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Three charged with fraud after allegedly posing as Toronto homeowners, selling home

Three charged with fraud

Toronto police say three people are facing fraud charges after they allegedly sold a home that wasn't theirs while the owners were out of the country.

Police allege two men and a woman impersonated the homeowners of a Toronto property earlier this month.

Police say the home was sold and and the woman and two men allegedly collected the proceeds of the sale.

The force further alleges the accused tried to withdraw the money made from the sale of the home at a bank in York Region on Thursday, where they were arrested by York police.

A 41-year-old woman from Markham was charged with fraud over $5,000, forging documents and other crimes, while two 22-year-olds from Toronto were both charged with one count of fraud over $5,000.

Investigators believe there may be more victims and are asking anyone with information to contact police.



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Canadian police chiefs speak out on death of Black man beaten by U.S. officers

Police chiefs condemn video

Canadian police chiefs condemned on Friday the death of a Black man who was savagely beaten by police during a traffic stop in the United States, saying the officers involved must be held accountable.

The condemnation of the actions that led to Tyre Nichols' death came as authorities in Memphis, Tenn., released a video of what happened.

The footage shows officers holding Nichols down and striking him repeatedly as he screamed for his mother.

After the beating, officers milled about for several minutes while Nichols lay propped up against a car, then slumped onto the street.

Nichols died three days after the Jan. 7 confrontation. The officers, all of whom are Black, were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes.

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police called the circumstances of Nichols' death "horrific and highly disturbing," and offered condolences to his loved ones.

"(Officers') duties must always be done in a manner that is transparent, professional, and upholds the high standards of policing as a profession," the association said in a statement. "Every officer understands that they are accountable for their actions."

The Ottawa Police Service said Nichols' death and similar tragedies destabilize communities and undermine trust in police across North America.

"Nichols’ death, like so many before him, is tragic," Ottawa police said. "We join in the calls for justice, and we support the steps being taken to fully investigate the incident and hold the individuals accountable."

The chiefs of Peel police, Windsor police and Regina police also issued statements to condemn the actions of the officers charged in Nichols' death.

Peel police chief Nishan Duraiappah said the death of Nichols was "deeply disturbing," and that his thoughts were with the man's family and community.

Windsor police chief Jason Bellaire said Nichols’ death and similar events affect "police credibility" globally, and it will take the police a long time to rebuild relationships and restore trust with the community.

He said his force will work with any community groups that want to plan peaceful protests in response to Nichols’ death.

Regina police chief Evan Bray called the death of Nichols "tragic and unnecessary" in a video posted on Twitter.

Bray said he reached out to leaders from his city's Black community to express his sympathy and noted that Nichols’ death brings up "all kinds of heartache and trauma."

Given the likelihood of protests, Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis said she and other local officials decided it would be best to release the video later in the day, after schools were dismissed and people were home from work.

Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peaceful protests.

“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”

The officers each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Four of the five officers had posted bond and been released from custody by Friday morning, according to court and jail records.

Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

As a precaution, Memphis-area schools cancelled all after-class activities and postponed an event scheduled for Saturday morning. Other early closures included the city power company's community offices and the University of Memphis.

Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she said “a complete and independent review” will be conducted of the department’s specialized units, without providing further details.

Two fire department workers were also removed from duty over Nichols’ arrest.



Memphis authorities release video in Tyre Nichols' death

Family pleads for calm

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.

Memphis authorities released more than an hour of footage Friday of the violent beating of Tyre Nichols in which officers held the Black motorist down and struck him repeatedly as he screamed for his mother.

The video emerged one day after the officers were charged with murder in Nichols' death.

The footage shows police savagely beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes. The Nichols family legal team has likened the assault to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.

“I’m going to baton the (expletive) out you,” one officer can be heard saying. His body camera shows him raise his baton while at least one other officer holds Nichols.

After the beating, officers milled about for several minutes while Nichols lay propped up against the car, then slumped onto the street.

Cities across the country braced for large demonstrations. Nichols’ relatives urged supporters to protest peacefully.


ORIGINAL 11:30 a.m.

The family of Tyre Nichols is calling for calm across the United States as the country braces for visceral video evidence of another young Black man dying at the hands of police.

Authorities in Memphis, Tenn., say the three-minute video — already likened to the explosive 1991 police beating of Rodney King — will be released after 7 p.m. eastern time.

Rodney Wells, Nichols' stepfather, says he wants people to go out and protest once they see the video, but he is urging them to do so peacefully and safely.

Five former Memphis police officers, all of them Black, face murder charges following the Jan. 7 confrontation with Nichols, 29, a FedEx employee and father of a four-year-old boy.

The officers each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Ben Crump, the family's lawyer, cheered how promptly the charges were laid, calling it the "blueprint" for similar cases of police brutality in the future, regardless of ethnicity.

"It was the police culture in America that killed Tyre Nichols," Crump said.

"We want to proclaim that this is the blueprint going forward for any time any officers, whether they be Black or white, will be held accountable … We won't accept less going forward in the future."

All five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — were taken into custody, but at least four of them had posted bond and been released Friday.

Antonio Romanucci, another member of the family's legal team, singled out the kidnapping charges as especially remarkable in a case involving a police takedown.

"Think about the weight of a kidnapping charge being brought against officers who are wearing a badge, a shield, carrying weapons on their duty belt, acting under the cover of law," Romanucci said.

He likened the actions of the officers, describing them as a "pack of wolves," to an act of terrorism.

"It was designed to terrorize the victim," Romanucci said. "Once those officers were there, they knew their actions were going to cause death. And indeed it did."

The contents of the video are said to be so explosive, police officials decided it would be best to release it later Friday after schools have let out and businesses are closed.



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Alberta Justice spokespeople deliver duelling statements on prosecutor email review

Duelling public statements

An Alberta government email review of whether Premier Danielle Smith’s office interfered with Crown prosecutors has taken a confusing turn, with duelling statements from two spokespeople on what was investigated.

Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, a spokesman for Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, has issued a statement that appears to call into question earlier comments made by Alberta Justice communications director Charles Mainville.

The review was ordered by Smith a week ago to respond to allegations in a CBC story that reported a Smith staffer emailed prosecutors last fall to question decisions and direction on cases stemming from a blockade at the Canada-U. S. border crossing at Coutts, Alta., last year.

The Justice Department said Monday it had done a four-month search of ingoing, outgoing and deleted emails and found no evidence of contact.

Two days later, Mainville said in a statement that deleted emails are wiped from the system after 30 days, meaning the search for deleted emails may not have covered the entire time period..

Lecavalier-Kidney, in a statement Thursday night, said deleted emails could live in the system for 60 days and would have been available to investigators.

He did not respond Friday to a request asking himto clarify whether investigators went back 30 or 60 days on the deleted emails.

The government has also delivered conflicting messages on who was investigated in the email review.

Smith promised that emails from all Crown prosecutors and the 34 staffers in her office would be checked.

However, the Justice Department later said emails between “relevant” prosecutors and Smith staffers were checked. It did not say how it determined who was relevant.

Smith has said she did not direct prosecutors in the Coutts cases and the email review exonerated her office from what she has called “baseless” allegations in the CBC story. 

The CBC has said that it has not seen the emails in question, but stands by its reporting.

The Opposition NDP said questions stemming from the CBC story, coupled with multiple conflicting statements from the United Conservative Party premier on what she has said to Justice Department officials about the Coutts cases, can only be resolved through an independent investigation.



'We must meet this moment': Trudeau says in speech to Liberal caucus

'We must meet this moment'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on his Liberal caucus to meet the moment on Friday, as Canadians deal with the high cost of living, a struggling health-care system and the effects of climate change.

In a 12-minute speech to MPs, Trudeau laid out the minority government's priorities for the upcoming sitting of the House of Commons, which begins on Monday.

"The world is facing a moment. And as Liberals and as Canadians and as a country, we must meet it," Trudeau said.

Most of his speech was focused on the economy, with Trudeau positioning the growth of green technology as a legacy that will benefit future generations.

His Liberal government is expected to table "just transition" legislation this year that is aimed at growing a net-zero economy with clean energy projects across Canada, while also building in protections for workers within the sector.

The yet-to-be-tabled bill is part of the confidence-and-supply agreement the Liberals struck with the New Democrats last March, in which the NDP agreed to support the minority government in key votes until 2025.

While the two parties have been able to work together to create a dental-care program, Trudeau reminded his caucus to "be ready for anything."

"Stay close to your communities and keep bringing their voices to Parliament, and let's continue to be the voice for Canadians," Trudeau said.

"Let's continue to fight for families. Let's continue to fight for patients and health-care workers, and facts, science and truth."

Trudeau also took a swing at Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre, painting himself as the more sensible leader and saying their visions are very different.

"There are two leaders you have to choose between. Are we going to make sure we are working for a positive vision of the future, or do we incite people to anger without providing constructive and positive solutions?" Trudeau said in French.

"Mr. Poilievre has made his choice. He’s decided to say everything is broken without offering any concrete solutions. Yes, these are difficult times, but that’s why our Liberal team has decided to work even harder."

Trudeau also said his government will continue to work toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, a key priority since they came into power in 2015, and one that has drawn criticism

He said he will continue to fight for Ukraine's freedom as well as Canada's and that he will amplify women's voices in Iran and support Afghan refugees.

Trudeau also brought up his upcoming meeting with the premiers, where they will discuss additional health-care funding.

He said improving the health-care system is a priority while ensuring universal public health care remains intact for Canadians.

"Let’s build a Canada where people thrive, and where future generations will directly benefit from us to have chosen to meet this moment."



WHO decision on COVID-19 emergency won't affect Canada's response: Tam

WHO call not relevant: Tam

The World Health Organization will announce Monday whether it thinks COVID-19 still represents a global health emergency but Canada's top doctor says regardless of what the international body decides, Canada's response to the coronavirus will not change.

The WHO's emergency committee, which was struck in 2020 when COVID-19 first emerged as a global health threat, will vote today on whether to maintain the emergency designation.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will make the final call based on the advice the committee gives him.

He warned earlier this week that he remains concerned about the impact of the virus, noting there were 170,000 deaths from COVID-19 reported around the world in the last two months.

Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the COVID-19 situation in Canada is fluctuating but relatively stable, with no evidence of a surge in cases anywhere.

Canadian data suggest hospitalizations are falling again after a brief increase over Christmas and in early January.



Parliament Hill police estimate 500 will attend 'Freedom Convoy' anniversary

500 expected at protest

The Parliamentary Protective Service expects 500 people to gather this weekend to mark a year since the "Freedom Convoy" occupied downtown Ottawa.

The agency, which polices the precinct, says it will curtail some access to Parliament Hill.

The public can still use the central and east gates to access the Hill lawn, but not the gates closest to the West Block, where the Liberals are holding their caucus meeting this weekend.

The Parliamentary Protective Service says public tours have been cancelled and Ottawa Police will enforce the closure of Wellington Street to traffic.

Ottawa city council voted this week to reopen Wellington Street to cars as soon as March, after a yearlong closure.

Large trucks occupied the street for weeks last year, and were only removed after the Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act.



Tory leader Pierre Poilievre says cities turning into 'crime zones'

Cities turn to 'crime zones'

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre doubled down on his belief that "everything feels broken" Friday, as he laced into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for suggesting otherwise.

Poilievre addressed Tory MPs at their two-day caucus retreat ahead of the return of the House of Commons next week.

The meetings come as the country faces the possibly of an economic recession.

Poilievre began his speech outlining the ways Canadians are hurting — whether from high prices at the grocery store, or crime that he characterized as out of control.

He also pointed to Trudeau's comments at the annual Liberal holiday party last month, where the prime minister countered the Conservative leader's message by telling supporters, "Canada is not broken."

Poilievre told MPs cities across the country are becoming "crime zones" under Trudeau's watch, suggesting he is not taking the action he should.



Federal government posts $3.6 billion deficit between April and November

$3.6B deficit April-Nov

The federal government posted a budgetary deficit of $3.6 billion in the first eight months of the fiscal year.

In its monthly fiscal monitor, the finance department says the deficit compares to a deficit of $73.7 billion during the same period last year.

Government revenues were up $35.5 billion or 14.8 per cent compared to the same period last year, largely due to improvement in economic growth and the fading effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, program expenses excluding net actuarial losses were down $40.4 billion, or 13.9 per cent, largely due to COVID-19 measures expiring.

Public debt charges were up $6.1 billion or 36.8 per cent, which the finance department attributes to rising interest rates and elevated inflation.

Net actuarial losses were down $0.3 billion, or 4.7 per cent.



Mandatory minimum penalty for firing gun at house unconstitutional: Supreme Court

Sentence unconstitutional

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a mandatory minimum sentence of four years for firing a gun at a house is unconstitutional.

The decision comes in the case of Jesse Dallas Hills, who pleaded guilty to four charges stemming from a May 2014 incident in Lethbridge, Alta., in which he swung a baseball bat and shot at a car with a rifle, smashed the window of a vehicle and fired rounds into a family home.

Hills argued the minimum four-year sentence in effect at the time for recklessly discharging a firearm into a house or other building violated the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

A judge agreed and Hills was sentenced to a term of 3 1/2 years, but the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the finding of unconstitutionality and the sentence was increased to four years.

In allowing Hills's appeal today, the Supreme Court says the mandatory minimum sentence was grossly disproportionate, given that a young person might fire a paintball gun at a house as part of a game.

In any event, the Liberal government repealed this particular mandatory minimum sentence, along with others, after the appeal was heard.



Provincial governments not jumping to act on tighter alcohol warning guidelines

Silence on booze advice

Politicians in charge of provincial and territorial liquor laws aren't hurrying to adopt or promote newly updated guidelines that advise a steep drop in Canadian drinking habits.

Across Canada, the responsible ministers declined interview requests from The Canadian Press. In written responses, they didn't commit to changing marketing methods for alcohol and noted they're awaiting Ottawa's lead on whether to slap warning labels on products.

In some cases, such as Nunavut and British Columbia, governments say they're actively reviewing the guidelines. Two provinces — New Brunswick and Nova Scotia — as well as the Northwest Territories said their health departments are developing plans to incorporate the new advice. The Northwest Territories Health Department said it intends to “share the new guidelines broadly.”

The guidance prepared by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction for Health Canada and released on Jan. 17 represents a major shift from its 2011 advice that having two drinks a day was considered low risk. The updated report says there is a moderate risk of harm for those who consume between three and six standard drinks a week, and it increases for every additional drink.

Kevin Shield, a professor at University of Toronto's school of public health, notes about two-thirds of Canadians who drink are consuming in the guideline's riskier ranges, according to the most recent Statistics Canada survey.

Shield — who studies methods used by governments to reduce harms caused by alcohol — said in an interview Wednesday that liquor agencies aren't currently giving consumers a good sense of the long-term health risks of alcohol. The typical messages, he said, are: "Don't drink and drive, don't drink while pregnant and please enjoy responsibly," with only the Northwest Territories including labels warning of health impacts.

Some governments have been loosening marketing restrictions. For example, in its 2019 budget, Ontario's Progressive Conservatives called for earlier serving hours for bars and restaurants, alcohol in municipal parks and advertising of free alcohol by casinos.

The province's Finance Department said in an emailed response it's "aware" of the CCSA update but didn't comment on whether the province's liquor corporation, the LCBO, will alter its policies. The LCBO website contains a link to the updated guidelines, but finding it requires surfing through three other topics before reaching a link written in small type at the bottom of a page.

Tim Stockwell, the former head of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, said the reality is the issue isn't a political priority.

"They're thinking about the economy, and tourism and the vitality of nightlife in their cities. The last thing on policymakers' minds is whether this commodity we're so familiar with is doing any harm," he said in an interview Tuesday.

The liquor corporations continue to be key sources of revenue to their provinces, with the B.C. agency providing close to $1.2 billion in the last fiscal year, Ontario’s LCBO providing about $2.4 billion and Quebec's SAQ reporting a $1.35-billion profit.

A spokesman for Quebec's finance minister said the province isn't considering any changes to the provincial liquor corporation's current practices. "We trust citizens to make the best decisions for their health, in light of the latest knowledge on the subject," spokeswoman Claudia Loupret said.

In Nova Scotia, Finance Minister Allan MacMaster said liquor education materials "do not yet" reflect the new guidance. Beverley Ware, a spokeswoman for the province's liquor corporation, said the Department of Health "plans to develop materials to inform Nova Scotians of the new guidance on alcohol and health," and the liquor retailer is in favour of sharing this information with its customers.

A spokesman for New Brunswick's Health Department said it supports the updated guidelines and is working on a communication plan to help New Brunswickers understand them.

Siobhan Coady, the finance minister in Newfoundland and Labrador, provided an email saying her officials are "always mindful of new research," noting the province was already examining whether to introduce policies that limit liquor consumption — including raising the minimum price for drinks sold in bars.

Manitoba's government didn't comment on how it will incorporate the guidelines into its liquor marketing, but noted its liquor corporation has a "DrinkSense" website that encourages responsible consumption.

Meanwhile, none of the provinces reached by The Canadian Press indicated they are considering directly implementing the call for health warning labels, though the Northwest Territories does already have a label mentioning the risk to pregnant women and drivers, and noting alcohol "may cause health problems."

Nunavut's Finance Department said in an email it is reviewing its alcohol regulations, including possible warning label requirements, and will "note the findings" of the CCSA in its review.

David Morris, a spokesman for the Saskatchewan liquor authority, said the province's retail liquor system will be fully private later this year and there are no plans to change the way private retailers in the province sell or market alcoholic beverages.

A spokesperson for British Columbia's Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said the province will be reviewing the CCSA guidelines and "have more to say in the weeks ahead."

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Yukon said it's up to Ottawa to take the lead on creating warning labels that discuss the risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions, was unavailable for an interview, and her office said she's reviewing the CCSA's advice.

Dan Malleck, a professor of health sciences at Brock University who has been critical of the CCSA guidelines, said the provinces are right to be reluctant about adopting the updated guidelines. "I think any reasonable government should ignore the guidelines completely," he said in an email. "It’s poor research, ideologically driven, and based upon spurious connections with health harms."



Focus on retaining nurses before recruiting from other provinces: association

Retention before recruiting

Efforts to lure nurses from other provinces are underway in several parts of the country, but the head of a national nurses association says the poaching won't solve anything unless working conditions are improved.

"We know that nurses are facing inadequate working conditions, and that is the main reason many are leaving their jobs," Sylvain Brousseau, the president of the Canadian Nurses Association, said in an interview Thursday. "If working conditions and retention are not the focus, the new nurses recruited from other provinces may find themselves wanting to leave their jobs."

This week, Horizon Health Network, one of New Brunswick's two health authorities, held three-day recruiting events in Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Its pitch to attract 120 nurses to the province includes the promise of an appealing life near the ocean with financial incentives of up to $20,000.

A spokesperson said recruiting from outside of New Brunswick isn't new, and that it's also hiring nurses through partnerships with universities in Maine and in India, as well as taking steps to retain workers. The province's other regional health authority, Vitalité Health Network, says it will be attending several career fairs in Quebec in the coming weeks.

Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will start automatically recognizing the credentials of health-care workers registered in other provinces and territories. "A doctor from British Columbia or a nurse from Quebec who wants to come and work in Ontario shouldn't face barriers or bureaucratic delays to start providing care,'' Ford told a Jan. 19 news conference.

Newfoundland and Labrador has introduced incentives in an effort to lure home health-care workers with connections to the province, while Quebec said it's looking to recruit internationally.

"All provinces in Canada face the same challenge of a shortage of labour in their health-care systems," the office of Health Minister Christian Dubé said in a statement. "It's in everyone's interest to recruit people internationally. Meanwhile, we continue to work so that our network becomes an employer of choice and to improve working conditions."

Brousseau said nurses need better pay, more support staff — so they can focus on caring for patients — and responsibility for fewer patients.

"Thirty years ago on surgery, I had six patients during the day, seven to eight on the evening shift and 12 on night shift, and now it's 15 during the day in surgery in some places, or 10. This is too much," he said.

Brosseau said he'd also like to see an end to practices like mandatory overtime, which remains common in Quebec, and nurses being pressured to work ostensibly optional overtime shifts.

He said the nurses association isn't opposed to nurses going to another province to work and that it has been calling for a reduction of barriers between provinces — but that won't fix the problems.

"It's not by going to poach nurses from one province to (another) that you will solve the health-care system crisis that we are going through right now," he said. "It's by giving them better working conditions and a better health-care environment."

Ivy Lynn Bourgeault, a University of Ottawa professor and director of the Canadian Health Workforce Network, said the efforts to recruit nurses across provincial boundaries are a symptom of a wider problem.

While it's not the first time Canadian health-care systems have looked to other parts of the country for staff, the shortage of nurses and other health-care workers is worse than before.

"I think what is new is the extent of the problem and that every province is in these circumstances, and this is not just a Canadian problem. This is happening across the world," she said in an interview Thursday.

Solving Canada's nursing shortage needs to start with retention, she argues; recruitment alone can't solve it. "It's focusing on one part of the challenge, of bringing more in, and we're not looking at all of those who are leaving," she said. "It's not a long-term strategy."

Bourgeault said governments need better data for workforce planning and that federal agencies, such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, could be used to give provinces better tools.

Mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios would also help retain nurses, she said, but they could in the short term lead to longer wait times.

"I think that as a society, we need to have a crucial conversation about how we manage this crisis going forward," she said.



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