Peacekeepers head to Mali

Canada will be dispatching an aviation task force to the troubled West African nation of Mali as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission, a senior government official said Friday.

The government source said the task force will be in Mali for up to 12 months and an official announcement on the deployment will be made Monday.

It will be Canada's first peacekeeping mission in Africa since the early 1990s when troops were sent to Rwanda and Somalia.

Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted soldiers to overthrow the country's president. The power vacuum that was created led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013.

However, insurgents remain active and the UN has seen its multinational peacekeeping force in the region suffer more than 150 fatalities since its mission began in 2013.

In terms of troop numbers, Canada is currently at a historic low for participation in peacekeeping missions. Canada had a total of 43 peacekeepers deployed around the world at the end of December, the most recent UN numbers indicate, down from 62 in November.

The decline, largely the result of a reduction in the number of Canadian police officers deployed to Haiti, means Canada has fewer peacekeepers in the field than at any point since the 1950s.

The deployment to Mali will help fulfil a pledge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in November during a peacekeeping summit in Vancouver.

The prime minister unveiled a package of measures, which include offering up to six helicopters and two transport aircraft, plus their associated pilots and support personnel, as well as a 200-strong quick reaction force to the UN.

Trudeau also pledged $21 million to help double the number of women deployed on peacekeeping operations around the world, which he emphasized as critical to bringing peace and stability to conflict-ridden areas.


2026 Calgary Olympics?

The federal and provincial governments would financially support a Calgary bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to documents released Friday by the city.

City administration said in a report the governments of Canada and Alberta have agreed to contribute to the estimated $30 million a bid would cost.

The feds would chip in $10.5 million and the province $10 million, the report said.

Council is expected to discuss a potential bid at a strategic meeting of council Wednesday.

City administration will recommend council establish a formal bid corporation.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has repeatedly said a bid can't go ahead without financial support from the federal and provincial governments.

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee will invite cities to bid for 2026 in October, 2018 with the deadline being January, 2019. The winning city will be announced in September, 2019.

Calgary city council voted in November to spend up to $2 million more on continued exploration of a bid, but only $1 million was released pending an answer from the federal and provincial governments.

The city's Olympic project team has been continuing the work of the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee, which pegged the total cost of hosting the 2026 Winter Games at $4.6 billion.

Note to readers: This is a corrected version of an earlier story. The province of Alberta will chip in $10 million, not $10 billion as previously stated

Hedley singer investigated

Toronto police say their sex crime unit is investigating allegations against Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard.

Police spokeswoman Katrina Arrogante says no charges have been laid against the Canadian musician, but an investigation is ongoing.

Arrogante says she could not confirm the specifics of the allegations.

In statements late last month, Hoggard and the Vancouver-based band said Hedley will be taking an "indefinite hiatus" after the end of their Canada-wide tour later this month.

The former MuchMusic darlings have been under fire since sexual misconduct allegations began surfacing online last month, suggesting inappropriate encounters with young fans.

Hoggard also has been facing mounting allegations, which include groping and making inappropriate sexual remarks to a Calgary radio host seven years ago. Last month, a CBC story also recounted a 24-year-old woman's allegation that Hoggard sexually assaulted her in a hotel two years ago.

Hoggard said in his own statement last month that he has never engaged in non-consensual sexual behaviour, but acknowledged he "behaved in a way that objectified women'' and was "reckless and dismissive of their feelings.''


Murdered, burned, but why?

More than four years after three members of a central Alberta family were murdered, the biggest question still remains unanswered for their friends — why?

"Still my question is, and will always be my question, what gets so bad in your life that makes you want to kill your whole family — and actually do it?" Philip Pals, a long-time family friend of Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus told the Red Deer Advocate. "I think that's the question on everyone's mind — why?

"That will never be answered, will it?"

Jason Klaus — Gordon and Sandra's son and Monica's brother — and accomplice Joshua Frank were sentenced last month to life in prison on three counts of first-degree murder for the December 2013 killings.

During the trial, court heard that Jason Klaus had a cocaine and gambling addiction and forged cheques on his parents account. He offered Frank money to kill the family. Frank told police he killed them because he was scared Jason Klaus would shoot him if he didn't.

Two of the bodies were found in the family's burned-out farmhouse near Castor, Alta. Sandra Klaus's body was never found, but police believe she also died in the house.

Tammy Spady grew up with Jason Klaus and worked with him for eight years. She had no inkling he could be capable of murder.

"It was actually quite shocking to all of us," she said. "It was not a family where you ever saw it coming."

Growing up, there were no brushes with the law or other obvious problems.

"He was just a normal kid and played hockey. It was a close-knit family. They did everything together, hunted, fished, camped."

Just as shocking was the involvement of Josh Frank, whose family is well-known in the community.

Spady said she met several times with RCMP major crimes investigators. The first time, she was convinced it was not possible Jason Klaus was involved. But over time and after several meetings with police, she said his guilt could not be questioned.

There had always been a Jekyll and Hyde side to Jason Klaus, she said. He would do anything to help someone, but he could also lie without showing it.

Court heard how Jason Klaus told numerous stories about the deaths to friends and investigators, including officers who approached him as part of an undercover sting. Testifying in his own defence in court, he denied involvement and gave another version of the events on the night his family was killed.

In his judgment, Red Deer Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin suggested Jason Klaus was driven by fear his fraud would be found out.

"He was desperate and he believed his family would terminate his employment on the farm and cut him out of any inheritance he may have expected," Macklin wrote.

For Frank, the motive was "greed for money, pure and simple," said the prosecutor. "He saw an opportunity for easy money and he took it."

At first, many in the community figured that the family's coal-burning furnace was likely to blame for their deaths. It would be eight months before Jason Klaus and Frank were arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Nova Scotia bans declawing

Nova Scotia has become the first province to ban medically unnecessary cat declawing.

The ban — part of a worldwide movement against the practice — took effect Thursday after a three-month education period.

The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association decided in December to amend its code of ethics to make the practice of elective and non-therapeutic declawing ethically unacceptable.

Veterinarian organizations in many other provinces are having active discussions on the issue.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association strengthened its stand against declawing domestic cats last March, saying the practice causes unnecessary and avoidable pain.

While some municipalities have enacted regulations against declawing, Nova Scotia becomes the first province or state in North America to declare the practice unethical.

The practice has already been banned in the U.K., Europe, Australia and several California cities.

"It's a great day. I'm so proud of the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association," Dr. Hugh Chisholm, a retired veterinarian who had pushed for the change, said after the association's decision in December.

"You are amputating 10 bones from 10 digits on the paws of a cat, and if that doesn't constitute mutilation, I don't know what does," he said.

For years, some pet owners have had their cats declawed to prevent scratches to furniture, people and other pets. But the Canadian vets association says scratching is normal behaviour that cats use to mark territory, help with balance, climb and defend themselves.

Chisholm said there will still be cases where declawing will be medically necessary.

To drug test at work or not?

A key body tasked with helping the federal government decide whether and how to impose marijuana testing for workers finds itself at an impasse, ensuring no new federal rules on workplace impairment will be in place before pot becomes legal later this year.

The committee, comprising federally regulated employers, labour groups and federal officials, finds itself split over the issue of drug testing for jobs where impairment could pose a threat to public safety.

A number of committee members say that means the Liberal government likely won't have time to address a number of requests from employers, who want rules put in place for "safety-sensitive" jobs, such as transit drivers, that would allow employers to legally conduct random drug tests.

There are currently no federal labour rules about drug and alcohol testing outside the military and successive governments from the late 1980s have stayed away from the issue.

The decision to introduce legislation to legalize cannabis, which the government hopes to have in place in July, has placed pressure on the government to establish national rules for workplace drug testing.

"It is the government of Canada that has chosen to legalize marijuana — we have no moral judgment one way or the other on that — but we do think that incumbent upon the government is to follow that bill with a parallel bill that gets to the issue of workplace safety," said Derrick Hynes, executive director of a group representing federally regulated workers, known by the acronym FETCO.

Hassan Yussuff, head of the Canadian Labour Congress, said legalization wouldn't change anything in regards to how workplaces deal with impaired employees: "The law is very clear that you can't come to work in an impaired fashion to work and if your employer should find you (impaired), they of course can take whatever steps are necessary."

How the Liberals are navigating the two sides in the debate is laid out in more than 150 pages of documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the access to information law that outline how the issue is complicated by existing human rights decisions, the requirement to accommodate workers whose addictions constitute a disability, workers' privacy rights and actually proving impairment, particularly from cannabis.

The government is working through the multiple issues before making a final decision and has encouraged employers and labour groups to not walk away from the committee's work, said Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

He and other committee members said the Liberals haven't agreed to let employers randomly test workers, but the government has not rejected the idea.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu talked about the issue with her provincial and territorial counterparts most recently in January when they all agreed to keep talks going on having harmonized regulations across the country.

Drunk drives self to cops

Nova Scotia RCMP didn't have to go far to arrest a suspected drunk driver: he came to them.

They say a man went to their Antigonish detachment on Tuesday "hoping to release a friend who was in police custody."

But officers arrested the man after determining he was "heavily intoxicated," and had driven there in his 2008 Pontiac Wave.

They say he had also been on conditions not to consume alcohol.

Michael Taylor Pinkham, a 27-year-old man from Roachville, N.S., faces several charges including impaired driving, failing to comply with an undertaking and public intoxication.

RCMP say he was released after a court appearance and will return to Antigonish provincial court on April 4.

Search into Day 4

Montreal police are searching again this morning for a missing 10-year-old boy.

Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou was last seen on Monday, when he left his home in the city's Ahuntsic-Cartierville district for a friend's house.

Authorities say they still don't know exactly what happened to him, but his father has told reporters he's convinced his son was abducted.

A spokesman for the force says they are asking area residents to stay alert and are inviting anyone with information to contact them.

Police say the boy, who is French-speaking, is black, has black hair and black eyes and was wearing a black coat with a hood, grey pants and yellow shoes before he disappeared.

BC a bunch of 's***heads'

The war of words between Alberta and B.C. has hit new lows.

Alberta cabinet minister, Deron Bilous, has apologized for a four-letter slur hurled at the B.C. government amid an ongoing battle over bitumen.

CTV reports Bilous, minister for economic development, with the Alberta NDP government told a crowd Wednesday that "B.C. is being a bunch of s***heads."

The remarks come after tense back and forth between B.C. and Alberta over the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The trade war looked to be cooling off but tensions obviously continue to smolder. Bilous said Thursday that his frustration with B.C. politics led him to make the comment, but agreed that his words went too far.

-with files from CTV

Steak and... men's day?

A Nova Scotia livestock farmer's racy marketing campaign has set off a social media slugfest over beef and a satirical holiday celebrating men.

Moo Nay Farms in Shubenacadie posted several pictures of steak on its Facebook page earlier this week as part of a promotion it called "Steak and Blowjob" Man's day.

The post offers up tenderloin, sirloin and blade steaks, adding that "the rest is up to you, ladies."

It took little time for the backlash to start, with one poster saying she would boycott the farm and referring to the language in the post as "misogynistic, sexist and disgusting."

But others supported the post by giving it 154 shares and hundreds of likes, with some saying the farm was just trying to be funny.

For its part, the farm responded on Facebook that it prefers its clientele to "have a sense of humour."

Polar bears head north early

East Coast polar bears have begun their annual trek north early, and despite a plethora of sightings police say they've been relatively trouble-free — give or take a damaged snowmobile or hot tub.

People in southern Labrador and along Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula are being cautioned to be on the lookout for the bears, who have begun to move north after following the ice and seals south this winter.

"Usually this will occur in April and May when we'll see a few polar bears, but regarding March, this has been an unusual high number of polar bears for the area this time of year," said RCMP Cpl. Shane Clarke in St. Anthony.

He said there have been five bears in the St. Anthony area, while provincial officials say they have also been spotted in Great Brehat, St. Carol's, Roddicton and Griquet.

There have also been pictures posted to social media of polar bears near Red Bay, Labrador.

He said spring seems to be arriving early, so the bears are passing through earlier than usual.

"They have caused some damage to snowmobile seats. There was a hot tub that was tore up," Clarke said.

"For the most part we just ask that the public give them space and leave them alone and they will resume their way north back home."

Clarke said if you do have an encounter with a bear, you should quietly back away "and never get between a mama and her cubs."

RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources say people should travel in groups, keep pets inside, and dispose of garbage that could attract the bears into communities and backyards.

Clarke said people need to use common sense and not try to get close to the bears to take pictures.

"The last thing we want to see is a bear having to be put down because of the public harassing it or chasing it on a snowmobile," he said.

Polar bears are considered a vulnerable species.

Adult male polar bears weigh up to 700 kilograms and measure up to three metres in length.

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

Protest ends with injuries

Three police officers and one citizen were injured Thursday night during an annual protest march in Montreal.

Protesters take to the streets in Montreal each year on March 15 to denounce cases of excessive force against marginalized individuals and communities by the city's police force.

The march began at about 8 p.m. in Lafontaine Park in the east end under a heavy police presence but ended about a half hour later when police ordered the crowd to disperse.

Police spokesman Manuel Couture says some shop windows along Ste. Catherine St. were smashed during the brief march and one person was taken to hospital with a head injury after being hit with a projectile.

Police also said three officers suffered minor injuries.

Couture said at least one person was arrested and charged with assault with a weapon.


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