Biden visits with Trudeau

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be a defender of the international "rules of the road" to help shepherd the world through a period of deep uncertainty.

Biden delivered that message in a stirring speech at a state dinner in his honour in Ottawa on Thursday night, in which he singled out the fight against climate change as the most important issue of this generation.

Biden didn't mention president-elect Donald Trump by name but he made veiled references to the uncertainty gripping Europe and the United States since Britain's decision to leave the European Union and the recent presidential election in his own country.

Biden said the world would make enormous progress — but only if leaders such Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped up.

"The changes that are going to take place are going to be astronomical," Biden said.

"The progress is going to be made but it's going to take men like you Mr. prime minister, who understand it has to fit within the context of a liberal economic order, a liberal international order, where there's basic rules of the road."

Biden praised Canada as an ally and a friend, one that the U.S. needs more than ever. He singled out the joint fight against Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq, bolstering Eastern European allies against Russia and combating climate change, "the most consequential issue of our generation."

Biden said that when he looks at the "ebb and flow" of the world, there are periods when genuine leaders are in short supply.

"I've never seen Europe engage in as much self-doubt as they are now," Biden said.

"There's a lot of soul searching going on in Europe and you saw some of it in my country."

Biden delivered his message to a gala audience of former prime ministers, current provincial premiers and other dignitaries.

Biden said he would be discussing climate change when he attends Friday's meeting of provincial premiers and aboriginal leaders in Ottawa.



First Nation claims Ottawa

A Quebec First Nation has filed a lawsuit seeking aboriginal title over much of downtown Ottawa, including Parliament Hill.

"The Algonquin Anishinabe Nation has never surrendered its title to the Kichi Sibi lands," says the band's statement of claim filed Wednesday in Ontario's Superior Court.

The claim includes islands in the Ottawa River, as well as a long portion of its south bank that includes Parliament, the Supreme Court, the National Library and the Canadian War Museum. It stretches southwest along the river to include LeBreton Flats, federally owned land that is the proposed site for major new developments that could include a new hockey arena for the NHL's Ottawa Senators.

That proposed development is a key reason why the lawsuit has been filed now, said Eamon Murphy, lawyer for the Anishinabe.

"These LeBreton lands, for the very first time in well over a hundred years, are vacant. (The band is) looking at them and saying these lands have been occupied for a very long time — it's now time that our title's dealt with before the next project happens and the lands are sold off again."

The band argues that the Anishinabe once used the land for fishing, hunting, farming and camping. It maintains the band not only used those lands, but controlled who had access to them.

"The Algonquin Anishinabe Nation controlled occupation and use of their lands ... through a variety of means which included arrangements for temporary possession, but also, in the absence of an arrangement, sanctions of increasing severity up to and including death to any invader."

The statement of claim says that, although the band signed agreements with various other First Nations and European countries, all those agreements were made on the basis of the band retaining its land. Since then, the band says, Canada has wrongly used and sold off that land.

"Canada and/or its agent (the National Capital Commission) have never compensated the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation for any of the federal interferences, either fairly or at all."

The lawsuit seeks to have the aboriginal title recognized. It also seeks negotiations with both the federal government and the province of Ontario, which is also named in the suit.

"Canada has a fiduciary duty to negotiate in good faith with the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation ... for reconciliation of aboriginal title to the federal Kichi Sibi lands or any portion of them," the lawsuit says.

None of the claims has been proven in court. A statement of defence has yet to be filed.

Murphy said it's too early to suggest what kind of settlement the band might seek.

"The first thing they want is for the court to say, 'You've got title to these lands.' What happens after that ... we'll see."

A tunnel to Newfoundland?

Could a subsea tunnel under the Strait of Belle Isle finally link northern Newfoundland with Labrador?

It's a question that for decades has inspired dreams of free-flowing trade, hundreds of jobs and thousands of tourists.

Proponents say a fixed link — like the Chunnel between the U.K. and France, or the North Cape Tunnel in Norway — would unleash economic opportunity.

"It could, theoretically, be a game changer," said Des Whalen, chairman of the St. John's Board of Trade.

But the idea is making political waves in the cash-strapped province, as critics lambaste plans to spend up to $750,000 for another feasibility report.

"At a time when funding is being slashed all over the place for important programs, I really question the wisdom of spending three quarters of a million dollars," NDP Leader Earle McCurdy said in an interview.

"Even if the study comes back and says, yes, this is feasible, we're not in a financial position to do the project any time soon."

The tunnel under the strait, which is roughly 17 kilometres at its most narrow point, would connect about 26,000 residents of the mainland with the island of Newfoundland.

But McCurdy and other doubters stress the province is in the midst of a fiscal crisis since oil prices collapsed. Despite spending cuts and tax hikes, a $1.6 billion deficit is forecast this year as net debt mounts.

That's on top of soaring costs linked to the Muskrat Falls hydro project now under construction in Labrador. Its estimated price tag has hit $11.4 billion, up $4 billion from four years ago.

The Liberal government says it earmarked $750,000 for the Labrador link study in its last budget as part of economic diversity efforts, but none of it has been spent so far.

Progressive Conservative member Barry Petten says a study commissioned more than 12 years ago by the previous Tory regime already recommended a single-lane tunnel that would move vehicles one way at a time on an "electric train shuttle."

But with an estimated cost of $1.7 billion with financing -- and 11 years for development -- the project stalled. It never progressed despite years of hefty surplus budgets flush with offshore oil revenues.

"People wanted to make this work in 2004 and 2005," Petten said in an interview. "At the end of the day, they just couldn't make it feasible. I don't see what has changed now."


Historians shrug over money

Losing two of Canada's wartime prime ministers from the country's $50 and $100 bills won't be a step backwards for a country that has plenty to learn about itself, a pair of leading history buffs say.

Soon after the federal government announced Thursday that the faces of William Lyon Mackenzie King and Sir Robert Borden would be dropped from the banknotes, Historica Canada weighed in, saying there will always be ways to pay tribute to the two men.

"We think that history is a moving target," said Anthony Wilson-Smith, CEO of Canada's largest independent organization devoted to enhancing awareness of Canadian history.

"Events only happen once. But there's always a thousand different ways to look at them."

Instead of Borden and King, each revamped banknote will feature the faces of prime ministers Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, when they are released in 2018. Laurier is moving from the $5 bill and Macdonald is leaving the $10 bill, to be replaced by Viola Desmond, an African Nova Scotian civil rights pioneer.

With the change, Desmond becomes the first Canadian woman to appear on the face of a Canadian banknote.

Allan Levine, who wrote a 2011 biography about King, said it made sense to give Borden and King the boot.

"It reflects our attitudes today," he said. "The world wasn't only run by white men or politicians. There are other people who are also significant to Canadian history, and Viola Desmond is a good choice."

However, Levine said he believes King would not have approved.

"He was representative of his era, and Canada was a very intolerant place," he said. "King had classic attitudes about black people, about Jews, and his diary is full of this stuff."

King's erasure from the currency will have no impact on his place in history, Levine said.

Flood damage tops $15M

The estimated cost for damage caused by the Thanksgiving Day floods in Cape Breton could exceed $15 million, says the Nova Scotia government.

Zach Churchill, minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, said Thursday the total could run even higher because the province is still waiting for more insurance information and final approval from the federal government.

The province later clarified in an email the figure included damage to municipal but not provincial infrastructure, and that it would take time to get a "firm number."

Churchill said the province had also begun meeting with the 18 Sydney-area homeowners who were most affected by the flooding.

He said they will be given compensation to repair the damage, or the assessed pre-flood market value if they choose to move.

"This is specific to the 18 displaced homeowners," said Churchill. "If there's any questions related to the appraisal, the province is willing to fund a second appraisal if they are not comfortable with those numbers."

The province said the homeowners would also be informed of the amount of money available to bring the homes to pre-flood condition and for the coverage of damage to the contents of their home. Test results for oil contamination would also be shared.

It further clarified that homes purchased by the province will be demolished and any contaminants will be remediated to appropriate environmental standards.

Financial support will also continue for homeowners displaced by flood damage until their claims are completed and they are resettled.

The province said to date it had received about 670 claims under its Disaster Financial Assistance program.

7 zoo penguins drown

The Calgary Zoo says seven of its Humboldt penguins drowned in their holding area.

Jamie Dorgan, director of animal care, says an investigation has begun to try to figure out what happened.

There were a total of 22 birds in the Humboldt colony.

Humboldts live off the coasts of Chile and Peru, and weigh no more than about six kilograms when fully grown.

The zoo has three other species of penguins, including kings, gentoos and rockhoppers.

The zoo has made headlines in the past over the deaths of its animals, including an otter, a giant capybara, a caribou calf and stingrays.

Census at risk of meddling

Canada's former chief statistician says a new federal bill to give Statistics Canada more independence falls short because it doesn't protect the census from political interference.

Wayne Smith says the government of the day would still have control over census content, leaving it vulnerable to the sorts of changes the Conservatives imposed in 2011 by turning the long-form census into a voluntary survey.

The Liberal bill tabled Wednesday aims to change the Statistics Act to require that the government make public any cabinet orders that strike at the agency's work to collect, analyze and disseminate data.

Smith says that provision would help protect the agency from some political interference by forcing governments to confront public opinion about their decisions.

The Conservative decision to cancel the long-form mandatory census was done quietly, but stirred outrage when it became public.

The Liberal government brought back the mandatory survey as one of its first acts in power; the response rate to the census this year was about 98 per cent, one of the highest in history.

Feathery dino tail in amber

A Canadian researcher has helped identify a 99-million-year-old dinosaur tail which has been preserved in amber.

The specimen was purchased from a Myanmar amber market in 2015 by a Chinese academic who recognized its potential.

Ryan McKellar, curator at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, worked with his Chinese counterpart to identify the muscles, ligaments and skin of the tail.

The tail, which was long and flexible, was also covered in feathers.

McKellar says feathers have been linked to dinosaurs before, but not this clearly.

The research is published in the journal Current Biology.

BC has knuckles rapped

British Columbia's auditor general has rapped the province for dropping its public reports on a commission of inquiry that reviewed the disappearances of 67 women — some of them victims of serial killer Robert Pickton — from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Carol Bellringer says the tragedies continue to affect families and communities and the government must continue to keep British Columbians informed of its progress meeting the inquiry's more than 60 recommendations.

She says the government stopped providing public progress reports in 2014, two years after former attorney general Wally Oppal tabled his report.

Oppal's report detailed systemic police failures that allowed Pickton to target sex workers and recommended support for families of victims.

Bellringer's report says the government has established a compensation fund for the children of victims, but has made little progress helping their families.

Bellringer says the government has yet to appoint a new champion for the safety and security of vulnerable women since the resignation of former lieutenant-governor Steven Point from an advisory committee three years ago.

Stop being nice to drivers

Police in Prince Edward Island are warning drivers to stop being so nice to each other, after a number of accidents caused by motorists trying to be kind.

Charlottetown Police Chief Paul Smith says there have been at least two accidents on the city's busy University Avenue in the past week caused by one driver stopping and waving another in.

He says a good Samaritan gesture can sometimes have devastating consequences, when you are looking at t-bone accidents.

He says someone trying to be courteous could be tagged by an insurance company as one of the causes of a crash.

University Avenue is one of Charlottetown's busiest four-lane thoroughfares, with businesses lining both sides of the street.

Smith says if someone stops in the inside lane to allow an oncoming car to cross, they may be unaware of potential traffic in the curb lane.

Shrouded in secrecy

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden is to arrive in Ottawa later today on a visit shrouded in secrecy and speculation.

Biden is to address provincial premiers and aboriginal leaders at their Friday meeting in Ottawa.

But there is much speculation about what the Obama administration's second-in-command might have to say to the Trudeau Liberals with the swearing-in of Donald Trump's new Republican administration just weeks away.

Neither the U.S. embassy nor the Prime Minister's Office are adding any substance to the usual bromides that accompanied the announcement of the visit.

U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman has said Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will discuss the "strong friendship" between the two countries.

Trudeau has said they will discuss a relationship that is "critical" to the people of both countries.

First lady of currency

Viola Desmond, often described as Canada's Rosa Parks for her 1946 decision to sit in a whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre, will be the first woman to be celebrated on the face of a Canadian banknote.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says Desmond will grace the front of the $10 bill when the next series goes into circulation in 2018.

"Today is about recognizing the incalculable contribution that all women have had and continue to have in shaping Canada’s story. Viola Desmond’s own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moments of dignity and bravery," Morneau told a news conference in Gatineau, Que.

"She represents courage, strength and determination—qualities we should all aspire to every day."

Desmond’s sister Wanda Robson, who was instrumental in making Desmond's story more widely known, was on hand for the announcement.

"It’s a big day to have a woman on a bank note, but it’s an especially big day to have your big sister on a bank note," she said. "Our family is extremely proud and honoured."

Others on the short list were poet E. Pauline Johnson; Elsie MacGill, who received an electrical engineering degree from the University of Toronto in 1927; Quebec suffragette Idola Saint-Jean; and 1928 Olympic medallist Fanny Rosenfeld, a track and field athlete.

There were more than 26,000 submissions from the public, which was later whittled down to 461 eligible nominees who had Canadian citizenship and had been dead for at least 25 years.

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