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Canada  

Resort clears out, fire rages

A popular Rocky Mountain resort in Banff National Park is being cleared of guests so that crews can fight a wildfire raging in the nearby backcountry.

Sunshine Village, a ski hill on the Alberta-B.C. boundary that offers summer hiking, is about 2 1/2 kilometres from the flames.

Sunshine spokeswoman Kendra Scurfield says about 150 people are staying at the resort's hotel and they'll have to leave by midday Friday.

Rick Kubian with Parks Canada says firefighters are going to be using the property as a staging area to fight the blaze, which is spreading further into remote and rugged terrain.

He says the area will be busy with heavy equipment and helicopters and the air could get more smoky, so it's safer if there are no guests around.

The Verdant Creek wildfire has spread over about 25 to 30 square kilometres in Kootenay National Park and Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia on the Alberta boundary.



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Man dies in donation bin

Police in Calgary say foul play was not involved in the death of a man whose body was discovered in a clothing donation bin.

A passerby saw the body sticking out of the bin outside the North Hill shopping mall at about 3:45 a.m. Thursday and called 911.

Police, the fire department and emergency medical services responded and the man was pronounced dead.

Police said he appeared to be in his mid-20s.

The medical examiner will do an autopsy to determine the cause of death, but police said it was accidental.



Stowaways in container

Four men found in a shipping container at the Port of Montreal were dehydrated and likely had been in the storage unit for many days, authorities said Thursday.

Stephane Smith, a spokesman for the Urgences Sante ambulance service, said two of the men had difficulty breathing.

"Many days, the exact number, I don't know, but we're talking many, many days," Smith said in an interview.

The four, who are aged between 30 and 40, were transported to a local hospital to receive medical assistance.

RCMP Const. Erique Gasse said the four will be under the supervision of the Canada Border Services Agency, while the Mounties will conduct an investigation into the discovery.

Border agents found the four while searching a container.

"As this is still under review by the CBSA, and for privacy reasons, we cannot give more information," the CBSA said in a statement.



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Fort Mac rebuild going fast

The federal housing agency says rebuilding efforts in Fort McMurray, Alta., are going faster than expected, with reconstruction underway on one-third of the homes destroyed in last year's wildfires.

In a report released today, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says 844 housing units are being rebuilt and that is expected to rise to close to 1,000 units later this year.

It says at the current pace, all home rebuilding activity should be complete in three to four years.

The fires that swept through the community of about 70,000 in May of last year caused an estimated $3.8 billion in insured property damage and destroyed nearly 2,600 homes.

CMHC says about one per cent of the units in Fort McMurray can't be rebuilt due to flood defence measures.



Child struck by combine

A nine-year-old girl is in critical condition after being struck by farming equipment in rural Nova Scotia.

RCMP Sgt. Terry Miller says the child was playing in a field that was being mowed when the accident happened around 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Clementsvale area.

Miller says it appears the young girl hid in the deep grass and wasn't seen by the operator of the combine.

Police say she was airlifted to a hospital in Halifax, where she remained in critical condition Thursday morning.



Eighth whale found dead

Another endangered North Atlantic right whale has been found floating lifeless in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

A Facebook post by the Marine Animal Response Society says they received a report on Wednesday about a dead right whale, the eighth such case since June 6.

The society says it is working with the federal Fisheries Department and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to conduct a necropsy of the whale later this week to determine what killed it.

The group says there was also a report of another entangled right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Detanglements of right whales were recently put on hold by Ottawa following the death of a whale rescuer in New Brunswick.

The society says the Fisheries Department will monitor the entangled whale and consult with experts on the safest course of action.

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered, with about 525 estimated to still be alive.



Payette faced charges

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is refusing to say what he knew — and when he knew it — about a dismissed, non-felony charge against his choice for Governor General.

Julie Payette is calling the six-year-old incident a case of an "unfounded" allegation for which she was "immediately cleared" without any prosecution.

The second-degree assault charge doesn't appear in Maryland court records, but is accessible through American-based background check websites that provide the charge, dates, case number, location and reason for its dismissal. It provides no further details about the reasons for the charge.

The incident has raised questions about whether Trudeau knew about the potentially embarrassing information during the selection process that took place behind closed doors in the Prime Minister's Office. 

Trudeau twice said Wednesday he had no comment when asked about the deleted charge against Payette.

An online background check search shows that Payette was charged with second degree assault on Nov. 24 2011. The prosecutor formally dismissed the charge about two weeks later on Dec. 8, 2011.

At the time, Payette was living with her then husband William "Billie" Flynn.

Payette and Flynn went through lengthy divorce proceedings that closed in late June when Payette withdrew a motion for child support, based on online Maryland court records. The records also show that a motion to seal the proceedings and accompanying affidavits was filed in Maryland court Tuesday.

Meanwhile, media reports surfaced late Wednesday that said Payette was also involved in a fatal accident in Maryland in July 2011, four months prior to the assault charge.

She reportedly struck and killed a pedestrian who had stepped off a curb into in front of Payette's car. The case was closed without charges in April 2012 following an eight-month police investigation.



Don't touch the Queen!

A momentary breach of protocol that saw the Governor General touch the Queen's arm has at least one British tabloid abuzz but some on social media say it's nothing to get worked up about.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston hosted the monarch Wednesday at Canada House in central London to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary and helped her up and down the red-carpeted stairs.

Johnston reportedly told media there he was worried the Queen would trip.

The incident captured some tabloids' attention, with the Daily Mail calling out Johnston for his faux pas in breaking royal protocol.

But online observers seemed unfazed by the misstep, which many deemed too minor to cause a scandal.

Some on social media even suggested the 91-year-old Queen should be grateful for the help.

"The man helped an elderly lady from falling," one wrote on Twitter.

"'Governor General acts like Canadian Gentleman' is a better headline," another tweeted.

Some suggested there would have been a bigger uproar if the Queen had slipped while Johnston stood idly by.

Dignitaries are not supposed to touch the Queen, though that rule has been broken in the past.

Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama made international headlines when she hugged the monarch in 2009.



Freight train derailment

The Transportation Safety Board says it is investigating a freight train derailment near Strathroy, Ont.

It says no dangerous goods were released after the incident that took place early this morning.

Joanne Vanderheyden, the mayor of Strathroy-Caradoc, wrote in a statement posted on Facebook that no one had been injured in the derailment.

The municipality closed a number of railway crossings near the site of the derailment over the course of this morning.

Via Rail says trains on two routes from Toronto to Sarnia, Ont., will be cancelled until Friday due to the derailment.

Strathroy, Ont., is about 35 kilometres west of London, Ont.



Premiers talking pot

It's Weed Wednesday at the premiers meeting in Edmonton.

The leaders of Canada's provinces and territories are set to compare notes on how to handle the rules when the federal government legalizes recreational use of cannabis next July.

While Ottawa will pass the enabling legislation, it will be up to the provinces to decide how cannabis will be distributed and sold, what public places it will be allowed and what the minimum age to buy it will be.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says the sheer amount of work and the unanswered questions require a one-year delay on implementation.

Pallister said domestic issues aren't the only ones that need resolving. He suggested there are also questions on how Canada will interact with its largest trading partner, the United States.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said her government is consulting the public as her province prepares to meet the July 1 deadline, but she hasn't ruled out asking for an extension.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Ontario's Kathleen Wynne and Stephen McNeil of Nova Scotia said they are also working to be ready by July 1.

McNeil said rules needs to be uniform across the country, particularly in Atlantic Canada and especially around the minimum age. "I've said all along I believe 19 (as a minimum age) makes sense," he said.



Mounties hunt killer

RCMP have issued a plea on social media for help from a small, isolated Manitoba community to find the killer in their midst.

Manitoba Mounties posted on their Facebook page Tuesday the story of Leah Anderson, a 15-year-old girl who was brutally slain and left on a snowy trail in Gods Lake Narrows, Man., in 2013.

Her body was in such bad shape it was initially thought she had been attacked by wolves or dogs, but eventually investigators concluded she had been viciously beaten.

At first, RCMP asked volunteers to submit DNA samples, conducted interviews and even did lie detector tests, but one by one the suspects were ruled out.

However, on Tuesday, Mounties posted they have made "significant advancements" in the investigation.

They said they have narrowed down the remaining suspects and determined that the killer was a male and known to Anderson, but said they need the Cree community to "come together" with any new information that might lead to an arrest.

Located 550 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, Gods Lake Narrows is accessible only by air or ice road in the winter.

The night Leah died started out as a typical one for the "bright, happy" teenager, Mounties said.

"Hey hey hey, you you you, how are you?" she kidded with a friend in her last post on Facebook.

She had planned to meet up with a buddy to go skating but the plans fell through so she headed toward the rink by herself at 7:30 p.m.

"Somewhere between her door and the arena, Leah met her killer," said the RCMP. "He brutally beat her and left her dead on a snowmobile/walking trail."

Her remains were found two days later.

"The popular, funny girl with so much potential was gone," said the RCMP. "Not only was the community dealing with the grief of losing Leah, they had to come to terms with the brutal manner of her death and the fact that in their isolated community, where the ice road in and out was closed, the killer was still there."

It was another blow for a family that had already endured much heartache. Leah's father, Gilbert Duke, was slain when she was little, and she and her siblings went into foster care until an aunt and uncle in Gods Lake Narrows took them in.

In recent days, friends and relatives have been posting remembrances and pictures leading up to the RCMP's announcement of a renewed push in the case.

For some, it has been tough.

"They say they have a suspect but shouldn't because they have no actual evidence against him," Eleanor Duke posted to the RCMP page. "I just want my sister to be at rest and for my family to get the justice she so truly deserves."



Double slaying in Quebec

Police near Montreal will search a sprawling green space Tuesday after the discovery of two people believed to have been shot near the front gates of a municipal park.

A passerby called 911 after seeing the bodies of two men shortly before 11 p.m. Monday in a rural part of Brossard, on Montreal's south shore.

The victims, 21 and 23, were pronounced dead in hospital.

"Both bodies seemed to present wounds that are consistent with gun wounds," said Longueuil police Const. Jean-Pierre Voutsinos.

The bodies were found near a vehicle that belonged to one of the victims.

He said a team of 15 officers will search for clues in the wooded area, which includes hiking trails.

"It's a municipal park, in a wooded area and there are very, very few houses around," he said.

Police have not made any arrests.



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