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Canada  

Conservative party disqualifies candidate Patrick Brown from leadership race

Brown kicked from race

Patrick Brown has been disqualified from the race to replace Erin O'Toole as leader of the federal Conservatives, the leadership election organizing committee announced late Tuesday.

Ian Brodie, the chair of the committee, announced the stunning move in a written statement that said the party had in recent weeks become aware of "serious allegations of wrongdoing" by the Brown campaign.

The allegations are related to the financing rules in the Canada Elections Act, Brodie said, but provided no further details.

The Brown campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday night. The most recent tweet from Brown, who is mayor of Brampton, Ont., was about campaign events in New Brunswick.

In his statement, Brodie said the chief returning officer for the party informed Brown of the concerns, requested a written response and decided to withhold the interim membership list from his campaign.

Brodie said the response from Brown's campaign did not satisfy the concerns and the chief returning officer recommended the leadership election organizing committee disqualify him, which it opted to do.

Brodie said the party will be sharing what it has with Elections Canada.

He said both he and the party's chief returning officer did their best to be fair to Brown, who is a former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, and provide time to refute the allegations.

"None of these problems has any impact on the integrity of the vote itself," Brodie said.

"While we felt it important to provide a transparent response to party members about this matter, because this issue is now subject to further investigation, we will not be speaking further on the subject."

The Conservatives will announce the winner of the leadership race in Ottawa on Sept. 10.

The other five candidates in the race are Pierre Poilievre, Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison, who are all Conservative MPs from Ontario, as well as former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Roman Baber, a former Independent member of the Ontario legislature.



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Quebec victims group surprised after man gets conditional discharge for sex assault

Backlash for light sentence

A crime victims advocacy group expressed concern on Tuesday after a Quebec man was granted a conditional discharge in a sexual assault case, in part because the judge felt a conviction could damage the man's career.

Marie-Christine Villeneuve of Crime Victims Assistance Centres says she worries the light sentence may be discouraging to victims and make them reluctant to report sexual assaults.

"If you're a victim seeing this kind of decision, it's possible that you could be more fearful of turning to the legal process, of filing a complaint, and maybe fearful about really getting justice at the end of this process," she said in an interview.

The ruling, she said, appears to run contrary to the current trend, "which is more toward concern for the victim at the heart of the legal process."

In the June decision, a Quebec court judge in Trois-Rivières, Que., opted to give Simon Houle probation and a conditional discharge, partly because a conviction would make it hard for Houle to travel as an engineer. Houle pleaded guilty last year to sexual assault and voyeurism after assaulting an acquaintance in 2019 and taking photos of the intimate parts of her body as she slept. He was 27 at the time.

The victim "was awoken by the light of a camera" to find Houle assaulting her with his fingers after she had fallen asleep at a friend's home after a night of drinking at a bar with a group of friends. Her shirt had been lifted and her bra unfastened, the court decision said.

The woman "panicked" and went to the kitchen, where the accused followed her and brought her back to bed. A search of his phone would later reveal that he had taken nine photos.

Judge Matthieu Poliquin found that the victim suffered significant harm as a result of the assault, including anger, shame, fear of seeing the accused, and consequences for her school, work and personal life. She was also in a vulnerable state due to the fact she had consumed alcohol and was sleeping, the decision said.

However, the judge noted that the assault happened "all in all quickly," adding that Houle had taken therapy seriously and sincerely regretted his actions.

"A sentence other than a discharge would have a significant impact on his career as an engineer," the judge wrote. "This profession requires travelling around the world," he added, while acknowledging that Houle had not yet been required to travel by his employer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Houle admitted during therapy to have assaulted another person in 2015. The judge described that admission as concerning but said it also showed a "desire for transparency." No charges were filed as a result of the 2015 incident.

Houle was also convicted of impaired driving in 2014 but had never been convicted of a violent crime.

Poliquin said Houle was at low risk of reoffending and had been convincingly rehabilitated. "It is in the general interest that the accused, an asset for society, can continue his professional career," the judge wrote.

A conditional discharge can be granted in cases when a person pleads guilty but is not convicted as long as they fulfil certain conditions. Houle was given three years of probation and must pay $6,000 to a victims aid group.

If he meets the conditions, he will avoid a permanent criminal record.

Quebec's Crown prosecutors office says it will seek to appeal the judge's sentencing decision in the coming weeks.

Houle's sentence, which was first reported by Radio-Canada, sparked an avalanche of online comments denouncing the decision.

Villeneuve said that while the verdict may be disappointing to some, it is important to remember that it is only one decision and that the legal system is only one path to healing for victims.

While the courts have not traditionally been inviting to sexual assault survivors, there are attempts underway to rebuild confidence through the implementation of specialized sexual assault tribunals, she said. Villeneuve added that her organization is there to support victims, whether they choose to file a formal complaint or not.



Canada making electric vehicle, battery pitch to Japanese automakers

Canada's EV pitch to Japan

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne says the convergence of Canada's automotive and mining sectors is working to lure more companies to Canada to make electric cars and the batteries that power them.

Over eight weeks last spring, automakers and battery companies announced more than $13 billion in new investments in the electric vehicle manufacturing sphere in Canada, including batteries and their components, buses and electric cars.

Those announcements included retooling or expanding auto manufacturing plants that already exist in Canada.

Champagne is in Japan this week where he is meeting with the heads of several Japanese automakers that do not have a Canadian manufacturing presence, including Mitsubishi, Nissan and Subaru.

Champagne says the sales pitch is to point out that in a world where supply chain issues are a massive headache for manufacturers, Canada has the skilled workforce, the raw materials and the stability they desire.

He says he's telling companies that "stability, predictability, and the rule of law is in high demand and short supply."

While he is also meeting with Honda and Toyota, both of which are retooling Canadian plants so they can make electric vehicles, the meetings with the others are different, he says.

"If you talk to people who have an established footprint in Canada it's different, because they've already invested," he said.

For the others, he says most have told him, "it's really the three things that really drive investments: talent, ecosystem and resources. And when you put that together, Canada becomes kind of the supplier of choice."

This trip follows another to Europe in the spring where Champagne met with all the major German automakers, including Volkswagen, which is regularly duking it out with Toyota to see which will be the biggest car company in the world.

Another trip to Asia, likely to include Korea, is in the works for the fall.



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Canada could approve first COVID shot for youngest kids this month: feds

Vax for young kids coming?

Federal officials say a COVID-19 vaccine for Canada's youngest children could be approved as soon as this month.

Health Canada tweeted Tuesday that it expects to reach a decision by mid-July on whether to approve Moderna's shot for children between six months and five years old.

Moderna has applied for its vaccine to be given in two doses, each a quarter of its adult dose, given about four weeks apart.

The agency says it received a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech on June 23 for its vaccine for children between the ages of six months and four years old.

A Health Canada spokesperson says regulators are still working out a timeline for their review of Pfizer-BioNTech's application.

Canada has yet to authorize a vaccine for its nearly two million children under five.

Pfizer-BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccine can be used on kids as young as five, and Moderna's Spikevax shot has been approved for children ages six and up.



Lightning storms spark dozens of wildfires in Yukon, heat warning issued

Dozens of wildfires sparked

Wildfires are breaking out across Yukon as lightning pummels the territory and a heat wave wears on, a fire information officer says.

Mike Fancie of Yukon Wildland Fire Management says about 20 fires a day have been sparked beginning on the long weekend, bringing the total this year to 155 wildfires that have burned 45,000 hectares.

Fancie described the proportion of fires caused by lightning as "stupendously high" at 97 per cent, compared with about 70 per cent in a typical year with the remainder being caused by humans.

On Monday alone, there were more than 3,000 lightning strikes, 484 of which were positive strikes that carry with them increased fire danger, he said.

"The sheer volume of lightning activity and new fires over the past few days have totally obliterated that statistic," he said.

"Yukon is facing unprecedented levels of lightning-caused wildfire activity right now."

The fires come as Environment Canada issued a heat warning for much of the territory, while both fires and flooding have prompted evacuation alerts in several areas. Multiple highway closures are also impacting transportation and access to communities.

Yukon Emergency Measures Organization issued a new evacuation alert for the Silver Trail and surrounding areas Tuesday. The Ethel Lake campground was evacuated Saturday.

Of particular concern is the Crystal Lake fire in central Yukon, which has grown to 2,500 hectares and prompted an evacuation alert Sunday for Stewart Crossing about 15 kilometres away. The fire also forced the closure of part of the Klondike Highway, an important transportation link between Whitehorse, Dawson and Mayo.

Meanwhile, flood warnings have been in effect since last week for areas around Teslin Lake and Yukon River near Carmacks.

Many of the challenges are caused by a so-called Rex block weather system, which occurs when a high-pressure system sits above a low-pressure system and brings isolated thunderstorms, Fancie said.

"Why these are bad for us is that they're very stable weather patterns. So when the high-pressure ridge sits over us like this, it invariably means that we can expect this weather condition for an extended period of time and that's what's happening," he said.

Forecasters are predicting decreasing temperatures Friday and Saturday, but it's too early to count on that, he said.

Yukon has already called in extra support through mutual aid agreements from British Columbia.

There were 104 active fires Tuesday, compared with 36 on the same date last year. The total area burned by Tuesday morning was 42,979 hectares compared with 27,492 in 2021, he said.

Environment Canada also issued a heat warning Tuesday for much of the territory, urging residents to drink lots of water and seek out cool places.

Temperatures were expected to reach 28 C with nighttime lows of 13 C. The warning applied to Whitehorse, Old Crow, Dawson and other areas throughout the central, southern and western regions of the territory.

It comes after daily temperature records were set Monday in Haines Junction, Carmacks and Teslin, with heat hovering around 30 C.



Assembly of First Nations delegates reject resolution calling for chief's suspension

National chief survives vote

An emergency resolution before the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting to reaffirm the suspension of National Chief RoseAnne Archibald has failed in Vancouver.

The resolution says Archibald disclosed confidential information about the complaints against her by the organization's staff, compromising the integrity of the assembly’s complaint process.

The vote needed the support of 60 per cent of eligible delegates for approval, but the resolution was defeated, with the tally to come later.

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir moved the motion saying there are rules for leaders and the situation has become a national embarrassment.

Archibald has alleged she was suspended for trying to investigate corruption within the assembly and called for a forensic audit of the organization.

The assembly issued a statement saying that Archibald's actions are overshadowing the real work that's needed on behalf of First Nations people and that what she is doing is damaging and unlawful.



Group warns of online child luring surge after Edmonton teen's alleged kidnapping

Online child luring surge

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection says it is seeing an alarming increase in reports of children being lured online as a man accused of kidnapping a girl from Edmonton appeared in a United States courtroom Tuesday.

The 13-year-old was missing more than a week before she was found in Oregon on Saturday.

Noah Madrano, 40, was arrested by FBI agents and charged with rape, sexual abuse and kidnapping.

There has been a 120 per cent increase in reports of online child luring over the last six months, said Stephen Sauer, director of Cybertip.ca at the Centre for Child Protection. Cybertip is Canada's tip line for reporting online child sexual abuse.

“They are really looking at the vulnerability of the child and exploiting that," Sauer said.

About half of the reports are related to extortion, he said. People create fake social media accounts, contact children and ask them to share an intimate image or video. The user then threatens that they will share it with family, friends or the child's school if they do not provide money or further images.

Sauer said situations where a person online meets up with the child are much rarer.

Edmonton police have said the girl was last seen arriving at her junior high school but she didn't show up for class. She was reported missing June 24.

Police said it is believed the suspect came to Edmonton, but it's not clear how the girl crossed the U.S. border.

"I don't know how long they may have been in contact with one another. I do know that the reason we're going with a child-luring charge at this point is that it's one we can support because of some of the online history," Edmonton police Insp. Brent Dahlseide said in a recent news conference.

Prevention is key to keeping kids safe online, Sauer said. Parents should talk with their children about what they do on social media and in chats. It doesn't have to be a formal conversation, he added, just parents checking in with their children.

What could make a significant difference, Sauer said, is increased social media regulation, especially for platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram that young people use.

One in three internet users in the world is a child — one in five in Canada. Many countries are pressuring social media companies to ensure platforms are safe for that demographic.

Canada has created an online safety advisory council to form a regulatory framework to address harmful content online.

Sauer said the companies themselves could take action immediately that would make online spaces safer for kids.

"There’s so much more the companies could be doing in this space."



Few arrests made during 'unprecedented' Ottawa police operation on Canada Day weekend

Few arrests on Canada Day

Ottawa police say they "met the challenges" of the busy Canada Day long weekend, which featured the first in-person celebrations since the pandemic began alongside protests.

City officials promised a robust police presence and zero tolerance for those breaking bylaws or causing disturbances as they planned for the return of anti-government and anti-COVID-19-mandate protesters.

A march and gathering at the National War Memorial Thursday evening drew a large crowd of over 1,000 people, but protests planned for Canada Day itself were much smaller.

Police say they arrested 12 people and laid 50 criminal charges, although only some appear to be related to the protests.

Four people were arrested Thursday evening and three were eventually charged after police say an officer was choked during an altercation at the war memorial.

Another man was arrested earlier that day for allegedly breaching bail conditions barring him from entering Ottawa.

Other incidents included a fight near LeBreton Flats on Canada Day, where police say a 19-year-old man was arrested at gunpoint after brandishing a knife at RCMP; an alleged assault on the same day in Lower Town, where a 38-year-old man and a 42-year-old man were arrested; along with several weapons and drug charges over the weekend.



Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly won't shake Sergey Lavrov's hand at G20

Joly won't shake his hand

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says she won't shake the hand of her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at a G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, this week.

She told The Canadian Press she plans to instead take aim at the Russian foreign minister's falsehoods about the invasion of Ukraine.

"I will confront him with facts and expose Russia's narrative for what it is: lies and disinformation," she said in a written reply to questions.

In March, Joly joined many others in walking out of a United Nations meeting in Geneva when Lavrov, whom Canada had brought sanctions against days earlier, began speaking.

But Canada's attendance alongside Russia in Indonesia creates a diplomatic predicament at the G20.

Lavrov has been one of the most vocal proponents of the invasion and President Vladimir Putin's arguments justifying his invasion of Ukraine.

And Joly recently said it was unacceptable for a Canadian official to attend a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy in Ottawa.

But she said if she and other foreign ministers opposed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine did not attend the G20 summit, it could work in the Kremlin's favour, allowing it to spin its version of the war.

"If Canada is not at the table, Russia wins," she said. "We cannot give way to Russian lies."

"Russia has been perpetrating atrocities on a massive scale in Ukraine, and it is threatening to cause a worldwide famine. But Russia is denying these facts and is spreading disinformation to escape international accountability."

In a statement, the Global Affairs department said Joly's attendance will give an opportunity to directly counter disinformation from representatives of the Russian regime.

"Canada will not cede the floor to Russian propaganda seeking to justify the illegal invasion of a sovereign neighbour," it said.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Joly and other ministers have refused to share the floor when Russia speaks at summits.

In April, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined a walkout of a G20 meeting for finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In May, International Trade Minister Mary Ng joined her counterparts from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand in leaving an APEC meeting in Bangkok when the Russian representative began to speak.

In an interview after the walkout, Ng said it would not be a "one-off" and she would be prepared to do it again.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would take part in the G20 leaders’ meeting in November, even if Putin goes too, saying it is important to counteract the voice that Russia will have at that table.

Lavrov has conducted a series of interviews, including with the BBC, to try to justify Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its tactics.

Putin is reported to have apologized to the Israeli prime minister after Lavrov said on Italian TV that Adolf Hitler was part-Jewish. The foreign minister made his remarks in a bid to justify the Russian invasion as an attempt to de-Nazify Ukraine, even though Ukraine's president is Jewish.

The summit in Indonesia will address food shortages following the invasion of Ukraine, which has prevented the export of millions of tonnes of wheat to the developing world.

Joly will also discuss the advancement of women's equality worldwide and environmental protection as well as the building of resilient economies following the pandemic.

The G20 is made up of the world's biggest economies, including the United States, India, China, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Together they are responsible for around 80 per cent of the world's economic output and two-thirds of the world's population.



Court martial planned for soldier who criticized vaccine mandate, led march to Ottawa

Court martial for James Topp

The Canadian soldier charged with speaking against federal vaccine mandates while wearing his uniform and who recently led a march to Ottawa is now facing a court martial.

Warrant Officer James Topp's lawyer says the army reservist was recently notified that he will be allowed to have his case heard in a military court instead of by his chain of command.

Phillip Millar says the decision represents a second about-face after the military initially offered his client a court martial, only to rescind the offer and send his case to his unit commanders.

Topp was charged in February with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline after publicly criticizing federal vaccine requirements while wearing his uniform.

He later led a months-long march from Vancouver that ended in Ottawa last week and was supported by many of the same organizers as this year's "Freedom Convoy."

Military law experts say the decision to allow a court martial raises the stakes for Topp by increasing the potential penalties should he be found guilty.

Yet they say it also means his trial will receive much more public attention and he will be allowed to have legal representation at trial, which wouldn't have necessarily been the case if he was tried by his commanding officer.



Canada first ally to ratify NATO membership bids from Sweden, Finland

Canada first ally to ratify

Canada has become the first country to ratify Sweden and Finland's request to join NATO, bringing the two countries closer to full membership.

The Prime Minister's Office says Justin Trudeau met with Finland's president, Sauli Niinistö, and Sweden's prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, at the NATO Summit last week.

In a statement, Trudeau says Canada champions the alliance's open door policy for any European country in a position to "advance the commitments and obligations of membership."

The Finnish and Swedish ambassadors submitted official letters of application to NATO on May 18, and Canada’s federal cabinet issued orders-in-council on May 26 authorizing the foreign affairs minister to ratify accession protocols for both countries.

The House of Commons also voted unanimously this spring to support the membership bids.

All 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland on Tuesday, sending the membership bids to the alliance countries for legislative approval.

Canada deliberately issued the orders-in-council on May 26 to speed through the ratification process and get it done within hours instead of the usual months.

The move further increases Russia’s strategic isolation in the wake of its invasion of neighbouring Ukraine in February and military struggles there since.

“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden and for NATO,” said alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally approved the decisions of last week’s NATO summit when the alliance made the historic decision to invite Russia’s neighbour Finland and Scandinavian partner Sweden to join the military club.

Despite the agreement in the alliance, parliamentary approval in member state Turkey could still pose problems for their final inclusion as members.

Last week, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara could still block the process if the two countries fail to fully meet Turkey’s demand to extradite terror suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.

He said Turkey’s Parliament could refuse to ratify the deal. It is a potent threat since NATO accession must be formally approved by all 30 member states, which gives each a blocking right.

Stoltenberg said he expected no change of heart. “There were security concerns that needed to be addressed. And we did what we always do at NATO. We found common ground.”

Every alliance nation has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and it could take several more months for the two to become official members.

“I look forward to a swift ratification process,” said Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has given the process added urgency. It will ensconce the two nations in the Western military alliance and give NATO more clout, especially in the face of Moscow’s military threat.

“We will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades,” said Stoltenberg.

Tuesday’s signing-off does bring both nations deeper into NATO’s fold already. As close partners, they already attended some meetings that involved issues that immediately affected them. As official invitees, they can attend all meetings of the ambassadors even if they do not yet have any voting rights.



More than half of Canada's AstraZeneca vaccine doses expired, will be thrown out

Half of AZ vax doses expire

Canada is about to toss more than half of its doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because it couldn't find any takers for it either in or outside of Canada.

A statement from Health Canada says 13.6 million doses of the vaccine expired in the spring and will be thrown out.

A year ago Canada said it would donate almost 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to lower-income countries.

As of June 22, almost nine million doses were delivered to 21 different nations.

But Health Canada says there is limited demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine and it hasn't been able to find more takers for the doses available.

Canada has also donated 6.1 million doses of Moderna's vaccine out of 10 million doses promised for donation, but has thrown out another 1.2 million doses of that vaccine.



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