Monday, October 5th2.4°C

Space prediction in 1800s

BURLINGTON, Ont. - A space historian says a Canadian university principal proposed rocket-based spaceflight 30 years earlier than previously thought.

Historian Robert Godwin says William Leitch of Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., accurately described the concept of rocket-based spaceflight in 1861.

Previous histories of spaceflight have maintained that the first scientific proposal of rocket-powered space travel came at the end of the 19th century by Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and by American Robert Goddard.

Both claimed Jules Verne as their inspiration, but Godwin says Leitch published his thoughts four years before Verne's famous "space gun."

Godwin's findings were published Sunday in "The First Scientific Concept of Rockets for Space Travel."

Godwin says Leitch was a scientist and understood Newton's law of action and reaction, and predicted that a rocket would work more efficiently in the vacuum of space.

The Canadian Press

Faith in a frozen future

When it comes to death, there's traditionally been two forms of eternal rest: going into a coffin or ending up as ashes inside an urn.

But some are embracing a third way — having their body or brain frozen in liquid nitrogen in the hope of some day being brought back to life, with memories, personality and sense of self intact.

"I believe that my identity is stored inside my physical brain," says Carrie Wong, president of the Lifespan Society of British Columbia, an advocacy group that works to promote and protect access to cryonic preservation.

"So if I can somehow preserve that, maybe at a future time technology and medical science will advance to such a point that it may be possible to repair the damage of freezing me in the first place and also what killed me back then," says the 27-year-old, who concedes such a feat could be hundreds of years in the future.

"It's not possible now, but nobody can really argue it's not possible in the future because that's arguing about what future technology is capable of."

­The notion that a person could be frozen and later "re-animated" was initially posited in the 1964 book "The Prospect of Immortality" by American physics teacher and sci-fi writer Robert Ettinger.

The first person to be cryonically preserved was Dr. James Bedford, a 73-year-old California psychology professor, whose body was suspended in liquid nitrogen in 1967 at Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Alcor's most famous "patient," as they're called, is Red Sox baseball legend Ted Williams, whose head was detached from his body and cryopreserved after the slugger's death at 83 in 2002.

After a person is declared legally dead, the body is cooled in an ice bath and hooked up to a machine to artificially restore blood circulation and breathing, and infused with blood thinners and other medications to protect the brain from lack of oxygen.

Blood and other fluids are later drained from the body and replaced with a cocktail of cryoprotectant chemicals. These antifreeze-like agents are intended to prevent the formation of damaging ice crystals in cells, in a process known as vitrification.

The body is then further cooled before being suspended in a tank of liquid nitrogen at a bone-chilling -196 C.

The Cryonics Institute, a non-profit organization founded in 1976 by Ettinger, operates a preservation facility near Detroit, where about 100 pets and 135 humans are suspended in tanks called cryostats.

"The actual cryostats are just giant thermos bottles with liquid nitrogen, there's no electricity to fail," says president Dennis Kowalski, a 47-year-old Milwaukee firefighter and paramedic who became interested in cryonics in his 20s after reading K. Eric Drexler's 1986 book "The Engines of Creation," about the coming era of nanotechnology.

About 1,250 people, including a number of Canadians, are signed up for CI's service. Membership costs US$28,000, which is typically paid for through life-insurance policies.

While acknowledging that he and others who intend to be frozen are often "looked at as a bunch of kooks," Kowalski views cryonics as being like a clinical experiment — and one that beats the alternative.

"I'll be the first to admit it may not work. And everyone who's signed up should understand cryonics may not work and there are no guarantees."

CI doesn't provide "neuros," in which only the head and brain are preserved. Even so, bodies are placed in the cryostats upside-down, based on the theory that if a catastrophe were to threaten the tanks' viability, "the brain would be the last to go."

"We place emphasis on the importance of the brain because even under today's crude technology, you probably could clone a human being and replace every single part," suggests Kowalski.

"But one thing you can't replace is your mind — which is you — and your mind is somehow encoded in that brain, and that's what we hope to principally save."

Christine Gaspar, 42, an emergency room nurse from Amaranth, Ont., northwest of Toronto, is a CI member and president of the Cryonics Society of Canada, an educational and advocacy organization.

"My parents and my sister are also signed up. It took me about five minutes to convince my father and it took me about 15 years to convince my mother and my sister, but I finally got it done.

"I actually cryopreserved my cat two years ago (for a fee of US$5,800)," Gaspar confides. "I know it sounds extraordinary, but if it's something that you believe in philosophically, then you do it for what you love and who you love."

She's part of a Toronto-area group on standby for any dying Alcor or CI member, so initial preservation can begin soon after death and before a cryonics-trained funeral director arrives to continue the process.

The deceased is then transported to the Michigan or Arizona facility, where vitrification is completed. Neither Alcor nor CI provide this service in Canada.

Cryonics, she proposes, is merely an extension of emergency medicine.

"What cannot be repaired today may be able to be repaired tomorrow. And instead of making a referral to a doctor in another city, you're making a referral to a doctor in another time."

Gaspar, who along with her family members is opting for whole-body preservation, has no idea what kind of society she may come back to should science discover a way to revive her in the future — and she doesn't care.

"I can learn. I can adapt."

Adherents aside, few self-respecting neuroscientists will even touch the topic of cryonics, given its speculative nature.

One who does is Ken Hayworth, a senior scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia, who maps neurocircuits, the wiring in the brain where memory is stored at the most fundamental level.

"If there was some way to preserve people so they could get to the future, that would be a nice alternative to death as we know it," says Hayworth, co-founder of the Brain Preservation Foundation, formed to promote scientific research in the field.

"A lot of people are dedicated to doing it right," he allows. "At the same time, though, if you look at the level of evidence in the scientific literature —which is almost non-existent — there seems like there's a tremendous gap between how good it should be in the year 2015 and what is actually being done."

The foundation is offering a prize, currently at US$106,000, to advance brain-saving technology. A quarter of the money will be awarded to the first international team to successfully preserve a whole mouse brain, with complete synaptic structure intact.

The remainder will go to scientists able to preserve the brain of a large animal, such as a pig, "in a manner that could also be adopted for humans in a hospital or hospice setting immediately upon clinical death."

Hayworth says current cryo techniques don't provide proof that synaptic circuitry is maintained, and for lack of evidence, he's given up his Alcor membership.

Of course, the next step would be finding a way to undo the effects of vitrification and return a person to life.

"The revival aspect is very far off in the future; I would put it at least 50 to 100 years off," says the neuroscientist, who believes memory, identity and personality are all encoded in the brain's circuitry, just as information and operating instructions are stored on computer chips.

"If we're talking about 100 years from now, I think people will have been almost forced by practical considerations into becoming more and more wedded with machines," he predicts. "We'll have machines implanted in our brains, we'll have body parts that are replaced with mechanical parts and we will say forget biology altogether."

Tim Caulfield, a health law expert at the University of Alberta, says putting a person's body on ice in the hopes of future rejuvenation raises all kinds of legal and ethical issues.

"What if the company goes bankrupt, 10 or 15 or 25 years from now? What happens to those bodies? Who has control over those bodies?"

And if future scientists do thaw out and manage to return their very first human to life, what would be the quality of that life? What if that person ended up cognitively or physically disabled? Could they sue the company?

"The science is very speculative at this point," insists Caulfield. "That raises some interesting questions about marketing these services to people and having them invest significant portions of their money, their estate to these projects.

"People can do whatever they want with their money. But they should go in with their eyes open."

In a bid to protect consumers, B.C. became the only jurisdiction in North America to prohibit the marketing of cryonic services based on the expectation of resuscitation at a future date — a regulation the Lifespan Society is challenging in provincial court.

Wong of Lifespan says the law has had a chilling effect on cryonic-related services, which her group hopes to help expedite in the future.

"It's deterred some funeral directors from working with cryonicists in B.C.," says Wong, who has signed on with Alcor for a "neuro."

"It hinges on what people mean by expectation. You would have some expectation or some belief that it could work or we wouldn't be doing it."

Keegan Macintosh, the co-plaintiff in the case that is yet to be heard, believes he has the right to decide what happens to his body after death.

The Canadian Press

COC president steps down

Marcel Aubut resigned as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee on Saturday morning after the organization launched two investigations into allegations of sexual harassment.

Aubut announced on Wednesday that he would step away from his duties after a complaint had been filed against him to the COC. Since that original complaint, two other women have come forward with their own allegations against Aubut.

"Unfortunately, the current situation is a major distraction that obscures the COC's real goals, especially with the Rio Games fast approaching," said Aubut in a statement. "It now jeopardizes the organization's smooth operations and may have repercussions that ultimately affect Canadian Olympic athletes who are the COC's raison d'etre and who have always been the focus of my concerns and my volunteer involvement in the Olympic world.

"For these reasons, I announce today that I am stepping down as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, to which I have devoted the past 10 years of my life and championed with all of my energy."

The COC had retained a former chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, Francois Rolland, to investigate the initial complaint. On Friday, the organization launched a second investigation to examine any further complaints about Aubut that are brought to its attention.

Rolland's initial investigation has ended in the wake of Aubut's resignation as the complainant no longer wants to pursue it. However, the COC is still looking for an independent third party to lead its second, ongoing investigation.

"We would like to thank the complainant for their incredible courage in coming forward," said the COC's statement. "The independent third party process investigating any other complaints will continue uninterrupted. We hope that anyone who has concerns will contact us."

On Thursday, Montreal lawyer Amelia Salehabadi-Fouques gave several interviews about her interactions with Aubut, while TVA broadcast an interview with a woman the television network said worked closely with him. Neither woman has filed a complaint with the COC as the alleged incidents took place outside of his role with the organization.

Salehabadi-Fouques, who specializes in sports law and has been a member of the board of the Canadian Soccer Association since 2013, says she was the victim of harassment by Aubut on three occasions, beginning when she met him four years ago.

Her unproven claims include an allegation of a forced kiss during their first meeting and allegations of sexually charged comments on their next two encounters.

Salehabadi-Fouques told Montreal radio station 98.5 FM she hasn't decided whether she'll file any sort of formal complaint.

In the TVA interview, which aired later Thursday, a woman alleged that several sexual harassment incidents involving Aubut occurred in 2011 when he was working at a law firm in Montreal.

The woman was not named but the network said she worked with him.

The woman alleged he would put his hands around her waist and that they would go progressively lower each time. She also said he would put his hands on her shoulders and then touch her breasts.

"In recent days, allegations of harassment have been directed toward me by people who accuse me of intentions that I never had," said Aubut in Saturday's statement. "Although I assume full responsibility for my effusive and demonstrative personality, I would like to reiterate that I never intended to offend or upset anyone with my remarks or my behaviour."

Aubut, 67, had been a member of the COC since 2000 and formally took over the presidency in April 2010.

He previously served as chief executive officer of the NHL's Quebec Nordiques until the team moved to Colorado in 1995. He notably helped retired NHL hockey players Anton, Marian and Peter Stastny defect from communist Czechoslovakia to Canada in 1980 to play for the Nordiques.

He was inducted into the Order of Canada as a member in 1986 and was promoted to officer in 1993. In 2006, he was made an officer of the National Order of Quebec.

Aubut was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

He continues to practise law and is a partner, lawyer and vice-chairman of the board of directors at BCF, a Montreal-based law firm.

The firm put out a statement Wednesday saying it would not comment on the investigation, adding Aubut's position at the firm was not at risk since the allegations did not directly involve his professional activities.

The Canadian Press


Details released when done

It sounds like an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is close — and when it's done, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says he intends to disclose the details of what he's billing as the largest trade deal in history.

"Progress has been made, but negotiations are still ongoing, and I am receiving regular updates from our officials who are on the ground," Harper told a hastily assembled news conference Saturday morning in Montreal.

"Let me assure everyone that we will only conclude a deal that is in the best interests of our country."

Should the TPP talks taking place in Atlanta indeed conclude with a deal, Harper said the partnership would create thousands of new jobs in Canada and provide access to a market of almost 800 million new customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is the government's "intent" to make the details of the agreement public, although the final authority on the deal rests with the Parliament of Canada, which would have to ratify it, he added.

"We need to be at the table to advance and protect our interests, to have any possibility of participating, but the final decision on a deal — obviously a deal will be made public and the final decision will be voted on eventually by the Parliament of Canada, but we must be there to protect our interests."

He added: "We have a possibility of being in what could be the largest trade deal in history."

The 12-country Pacific Rim trade agreement is far from popular in other circles, however. Dairy farmers in particular in Ontario and Quebec fear Canada is poised to dismantle its supply management system, a regime of production limits and import tariffs that protects domestic producers.

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair, looking to shore up what some polls suggest has been flagging support in Quebec, declared Friday that an NDP government would not feel bound by the terms of a deal that he said would be illegitimate if it indeed concludes during the election campaign.

Mulcair and other critics say the government is exceeding its authority during an election campaign — it is supposed to act solely as a "caretaker" and not take actions that would tie the hands of future governments — by negotiating an international trade deal.

Later Saturday, Harper was to make his way to an event in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Avalon — his first foray of the campaign into a province that has never shown him much electoral warmth.

Mulcair was scheduled to attend an event in the community of Upton in the eastern townships of Quebec. The community is in the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, one of many that went to the New Democrats in the 2011 orange wave.

In this campaign, however, the NDP's efforts are concentrated on the province that is the party's base of support, and where its numbers have of late shown signs of eroding — thanks in large measure to the controversy over a Conservative ban on the wearing of the niqab during citizenship ceremonies.

The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois support the ban, which is popular in Quebec; the NDP and the Liberals do not.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe was to attend a rally in Montreal on Saturday, while Green party Leader Elizabeth May was taking part in a rally in Vancouver.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is off the campaign trail.

However, on Sunday he'll attend what the party has billed as the biggest rally of the campaign, at a hall in Brampton, Ont., that seats up to 5,000 people.

The Canadian Press

The unseen victims

A top paramedic says the fatal crash that claimed the lives of three children and their grandfather north of Toronto has had an unprecedented impact on the well being of first responders.

Iain Park, deputy chief for York Region EMS, says eight of the 15 paramedics who attended the scene of last Sunday's crash in Vaughan, Ont., have taken time off to seek help for post-traumatic stress disorder.

He says that in his 25-year career, he has never seen a single incident affect so many staff members.

The deaths of Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, Harrison Neville-Lake, 5, Milly Neville-Lake, 2, and their grandfather Gary Neville, 65, have prompted a public outpouring of grief and sympathy.

Marco Muzzo, of King Township, Ont., faces a dozen impaired-driving offences and six charges related to the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle in connection with the incident.

His lawyer Brian Greenspan has said Muzzo, who is being held in custody pending a bail hearing on Oct. 19, is devastated by the tragedy.

He said on Friday it was "premature" to discuss how his client would plead.

Park said the eight paramedics who have taken time off were away all week and will likely need to take next week off as well so they can start to recover, he said.

"I've never seen a case where we've had this number of paramedics affected," Park said.

A string of recent suicides among first responders has shone a spotlight on mental health issues among paramedics and law enforcement.

"As a profession, paramedics often feel that there's a stigma associated with it, they keep inside," Park said.

"When we have an incident like this when we have so many (paramedics) that are affected, it gives us the opportunity to start talking about it," and about the resources available to staff, he said.

The Canadian Press

Chase-the-Ace fever

A game of Chase the Ace that has lasted almost a year in a small Cape Breton town and has attracted thousands to the community is about to come to an end.

About 25,000 people are expected to descend on Inverness today for the final draw in the popular weekly fundraiser.

With a jackpot of more than $1 million on the line and just five cards left in the deck, organizers say they'll keep drawing tickets until they have a winner.

Crowds attending the charity fundraiser started to grow once the jackpot passed $30,000, creating a carnival atmosphere at a local arena every weekend over the summer.

The RCMP say they have some concerns about the safety of the participants, many of whom will be carrying large sums of cash.

The Mounties will have 20 additional officers on duty in the town of about 1,300 people and a police helicopter will be in the air.

The RCMP are also asking anyone who parks on the side of the road in the community to leave enough room for police and emergency vehicles because of the large number of visitors who are expected.

Chase the Ace is similar to a 50-50 draw with $5 tickets, but there's a twist. Instead of giving half the ticket sales to the winner, they get 20 per cent. Another 30 per cent is added to a growing pot that can be won if the ticket holder draws the ace of spades from a deck of cards.

The local Royal Canadian Legion plans to split the proceeds from the draw with the Inverness Cottage Workshop, which provides skills training for adults with intellectual disabilities. The workshop plans to use the money to build a new centre.

The Canadian Press

3 dead, dozen injured

Three people have died and more than a dozen others have been injured in a multi-vehicle crash on a major highway east of Toronto.

"It is a huge scene here," Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said Saturday morning of the collision Friday night on Highway 401 at Whitby, Ont.

A man, a woman and a boy died in the pileup, Schmidt said, adding that a total of 15 vehicles, including four tractor-trailer trucks, were involved in the collision in the westbound lanes of the highway.

"With all these vehicles crumpled up, it's an unbelievable scene here with steel and aluminum twisted around from these vehicles that are not even recognizable as cars," he said.

Five of the injured were in critical condition with life-threatening injuries and that another 11 or 12 suffered serious injuries and had been take to hospitals across the region, Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the collision occurred at a construction zone.

"It appears that one of the transport trucks was travelling westbound and as traffic began to slow in front of it due to construction this vehicle did not slow down and continued right into the back of traffic," he said.

Schmidt said the road was dry at the time, there were no environmental conditions and visibility was good at the time of the crash.

The highway, which is among Canada's busiest, was closed in both directions at the accident site so equipment could be brought in to remove the damaged vehicles from the scene.

Schmidt said he expected the westbound lanes would remain closed into Saturday afternoon and no charges had been laid as of Saturday morning.

The Canadian Press

Wedge tactics heat debate

The campaign firestorm over women who wear the niqab flared up in Stephen Harper's face Friday as his Liberal rival tried to turn the Conservative leader's wedge issue against him with a single word: abortion.

As predicted, the hot-button question of whether to allow the Islamic face covering during citizenship ceremonies made for a pivotal exchange during the French leaders' debate, the last face-to-face clash of the 2015 campaign.

But it quickly veered into a heated exchange between Harper, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair about women's rights — everything from abortion to gender equality to the number of female candidates.

"You have a lot of nerve to come here talking about Quebec values and defending women — you have more men in your caucus who are anti-abortion than there are women wearing the niqab in Quebec," Trudeau told Harper.

"Since you're talking about personal values, are you going to tell us here, tonight, for the first time, whether you are pro-choice or pro-life?"

Harper's reply: "My position for 10 years has been I don't intend to reopen this debate."

And then: "Mr. Trudeau, you talk about divisions. The only divisions here are between the NDP and the Liberals with the rest of the population. Almost all public opinion is in favour of a policy of taking the oath of citizenship without a (face) covering."

Mulcair, whose Quebec base of support has been taking the brunt of the impact of the Conservative and Bloc Quebecois support for the niqab ban, chimed in.

"You're playing a dangerous game," Mulcair charged.

"You have one candidate who said Muslim women should go back where they came from; you signed his nomination papers. You have another candidate who said the problem is there are brown people taking the jobs of white people; you signed his nomination papers.

"That is reflective of a profound contempt for Canadian values ... you are targeting a community to play politics. It's undignified of a Canadian prime minister to play this game against a minority."

Still the presumed front-runner in the province, Mulcair spent much of the debate reassuring his large francophone audience, hoping to plug what appear to be growing leaks in the NDP vessel's made-in-Quebec hull.

Mulcair said that while he understands the niqab is an emotional issue for many people, he supports the existing rule that states anyone seeking citizenship must uncover their face to identify themselves before swearing the oath.

He also tried to shield his position behind court decisions that have ruled against a ban on face coverings during the ceremonies.

"It's no longer a question of what we like or dislike," he said. "It also puts me ill at ease."

The NDP position differs from the stances held by Harper and the Bloc's Gilles Duceppe, who have both called for niqab-wearing women to show their faces during the actual ceremonies.

Like Mulcair, Trudeau said women should be able to choose how they dress. But unlike the NDP, the Liberals aren't counting on much support from the voters who have expressed the most concern over the so-called niqab debate: Quebec nationalists.

Harper, who has seen polls suggest his party is on the rise in Quebec, hammered away at Mulcair's apparent vulnerability in Quebec on the issue.

"Mr. Mulcair, you're not even capable of convincing your own MPs of this position — one case is one case too many," Harper said, referring to NDP candidates in Quebec who have raised concerns about the party's position on the niqab.

"Your position is totally disconnected from Canada's reality and the opinions of Canadians and Quebecers."

The event, which was considerably calmer than the first French-language debate eight days earlier, touched on a wide range of subjects — from the environment to foreign policy, from firearms registration to the state of the economy.

Mulcair was under pressure to shield the NDP, which won 59 of Quebec's 75 seats four years ago, from the Tories in the Quebec City area, the Liberals in Montreal and the Bloc Quebecois in some of the province's rural regions.

He was also out to shore up his credentials as a social democrat.

He used the early segments to spar with Harper, criticizing the prime minister for committing to raising the age of retirement age to 67 from 65 and accusing him of giving tax-relief "gifts" to large companies.

"You gave $50 billion worth of gifts to these big companies, and the result? 300,000 more people out of work than when the crisis hit in 2008," Mulcair said.

Harper responded by accusing Mulcair's party of planning to raise taxes.

"It's the same song again for the NDP: They will increase taxes to balance the budget and it will destroy jobs in Ontario and in British Columbia. We'll lose a quarter of a million jobs."

Later in the contest, Mulcair criticized Harper for Canada's military role in the Middle East, telling him: "you've never met a war you didn't like."

The Canadian Press

Campaign hits hot buttons

Campaigning Conservatives continued to press the hot buttons Friday, highlighting what they call "barbaric cultural practices" and Muslim facial coverings amid evidence the tight, three-way election race may be starting to break loose.

The NDP, which appears to be getting squeezed in national public opinion surveys over the past two weeks, is fighting back with a proposal to protect voters' rights — hoping to reignite public dismay with Conservative changes to the elections act and remind voters of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decade-long record in office.

But it is cultural identity issues that have inflamed the election discourse since mid September and all evidence points to an invigorated Conservative campaign comfortable with cranking up the heat in advance of tonight's final, French-language leaders debate in Montreal.

The debate, hosted by the TVA network, comes amid recent polls that suggest New Democrat support in Quebec is loosening, giving the other parties an opening.

Chris Alexander, the Conservative immigration minister who's facing a tough Liberal challenge in his Toronto-area riding, held a news conference Friday to remind the electorate of last November's "Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act," and to promise even more government resources if re-elected, including a proposed RCMP tip line where people could report "information about incidents of barbaric cultural practices in Canada."

Alexander directly linked the message to a proposed Conservative ban on women wearing facial coverings at citizenship ceremonies, the so-called niqab debate that targets a tiny subset of Muslims and has roiled Internet comment boards with hate-filled, racist rants.

"We need to stand up for our values," said Alexander. "We need to do that in citizenship ceremonies. We need to do that to protect women and girls from forced marriage and other barbaric practices."

NDP candidate Paul Dewar, the party's foreign affairs critic, called Alexander's reprise of the barbaric cultural practices theme "just another example of Stephen Harper's efforts to inflame tensions and divide Canadians for partisan gain."

"This kind of irresponsible dog-whistle politics has no place in Canada," Dewar said in an email.

In Halifax, Conservative Jason Kenney stoutly defended his party's policy — since rejected by the courts — of banning the wearing of niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.

"Let's be clear," said the former Conservative immigration minister who now holds the defence portfolio. "This practice of face covering reflects a misogynistic view of women which is grounded in medieval tribal culture."

Kenney also defended the government's move to strip convicted terrorists of their citizenship — while saying the punishment will not be extended to other criminal acts.

"We will not be pursuing any other legal or statutory grounds for citizenship revocation, let me be absolutely clear about that," he stressed.

The heated campaign debate over "values" and religious accommodation appears to have spurred more than just anti-Islamic rhetoric in Quebec.

A pair of teens tore the headscarf from a pregnant woman in Montreal this week, causing her to fall on the ground. The incident prompted the Quebec national assembly to pass a unanimous motion Thursday condemning hate speech and violence against all Quebecers.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims said Friday the assault on the Montreal woman should be investigated as a hate crime.

The attack is just the latest this year across the country and "comes at a time when inflammatory rhetoric targeting Muslims has been heightened by a federal election campaign in which Muslim women who wear the niqab have been vilified by politicians," Ihsaan Gardee, the council's executive director, said in a statement.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau say women should be able to choose how they dress, which is likely to again draw fire from Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, as it did in the first French-language debate a week ago.

The Canadian Press

Hurricane heading north

The Canadian Hurricane Centre says it is monitoring hurricane Joaquin, which may move into Canadian waters early next week.

The storm is battering the central Bahamas with torrential rains that flooded homes and forecasters warned that the "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm could grow even stronger as it roared along a path that could take it near the U.S. east coast.

The Halifax-based Canadian Hurricane Centre says there's a high degree of uncertainty around the storm's track forecast.

It says there are two particular scenarios, one that would have it moving into the Carolinas and the other showing it far offshore from Atlantic Canada.

The latest trends from computer models lean toward it being an offshore system with little impact over land.

If it does move into the Carolinas, the centre says that could lead to rainfall in southern Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

It says the saturation of the ground after heavy rainfall this week means there is a risk of flooding if it does track across land.

"Once again, the threat of that situation appears to be decreasing but still has to be considered," the centre says in a statement.

The centre says it expects to have a better indication whether the storm is going to be a concern over land on Friday afternoon.

"The hurricane is compact (small) which often means that the intensity will fluctuate significantly even over the span of 24 hours."

The Canadian Press

Olympic boss in hot water

As the head of the Canadian Olympic Committee awaits the results of an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint, two other women have come forward with their own allegations against him.

Marcel Aubut temporarily stepped aside as president of the committee and chairman of the Canadian Olympic Foundation late Wednesday after a a sexual harassment allegation came to light.

On Thursday, more complaints surfaced. Montreal lawyer Amelia Salehabadi-Fouques gave several interviews about her interactions with Aubut. As well, TVA broadcast an interview with a woman the television network said worked closely with Aubut.

The COC said in a statement that a former chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, Francois Rolland, has been retained to investigate the initial complaint. The allegations have not been proven.

In his own statement on the initial complaint, Aubut described the allegations as a "remark he allegedly made to a colleague" and that he'd offered his "unconditional support" to those investigating the matter.

He called it a "normal process" that should be completed by mid-October.

The name of the complainant in the initial matter has not been made public.

Salehabadi-Fouques, who specializes in sports law and has been a member of the board of the Canadian Soccer Association since 2013, says she was the victim of harassment by Aubut on three occasions, beginning when she met him four years ago.

Her unproven claims include an allegation of a forced kiss during their first meeting and allegations of sexually charged comments on their next two encounters.

Attempts to reach both Salehabadi-Fouques and Aubut by The Canadian Press were unsuccessful on Thursday. When asked about Salehabadi-Fouques's allegations, a COC spokesman simply referred to the committee's previous statement on the matter.

In interviews with several French-language media, including Montreal radio station 98.5 FM, Salehabadi-Fouques said she contacted Aubut about four years ago, while teaching at Universite de Montreal, because she hoped to get involved in the Canadian Olympic Committee.

They arranged to meet at a swanky restaurant in downtown Montreal, but she said she was surprised the meeting took place at the bar instead of at a table.

"It became clear the only thing he was interested in was not my professional experience, but my physique, etcetera," Salehabadi-Fouques told 98.5 FM. "There were very personal remarks, questions of a private nature about me."

She said he kissed her with his tongue later in the evening.

She said at the end of the evening she took a taxi by herself.

In the various interviews, she spoke about another alleged incident, in Quebec City last year, when she said she was asked to attend a business meeting that others were to attend, but where only Aubut showed up.

She alleged the only hotel room that had been reserved had been done so in Aubut's name.

"He said to me, 'When am I coming to your bedroom? I've asked for keys for your room,'" she said, adding she didn't sleep that night.

She said there was a final incident where Aubut allegedly harassed her at a match at the women's under-20 soccer World Cup last year at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.

"It was in front of my 15-year-old son," Salehabadi-Fouques said. "We were walking in the tunnel toward the VIP room and he came next to me and said 'When are we sleeping together?'."

She said she ignored Aubut's comment, but her son, who'd been within earshot, asked his mother if he'd heard correctly.

"He (my son) repeated it to me and that, to me, was the final straw," she said.

Salehabadi-Fouques told the radio station she hasn't decided whether she'll file any sort of formal complaint.

But when reading that a COC employee had come forward with a complaint, the mother of three said she decided she couldn't stay silent any longer.

In a TVA interview that aired later Thursday, a woman alleged that several sexual harassment incidents involving Aubut occurred in 2011 when he was working at a law firm in Montreal.

The woman was not named, but the network said she worked with him.

The woman alleged he would put his hands around her waist and that they would go progressively lower each time. She also said he would put his hands on her shoulders and then touch her breasts.

She said she had to quit for health reasons after the incidents, which she said also included him wearing boxer shorts at the law firm on one occasion.

Aubut, 67, has been a member of the COC since 2000 and formally took over the presidency in April 2010.

He previously served as chief executive officer of the NHL's Quebec Nordiques until the team moved to Colorado in 1995.

The Canadian Press

Leaders square off in Que.

Four of the federal party leaders square off tonight in what may be their last high-profile opportunity to influence Quebec voters.

The French language debate in Montreal, hosted by the TVA network, comes amid recent polls that suggest New Democrat support in Quebec is loosening, giving the other parties an opening to draw more voters to their camps.

One issue certain to produce a spirited debate is religious accommodation and the wearing of niqabs during citizenship ceremonies — an issue that appears to have spurred more than just anti-Islamic rhetoric in Quebec.

A pair of teens tore the headscarf from a pregnant woman in Montreal this week, causing her to fall on the ground. The incident prompted the Quebec national assembly to pass a unanimous motion Thursday condemning hate speech and violence against all Quebecers.

There is broad support in Quebec for the Conservative and Bloc Quebecois position that women wearing the niqab should be forced to remove it when swearing the oath.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair holds the opposing view that women should be able to choose how they dress and is likely to again draw fire from Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, as he did in the first French-language debate a week ago.

Duceppe's debate performance could go a long way in determining whether the Bloc can woo back voters who deserted the party en masse in 2011 and migrated to the NDP under Jack Layton.

For his part, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will likely try to focus the debate on his deficit-friendly spending plan as he did Thursday in Montreal when he promised money for transit projects to help boost the economy and create jobs.

Another hot issue in Quebec is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with the dairy industry in the province fearing the deal will weaken the supply management system of tariffs and production quotas.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised on Tuesday to preserve Canada's long-standing protection of the dairy and auto industries and will likely reiterate that pledge during the debate.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May was not invited to participate.

The Canadian Press

Waiting for justice

A Newfoundland man wrongfully convicted of killing his wife more than 25 years ago says major recommendations made after public inquiries into cases such as his tend to "sit on the shelf."

Chief among them, Ron Dalton says, is the call for an independent federal commission, similar to one adopted nearly 20 years ago in England, to review possible miscarriages of justice. The creation of such a body has been called for in no fewer than five different provincial inquiries.

Dalton, who is now co-president of The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, says politicians don't take the issue seriously.

"The reality is there are no votes in justice," says Dalton, who spent more than eight years in jail for killing his wife who had choked on cereal.

"Get tough on crime sounds good, and build more prison cells, but when it comes to actually looking at some of the underlying problems, the structural things — what they call systemic issues in most of these inquiries — they don't really get looked at and there's not much appetite for change."

Currently, someone who has been convicted of an offence and who has exhausted all appeals can only apply to the minister of justice for a review.

An independent review commission was called for at the inquiry into one of Canada's worst wrongful convictions.

David Milgaard was 16 years old when he was convicted of the 1969 murder of Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller. He spent 23 years behind bars before the Supreme Court threw out his conviction in 1992. He was exonerated in 1997 through DNA tests.

An $11.2-million inquiry into Milgaard's wrongful conviction was launched by the Saskatchewan government in 2004.

After hearing from 133 witnesses Justice Edward MacCallum wrote in his report released in 2008 that such a commission might limit the need for similar inquiries in the future.

"Public inquiries will continue to be desirable, or even necessary, in some situations, but they are very expensive exercises, and they are not the answer," he said. "The answer lies in the creation of an independent review body which will be able to investigate, detect and assist in remedying wrongful convictions."

The federal Department of Justice did not make anyone available for an interview.

In an email, spokesman Ian McLeod pointed to the Criminal Conviction Review Group, which has been in existence since 1994.

That group is a unit of the Justice Department and reports to the minister. That's not the same thing as an independent review, Dalton says.

"As I society ... when we see all these mistakes not being addressed, we tend to lose faith in the system itself — and the system basically operates on faith.

"You have to believe that when you call the police, they're going to thoroughly investigate any given crime, but particularly a homicide, that they may not always get it perfectly right, but if they don't that there'll be a mechanism to correct it as ... quickly as they can."

The Canadian Press

Invasive mussels growing

The Manitoba government says monitoring has shown a significant increase in the number of zebra mussels in Lake Winnipeg and the Red River.

A Conservation and Water Stewardship news release says the province, boaters and the public have been finding significant numbers of zebra mussels on boats along beaches and on infrastructure such as swimming buoys, docks and ladders.

They've also been found at the St. Andrews lock and dam.

The freshwater mussels, which are not native to western Canada, have been spreading around the world.

They clog pipes at water treatment plants and can also increase algae blooms in lakes, which can kill fish and wildlife.

Zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Winnipeg in October 2013 and have been found in lakes in popular recreation areas in the United States and in Alberta.

Both Manitoba and Alberta have enacted legislation requiring inspection of boats in transit.

In June 2014, Manitoba declared victory over zebra mussels after a unique experiment which doused four infested harbours with liquid potash. The harbours were initially declared mussel free, but they soon came back.

Boaters found possessing zebra mussels may be fined or prosecuted under the federal Fisheries Act.

Experts have suggested zebra mussels would devastate Manitoba's $500-million commercial and recreational fishery if they take hold, and could have a $75 million impact in Alberta and $28 million in B.C.

A conference in Richmond, B.C., heard earlier this year suggestions that the mussels may be coming in with Canadian snowbirds towing pleasure boats back to Western provinces from winter getaways in the United States.

The Canadian Press

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