists that made allegations about his private life. The Star never contacted the corporation directly about them, she said.

"When directly confronted, Jian firmly denied there was any truth to those allegations," Conway said.

In early summer, a "Q" employee received a letter from a reporter asking about Ghomeshi's behaviour, she said. The letter suggested his conduct may have "crossed over" into the workplace.

Conway said an investigation involving CBC's human resources department followed that included direct interviews with employees and management but did not uncover any complaints of the alleged nature about his behaviour in the workplace.

"We also spoke to Jian at that time and asked him directly if there was any truth to the allegations," Conway said.

Ghomeshi was adamant that he and his lawyers would be able to prove he had done nothing wrong should the Star pursue the allegations and the newspaper did not print a story, she said.

"Based on Jian's denial, we continued to believe Jian."

The unspecified "graphic evidence" persuaded the corporation that it could no longer accept that position.

However, the Star quoting unnamed sources reported on Friday that Ghomeshi, 47, showed his bosses videos depicting bondage and beating during sexual activities in an effort to show bruising could happen and still be consensual. The paper said it had not seen the video.

Ghomeshi has launched a $55-million lawsuit against the CBC for breach of confidence and defamation. He has also filed a grievance alleging dismissal without proper cause that damaged his reputation.

The CBC has hired an independent investigator to look at its handling of the situation after at least one former employee said she had complained about his behaviour to a union rep, who spoke to his executive producer, but nothing substantive was done.

However, a source told The Canadian Press that the woman did not allege sexual or other harassment, only that he had inappropriately yelled at her before storming off.

"She didn't say he said anything sexually harassing, even though now she says she did," the source said. "Both of them say she didn't."

In a statement Friday, CBC President Hubert Lacroix said he was shocked, saddened and angry at the torrent of allegations against Ghomeshi.

"I empathize with those who have felt powerless to speak out, or who have tried to speak out and felt ignored," Lacroix said.

"As the father of two young daughters, I share your frustration."

Also Friday, Penguin Canada said in a statement it had decided against publishing Ghomeshi's next book "in light of recent events."

In addition, Toronto-based The Agency, said it no longer represented Ghomeshi, while the Toronto pop musician Lights said she had dropped him as her manager.

None of Ghomeshi's accusers has filed a police complaint.

The Canadian Press


Batman robs armoured car

Police say an armed man dressed as Batman tried to hold up an armoured vehicle as guards were making a delivery at a bank in the Halifax area.

RCMP Sgt. Alain LeBlanc said the man approached the guards at a Royal Bank branch in Lower Sackville on Thursday around 11:20 p.m.

LeBlanc said the suspect was wearing a Batman mask with a blue hooded sweat shirt, jeans and running shoes.

"It's certainly unusual," LeBlanc said. "Certainly I don't remember someone committing or attempting an armed robbery with a Batman mask."

LeBlanc said the man, believed to be in his 20s, fled the scene in a nearby minivan.

No one was hurt.

Police continue to search for a suspect.

The Canadian Press

Man faces 95 charges

A Toronto man broke into dozens of homes, often while the homeowners were sleeping, took property and on numerous occasions sexually assaulted the female occupants before making an escape, "possibly" with the help of his wife, police alleged Friday.

Police said the "serial sexual predator" and his wife were arrested Wednesday in connection with 59 break-end-enter incidents that allegedly took place in Toronto between Aug. 2011 and Aug. 2014.

"Wednesday was a great ending to a very long investigation that people have put a lot of work into and it was successful," said Insp. Joanna Beaven-Desjardins of the Toronto police sex-crimes unit.

Beaven-Desjardins alleged the man broke into the homes in the middle of the night and in the early morning hours.

"Throughout the past few years, residents have been woken up to somebody standing in their house."

Police said the suspect stole property that included electronics, jewelry, money and even one vehicle, which was allegedly used to commit further break and enters.

"We have recovered a lot of electronics, cellphones, laptops that we have to analyze to now see if there was any recordings done at the time of the offences," Beaven-Desjardins said in a news conference.

She said the suspect was known to police and lived in the same area where the crimes took place.

The ages of the alleged victims "ranged dramatically," she said.

"We believe there may be many more victims both within Toronto and across our border into Peel Region," Beaven-Desjardins said.

She also praised the public's "incredible" help during the investigation.

Anieph Burton, 32, of Toronto, was arrested Wednesday and has been charged with 95 charges, including 11 counts of sexual assault, four counts of assault, three counts of overcoming resistance by choking, and 59 break-and-enter-related charges.

His wife, Jehanneiry Beaton, 31, is charged with six counts of committing break and enter and one count of break and enter with intent.

Police said Beaton "possibly" helped the suspect on more than one occasion to make a quick escape.

The Canadian Press

Shooter sentenced


Justin Bourque has been sentenced to serve 75 years in prison before becoming eligible to apply for parole for the June 4 shooting rampage that killed three RCMP officers and wounded two others in Moncton.

Judge David Smith of the Court of Queen's Bench in New Brunswick delivered his precedent-setting ruling today after a sentencing hearing earlier this week during which Bourque apologized to the families of the Mounties he shot.

Bourque's sentence is the harshest in Canada since the last executions in 1962.

He pleaded guilty in August to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

The 24-year-old was facing a mandatory life sentence, so the only issue for Smith to decide was when he could apply for parole.

The Crown sought the maximum sentence of 75 years under a section of the Criminal Code that was amended in 2011.

The defence argued for parole eligibility to be set at 50 years.


MONCTON, N.B. - Justin Bourque's killing of three Mounties has been described in court as one of the worst crimes in Canadian history, prompting recommendations from Crown and defence lawyers for the harshest sentence in more than 50 years.

Judge David Smith, chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in New Brunswick, is scheduled to sentence the 24-year-old Friday, four months after Bourque used a semi-automatic rifle to fatally shoot three officers and wound two others in Moncton's north end.

Bourque pleaded guilty in August to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

The Crown is seeking the maximum sentence — 75 years without eligibility to apply for parole — under a section of the Criminal Code that was amended in 2011.

Prior to that, Bourque would have been handed an automatic life sentence with no chance at parole for 25 years, the mandatory penalty for one or more convictions of first-degree murder.

However, the amended legislation gives the judge the option of extending Bourque's parole ineligibility because he is a multiple murderer. The legislation is called the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act.

Smith could decide that the 25-year ineligibility period for each of the three murder convictions should be imposed consecutively for a total of 75 years, which means Bourque wouldn't be allowed to apply for parole until he was 99 years old.

Earlier this week, defence lawyer David Lutz said his client, having admitted to the crimes in a detailed, three-hour statement to police, has argued that a 50-year parole ineligibility period would be fair. Lutz had little else to say on his client's behalf, except that Bourque has a defective thought process and inadequate social skills.

If Smith accepts either the Crown or defence recommendations, the sentence would be the harshest since Canada's last executions in 1962.

In September 2013, a judge in Edmonton sentenced an armoured-car guard to life in prison with no chance at parole for 40 years for shooting four of his colleagues during a robbery in June 2012.

Travis Baumgartner had pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and a charge of attempted murder.

The Canadian Press

Magnotta trial set to resume

Luka Rocco Magnotta's lawyer is expected to begin presenting his case at the accused's first-degree murder trial today.

The 32-year-old Magnotta is charged in the slaying and dismemberment of Jun Lin in May 2012 in Montreal before he fled to Paris and then Berlin.

He has admitted to killing the Chinese engineering student, but has pleaded not guilty by way of mental disorder.

It is not clear how long Magnotta's lawyer, Luc Leclair, will take to present his case.

Magnotta faces four charges in addition to premeditated murder: criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; mailing obscene and indecent material; committing an indignity to a body; and publishing obscene materials.

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier presented his final scheduled witness on Tuesday as details emerged of Magnotta's arrest in Berlin on June 4, 2012.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer told the jurors it's normal to have a few days separation between Crown and defence evidence in such a trial.

The Canadian Press

CF-18 start Iraq missions

Two Canadian CF-18 fighters conducted the country's first combat mission over Iraq, but bad weather west of Baghdad prevented them from striking any Islamic State targets, the task force commander said Friday.

A CP-140 Aurora conducted a surveillance mission over the northwestern part of the country at the same time. Canada's aircraft refueller was also in the air, topping off the fuel tanks of coalition aircraft.

The missions took place Thursday, but the military did not release details until the next day.

"They were prepared to do bombing," said Col. Daniel Constable, the commander of Joint Task Force Iraq.

"We had a combination of poor weather in the area where they were operating that affected us and they were in a mission area didn't develop into any targets. They didn't drop, but they could have."

The recent murders of two Canadian soldiers, including one at the foot of the National War Memorial that culminated in an attack on Parliament Hill last week, served to motivate the more than 600 personnel, underscoring the importance of what they were doing, he added.

"Having it hit home like that really affected us. It steeled our backs, just like it did to other Canadians," said Constable, a career fighter pilot, in a telephone interview. The Canadian military has not allowed media access to the airfields, citing the security concerns of their Kuwaiti hosts.

A total of six CF-18 jet fighters, two CP-140 Aurora surveillance planes and one C-150 refuelling jet are operating out of undisclosed airfields in Kuwait and will launch further missions in the coming days.

Whether they develop into actual bombing runs depends on a number of factors, including the ability of coalition spy planes and local forces on the ground to spot fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as well as their command centres, vehicles and artillery.

Most of the enemy hardware is U.S-made equipment that was seized from fleeing Iraqi army forces earlier this summer.

The warplanes receive their strike orders and targets from the U.S.-led coalition and join aircraft from a number of different countries, including the U.S., Britain, Australia and several Gulf states.

A number of fresh reports are circulating that coalition jets could face an increased anti-aircraft threat from Islamic State fighters who are said to be armed with sophisticated shoulder-fired missiles.

U.S. officials, speaking on background to the New York Times earlier this week, described the appearance of the Chinese-made FN-6 heat-seeking missiles as "game changers." It is believed the weapons were originally provided to moderate Syrian rebels by Qatar and possibly Saudi Arabia, according to the report.

The missiles are a major threat to low-flying aircraft, such as attack helicopters. ISIL reportedly shot down an Iraqi Army Apache gunship using the weapons.

Prior to the beginning of the campaign, Canadian military commanders acknowledged the anti-aircraft threat, but noted that both the CF-18s and the Auroras can fly higher than the effective range of the missiles, known as Manpads.

A bigger concern, according to defence experts, is that Islamic State fighters might get their hands on an SA-24, the latest generation of Russia-made anti-aircraft weapons. The Iraqi government recently acquired such a system and those missiles have a longer range and the ability to manoeuvre in a more nimble fashion to avoid the counter-measures of their targets.

Threats are a "primary consideration" and something Canadian pilots are constantly assessing, Constable said.

"We take no chances and use defensive measures," he said. "We use our tactics, techniques and procedures. If you know where they are, you can avoid them — or potentially fly at an altitude above where they are capable of operating."

The Canadian contribution to the air campaign is mandated to last six months, but is likely to be extended.

The operations are being carried out under a blanket of secrecy as western bases, embassies and institutions throughout the Gulf region remains on heightened security alert for possible retaliation by Islamic State supporters.

George E. Irani, a professor at the American University of Kuwait, said the school circulated a memo on Wednesday warning of threats and urging vigilance.

Earlier this week, a jihadist website urged supporters to attack western schools, specifically teachers, but U.S. officials say no direct threat has been uncovered thus far.

The Canadian Press

Man dies in shooting

A man is dead after a police-involved shooting at a Calgary facility that offers low-cost supportive housing for men with mental health and addiction issues.

Officers were called early Friday morning to Langin Place in a southeast neighbourhood after getting word about someone threatening another client with a gun.

Police say in a release that officers were confronted with a high-risk situation as they approached a man on the second floor and that a police gun was fired.

He died at the scene, but it was not immediately known whether he had been armed.

No officers were hurt.

The building was evacuated, but residents were allowed back in after spending a short time on transit buses that had been brought to the scene.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is investigating.

The team is called whenever there is an officer-involved shooting in the province. 

The Canadian Press

Feds introduce new tax measures

The federal government has introduced a new income-splitting benefit for couples with children under the age of 18 as part of a series of proposed new tax measures designed to appeal to young families.

The proposal consists of three new measures, including the Family Tax Cut, which will allow a higher earning spouse to transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower income bracket. The measure will provide eligible families with a maximum of $2,000 a year in tax relief.

The Universal Child Care Benefit for children under the age of 6 will also be increased from $100 to $160. As well, a new benefit of $60 per month is being created for children aged six to 17, and will come into effect on Jan 1.

The third new measure will see a $1,000 increase in the maximum amount that can be claimed under the Child Care Expense Deduction.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the new measures Thursday afternoon at a community centre in Vaughan, Ont., just north of Toronto.

The government says the Family Tax Cut will benefit 1.7 million families.

Prior to Harper’s announcement, the opposition ripped into the income-splitting plan, saying it will cost the federal and provincial governments billions of dollars and would only benefit 14 per cent of Canadian families.

The government estimates that the Family Tax Cut will cost the federal government about $2.4 billion in 2014-15 and $1.9 billion in 2015-16.

The Liberals and the NDP also pointed out that former finance minister Jim Flaherty appeared to back-track on support for the policy not long before he died. Income splitting was a key plank in the Conservatives’ election platform in the 2011 campaign.

“A tax plan that does nothing for nine out of 10 Canadian families,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said during Thursday’s question period. “As Jim Flaherty asked, how does that benefit our society?”

Minister of State for Finance Kevin Sorenson replied that Canadian seniors have saved thousands of dollars due to pension income splitting, and that benefit should be extended to more Canadians.

“Income splitting is good policy for Canadians, it’s good policy for Canadian seniors, it will be good policy for Canadian families,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson added that further tax breaks for families will be coming, including the doubling of the children’s fitness tax credit to $1,000. That tax credit will also be made refundable, he said.

Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said income splitting does nothing for 1.5 million single parents who are struggling financially.

Sorenson responded by accusing the Liberals of wanting to repeal the Conservatives’ tax breaks.

Many economists have said that income splitting mainly benefits higher-income families and stay-at-home parents who have high-earning spouses.

“If you have higher-income people, maybe with one child at a high marginal tax rate, they will get considerably more benefit than two spouses (who are) both working with four younger children,” said Fred O’Riordan, a national tax services advisor at Ernst & Young.

Wynne on possible Ford showdown

While Premier Kathleen Wynne says she doesn't want to get involved in the Progressive Conservative leadership tilt in Ontario, she acknowledges that a Doug Ford victory would present "an exercise in contrast."

"I think it's important that we let the leadership race play out," she said Thursday. "I have no idea what decision Doug Ford will or will not make. But we are very different people. I will just say that."

After losing the mayor's race to former PC leader John Tory on Monday, Ford told radio station NewsTalk 1010 he was considering a run to succeed Tim Hudak as party leader.

The mayoral election and Ford's musings followed Wynne to China where she and two of her fellow premiers — Quebec's Philippe Couillard and Prince Edward Island's Robert Ghiz — took part in a trade mission this week.

"I was happy that John won," she told reporters in Beijing. "He's somebody I know I can work with."

As for the Conservative leadership race, she said she wouldn't wade into it.

Then she added: "I will say it would be certainly an exercise in contrast if Doug Ford were to be the leader but they will go through their process."

When a reporter told Wynne she would have an easier time defeating Ford than Conservative health critic Christine Elliott, she laughed and said: "Never, never, never make those kinds of predictions."

Elliott is one of five declared candidates. The others are fellow caucus members Lisa MacLeod, Vic Fedeli and Monte McNaughton and Conservative MP Patrick Brown.

The new leader will be announced in early May.

The Canadian Press

Colbert toasts sergeant-at-arms

He's been called "Canada's New National Hero" by the Washington Post. He's made the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Now the sergeant-at-arms of Canada's House of Commons has received perhaps an even rarer celebrity distinction in the United States: praise from a late-night TV comedian.

Stephen Colbert, better known for his roasting than his toasting, dedicated an entire segment of Wednesday night's Colbert Report show to a tribute of Kevin Vickers, whose intervention helped end last week's Ottawa shooting.

He began the segment with a photo of Vickers carrying the mace — which the tongue-in-cheek TV newsman described to viewers as a giant ceremonial baby rattle.

The show then cut to a CBC clip describing, in the final moments of the confrontation, how Vickers launched himself upside-down towards the ground, firing upward and fatally striking shooter Michael Zehaf Bibeau.

"To hell with Bruce Willis," Colbert said, of the signature line from the movie "Die Hard": "Our neighbour to the north just put the 'Eh' in Yippee-ki-yay."

The segment then showed the scene in Parliament the day after the shooting. Vickers was seen remaining stone-faced amid a rousing ovation from members in the Commons.

"Look at that magnificent bastard," Colbert said, applauding Vickers for what he called a stoic, humble response.

"Folks, I have not been this moved by something Canadian since the return of Degrassi. And I cannot believe I am saying this, but I was wrong about Canada. I have said some awful things about you over the years."

Indeed, mocking Canada has been a staple of Colbert shtick. Just a few months ago, he joked that President Barack Obama should invade Saskatchewan to get a boost in the polls.

On Wednesday, however, Colbert appeared to undergo a momentary conversion.

"Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to do the most Canadian thing I can imagine and say: 'I'm sorry.'" He then said, "Sorry," again — this time, with a mock Canadian accent.

And then, with his crowd cheering, he stood up and sang Canada's national anthem — to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight."

The Canadian Press

50 shades of Ghomeshi

7:25 a.m. Oct. 30 Update:

Jian Ghomeshi has broken his silence about allegations from several women that he behaved abusively toward them.

The former CBC radio personality issued a Facebook post this morning offering thanks to those who have supported him and adding that he plans to "meet the allegations directly."

The brief message went on to say that he doesn't plan to discuss "this matter" with the media.

The posting comes in the wake of a new Toronto Star story that says eight women are now accusing Ghomeshi of abusive behaviour.

The names of the complainants have not been published, except for that of "Trailer Park Boys" actor Lucy DeCoutere, who has chosen to go on record with her allegations.

Will it go to court? follow the story here.

8 p.m. Oct. 29 original post:

 "Trailer Park Boys" actor Lucy DeCoutere has accused former CBC-Radio host Jian Ghomeshi of choking her "to the point she could not breathe" and slapping her "hard three times on the side of her head," the Toronto Star reported late Wednesday.

The "Q" radio host has been accused of abusive behaviour by a series of anonymous women over the past few days but DeCoutere is the first to agree to be identified.

The Star reported that eight women from across Canada now accuse Ghomeshi — who parted ways with the CBC on Sunday — of "abusive behaviour ranging from allegations of beating and choking without consent, to workplace sexual harassment." It said that the allegations range from 2002 to the present.

The Star said Ghomeshi, his lawyers and public relations staff have not responded to allegations in their latest report, which includes accusations from DeCoutere and other accusers who are not named.

A spokeswoman for Ghomeshi did not immediately respond to a request from The Canadian Press for comment.

DeCoutere alleged that in 2003 Ghomeshi "without warning or consent, choked her to the point she could not breathe and then slapped her hard three times on the side of her head," the Star reported.

“He did not ask if I was into it. It was never a question. It was shocking to me. The men I have spent time with are loving people.”

The CBC announced Sunday that it was parting ways with Ghomeshi because of "information" it had received about him. A short time later, lawyers for Ghomeshi announced plans to sue the public broadcaster. Following that, Ghomeshi issued a long Facebook post in which he alleged that that he had been fired from the public broadcaster for his "sexual behaviour."

He said in the Facebook post that he engaged in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission, along with "rough sex (forms of BDSM)." The activities were consensual and he and his partner used safe words to signal when to stop the activity, he said.

He is suing the CBC for $55 million for defamation and breach of trust. The corporation has said it will “vigorously” defend itself against Ghomeshi’s lawsuit.

The Star report published Wednesday night said Ghomeshi met some of the women during his 2012 book tour for his memoir "1982." It said he met others "at film festivals, at music or CBC events, or at the CBC workplace."

The report said two of the women allege that the assaults took place in Ghomeshi's home and that before they took place he "introduced them to Big Ears Teddy, a stuffed bear, and he turned the bear around just before he slapped or choked them, saying that 'Big Ears Teddy shouldn’t see this.'"

DeCoutere told the newspaper she felt it was "time for someone to speak publicly about the matter."

Wednesday's story comes on the heels of a report Monday in the Star that contained allegations from three women who say he was physically violent to them without their consent during sexual encounters or in the run-up to such encounters. Ghomeshi — though his lawyer — responded that he "does not engage in non-consensual role play or sex and any suggestion of the contrary is defamatory."

The Star also reported that a fourth woman who worked at the CBC alleged that Ghomeshi "approached her from behind and cupped her rear end in the Q studio'' and made a sexually obscene comment to her during a story meeting. The Star reported that Ghomeshi told the newspaper that he did not understand why it was continuing to pursue allegations when "my lawyers have already told you it is untrue."

After earlier saying no formal complaint was made, the Canadian Media Guild said Wednesday the CBC staffer told a work colleague that alleged "inappropriate comments were made," but that the colleague did not report it to union staff.

CBC said the woman it interviewed was not one of the four from the Star report. The woman told the network she did not know the women whose alleged accounts appeared in the Star.

Also Wednesday, the CBC aired a radio interview with a woman who alleges physically abusive acts by Ghomeshi more than 10 years ago, accusing the fired radio star of throwing her on the ground and "pounding" her in the head until her ears were ringing.

In the radio interview, the woman, who was not identified, told CBC's "As It Happens" that while in his car on their first date he asked her if she would undo her buttons.

"And I said 'No' because I didn't know you. And he reached over and grabbed my hair very hard and pulled my head back. It really took me off guard."

The woman said she thinks Ghomeshi asked if she liked it but doesn't remember her response.

She said that she went on a second date to Ghomeshi's house, where she says they were flirting when "he grabbed my hair again but even harder, threw me in front of him on the ground and started closed-fist pounding me in the head. Repeatedly, until my ears were ringing."

"There was no conversation about anything, " she alleged in the 11-minute CBC interview. "He didn't ask me if I like to be hit. He didn't ask me — I wasn't expecting it, and he hit me repeatedly."

The woman told CBC: "We were fully clothed. We weren't having sex."

In the interview on CBC, the woman said she did not go to the police over the alleged incidents. She said she decided to come forward with her story after a recent Toronto Star report.

CBC says it agreed not to use the woman's name, and that it tried to reach Ghomeshi but did not hear back by air time.

Ghomeshi could not be reached by The Canadian Press on Wednesday evening. A lawyer for Ghomeshi directed inquiries to his publicist, who did not respond.

The Canadian Press

Therapy dog goes to court

A Calgary judge is allowing a police therapy dog to sit with two child witnesses in an upcoming sex abuse trial.

Crown prosecutor Rosalind Greenwood says it may be the first time in Alberta — even in Canada — that a dog is to replace a court support worker.

The black Labrador retriever, named Hawk, joined Calgary police last year.

Greenwood says the dog has already met with the two child witnesses.

The case involves a man charged with sexually assaulting his seven-year-old daughter.

The girl and her brother are to testify when the trial begins in December.

The Canadian Press

Call for stem cell investment

A coalition of Canadian stem cell advocates, researchers and charities is calling for $1.5 billion in private and public funding for stem cell therapy over the next 10 years.

The coalition's action plan is aimed at cementing Canada's reputation as a stem cell leader, one that uses stem cell science to reduce suffering and death from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, vision loss, spinal cord injuries and other conditions.

James Price, the president and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, says the action plan could help millions of people with new, life-changing therapies.

The action plan's call for funding includes a $50 million scaled annual average commitment by the federal government.

The Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine estimates the action plan could also create more than 12,000 jobs due to the growth of existing companies and the development of new enterprises aimed at global markets.

The Canadian Press

Sleeping pill use too common

A campaign to reduce inappropriate use of health care in Canada is calling for more prudent prescribing of sleep aids among seniors.

Choosing Wisely Canada says about one third of people over age 65 are using sleeping pills, even though the drugs are particularly risky for older adults.

The group says that what's more, the pills don't offer substantially longer or better quality sleep.

The chairwoman of the campaign, Dr. Wendy Levinson, says there are safer ways for seniors to get more sleep.

The recommendation is one of dozens Levinson's group is releasing aimed at educating patients and doctors about inappropriate use of health care.

Levinson says the goal is to get both sides of that dynamic to understand that some commonly ordered tests and procedures are often used unnecessarily.

"People think more is better. Patients think that they need testing and they don't understand that testing can actually be ... harmful," Levinson said in an interview.

"Sixty per cent of doctors say that they over-ordered tests that they think are not needed at all because patients request them. So that's MRIs or X-rays for lower back pain, it's antibiotics when they're not needed."

The Choosing Wisely campaign involves more than two dozen medical specialty groups and associations which have drawn up Top 5 lists of tests, procedures or practices common to their specialty that really ought not be done. Suggested by members of the specialty, the items on the list were subjected to an evidence review to determine that it was indeed safe to urge doctors and patients to avoid this or reduce the frequency of that.

Examples including ordering a panel of blood tests every year as part of an annual physical, even for patients with no particular risk factors for the conditions for which they are being screened. In fact, the group advises against annual checkups, saying physicals are important but should be done on a more sporadic basis.

Levinson says another recommendation is that doctors not order bone density tests more frequently than every two years, because bone density doesn't change that fast.

On the issue of sleeping pills for seniors, the group points out the potential side-effects of the pills pose real risks to older adults. They include next-day drowsiness, increased risk of car accidents, constipation, trouble urinating and falls and hip fractures.

The Canadian Press

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