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Harper talks Arctic sovereignty

An emboldened Russia is a threat to its neighbours in the Arctic, and Canada must be ready to respond to any Russian incursions in the region, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday as he ended his yearly tour of Canada's North.

In a chest-thumping address to troops who took part in a series of military manoeuvres off the coast of Baffin Island, Harper spoke of how Canada must never drop its guard in the face of growing Russian aggression.

"In Europe, we see the imperial ambitions of Vladimir Putin, who seems determined that, for Russia's neighbours, there shall be no peace...," Harper said.

"And because Russia is also Canada's neighbour, we must not be complacent here at home."

It was the second mention of the Russian president in six days for Harper. The prime minister has made Arctic sovereignty a focal point of this year's northern tour, with announcements ranging from farming initiatives to remarks on the search for the lost Franklin ships meant to show Canada's control over its northern regions.

The prime minister spoke to the troops out on the barren tundra of the southern tip of Baffin Island, steep ridges surrounding him. Earlier in the day, the Canadian Armed Forces conducted part of their annual northern operation, Operation Nanook, in the nearby waters of York Sound.

Part of this year's exercise was meant to simulate the rescue of a cruise ship that has run aground in York Sound, near the southern tip of Baffin Island. Harper stood aboard the Strait Explorer as four soldiers rappelled from a helicopter hovering over the deck during part of Tuesday's operation.

An earlier part of the operation, which began Aug. 20 and runs until Aug. 29, simulated a search-and-rescue operation for a fishing ship in the Davis Strait.

This year's exercise involves personnel from all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces, a ship from the Danish navy and a U.S. surveillance aircraft.

The prime minister told military personnel they would always be needed to fend off threats to Canada in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world.

"As we look at the world around us today, we see growing threats in a growing number of places and the growing strength of people who disdain democracy, despise modernity and kill people who don't share their religion," Harper said.

"People who, given even a sliver of a chance, would destroy everything that we, as Canadians, hold dear and have repeatedly fought to protect."

The Canadian Press


No charges for Trudeau break-in

A man who entered Justin Trudeau's Ottawa home earlier this month made a drunken mistake and won't be charged, police said Tuesday.

The Ottawa Police Service said they are satisfied that the intoxicated 19-year-old wandered into the wrong house unintentionally, believing he was at a friend's home.

"He had no idea who the residents were," said Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban. "This was not a targeted home.

"He didn't realize it and we believe he did not know whose house it was until Friday."

Ghadban played down the fact that the young man left a note near a collection of knives, saying that — for a fleeting moment — the man considered stealing the cutlery along with an electronic device that police refused to identify.

"There was a momentary thought process that before he left he would actually take some items with him, which was very short-lived," said Ghadban.

"He immediately decided against that."

Police said nothing was removed from the house.

As for the note and a suggestion contained in it that the family should lock their doors at night, police said while it appeared on the surface to be threatening, it was instead an act of remorse from the man over entering the house.

Trudeau was out of town when the incident happened, but his wife and children were asleep upstairs.

Police said an individual came forward on Friday after they released video footage of a suspect.

They said the man has been cautioned and the case is closed.

The intruder, who has not been identified, wrote to the Trudeau family to apologize, although it was unclear whether the family had received his note.

"During the interview (on Friday) he did ask for an opportunity to write a letter of apology," said Ghadban.

"I don't know whether that has made its way from the investigators to the residents or not ... but he did write an apology letter."

The incident raised questions about whether Trudeau and his family need a security detail, as the prime minister has.

RCMP have not said whether they are still looking into the possibility of providing close protection to the Liberal leader.

But it appears that the Liberals are satisfied with the closure of the police investigation.

"This a police matter and they have made the determination to not press charges," said Trudeau spokeswoman Kate Purchase.

"We fully respect the Ottawa Police Services’ responsibility to make this determination."

The Canadian Press

First Nations shut out of oilsands

Six aboriginal groups near Alberta's oilsands are wondering where they can voice their concerns about growing development after the government said they shouldn't be heard at a precedent-setting review of the province's environmental plans for the area.

Alberta has told a panel conducting a review of the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan that the bands aren't directly harmed by it. The government also says the panel can't hear concerns about treaty rights.

"The majority of concerns raised by the applicant are not related to the content of (the plan) and are therefore outside the panel's jurisdiction and so must not be considered," say government arguments presented to the panel.

The bands say similar arguments have been used to shut them out of public hearings on individual energy projects held by both the provincial government and its industry regulator.

They wonder just where they're supposed to turn.

"When the nation raises cumulative impacts on treaty rights in relation to individual projects, it is told that LARP is the appropriate place to have these concerns addressed," said Melissa Daniels, lawyer for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. "Now Alberta is arguing that it is inappropriate to raise these concerns with the panel specifically designed to review LARP.

"If this isn't in bad faith, I don't know what is."

Announced in 2012, the LARP was the government's third try at balancing environmental protection and economic development in a region increasingly key to the entire Canadian economy. Aboriginal groups immediately denounced it and promised to use a review process provided in Alberta's Land Stewardship Act to try to get it revamped.

But in documents submitted to the review panel, the government says the aboriginal complaints are beyond the panel's powers. It adds that none of those groups, whose reserves are all in the area, is "directly and adversely" affected by the plan.

The three-member panel is now reviewing hundreds of pages of documents from the bands and the province. It's the first time this type of panel has been convened.

The Athabasca Chipewyan, Fort McKay, Onion Lake, Cold Lake Cree, Mikisew Cree, Chipewyan Prairie Dene and Fort McKay Metis all maintain that their input was either not sought or ignored. They say the plan lacks benchmarks to measure impacts on traditional uses, prioritizes energy development over everything and puts aboriginal land use on the same level as snowmobilers and campers.

Alberta argues aboriginals will be consulted on frameworks within the plan dealing specifically with everything from biodiversity to air and water quality. But two years after LARP was introduced, few of those frameworks have been developed and one environmental group estimates that only 30 per cent of the plan actually exists.

The Canadian Press


New $100 gold coin

The Royal Canadian Mint will unveil a new $100 gold coin in Charlottetown today that celebrates two key moments in Canada's development.

The coin marks the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences which laid the foundation for Canadian nationhood.

In 1864, officials from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec) met in Charlottetown to discuss a maritime union.

It was at that September meeting where Sir John A. Macdonald proposed the idea of uniting all colonies from east to west.

A second meeting a month later in Quebec City produced a framework for the British North America Act, which ultimately led to Confederation in 1867.

The top half of the coin features the Charlottetown Colonial Building, now called Province House, as it appeared in 1864. The lower half depicts the Quebec Parliament Buildings where the Chateau Frontenac now stands.

The mint‘s website shows the coin will retail for $599.95.

The Canadian Press

PM gets icy challenge

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has nominated Prime Minister Stephen Harper to do the ice bucket challenge.

DiCaprio was in northern Alberta last week visiting the oilsands to do research for an environmental documentary.

The Oscar-nominated star of "The Wolf of Wall Street'' posted a video on his Facebook page of him doing the ice bucket challenge with two First Nations chiefs.

Afterward, he called out Harper to do the same.

No one in the Prime Minister's office could reached for comment.

Thousands of people have posted videos of themselves getting buckets of ice water dumped over their heads and challenging others to do the same, or donate money, to the ALS Association, which raises money for Lou Gehrig's disease research and assistance.

"Hello from Lake Athabasca, we're here learning about the Canadian tar sands. We took a moment to join the #IceBucketChallenge movement in support of the ALS Association. My friends Chief Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation challenges Dave Collyer, president of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Chief Courtoreille of the Mikisew Cree First Nation challenges Mark Little of Suncor Canada and The Sierra Club President Michael Brune challenges Shell CEO Ben van Beurden," says the post on DiCaprio's site.

"And me? In addition to a donation from my foundation, I challenge Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper."

DiCaprio has a long history of involvement with the environment.

He sits on the boards of several international conservation organizations and started an environmental charity foundation in 1998.

The controversial oilsands development near Fort McMurray has seen a string of high-profile visitors in recent years.

They include human rights leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, musician Neil Young and Oscar-winning film director James Cameron.

Since the ALS Association began tracking the campaign's progress on July 29, it has raised more than $53.3 million from 1.1 million new donors in what is one of the most viral philanthropic social media campaigns in history.

The Canadian Press

Sex killer settles with victims

A published report says sex-killer Russell Williams has reached an out-of-court settlement with some of his victims.

Maclean's reports financial settlements were reached in lawsuits launched by Williams's first sexual assault victim, "Jane Doe", and another by the family of murder victim Jessica Lloyd.

Maclean's says the settlements were announced in a statement released by the victims' lawyer Michael Pretsell.

Maclean's quotes the statement as saying the suits, which also named Williams' ex-wife Mary Elizabeth Harriman, have been resolved. The report says the actions against Harriman will be dismissed.

Williams, once a rising star in the Canadian Forces at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario, was sentenced to life in prison in October 2010 after pleading guilty to the murders of Lloyd and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau.

Lawyers for Williams and the victims could not be reached for comment on Monday night.

Maclean's reported that another lawsuit against Williams remains active.

The Canadian Press

Oldest athlete in seniors games

Florence Storch is a little old lady with a really big stick.

The 101-year-old from Hanna, Alta., has been competing for about a decade in javelin at both the seniors provincial and national levels. And Thursday, she'll be doing it again, tossing the long spear in the over-85 category at the Canada 55-Plus Games in Strathcona County east of Edmonton.

Event organizers say Storch will be the oldest athlete at the Games, a title she has held for the last few instalments.

But Storch says it's no big deal.

"I don't like a fuss," says the feisty centenarian.

She says she's healthy and fit, although not as athletic as she used to be. She jokes about looking more like she's 110.

When she started the sport in her 90s, she says she was able to get a running start on throwing the javelin. But now she's not so steady on her feet and stands in the same spot.

"In my right hand, I have the javelin. My left hand — the walker's right there, so if I need it, I grab it. It's safer."

Her eyesight is not so good these days either, she says.

And the javelin keeps gaining size on her. She used to stand about five feet tall, but she's shrunk a bit over the last few years. The women's javelin measures slightly longer than two metres (seven feet).

Still, Storch wants to keep competing.

She says her husband, who died 15 years ago, would have told her: "If you want to do it, go ahead and do it."

Storch grew up on a farm and worked as a teacher in a rural schoolhouse, where she often played sports with her students. She later married Bill Storch, a farmer, and raised three boys.

She "accidentally got into this javelin thing" while helping organize the seniors games when the event was in her home town. She noticed no one had signed up for javelin, so she wrote her name down.

She did poorly that first year but was determined to keep trying. "I decided if I'm going to do this, I'm going to train."

Storch sought out the athletic coach at the local high school and he agreed to help her so she could compete again the next year.

After a couple of years, she actually got quite good, she says, and started winning medals.

One of her gold medals hangs in a frame on the wall of her room at the Hanna Seniors Lodge. The same javelin she borrowed from the high school to train that first year is propped up in her clothes closet.

When the weather is good — dry with little wind — a friend or volunteer carries the weapon through the lodge and they head out behind the building near some horseshoe pits for practice.

Each time she pitches the javelin, her assistant has to fetch it for her.

Her 70-year-old son Ed has also competed in several seniors games in the sprint event and calls his mother a "hard act to follow."

Although she hasn't been injured while throwing the javelin, he worries about her.

"She could easily break a bone, or so many things could go wrong," he says. "But she wants to go."

And saying "no" to your mother is never easy, he says.

He plans to be on the field cheering her on, along with some of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The Canadian Press

Tories keep four Challengers

The Harper government's plan to decommission four of its six C-144 Challengers was sidelined and revisited last year because the executive jets were getting more VIP and military use than thought.

Former defence minister Peter MacKay, in early 2013, ordered that the majority of the aircraft, long cast as a symbol of Liberal excess by the Conservatives, be retired within the year as they reached the end of their service life.

But newly released memos, written last fall, show the plan was scaled back to the deactivation of just two planes — something the government waited until after Parliament recessed in late June to announce.

The Challengers are tasked with shuttling around the prime minister, the governor general and cabinet ministers, as well as being an air ambulance for members of the military.

What the air force found after MacKay issued the order was that it couldn't deliver both with just two planes because there were "multiple scheduling conflicts for Challenger support amongst Code One (Very, Very Important Persons)," according to a four-page analysis, dated Oct. 31, 2013.

Military planners were quietly asked to study options and based their analysis on the "requirement to maintain the current level of service and availability provided to Code One VVIPs," said the document, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information legislation.

Among the three options debated was the idea of perhaps buying slightly used Challengers from the "depressed business aviation market" to create a "homogenous fleet."

The reason the four aircraft — the CL600 and CL601 variants — were to be retired was because they were almost 30 years old and their 1980s electronics — relying on analogue rather than digital technology — restricted where they could fly.

A briefing note prepared for Rob Nicholson, the current defence minister, recommended buying new up-to-date Challengers much like the CL604 variant, of which Canada has two.

A single fleet "is the most cost effective and therefore recommended option," said the documents, because it is "the only method that can ensure a 99 per cent availability rate for two concurrent (lines of operation) in support of (air ambulance) and Code One VVIPs."

The report concluded that it would be cheaper in both maintenance and personnel "when compared against the mixed fleet option," which the Tories appear to have accepted.

If supported, the air force said it would work through the department's defence capabilities and program management boards to find a "source of funding."

A further memo — dated Nov. 18, 2013 — from the country's top military commander, Gen. Tom Lawson, to Nicholson left the decision entirely in the minister's hands.

The jets have a storied history of being used as political footballs.

The Conservatives claim they've cut the use of the Challengers by 75 per cent compared with the Liberals, but it’s tough to verify those numbers.

National Defence was asked on Friday if it planned to decommission any more Challenger jets, and if not were upgrades planned for the two oldest jets to make them conform to new international standards.

In both cases the answer was, No.

"For the foreseeable future the intent is to maintain four Challenger jets," said Maj. James Simiana, an air force spokesman.

There is also "no active project to purchase additional Challengers."

The Canadian Press

Drug-testing kits increase safety

Drug-testing kits currently available in Canada have limitations, but they can be part of the solution to help prevent unnecessary deaths at live concerts such as Toronto's Veld music festival, where two people died earlier this month after taking what's believed to be party drugs, says a harm-reduction group.

Toronto's Trip Project says the testing kits, when combined with other strategies like drug education, could make drug use safer for people who will not abstain from risky behaviour.

"People die at music festivals. That's not a thing that we should just accept," said Lori Kufner, a co-ordinator with the city-funded organization.

Kufner said that testing kits for synthetic so-called "party" drugs may be a way of reducing risks, but they aren't widely used and some people who take drugs don't even know they're available.

"There's a lot of other drugs that are being created and sold and passed off as other substances. Buying street drugs, you never really know what it is," she said.

"If you test it for something and it ends up being something that you didn't think it was going to be, you can still make an informed decision of whether to toss it or do it anyway."

Health Canada says all synthetic club drugs are considered equally harmful and are unsafe even in so-called "pure" forms.

Police are still trying to determine what drugs may have been consumed by a 20-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man who died, and 13 others who were sickened at the Veld Music Festival in Toronto's Downsview Park. Police said all 15 people ingested what they believe was a party drug purchased at the festival.

Adrienne Smith, a staff lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society in Vancouver, said that simply condemning the use of illegal drugs is not a solution.

"Currently illicit drug use is happening at parties. What we do about that is the important question," she said.

"What the harm-reduction community has decided to do is to acknowledge that it's happening and to address some of the harms so that people don't die," she said.

But drug-test kits remain "under the radar," said Karim Rifaat, the owner of Test Kit Plus, a Montreal company that sells the kits online.

"A lot of people who like to use drugs recreationally don't even know that it's possible to test them," he said.

He stressed that the kits are not 100 per cent accurate.

"It's not as good as sending it to a lab," he said, but they allow people to get an overall idea of the constituents of a capsule, tablet, or powder drug sample.

"If you have no idea what's in your tablet and you just take it, that's probably one of the worst things you can do," he said.

Testing a substance, Kufner said, requires mixing a single drop of chemical reagent with a sample of the party drug (usually a scraping of powder the size of the tip of a pen) on a glass or ceramic plate, and comparing the colour of the reaction to a chart.

Andrew Jolie, an electronic music enthusiast, said he has seen people use test kits in Miami, but not in Canada.

"Generally, they turn different colours for different substances. The ones I've seen, for (popular club drug) MDMA it would turn a dark blue and for speed or cocaine or some other kind of amphetamine, it would turn green or yellow," he said.

"You see the colour right away. If it's bright, dark blue, then you might not need to test it again. If it has some discolouration or something else in it, then you might want to give it another test."

The kits are available for sale online and cost about $25. Rifaat said Test Kit Plus has been selling them for about a year, and awareness — and business — is "growing."

Test kits may reduce harm, said Kufner, but there are still limitations to their efficacy and barriers to use.

Kufner said the Trip Project can't test drugs on site, as it could be considered trafficking and get the group in trouble with the law. And the kits aren't necessarily convenient. The reagents are "somewhat corrosive," said Kufner, and people must care for them properly to avoid spoilage.

Rifaat says it's better to use various reagents, which would also make the process more intensive.

All told, Jolie said, testing drugs is "really tough to do when you're actually out at these festivals."

"Even if you had a test kit on you, that would mean you would have to sit down somewhere, you would have to find a flat surface, you know, break out all these vials. And that's sketchy enough on its own, right? Especially in a club environment, you'd get kicked out instantly for that."

The RCMP said that while testing kits are not illegal, they could indicate to an officer that someone is carrying a controlled substance.

Det. Jeffrey Ross of the Toronto Drug Squad said he understands how testing kits might be perceived as useful, but expressed concern at the number of substances in their blind spots. He said testing kits could give drug users a false impression of safety.

In this consumer market in particular, he said, it's "buyer beware."

The Canadian Press

Man denies aiding militants

A Montreal photographer is speaking out after a U.S. news website accused him of inadvertently playing a role in the capture of American journalist Steven Sotloff in Syria last year.

Yves Choquette says he's the freelance photographer anonymously referred to as "Alex" in a controversial report published Friday on The Daily Beast.

The report alleges the photographer identified his local Syrian guide, commonly called a fixer, to suspected militant Syrians on Facebook.

It says that may have compromised the safety of the American journalist, who worked with the same fixer days later.

Choquette denies the allegations, which he says distort the events of August 2013 and unfairly suggest he's to blame for the kidnapping.

He says he sought out advice from journalists on a private online group called The Vulture Club in an attempt to find a reliable fixer.

The online report says the photographer contacted up to 30 Syrians on Facebook, choosing those who were shown in pictures holding guns and opposition flags, in his search for a fixer to guide him across the Syrian border from Kilis, Turkey.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Choquette called the report a personal attack "not based on any proof on any real fact" and accused its author, Ben Taub, of making up much of its contents.

"I'm not an adrenaline junkie, I'm 55. I'm not stupid, I prepared this for months and I want to be sure that I do it the safest way that I can," he said Saturday.

Choquette admits he was inexperienced in the region and it was his first attempt at entering Syria, but said he heeded other journalists' warnings about the risks involved.

Only the fixer, the online group, Taub and two other local journalists knew of his plans, he said.

"Everything was decided the night before, when I made the appointment with the fixer it was the night before I [went]. It was not a week before so that I started talk to everybody about it, it was the night before and I was in my hotel in Tilis," he said.

Taub, meanwhile, said he stands by his story but purposely didn't name the photographer so as not to suggest he directly caused the kidnapping.

"While he made Kilis a more dangerous town than it already was, a lot of factors could have triggered the abduction. It was a dangerous town. People were being watched. Many people had recently disappeared on the road to Aleppo. He is relevant, but he can't be blamed for what happened," Taub said.

He said he didn't give Choquette a chance to respond to the allegations because he thought the photographer would likely "release information he shouldn't which could endanger more people on the ground."

Choquette said he doesn't believe Taub's explanation.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. Photographer said previously he reached out to Radio Free Syria

The Canadian Press

Patient does not have Ebola

UPDATE 3:30 P.M.

Tests have come back negative for a Montreal hospital patient suspected of having the often deadly Ebola virus.

The man had recently returned from Guinea, one of the West African countries hit by an Ebola outbreak.

Dr. Karl Weiss, the director of infectious diseases at Montreal's Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, says the man was suffering from symptoms consistent with the virus when he was admitted on Friday.

Blood samples were sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and it was determined he did not to have the virus.

More than 1,400 people have died so far in the largest Ebola outbreak on record.

A patient has been placed in isolation at a Montreal hospital after showing symptoms consistent with the often deadly Ebola virus.

The director of infectious diseases at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital says the man recently returned from Guinea, one of the West African countries hit by an outbreak of the virus.

Dr. Karl Weiss says test samples have been sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Weiss says the hospital has followed a strict protocol and other patients aren't at risk.

Earlier this month a patient at a hospital in Brampton, Ont. was also placed in isolation over fear the person had contracted the virus, but ended up testing negative.

More than 1,400 people have died so far in the largest Ebola outbreak on record.

The Canadian Press

Shale gas industry needs study

Greater scientific study is required before Canada expands its shale gas industry, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Saturday while campaigning alongside his provincial counterpart in New Brunswick.

Trudeau waded into the controversial issue while at a rally in Moncton with New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant, who is vying to become premier after the Sept. 22 provincial election.

"I'm very much in agreement with Mr. Gallant that in terms of fracking and shale gas, we need to make sure that we have all the information, that there is proper science done," Trudeau said.

"That's why we need to make sure that we're strong on both the science and the long-term vision for New Brunswick and for Canada before we move ahead with that."

The question over whether to develop New Brunswick's reservoir of shale gas has dominated the early days of the election campaign.

Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward launched his re-election bid Thursday in front of a field of natural gas wells, promoting the merits of an industry he says can reverse its economic struggles.

The issue has been controversial. Nearly a year ago, protests over shale gas development spiralled into violence when the RCMP enforced an injunction to end a blockade outside an energy company's storage compound in Rexton, N.B. Police cars were torched and dozens were arrested.

Trudeau was also asked what if any advice he would give to Gallant. Like Trudeau, Gallant, 32, has faced criticism from some who say he is too inexperienced to lead.

Trudeau dismissed that concern, saying Gallant has surrounded himself with a strong team and will make for a co-operative partner in Ottawa should he become premier after the Sept. 22 vote.

Some opponents of abortion attended the Liberal rally, which Trudeau said was a sign of one of Canada's strengths — the ability to express oneself freely. Still, he said his view that abortion should be accessible to all women has not changed.

Access to abortion has dogged both the provincial Tories and Liberals since the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, the only private clinic that offered the procedure in the province, closed this summer.

By law, a woman who wants an abortion covered by medicare must have two doctors certify in writing that it is medically necessary and it must be done by a specialist in one of two approved hospitals.

Alward has said there is no need to change the law while Gallant has said he would both review it and work to get rid of it. Those positions have triggered protests from people who say the law should be outright repealed.

Elsewhere on the campaign, provincial NDP Leader Dominic Cardy promised to rescind a shared-risk pension deal with New Brunswick public pension retirees. Critics have said the changes put pensioners in financial jeopardy.

The government moved to a shared-risk pension model late last year for 17,000 current and 13,000 former government employees.

At dissolution, the Tories had 41 seats, the Liberals 13 and there was one Independent.

The Canadian Press

Harper on wrong side of inquiry

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says the prime minister is on the wrong side of history in his opposition to launching an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Trudeau was in Moncton, N.B., today where he accused Stephen Harper of being out of touch with Canadians on the issue.

There have been renewed calls for an inquiry since the death of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old aboriginal girl found dead in Winnipeg.

Harper said earlier this week that Fontaine's death was a crime and should not be viewed as a "sociological phenomenon."

Trudeau says there is no question that her death was a crime, but Canada needs to determine what is behind the high number of native women who have disappeared or been murdered and an inquiry is the best way to do that.

Trudeau was campaigning alongside New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant for that province's election.

The Canadian Press

Rangers use 67-year-old rifles

Like any true collector's item, the Cold War-era rifles still used today by the Canadian Rangers come in their original boxes.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was assured in a newly released memo that the Lee Enfield weapons, which were purchased in 1947, are in mint condition.

"While Rangers are given rifles in pristine condition (i.e. new from the box from special storage), Canada's stock is diminishing and a replacement needs to be identified within the next four to five years," says the memo, which was sent to Harper last October.

The Canadian Press obtained the memo under the Access to Information Act.

The prime minister, who is on his annual tour of the North, is no stranger to the rifles. During last year's visit, Harper got down on the ground, sniper-style, and fired off a few shots during target practice with the Rangers.

The Lee Enfield rifles are standard-issue weapons for the roughly 5,000 reservists scattered across 200 communities who comprise the Rangers. The weapons work well in the North because they don't freeze up or jam.

But the military has for years been trying to replace them because there are so few manufacturers left who make spare parts for the rifles, first introduced to the British Army in 1895.

Harper himself has acknowledged the weapons should be replaced.

"I am told there is no difficulty in servicing the weapons at this time, but this is a concern and we believe is it time," he said a year ago in Hay River, N.W.T.

"The Department of National Defence is in the process of scoping out the program for replacement and I expect that to happen over the next few years."

The replacement weapons probably won't be that much different from the 67-year-old Lee Enfields, says the memo to Harper.

"It is important to note that despite the date of manufacture, rifle technology has not changed significantly over the past 60 years and the replacement rifle will likely be very similar to the Lee Enfield."

The Prime Minister's Office has said the government plans to begin replacing the rifles in 2016.

The Canadian Press

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