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No charges for bear killer

An Alberta government spokesperson says a U.S. hunter who posted a video of himself baiting and then killing a bear with a spear will not face charges.

The spokesperson with Alberta Justice said the investigation into the video, posted on YouTube in June by hunter Josh Bowmar, is done and there was no evidence to suggest any law was broken.

The 13-minute video shows the man launching a spear, with a camera attached, at a bear from 11 to 14 metres away and captures his jubilant reaction when the animal is hit.

The video by Bowmar, who runs an Ohio-based fitness company with his wife, set off a deluge of outrage before it was made private.

In a statement, the provincial spokesperson called spear hunting “archaic” and said it was “unacceptable.”

The spokesperson also says the province is looking at changing hunting regulations, with a ban on spear hunting expected in the fall.

Bowmar was surprised by the reaction to the video, saying spears have been used for hunting since the "dawn of man'' and the notion that the method is inhumane "couldn't be further from the truth.''

"The bear I speared only ran (55 metres) and died immediately, that's as humane and ethical as one could get in a hunting situation on big game animals. Trust me, no one cares more about these animals than us hunters, especially me,'' he said in an emailed statement last week.



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Quebecois shooter guilty

The man charged in the 2012 shooting death of a man outside a club where the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois was celebrating its election victory sat impassively Tuesday as he was convicted of second-degree murder.

Richard Henry Bain, who shouted out "The English Are Waking Up" as he was arrested four years ago, was also found guilty of three counts of attempted murder.

In convicting Bain after 11 full days of deliberations, the 12 jurors rejected the defence's argument he was not criminally responsible by way of mental disorder.

Bain, 65, was facing a charge of first-degree murder in the death of lighting technician Denis Blanchette outside the Metropolis as then-Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois was delivering her victory speech Sept. 4, 2012.

Instead, the jurors found him guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder. One of the attempted-murder convictions was in connection with Dave Courage, another stagehand who was struck by the bullet that killed Blanchette.

The two other convictions related to provincial police officer Stephane Champagne and a dozen fellow stagehands who were nearby when the weapon was fired.

Bain, dressed in a black suit, showed no reaction in the prisoner's box and stared straight ahead as the verdicts were read out.

His lawyer said although the outcome was not a victory, his client was satisfied the jury rejected the possibility of finding him guilty of premeditated murder.

"He (Bain) is very happy because had he been convicted of first-degree murder at his age, it would have been a death sentence," Alan Guttman told reporters after speaking briefly to Bain.

Bain faces a sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for at least 10 years on the second-degree murder conviction. Guttman said that is what he will seek at sentencing arguments scheduled for early September.

He also said he will consider whether to appeal the convictions.

Crown prosecutor Dennis Galiatsatos said he hopes the victims will be satisfied with the jury's decision.

"I hope the verdicts will provide them with at least some measure of closure to help them get through this chapter in their lives," he said.

Galiatsatos would not specify the sentence he would seek for the conviction, which stipulates Bain can be denied parole eligibility for up to 25 years.



'Hip' with native leaders

Leaders of Canada's indigenous community say they feel stunned and grateful to Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie for training the spotlight on issues plaguing First Nations.

Downie spoke passionately of struggles in Canadian native communities during what was widely presumed to be the iconic band's final performance on Saturday in Kingston, Ont.

Addressing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in the audience to take in the show, Downie expressed fears that Canada's beleaguered indigenous peoples are perhaps in more dire straits today than they have ever been.

The singer, who's battling terminal brain cancer, said he believed Trudeau could help bring about meaningful change and called upon Canadians to be more mindful of northern affairs.

Indigenous leaders say Downie's assessment is accurate and thanked him for taking time to speak up for their communities in the midst of his own struggle.

They say Downie's words are yet another powerful call for change that they hope both politicians and regular citizens will heed.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he was surprised and moved by Downie's call for action.

Bellegarde was one of millions of Canadians to watch a nationwide broadcast of the concert. He said the Hip frontman's decision to share the limelight with an often-forgotten segment of Canadian society sent a powerful message.

"To use a platform in that regard to focus on priorities and issues, it really speaks to his strength of character," Bellegarde said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

"And he gets it. He sees the need to do something."

Downie's remarks were sprinkled throughout the nearly three-hour performance that elicited both cheers and tears from the adoring crowd.

The singer thanked Trudeau repeatedly for coming to the show, but also for taking steps to address the long-standing concerns of a community he feels has been overlooked.

"We're in good hands, folks, real good hands," Downie said of Trudeau.

"He cares about the people way up north, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what's going on up there. And what's going on up there ain't good."

He added: "It's maybe worse than it's ever been, so it's not on the improve. (But) we're going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help."

Bellegarde said he believed Downie was referring to the chronic poverty and Third World living conditions that prevail in indigenous communities across the country, specifically citing lack of quality housing, safe drinking water and educational resources.



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Tory race: who's in, out

The list of those interested in running for leadership of the Conservative Party continues to grow as party members emerge from summer holiday and begin campaigning in earnest.

Here's a look at the field of contenders, so far.

Handed in the paperwork:

Kellie Leitch. The pediatric orthopedic surgeon first elected as an MP in 2011 was the first to register.

Maxime Bernier. The Quebec MP filed his papers a few days after Leitch and has already outlined several key policy positions.

Michael Chong. The Ontario MP is a longtime champion of democratic reform.

Tony Clement. Also from Ontario, the former cabinet minister lost to Stephen Harper for leadership of the party in 2004 and is trying again.

Still filling out forms:

Deepak Obhrai. One of the longest serving members of the current Conservative parliamentary caucus told his colleagues earlier this summer he's going to mount a bid.

Brad Trost. First declared his interest in running after the party dropped a policy widely seen as opposing gay marriage in May.

Andrew Saxton. The defeated MP is exploring a bid based on a desire to ensure a candidate from B.C., where he and his family have long lived.

Pierre Lemieux. Also defeated in the last election, Lemieux sent an email to supporters this week saying he's trying to raise the funds to enter the race to champion socially conservative values.

Adrienne Snow. A communications consultant, Snow was previously involved in several policy think-tanks.

Andrew Scheer. The former Speaker of the House of Commons is expected to jump in by the time Tory caucus meets in September.

Lisa Raitt. Sources close to the former cabinet minister and current MP say to expect an announcement in September that she too is entering the race.

Thinking about it:

Erin O'Toole. After saying no to the idea for months, the Ontario MP and former veterans affairs minister is now contemplating a run after some party pressure.

Peter MacKay. The former cabinet minister from Nova Scotia now working as a lawyer in Toronto has long been considering a run.

Steven Blaney. The Quebec MP continues to consult colleagues about whether he should mount a bid.

Kevin O'Leary. The popular TV personality and businessman first mused about running for the leadership earlier this year.

Dan Lindsay. The former president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba formed a committee in the spring to explore a possible campaign.



Fire adds $500M to deficit

The devastating Fort McMurray wildfire is expected to torch Alberta's bottom line by about $500 million this year.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says he has had to revise the projected deficit upward in his first-quarter fiscal update to almost $11 billion from $10.4 billion.

"I don't need to tell my fellow Albertans that as a result of the oil-price shock, the economic headwinds facing Alberta remain strong. Albertans see that every day. Many are suffering significant hardship," Ceci said Tuesday at a news conference where he released the latest numbers.

"This year those headwinds are blowing even harder as a result of the Wood Buffalo wildfire."

Regardless, Ceci said, the province will stick to its plan of avoiding deep cuts to the civil service, while continuing to accumulate debt to pay for roads, infrastructure, health and education.

"We're not going to make knee-jerk cuts. We're not going to make things worse for Albertans,"

The May fire in northern Alberta forced more than 80,000 people to flee for a month and destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings in the oilsands hub city.

Ceci said the province paid out $647 million in disaster relief, a figure reduced to $195 million after federal aid transfers.

On top of that, the province estimates it lost another $300 million in revenue, because the fire severely curtailed oilsands and forestry activity in the area. An estimated 40 million barrels worth of production was lost.

The government forecasts Alberta's overall oil production for the 2016-17 fiscal year will be down about four per cent due to the shutdown.

Rebuilding parts of Fort McMurray is expected to boost provincial growth in the years to come, but business losses are expected to cancel out any such stimulus this year.

Insurable losses from the wildfires are pegged at $3.6 billion.

The Fort McMurray numbers come on top of gloomy forecasts as low oil prices continue to depress Alberta's economy, although a modest recovery is predicted for 2017.

Alberta's real GDP, the benchmark figure representing all of Alberta's newly produced goods and services, is predicted to fall 2.7 per cent, mainly due to the fire. It fell 3.7 per cent last year. It's a back-to-back plunge not seen since the last Alberta oil crash in the 1980s.

Real exports were expected to go up by 1.9 per cent. Instead, they're now predicted to fall 1.7 per cent.



Wall shuffles Sask. cabinet

Six ministers are changing portfolios and four new faces are being added in a cabinet shuffle Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall promised after last spring's election.

Some of the high-profile changes include moving Dustin Duncan out of health to take over Bill Boyd's energy and resources duties. Duncan also becomes responsible for SaskTel and SaskEnergy.

Jim Reiter, who was handling those Crowns as well as government relations, becomes health minister.

Boyd, who has found himself in the middle of at least two controversies in recent years, had asked Wall earlier this month not to keep him in cabinet. He said he started thinking of stepping back shortly after the April election because of the "high-quality team" in place.

Boyd had been a minister ever since the Saskatchewan Party formed government for the first time in 2007

Another veteran legislature member and cabinet minister, Don Morgan, sees deputy premier added to his current duties at education and labour.

"Don Morgan has always been a leader in our government's caucus and cabinet,” Wall said in a statement issued moments before the shuffle. “His sound judgment and the respect he has earned among his colleagues made Don the clear choice for deputy premier.”

Wall needed a new deputy premier after Don McMorris was charged with impaired driving earlier this month and resigned from cabinet.

His other responsibilities as minister responsible for the Crown Investments Corp., Saskatchewan Government Insurance, Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Public Service Commission have been divvied out in the new cabinet.

Four ministers are keeping their portfolios. Kevin Doherty remains at finance, Lyle Stewart stays at agriculture, rural and remote health is still headed by Greg Ottenbreit and Gordon Wyant is still justice minister, although he is also taking on corrections and policing from Christine Tell.

Four people entering cabinet for the first time are Regina MLA Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Dave Marit of Wood River, Saskatoon's Bronwyn Eyre and Prince Albert MLA Joe Hargrave.

The size of cabinet is smaller by one. Wall has reduced the number of ministers, including himself, to 17.



Natives rally over 'Scoop'

Scores of aboriginals from across Ontario rallied in Toronto today ahead of a landmark court hearing on the so-called '60s Scoop.

Some travelled for up to two days to lend their support.

Speakers, including the lead plaintiff, denounced what they view as the "cultural genocide" perpetrated against them by the Canadian government.

They mourned the loss of their "stolen" children and urged the government to make good on its promise of a new era in Canadian-aboriginal relations.

At issue is the apprehension of indigenous children by child-welfare officials, who placed the young wards with non-native families.

Speakers said the practice was a deliberate effort to assimilate aboriginal children.

The $1.3-billion class action argues that Canada failed to protect the children's cultural heritage with devastating consequences to victims. Their lawyers are pressing for summary judgment in the legal battle started in February 2009.

The '60s Scoop depended on a federal-provincial arrangement in which Ontario child welfare services placed as many as 16,000 aboriginal children with non-native families from December 1965 to December 1984.

Lead plaintiff, Marcia Brown Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was taken by child welfare officials and adopted by a non-native family as a child. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

The unproven claim alleges the children suffered a devastating loss of cultural identity that Canada negligently failed to protect. The children, the suit states, suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual harm from the lost connection to their aboriginal heritage. They want $85,000 for each affected person.

Their lawyer, Jeffery Wilson, called the lawsuit the first case in the western world about "whether a state government has an obligation to take steps to protect and preserve the cultural identity of its indigenous people.''

The motion for summary judgment essentially calls on Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba to decide the case based on the evidence the court already has without a full trial.

Canada has tried on several occasions to have the case thrown out as futile. Among other things, Ottawa argues it was acting in the best interests of the children and within the social norms of the day.

The one-day hearing was expected to adjourn until Dec. 1 to allow the government time to file its expert evidence.

Last week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she would like to see the case discussed at the table rather than in court.



Olympians welcomed home

Several members of Canada's Olympic team — including multi-medallist and closing ceremony flag-bearer Penny Oleksiak — are back in Canada to a hero's welcome.

Oleksiak and several returning athletes got into Toronto's Pearson International Airport aboard two Air Canada aircraft before sunrise, with another group of athletes scheduled to arrive at around the same time early Wednesday.

When the flights arrived, airport firefighters saluted the returning athletes with giant arcs of water on either side of the airplanes.

Friends, family and fans mingled with media, waiting for the athletes to clear customs and pick up their luggage.

Soccer player Ashley Lawrence's parents donned Team Canada shirts to welcome their daughter. The pair said they are looking forward to figuring out where to display the midfielder's bronze medal.

Lawrence's teammate, Jessie Fleming, said she was proud of their performance.

"We all had a good tournament and we definitely deserved to bring this home," Fleming said, holding her medal.

Most of the buzz focused on 16-year-old Oleksiak, who won four swimming medals at the Rio Games, including Canada's first gold.

"I didn't expect any of this," said Oleksiak, who was Canada's flag-bearer at the closing ceremonies. "I just want to say thank you to everyone (who cheered for me)."

Residents in Oleksiak's east-end Toronto neighbourhood known as The Beach are planning a celebration for her return, tentatively planned for Sunday.

Johanna Carlo, a board member of the Beach Village Business Improvement Area, says the group has applied for a permit to hold a big party for Oleksiak and other athletes who have lived in the neighbourhood. She says they're planning on having live music, and she's hoping people will bring home-made signs and wear red and white.

Several of the returning athletes expressed gratitude for the support and encouragement they received from Canadians throughout the Games.

Long after most athletes had left the arrivals gate, gold medal-winning trampoline gymnast Rosie MacLennan stayed to sign autographs and take selfies with fans.

MacLennan, who carried Canada's flag at Rio's opening ceremonies, said making time for fans helps get them engaged in the Olympic process.

"It's a chance to share the experience with the people who supported us along the way," she said.



Extremism easy to find

Many mosques and Islamic schools in Canada are placing young people at risk by espousing — or at least not condemning — extremist teachings, a new study says.

Co-authors Thomas Quiggin, a former intelligence analyst with the Privy Council Office and the RCMP, and Saied Shoaaib, a journalist originally from Egypt, base their findings on research conducted quietly in mosque libraries and Islamic schools.

The study, titled "Lovers of the Death"? — Islamist Extremism in Mosques and Schools, says what worried them was not the presence of extremist literature, but that they found nothing but such writings in several libraries.

"Further research is required to determine the depth and breadth of this problem."

The authors say openly available material and analysis of social media postings helped confirm their views that many Canadians, including leading politicians, are turning a blind eye to the dangers.

They argue the issue is too important to ignore, given that a number of young Canadians have become radicalized to violence.

Canadian Muslims with humanist and modernist outlooks are being drowned out by those with extreme views, the study says. "The struggle for the soul of Islam between Islamists and humanists goes on in Canada and the U.S.A., not just in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia."

The Canadian Council of Imams did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Liberal government plans to soon announce details of its plans for a national office of counter-radicalization to carry out research and co-ordinate activities across Canada.

One year ago, the Senate defence and security committee issued a report saying some foreign-trained imams had been spreading extremist religious ideology and messages that are not in keeping with Canadian values, contributing to radicalization.

It called on the government to work with the provinces and Muslim communities to "investigate the options that are available for the training and certification of imams in Canada."

The report was not supported by Liberal senators on the committee. It was denounced by the National Council of Canadian Muslims as stigmatizing and failing to offer effective solutions to the challenge of violent extremism.



From premier to volunteer

A former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador has a new job in the province.

An official with a service organization in St. John's says it has hired Kathy Dunderdale as its volunteer co-ordinator.

Sister Elizabeth Davis of The Gathering Place says Dunderdale will take on the role later this week.

Davis would not reveal Dunderdale's salary, but says it is part of $60,000 in funding announced under the province's supportive living program.

The former Progressive Conservative premier left public office in 2014.

The Gathering Place offers nutrition programs to hundreds of clients every day, including the homeless and people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and addictions.



$1.49B deal for transit

The federal treasury is set to crack open its coffers and begin distributing $1.49 billion worth of transit funding among cities in Ontario for track upgrades, new buses, shelters and upgrades to stations.

The details being announced Tuesday will outline $688 million worth of projects in five Ontario cities that are lined up to be the first recipients of the dedicated transit funding.

The federal funds can be used against up to half the costs of eligible projects; the funding is retroactive to April 1 to cover any costs cities and provinces have incurred since then.

About $500 million of the projects being announced Tuesday will be in Toronto, with Ottawa next on the list at $156 million.

Waterloo, Barrie and Sudbury, where the federal cabinet just wrapped up a two-day retreat, will receive about $30.6 million combined for 20 projects.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to be in Barrie, about 100 kilometres north of Toronto, to announce the signing of the agreement Tuesday alongside Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The federal Liberals are betting that the $6.6 billion set aside this year and next for infrastructure work — the first infusion of a promised extra $60 billion over 10 years — will help kick-start the economy and pad government coffers with new tax revenue that will help bring the budget back to balance.

The federal government has also been pushing to spend the money quickly so as not to miss the summer construction season, but has been stymied by provincial delays in finalizing funding wish lists, including Ontario. Under the new federal program, provinces are required to fill half of their funding wish lists before Ottawa can begin distributing the money.

Federal officials say Ontario has yet to finalize a funding wish list of water and wastewater projects, something that it must do over the coming months to get $570 million for projects like water treatment facility upgrades and sewers. Similar work is ongoing in British Columbia, which — like Ontario — signed a transit funding deal first, given the volume of outstanding work required.

The federal government must still sign agreements with Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Saskatchewan has said it has concerns that cities could cut corners on work or planning in order to meet the federal government's deadline of March 2018 for the completion of new construction or expansion projects.



Jury deliberates for 10th day

Deliberations at Richard Henry Bain's first-degree murder trial are now among the longest in Canadian history, his attorney said Monday as Day 10 came and went without a verdict.

The lawyer for Quebec's alleged election-night shooter added he is "surprised" by the time being taken.

"I've been doing this 37 years and this is the longest I've ever had," Alan Guttman said outside the courtroom.

He said the lengthy deliberations have already surpassed the time taken to reach verdicts in other notable Canadian murder trials, including those of Luka Rocco Magnotta and Guy Turcotte.

Bain, 65, faces four charges, including first-degree murder in the shooting death of stagehand Denis Blanchette outside the Metropolis nightclub in September 2012 as then-premier designate Pauline Marois was inside celebrating the Parti Quebecois' election win.

Bain also faces three charges of attempted murder.

During the trial, Guttman argued Bain was mentally ill at the time of the shooting and should be found not criminally responsible on all charges.

The Crown, on the other hand, said Bain was of sound mind and that his actions were premeditated and motivated by anger over the PQ victory.

On Friday, Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer pointed out that deliberations can be lengthy when non criminal responsibility is used as a defence, because it requires the jury to assess the accused's mental state.

In the high-profile Magnotta trial in 2014, jurors took eight days before finding him guilty of first-degree murder and rejecting the defence of not criminally responsible.

As the Bain deliberations stretch on, Guttman said there is a possibility some of the jurors are in disagreement.

If ever the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict, Guttman said he believes Cournoyer would likely first ask them to try again instead of immediately declaring a mistrial.

"In September it's going to be four years, this case," he said. "I don't think anybody wants to do this again," he added, referring to the possiblity of another trial.

The jury of seven women and five men will return for Day 11 of deliberations Tuesday.

They were last heard from on Friday, when discussions were held over how to prevent a court-issued laptop from erasing their notes.

Although the deliberations appear slow, the length isn't unheard of.

It took a jury almost 10 days to convict Robert Pickton in 2007 in the killing and dismembering of six women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

And in 2002, a jury in Quebec took 11 days to convict former Hells Angels kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher of ordering the murder of two Quebec prison guards.



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