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Sun News host to pay $80k

An Ontario judge who heard a defamation lawsuit against Sun News Network host Ezra Levant ruled Thursday that the controversial media personality libelled a Saskatchewan lawyer in a series of blog posts the judge said were "motivated by malice."

Justice Wendy Matheson ordered Levant to pay $80,000 in damages to Khurrum Awan and remove "defamatory words" about the man from his website within 15 days.

"I find that the defendant's dominant motive in these blog posts was ill-will, and that his repeated failure to take even basic steps to check his facts showed a reckless disregard for the truth," Matheson wrote in her decision.

Awan was completing his articling and looking for work as a lawyer when the statements were posted online by Levant. Awan was seeking $100,000 in damages.

Levant's posts centred on Awan's testimony at a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal case about a complaint regarding an article in Maclean's magazine from 2006, titled "The future belongs to Islam.''

Awan was a law student when the article was published and was among a group of students who alleged the article was Islamophobic.

The human rights tribunal hearing took place in 2008, before the inception of Sun News Network, so the posts were on Levant's personal blog.

Some of blog posts are titled "Awan the liar,'' "Awan the liar part two'' and so forth.

Awan's lawyer had argued the blog posts included statements labelling Awan as a jihadist, an anti-Semite, a liar, a perjuror and alleging that he acted in a conflict of interest.

He argued that Levant had caused tremendous damage to his client with the posts, which remain online years after they were originally published.

Meanwhile, Levant's lawyer had said his defence was primarily one of fair comment.

He had said the blog posts were based upon what Levant observed over two days of Awan's testimony at the human rights tribunal and were comments on a matter of public interest.

But Matheson found that at trial, Levant "repeatedly tried to minimize his mistakes and his lack of diligence."

"The defendant makes a general assertion that none of the words complained of were defamatory due to the defendant's reputation," she wrote. "There is, however, ample evidence before me demonstrating express malice on the part of the defendant."

Levant also appeared to have little regard for the facts, Matheson found.

"He did little or no fact-checking regarding the posts complained of, either before or after their publication....and with one exception, when he learned that he got his facts wrong, he made no corrections," she wrote.

The fact that Levant himself is a lawyer ought to have made him aware of the "serious ramifications" of his words on Awan's reputation, Matheson added.

"Yet, at trial, he repeatedly tried to minimize his mistakes and his lack of diligence," she wrote.

Levant, meanwhile, wrote on his website that he is reviewing the ruling with his lawyer but plans to appeal ”all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

He called the ruling a ”shocking case of libel chill” and asked supporters to help him foot the bill for his appeal, which he estimates will cost at least $30,000.

The Canadian Press


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Fisherman's murder trial ends

There's compelling evidence a Nova Scotia fisherman who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder oversaw and had a direct role in the killing of a man for allegedly cutting lobster traps, a Crown prosecutor argued Thursday.

Shane Russell said an enraged Joseph James Landry, 67, was determined to murder Phillip Boudreau on June 1, 2013, in Petit de Grat harbour in Cape Breton.

"I would submit to you that James Landry on June 1 was the straw that stirred the drink ... and the series of events that led to the murder of Phillip Boudreau," Russell said in his closing argument to the jury in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

"He was the first man on the field. He was leading the cause."

Part of Russell's argument focused on a key witness, Craig Landry, who told the jury Joseph James Landry was behind the decision to run over the 43-year-old Boudreau, whose body has not been found.

But defence lawyer Luke Craggs said Craig Landry's testimony was flawed by a series of strange, illogical statements and he urged the jury not to believe it.

A statement his client gave to police where Joseph James Landry says he fired four shots at Boudreau from the Twin Maggies fishing vessel were also discounted by Craggs, who argued the fisherman was taking the blame to protect others.

In the videotaped statement played in court, Landry says he believed he may have hit Boudreau on the hip.

In an initial interview with police recorded on June 7, 2013, Landry says he drove the Twin Maggies repeatedly over Boudreau's four-metre speedboat until it sank. But in a second statement heard Thursday, Landry says he made that story up to protect other crew members.

"I wanted to cover for my son-in-law and Craig," he said to a police officer after swearing on a Bible.

His son-in-law Dwayne Matthew Samson, the captain of the Twin Maggies, is also charged with second-degree murder. His wife Carla Samson, who is owner of the lobster boat and Joseph James Landry's daughter, faces a charge of accessory after the fact. Craig Landry, who is a third cousin of Joseph James Landry, is charged with accessory after the fact.

Dwayne Samson, Carla Samson and Craig Landry have yet to stand trial.

In his closing arguments, Russell highlighted Craig Landry's evidence that Boudreau insisted he wasn't cutting traps and he pleaded with Joseph James Landry to stop.

"James Landry persisted in the cause. He continued his pursuit in killing Phillip," said Russell.

Craig Landry was instructed by Joseph James Landry to tie the speedboat's bow line to the Twin Maggies so that it could be towed out of the Petit de Grat harbour, he said.

And after Boudreau managed to cut the bow line, Russell said it was Joseph James Landry who urged other crew members to continually run over the speedboat.

He argued the jury should accept Craig Landry's testimony that it was Joseph James Landry who gaffed Boudreau and dragged him out to sea, and then oversaw another crew member as the body was tied to an anchor and sunk.

Craggs said Craig Landry's testimony was unbelievable, adding it would have been difficult to use a gaff to hook Boudreau's body from the deck of the Twin Maggies.

Teams of expert divers were unable to find Boudreau's body at the location where Craig Landry thought it might have been dropped, said Craggs, calling it a wild goose chase.

"He (Craig Landry) wanted to minimize what he did and put other things on other people and add a few things to make his story sound more believable," said the defence lawyer.

He said his client's videotaped admissions were an effort to take the blame for the death and came after police told him younger crew members still had their lives ahead of them.

The jury will hear the judge's instructions on Friday.

 

The Canadian Press


Guns, checkpoints on Parliament

Security is being tightened on Parliament Hill through additional screening, the arming of guards and the elimination of public tours during caucus meetings.

And House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer says more changes may be in the works as a result of an ongoing, comprehensive review of Hill security.

The review was initiated after a gunman fatally shot a soldier at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22 and burst into Parliament's Centre Block before being killed in a hail of bullets.

Earlier this week, Scheer and Sen. Vern White announced the separate House of Commons and Senate security forces would be merged.

Members of the unified parliamentary security team are being trained to carry firearms.

They will continue to patrol the interior of buildings on the Hill, while the RCMP secures the parliamentary grounds.

In addition, Scheer outlined several other interim security steps already in place:

— Installing security posts outside the Centre Block to conduct preliminary screening of visitors;

— Doing away with public tours during caucus meetings on Wednesdays — the day the shooter stormed the Hill — and general limits on the size of tour groups:

— The locking of buildings after business hours;

— Enhanced security at MPs' constituency offices if needed, including alarms and automatic locking doors.

"I think Oct. 22 was a very difficult day for everyone on the Hill," Scheer told the MPs.

 

The Canadian Press


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Parkas, boots sent to Ukraine

Canada will send the Ukrainian army more than $22 million worth of cold-weather gear, including jackets and boots, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said Wednesday.

The donations come from surplus military stocks.

The green clothing dates from the late 1990s, said a Defence official, who also indicated that white camouflage winter smocks will not be among the donated items being loaded on a C-17 transport for a flight Thursday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs will follow up with an additional $5 million in non-lethal aid early in the new year, including a field hospital, tactical radios, night vision goggles and bomb-disposal equipment, Nicholson said.

That portion of the donation will be purchased directly from commercial suppliers and shipped by sea.

Nicholson would not say whether the Harper government supports providing heavy military equipment, including tanks and armoured vehicles, to replace Ukrainian material destroyed in fighting Russian-backed separatists.

There was also no mention at Wednesday's announcement about possible next steps in Harper government's reassurance measures for jittery allies in eastern Europe.

Four CF-18 jet fighters, taking part in NATO air policing missions over the Baltic, are set to return home at the end of December and a senior military planner recently told the Commons defence committee that proposals for possible continued involvement in the alliance's reassurance mission are on Nicholson's desk.

The Obama administration and the Pentagon have so far ruled out sending arms, despite pleas from both sides of Congress and a long shopping list from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's government.

Last week, the U.S. deputy national security adviser told a Senate committee that the administration should review that position in light of the renewed appearance of Russian armoured vehicles in eastern Ukraine.

Anthony Blinken, who has been nominated to be deputy secretary of state, said at his confirmation hearing that the recent moves are a clear violation of the fragile ceasefire brokered between Poroshenko's government and separatists in September.

Vadym Prystaiko, the outgoing Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, says his country has been receiving much needed non-lethal protective military gear, such as helmets and body armour and he's hopeful allies will step up with "lethal" equipment.

The latest shipment of supplies out of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont. follows a donation of protective military gear that the Harper government sent over on a C-130J transport in August.

Canada has loudly opposed Russian intervention in Ukraine and Prystaiko praised Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his tough words to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 meeting in Australia.

Harper told Putin he'd shake his hand but said the Russians had to get out of Ukraine. The encounter made international headlines.

In 2008, Canada was an outspoken supporter of Ukraine's bid to join NATO, a proposal that was ultimately turned down by the alliance at the time.

Had Kyiv been a member, Russia's annexation of Crimea and support of eastern rebels could have triggered NATO's self-defence clause.

Poroshenko hasn't given up on joining NATO and recently said he would hold a referendum on joining the alliance in several years' time, something Russia said would increase regional tensions.

"This discussion is going," said Prystaiko, who noted that NATO foreign ministers will discuss the issue next week. "We're trying to reform our military to bring it to the standards of NATO. Then we can seriously talk about coming into NATO as a full member. But that is a matter for the future, hopefully not too distant."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version wrongly said Nicholson had said Ukraine only asked Canada for non-lethal aid.

The Canadian Press


No refuge for polar bears

Even Canada's High Arctic islands won't remain a sanctuary for polar bears if climate change continues at its current pace, a new study suggests.

The study, published Wednesday in an online science journal, says climate change is on track to push the bears into dire straits throughout the region by the end of the century.

"Under business-as-usual climate projections, polar bears may face starvation and reproductive failure across the entire archipelago by the year 2100," it says.

Even co-author Andy Derocher, a polar bear expert at the University of Alberta who is no stranger to gloomy news, was taken aback by the results.

"I had hung my hopes on the idea that polar bears would persist out to the end of this century, allowing us to go into some sort of conservation mode," he said.

"But now, looking at this work and this modelling, it does not look very good. I'm not as optimistic as I used to be."

The paper, published in PLOS 1, uses the latest data to project what would happen to sea ice in the islands northwest of the Gulf of Boothia if global temperatures increased by 3.5 degrees Celsius. Derocher acknowledges that's a "severe" amount of warming, but it's a level the planet is on track for if significant measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions aren't enacted.

Such warming would lead to more and more years in which waters used by specific polar bear populations would be ice free for more than 180 days, the study says. That would mean more and more years in which the bears couldn't use the hunting platform they need to get their fat-rich seals for at least six months.

At 180 ice-free days, starvation would be likely to kill off between nine and 21 per cent of adult male bears, with females and cubs more vulnerable.

At the same time, the ice would be breaking up earlier and forming later, which would affect how successful females were in raising their cubs. Early breakup can cause reproductive failure in anywhere from half to all of pregnant sows.

Caught between increasingly frequent years of poor sea ice and increasingly poor birth rates, the bears would eventually be squeezed out, the report suggests.

Bears in the southern Beaufort Sea area have declined to about 900 from about 1,600 between 2000 and 2010. Inuit and Cree hunters in the southern Hudson Bay area agreed recently to reduce their hunt quota over fears about the population's health.

The Canadian Press


Patient shows Ebola symptoms

Health officials in Alberta are on alert after a Calgary patient began exhibiting Ebola like symptoms.

Alberta Health Services say that it’s unlikely the female patient has the life-threatening virus after arriving at the Peter Lougheed Centre late Wednesday night, but she has now been moved to the South Health Campus.

The organization had previously stated that the risk of Ebola coming to Canada – and specifically Alberta – remained very low. And further noted that procedures and precautions are in place if an Ebola outbreak ever arises.

Few details have been confirmed at this time, including whether or not the patient indeed has Ebola, but at a press conference today said that it is highly unlikely.

They are just being very cautious at this time.

The South Health Campus is one of four hospitals in Alberta that is designated to handle such emergencies.



"Secret" humanitarian air drops

Canadian warplanes conducted a humanitarian escort flight into Iraq, but the military is refusing to say how many were involved, where it took place, when it happened — or who it benefited.

It is just the latest in an increasing level of secrecy that's building around the country's combat mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Col. Dan Constable, the country's task force commander for the Iraq mission, confirmed that CF-18s have conducted no air strikes in the last week, but said the jets did provide cover for another nation's unarmed cargo aircraft, which conducted an airdrop of relief supplies.

He says since another country was involved and there was the possibility the planes might return to the area, details are considered a matter of operational security.

The refusal to discuss the mission follows on Defence Minister Rob Nicholson's repeated denial to release estimates for the ongoing cost of the mission, which is slated to last six months, but could go longer.

Military staff, at a weekly briefing in Ottawa, suggested journalists contact the U.S. command overseeing the coalition air campaign against the Islamic State if they wanted more information.

The Canadian Press


CBC, NHL websites hacked

A group of politically motivated hackers operating under the name the Syrian Electronic Army briefly defaced the websites of the CBC, the NHL and a number of other prominent news outlets on Thursday.

At around 5:30 a.m. PT, the group posted an image to its Twitter account suggesting that it had hacked the technology company Gigya, which sells social media log-in technology that companies can integrate into their websites.

"Happy thanks giving, hope you didn't miss us! The press: Please don't pretend #ISIS are civilians," tweeted the group, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Some visitors to CBCNews.ca and other websites saw a pop-up message that said, "You've been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army."

Shortly after 6 a.m. PT, CBC tweeted that the security issue had been addressed.

"The hack resulting in a pop-up on our site has been fixed. You may still see the pop-up as the fix takes time to propagate through DNS," the CBC wrote.

"There's no risk to users," the CBC said in another tweet. "It's not a virus, just a hack that pops up that window."

Other websites affected by the hack included the Chicago Tribune, CNBC, Forbes, the Independent, the Telegraph and Time Out.

In the past, the Syrian Electronic Army has claimed responsibility for hacking into Twitter accounts and posting pro-Assad messages, has redirected popular websites to their own pages, and defaced some sites with their own text and images.

The Canadian Press


Advocates applaud charges

The sexual assault charges filed against former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi offer tentative hope to those who fear their claims will be dismissed by an indifferent law enforcement system, victims' advocates said Wednesday.

Their optimism, however, is tempered by the sweeping changes they argue would need to take place if the Ghomeshi case is to become the rule rather than the exception.

Sexual assault is widely considered to be grossly under-reported, and rape crisis counsellor Hilla Kerner says the complaints that are filed rarely get aired before a judge or jury.

While she and her colleagues at the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter fear that Ghomeshi's day in court came about in part because of his prominent public profile, she said it still represents a victory.

"This is a very rare example that the police actually was very diligent, very fast and thorough, and the result is criminal charges," Kerner said in a telephone interview.

"So we do think that it will create a positive effect. That women can see that where there is a will there is a way and the police are diligent. Unfortunately, we're afraid that the police only acted like that because there was such a public outcry."

The former "Q" radio host was charged Wednesday with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. He was released on bail and was ordered to live with his mother, surrender his passport and remain in Ontario.

Kerner said allegations of sexual assault against Ghomeshi from multiple women spanning more than a decade sparked outrage the likes of which she's rarely seen.

The 47-year-old former host was fired by CBC on Oct. 26 after the public broadcaster said it had seen "graphic evidence'' that he had physically injured a woman.

Since his dismissal, nine women have come forward with allegations that Ghomeshi sexually or physically assaulted them, and three of them ultimately filed police complaints.

Ghomeshi has admitted that he engaged in "rough sex" but insisted his encounters with women were consensual. Ghomeshi's lawyer Marie Henein has also said that her client intends to plead not guilty to the charges.

The Canadian Press


Surgery wait time analysis

The median wait time for Canadians seeking medically necessary surgery hasn't changed since last year, according to the Fraser Institute. However, the independent think-tank says the wait times remain unacceptable.

The institute released figures for all ten provinces today in its 24th annual wait times report.

The median wait time in the country is 18.2 weeks, unchanged from the previous report.  Wait times are lowest in Ontario, at 14 weeks, and highest in New Brunswick at 18 weeks. BC's wait time is pegged at 21 weeks.

“Despite high levels of health care spending, Canadians continue to endure unacceptably long wait times for treatment,” said Bacchus Barua, senior economist at the Fraser Institute's Centre for Health Policy.

The study looked at total wait times faced by patients from referral by a general practitioner through appointments with specialists, and then to treatment.

In some specialties, wait times are much longer. For orthopaedic surgery, The Fraser Institute says patients can expect to wait 42.2 weeks. Patients can also wait 31.1 weeks for treatment requiring a neurosurgeon.

It's not all bad news, though. The report indicates oncology patients have much lower wait times relative to other treatments, with medical oncology waits at 3.3 weeks and radiation oncology at 4.2 weeks.

“The protracted wait times for medically necessary treatment in Canada are not simply minor inconveniences. They can result in pain and suffering for patients, contribute to lost productivity at work, decreased quality of life, and in the worst cases, disability and death,” Barua said.

“If Canada wants to provide more timely access to quality health care, it should consider adopting some of the policies used by other countries with universal health care systems, such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Australia,” Barua said.

The Fraser Institute says its report, entitled 'Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada' is Canada’s only comprehensive measurement of wait times for medically necessary health care.



Seal dies at Winnipeg zoo

The executive director of the Winnipeg Humane Society says it’s unrealistic to expect a zoo or any other agency giving care to animals to be perfect.

Bill McDonald spoke out Wednesday in support of the Assiniboine Park Zoo, where a seal drowned earlier this week after its head became stuck in an underwater drain.

The animal was unable to get free and staff found him dead in his pool Monday morning.

The seal was the second zoo fatality this year that wasn’t the result of natural causes.

A tiger died during a fight with another tiger after a gate was left open that was supposed to separate the two.

McDonald said no agency can plan for the unexpected, particularly if it’s a new facility.

“Sometimes you can’t think of everything and then in the installation, zoo officials can’t guarantee that the work is going to be done 100 per cent according to the architect’s plan," he said. "We’re humans. Sometimes we fail."

McDonald said the humane society also had to make adjustments after moving into its new building in 2007.

Brian Joseph, the facility's director of zoological operations, said the vertical suction drain, about 15 centimetres in diameter, was located on a pool wall with a grate over top. He said the valve has been permanently shut off.

"We don't know exactly what happened. We do know that seals are very investigative. They're always poking around and we suspect he poked around and got stuck," Joseph said Tuesday.

"We're very saddened by his death. We try to keep our animals safe in every way we can but sometimes we're unable to protect them from things that they do."

The male harbour seal, named Caelum, was stranded as a pup on Vancouver Island almost two years ago. Officials with the Vancouver Aquarium determined he was almost completely blind and could not be released into the wild so he was transferred to the Winnipeg zoo in July.

(CJOB)

The Canadian Press


Ghomeshi to plead not guilty

Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi plans to plead not guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Marie Henein made her comments just moments after Ghomeshi was released on $100,000 bail at a Toronto courthouse.

f"We will address these allegations fully and directly in a courtroom," she said as a sombre-looking Ghomeshi stood by her side.

"It is not my practice to litigate my cases in the media. This one will be no different. We will say whatever we have to say in a court of law," said Henein, adding that Ghomeshi would not be speaking to the media either.

The 47-year-old Ghomeshi turned himself in to police earlier on Wednesday and was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.

He looked tired as he appeared in the prisoner's box of a packed Toronto courtroom wearing a dark suit with a light shirt.

His bail conditions include living with his mother — who was present in court and acted as his surety — no contact with his alleged victims and an agreement to surrender his passport and remain in Ontario.

When asked by a judge if he understood the conditions of his release, Ghomeshi clasped his hands in front of him, nodded slightly and said "yes" and "I do."

Ghomeshi's lawyer requested a publication ban on the bail hearing, which was granted, meaning the allegations and evidence details at the proceedings could not be reported.

The former "Q" radio host was fired by CBC on Oct. 26 after the public broadcaster said it had seen "graphic evidence'' that he had physically injured a woman.

Since his dismissal, nine women have come forward with allegations that Ghomeshi sexually or physically assaulted them — three of them filed police complaints.

Ghomeshi has admitted that he engaged in "rough sex" but insisted his encounters with women were consensual.

Toronto police said they began an investigation into several allegations of sexual assault relating to Ghomeshi on Oct. 31.

One of the women who contacted police was Lucy DeCoutere, an actress on the show "Trailer Park Boys," who was the first to speak on the record about her alleged experiences with Ghomeshi.

DeCoutere accused Ghomeshi of choking her "to the point she could not breathe'' and slapping her "hard three times on the side of her head.''

In a statement issued Wednesday, DeCoutere said the Ghomeshi scandal has lead to "a major shift" in the conversation about violence against women.

"It has been an overwhelming and painful time for many people, including myself, but also very inspiring. I hope that victims' voices continue to be heard and that this is the start of a change that is so desperately needed."

None of the allegations against Ghomeshi have been proven in court.

His next court appearance is on Jan.8.

The Canadian Press


More chemo for Rob Ford

TORONTO - Rob Ford's brother says the outgoing Toronto mayor will need a fifth round of chemotherapy for a rare and aggressive cancer in his abdomen.

Ford is in hospital undergoing a fourth round of chemotherapy and his brother Coun. Doug Ford told all-news TV station CP24 on Wednesday that another round will begin 21 days after the current treatment.

He also said that Rob Ford will "probably" need radiation and surgery after that, adding it's "really a long process."

During an appearance at city hall last week, the mayor said that his tumor hadn't shrunk, but it hadn't gotten larger either.

Doug Ford said he had a pretty good and "heart-felt conversation" with his brother at the hospital Tuesday night.

Doctors discovered the cancer in September and Rob Ford dropped his bid for re-election shortly afterwards, opting instead to run for city council.

He was elected by a wide margin.

The Canadian Press


300 snakes in Regina home

A Saskatchewan family has captured more slithering snakes in their home.

And some of the serpents are going to school.

The family collected 221 plains garter snakes in the fall that had wriggled in through foundation cracks on their old farm house outside Regina.

Megan Lawrence with the Salthaven West wildlife centre says the family recently brought in more serpents, bringing the total to 310.

She says 100 of the snakes are to be transported this week to the Saskatchewan Polytechnic campus in Prince Albert.

She says students will put the reptiles in hibernation for the winter and monitor them as part of a school project.

The Canadian Press




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