At least nine dead, thousands without power after storm

Nine killed in severe storm

UPDATE: 5:20 p.m.

Emergency crews rushed to restore power and clear roads on Sunday a day after a deadly and destructive storm swept across southern Ontario and Quebec, though officials cautioned that some of the outages could take days to resolve.

The true human toll of Saturday's storm is still unclear, but police in Ontario reported seven people killed by falling trees in locations across the province during the storm Saturday, and an eighth killed by a falling tree branch in the storm's aftermath on Sunday.

Police reports on the various deaths suggest victims were doing everything from camping to playing golf to taking weekend strolls when they were killed.

A ninth person died Saturday when the boat she was in capsized on the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers, Que.

The storm tore through southern Ontario and Quebec in a matter of hours, breaking hydro poles and toppling towers, uprooting trees, and ripping shingles and siding off houses.

Several people reported their backyard trampolines were tossed around like feathers, taking out fences like dominoes and landing many houses away. Others are facing extensive home repairs as trees crashed through roofs and windows.

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Gerald Cheng said the storm measured winds up to 132 kilometres an hour, marking the first time a thunderstorm was severe enough to trigger an emergency alert broadcast.

Cheng said the storm itself looks to have been what is called a derecho.

"When they say derecho, it's widespread, long-lived wind storms that are associated with rapidly moving thunderstorms, and that seems to be what we had yesterday," he said. "Because when you look at the damage, that was widespread, it wasn't just one track."

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said at a news conference late Sunday afternoon that the storm's impact is affecting every corner of his city.

"Yesterday's storm was fast and violent," he said. "It ravaged really the entire city."

And while he sympathized with residents struggling to cope without power, he warned they may not see it restored for three or four more days.

"This has been a very, very difficult 24-hour period," he said. "We don't have clear sight as to when everyone will get their power back."

Watson said the city didn't need to declare a state of emergency because that mainly allows it to override procurement processes and that's not necessary right now.

But widespread damage did compel the Ontario towns of Uxbridge, north of Toronto, and Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa, to declare states of emergency.

Uxbridge Mayor Dave Barton said the downtown core sustained significant damage, including to several residential buildings and a brewery. But he said power outages and downed phone lines are causing the most distress.

Internet networks and cellular service were down in many locations.

The damage to the power grid is extensive and complicated, hydro utilities reported Sunday.

"Between trees, branches, broken poles and wires down, it's really a very very messy messy cleanup," said Hydro One spokeswoman Tiziana Baccega Rosa.

By Sunday evening, Hydro One was still reporting 245,000 customers without power, down only slightly from 260,000 earlier in the day.

Joseph Muglia, director of system operations and grid automation at Hydro Ottawa, said only about 5,000 customers had their power restored Sunday, leaving more than 170,000 still in the dark.

He said more than 200 hydro poles were damaged beyond repair, many snapped in half by the force of the winds. A truck was loaded with replacement poles Sunday and was on its way to the city, but he warned the repairs are complicated and the utility hasn't finished assessing the situation yet.

It has been less than four years since this many customers lost power in Ottawa, but the tornadoes in that September 2018 storm caused more localized damage. The tornadoes led to about 200 unique outages and most were fixed within 36 hours. On Sunday Hydro Ottawa was still dealing with more than 550 unique outages.

Power to the city's water treatment plant was restored late Sunday afternoon, one of the priority repairs for Hydro Ottawa. Muglia said the Ottawa airport should be back on grid power before the end of the day.

The City of Ottawa has opened nine respite sites at community centres and areas for people to charge their devices, take showers and, in some cases, access some food. The Salvation Army and Canadian Red Cross are aiding at many of the sites.

Across the provincial border, Hydro-Québec said the storm cut power to 550,000 customers from Gatineau to Québec City at its peak, while as of Sunday afternoon there were close to 350,000 customers still cut off.

Sophie Desjardins, who lives in Lachute, northwest of Montreal, posted a photo of what was left of her truck after a tree crashed on the vehicle while she was driving back home with her boyfriend.

"The sky turned so dark, and the wind was so intense," Desjardins said on Sunday.

"We felt a huge impact and the window shattered … When we saw the condition of the truck, we realized we had gotten pretty really lucky. If the tree had fallen two seconds earlier, it would have fallen directly on us … The furniture that was in the back of the truck was completely destroyed."

David Sills, executive director of the Northern Tornadoes Project at Western University, said wind speeds could have reached much higher than already reported, given the concentrated damage.

"We're seeing evidence of some damage, such as roofs off and hydro towers crumbled, that kind of thing that gets more into … 180 to 220 kilometres per hour," he said.

He said teams from the project have gone to the Uxbridge area as well as to southern Ottawa over suspicions that they could have been hit by tornadoes or elevated winds.

The last derecho storm to hit the region with such strong wind speeds was back in 1995, said Sills.

"This is a fairly rare event in Canada where it's just widespread wind damage over a long, long track and reaching wind speeds that are quite high."

— With files from Virginie Ann in Montreal.

UPDATE: 11:10 a.m.

A major clean-up effort is underway following Saturday's fierce storm that left at least seven dead and hundreds of thousands without power after it swept across southern Ontario and Quebec.

Police say six deaths in Ontario were caused by falling trees as strong winds created widespread damage, while a woman in Quebec died when a boat she was in capsized in the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers.

The storm damage has led the Ontario towns of Uxbridge, north of Toronto, and Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa, to declare states of emergency, while hundreds of thousands across both provinces remain without power as crews work to restore services.

Hydro providers, however, are warning that it could take days for some to get power back.

"Between trees, branches, broken poles and wires down, it's really a very very messy messy cleanup," said Hydro One spokeswoman Tiziana Baccega Rosa.

She said while it's not unusual to have such high numbers of people temporarily without power, which for Hydro One stood at about 270,000 Sunday morning, the extent of the damage, including the toppling of metal transmission towers in the Ottawa area, is notable.

"That is unique, and it tells you sort of the severity of the storm," she said.

Hydro Ottawa said that as of 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning it had cut the number of local outages from more than 1,000 to 575, but about 176,500 customers were still affected.

The utility could not say when most issues were likely to be resolved, adding 200 hydro poles had been knocked out or destroyed.

“Damage is deep,” the utility said in a Twitter update Sunday.

Hydro-Québec said that at the peak the storm cut power to 550,000 customers from Gatineau to Québec City, while as of about noon Sunday there were some 370,000 customers still in the dark.

Sophie Desjardins, who lives in Lachute, northwest of Montreal, posted a photo of what was left of her truck after a tree crashed on the vehicle while she was driving back home with her boyfriend.

"The sky turned so dark, and the wind was so intense," Desjardins said on Sunday.

"We felt a huge impact and the window shattered ... When we saw the condition of the truck, we realized we had gotten pretty really lucky. If the tree had fallen two seconds earlier, it would have fallen directly on us ... The furniture that was in the back of the truck was completely destroyed."

The level of damage across the two provinces came in part from the nature of the storm, which looks to have been what is called a derecho, said Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Gerald Cheng.

"When they say derecho, it's widespread, long-lived wind storms that are associated with rapidly moving thunderstorms, and that seems to be what we had yesterday," he said. "Because when you look at the damage, that was widespread, it wasn't just one track."

The storm, with winds of up to 132 kilometres per hour, was severe enough to trigger the agency's first use of the broadcast-interrupting weather alert system for a thunderstorm, said Cheng.

The Ontario fatalities from the storm include a 44-year-old man in Greater Madawaska west of Ottawa, a woman in her 70s out for a walk in Brampton, a 59-year-old man on a golf course in Ottawa, and one person killed in their camping trailer near Pinehurst Lake in Waterloo Region.

Provincial police said Sunday morning that a 64-year-old woman also died from a storm-related tree fall at a home in North Kawartha Township, and a 74-year-old woman died after being struck by a falling tree in Port Hope.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath expressed her condolences during a campaign press conference in Toronto on Sunday morning.

"I want to say how much my heart goes out to to the families and friends and communities where people lost their lives or were injured by the storm."

ORIGINAL: 6:30 a.m.

As many as five people are dead and tens of thousands remain without power following a fierce storm that swept across Ontario and Quebec.

Gatineau police said a 51-year-old woman died when the boat she was in capsized in the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers, Que. during Saturday's storm.

Ontario Provincial Police said a 44-year-old man was killed in Greater Madawaska, west of Ottawa, after reportedly being struck by a falling tree, while police in Ottawa said one person died in the city's west end, but didn't release any further details.

Peel Regional Police said a woman in her 70s was killed by a falling tree while she was walking in Brampton, west of Toronto.

OPP reported one person was killed and two others were injured when a tree fell on a camping trailer near Pinehurst Lake in Waterloo Region.

The Township of Uxbridge, Ont. declared a local state of emergency after the storm caused significant damage in the community. A statement posted on the township's website says there are widespread power outages and many closed roads due to downed trees and power lines. Residents are being asked to stay home to allow municipal workers to focus on removing road hazards rather than manage traffic congestion.

As of early Sunday morning, about 269-thousand Hydro One customers were without power, while Hydro Ottawa reported more than 550 outages affecting over 170-thousand customers.

Trees and power lines were knocked down across a swath of the province stretching from Sarnia to Ottawa by ferocious winds, which at one point reached 132 km/h at the Kitchener airport.


Some Jif peanut butter products recalled due to potential salmonella contamination

Jif peanut butter recalled

The makers of Jif peanut butter are urging Canadians to check their recent purchases as they issue a recall for some products due to potential salmonella contamination.

The J.M. Smucker Co. issued a voluntary recall Saturday for a number of peanut butter products sold in Canada, including creamy, light and crunchy peanut butter products.

The company, which is issuing the recall in cooperation with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says jars with lot codes 1274425 through 2140425 should be disposed of immediately.

The Canadian recall follows an American outbreak of salmonella affecting 14 people in 12 states that has been linked to Jif peanut butter.

Salmonella symptoms include fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and in rare cases can cause arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis and urinary tract symptoms.

Consumers who would like to report symptoms or who have questions are encouraged to contact Jif.

More than 500 animals and birds could be lost or extinct, says study

Animals likely extinct

A study shows a less colourful and quieter world with the possible loss of more than 500 species that haven't been seen in over 50 years.

Arne Mooers, Simon Fraser University biodiversity professor and study co-author, said there is a good chance that some of the species may be found because they live in difficult-to-reach or inhospitable habitats, but others could be lost forever.

"We actually found there was over 500 animals that live on land that haven't been seen in over 50 years," he said in an interview. "That's almost twice as many as have been declared extinct since 1500 AD. There's a huge pool of species out there that we don't know whether they're still around or not."

The researchers reviewed information on 32,802 creatures listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species and identified 562 of them lost.

The study was published this month in the journal Animal Conservation.

Mooers said they used a computer program that went through the group's database to identify the lost species.

The criteria used to list a species lost was the missing or last-seen date, or any accounts from the first time the animal was collected and named, he said.

"There's lots of these sort of hints that the species was in fact lost."

One of the lost Canadian species is the Eskimo curlew, a shorebird that nested in the northernmost part of the tundra and migrated all the way to Argentina, Mooers said.

There were a few Eskimo curlews seen in Texas in 1962 and another was shot in Barbados in 1963, but that was the last confirmed sighting, he said.

"That is our most famous and only, I believe, lost species and it's probably extinct. It's one of the sadder ones, I think," he said, referring to the Canadian bird.

Researchers highlighted in the study that many of the lost species are from tropical countries such as Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil.

Species go extinct because of various reasons including human-caused threats and pressures, habitat loss and overhunting, Mooers said.

Of those 562 species, he said 75 can be classified as possibly extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature defines extinct as "when there is no reasonable doubt the last individual of a species has died," which can be challenging to verify, he said.

"Extinction means that you lose the last individual. As something is approaching extinction, it's becoming rarer and rarer and rarer until there are very few left of course, right down to one and then zero," he said.

"If a species is endangered and it lives in a habitat that is difficult to access, or it's large like the tundra with not a lot of people, or it's deep in the tropics or tropical islands, people may not be looking for such species often, then it can stay very rare. And maybe extinct, maybe not."

And that is the point of the study, he said. The paper gives a list of species that people should look for because these animals haven't been seen in a long time and it's not known if they are still around, he added.

Mooers said he is hoping some of the species will be found again.

He pointed to the ivory-billed woodpecker, which researchers thought was extinct with the last sightings in 1944, but an April study that has not been peer-reviewed suggests the bird might still be pecking in Louisiana.

His first reaction to seeing the list of over 500 lost species was surprise, he said, and then delight when he started reading about how some of these animals have been rediscovered.

People get upset when they hear of animals going extinct, Mooers said.

"We do know that people really don't like losing species that they are familiar with in their backyard," he said. "But the people are sad even for the golden toad that they will have never seen and will ever see. (It) just makes them sad."


At least three people dead, more than 300,000 without power after storm hits Ontario

3 dead, 300K without power

UPDATE 8:20 p.m.

The first long weekend of the summer season began in tragic fashion in Ontario on Saturday after a powerful storm killed at least three people in its swift but intense path across the southern part of the province.

Tens of thousands of residents also found themselves without power, according to utility Hydro One, whose outage map showed roughly 1,700 outages leaving more than 350,000 people in the dark as of Saturday evening.

The first death came in the city of Brampton, Ont., west of Toronto, where Peel Regional Police said a woman in her 70s was out walking when the storm sprang up in the early afternoon. She was struck and killed by a tree, police said.

Further west, Ontario Provincial Police said one person was killed and two others were injured when a tree fell on a camping trailer near Pinehurst Lake in Waterloo Region.

And police in Ottawa said late Saturday that one person died in the city's west end, but they didn't release any further details.

"I am very sad to learn about the tragic deaths of two people in Ontario as a result of the severe weather today," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in an evening tweet before news of the Ottawa death was confirmed. "My thoughts go out to both of their families & friends and I offer condolences on behalf of all Ontarians."

Three other people suffered non-life-threatening injuries after trees fell on two golf carts in Zora Township, the OPP noted in a separate tweet.

Trees and power lines were knocked down across a swath of the province stretching from Sarnia to Ottawa by ferocious winds, which at one point reached 132 km/h at the Kitchener, Ont. airport.

The Environment Canada weather station at Toronto Pearson International Airport measured gusts of 121 km/h when the storm blew through the city at noon.

"It was like being in a carwash," said West Ottawa resident Mike Edgerton, who noted the storm hit five minutes after he received an alert.

Kristina Martin said she was at home with her dog in the Old Ottawa South neighbourhood when the storm began.

"The lightning and the storm took down tons of power lines and tons of these big beautiful trees, which was pretty sad to see. It was definitely dramatic and everyone I know is safe," she said.

Joseph Muglia, director of Hydro Ottawa, said more than 179,000, or about half their customers, across the city had lost power.

"It's still early in trying to try to establish what exactly we're dealing with here. We're probably dealing with a multi-day event," he told a news conference with the city's mayor and emergency officials.

Pierre Poirier, Ottawa's paramedic chief, said two people were critically injured at golf courses and one person was seriously injured in a car crash.

The storm was severe enough for Environment Canada to issue a broadcast-intrusive emergency alert that went out to television and radio stations and mobile phones.

Environment Canada meteorologist Daniel Liota said the storm was unusual in that it covered such a large geographic area.

"It was a big deal. It's your upper echelon of thunderstorms," he said in a telephone interview.

Mark Robinson, a forecaster, meteorologist and storm chaser for the Weather Network, said the storm took many experts by surprise because there usually isn't enough heat and energy in the late morning or early afternoon, and he noted many computer models didn't pick it up.

Robinson said the storm could be classified as a derecho event, which he said has to cause damage for 450 kilometers and have winds roughly in the 120 km/h range.

"The trees that were around me were roaring as the wind came through, and I haven't heard that outside of a hurricane, so that's how strong these winds were. I've been through 23 hurricanes, so I'm sort of used to that sound."

The storm eventually made its way to Quebec, where it also left thousands of residents without power.

Hydro Quebec's website showed about 357,000 customers without electricity as of 6 p.m., mainly in the Outaouais region in Western Quebec and the Laurentians area north of Montreal. Residents in Lanaudière, northeast of Montreal, were also affected.

Earlier Saturday, tornado warnings were issued for several regions in southern and central Quebec.

Liota noted that severe thunderstorms were only recently added to the alert system.

According to Alert Ready, which runs the warning system for Canadian governments, a severe thunderstorm warning has not gone out on the system in the four years of data listed.

To trigger a broadcast-intrusive alert for thunderstorms, there needs to be measured winds of at least 130 kilometres an hour, or hail of at least seven centimetres in diameter, which is about the size of a tennis ball, said Liota.

ORIGINAL 3:45 p.m.

At least two people are dead after a massive thunderstorm swept across much of southern Ontario today.

Peel Regional Police say a woman died after being hit by a toppled tree in Brampton, Ont.

Ontario Provincial Police also say one person was killed and two others were injured after a tree fell on a camping trailer near Pinehurst Lake in Waterloo Region.

The storm, which cut through a wide swath of southern Ontario on the first day of the May long weekend, also left thousands without power, according to Hydro One.

The storm was severe enough for Environment Canada to issue a broadcast-intrusive emergency alert that goes out to television and radio stations and mobile phones.

Environment Canada meteorologist Daniel Liota says the winds of 132 kilometres per hour measured at the Kitchener, Ont. airport were enough of a risk to property and life to trigger the alert warning.

One in 10 Canadian women could have PTSD, says StatsCan

10% women have PTSD?

Roughly eight per cent of adult Canadians have experienced symptoms that met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says a new study from Statistics Canada.

Broken down by gender, 10 per cent of adult women and six per cent of men met the criteria for probable PTSD.

“Among Canadians who met the criteria for probable PTSD, sexual assault (14%) was the most commonly reported worst event they experienced,” wrote the StatsCan researchers.

PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

While such events don’t lead to debilitating symptoms in many people, a significant proportion can suffer unwanted thoughts or dreams of the traumatic experience. Strong physical reactions can lead to trouble breathing when people are reminded of the event. The disorder can also provoke strong negative emotions, such as anger, fear, guilt or shame.

Many lose interest in things they previously enjoyed.

Symptoms usually develop within three months after a traumatic incident but can also begin years later, says NIMH.

“Some people recover within six months, while others have symptoms that last much longer,” notes the medical research centre. “In some people, the condition becomes chronic.”

To be considered PTSD, symptoms must last over a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work.

According to the latest Statistics Canada study, overall, visible minorities did not make up a disproportionate share of Canadians who appeared to have symptoms of PTSD.

But that number climbed over 40 and 57 per cent for Black and Arab Canadians, something researchers said could be attributed to people in those groups facing traumatic events on a more regular basis.

Of those who met the criteria of PTSD, 10 per cent reported the worst event they experienced came from a life-threatening illness or injury. Six per cent said it came from either a situation involving a sudden accidental death or a physical assault.

With data for the study collected in the fall of 2021, the researchers said the COVID-19 pandemic has had “considerable impacts on people's lives” and “may have exacerbated existing symptoms.”

One in five Canadians who met the criteria of possible PTSD said the worst event of their lives happened in the past two years, and nine per cent said it was related to the pandemic.

“While symptoms of PTSD can develop immediately after the event, they can also develop weeks, months or even years later,” said the StatsCan report. “This means that the full extent of PTSD related to the pandemic may not yet be realized.”

Those surveyed reported the worst fallout from possible PTSD stemmed from impacts on their social and family life, as well as their ability to maintain close relationships. More than half of those who met the criteria of possible PTSD said trouble completing responsibilities at home and not able to attend work or school were among the worst impacts.

And in another worrying turn, in the year before the survey was done, 55 per cent of Canadians who met the criteria for probable PTSD had looked for professional help. But of those, 82 per cent said they had a hard time accessing the health-care services they needed.

Many of the barriers came from long waits between making appointments and visits, or having appointments cancelled, rescheduled or delayed.

Over a third said cost was a barrier to getting the help they needed.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he won't run in upcoming party leadership race

Kenney won't be running

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quashed speculation on his immediate political future on Saturday when he explicitly stated he would not be running in the race to pick a new leader for his United Conservative party.

“No,” Kenney said when asked the question by the host of his call-in, provincewide radio show on CHQR and CHED on Saturday.

“If that was the case I would have stepped down as leader earlier this week.

“I’m focused on continuity and stability, doing the people’s business.”

It was the first time Kenney took questions surrounding his surprise decision earlier this week to step down despite narrowly winning a party leadership review.

He explored a range of topics, discussing his future, what went right, what went wrong, and questioning the system where he and his party won a massive majority in the 2019 election only to have him effectively forced out by 16,000 in his party leadership review.

“It’s peculiar to me because everywhere I go, I get expressions of support … but from my perspective it’s unfortunate that all that support did not translate into people buying memberships and voting in the party process,” said Kenney.

“In the future we’re going to have to consider these things, how you get an electoral mandate of over a million votes and 16,000 people can essentially upend that. But that’s the process that we have, and I have to respect it.”

Kenney captured just 51 per cent of the vote in the mail-in ballot of more than 34,000 party members. That was enough to technically stay in the job – a leadership race had to be called if he didn’t get a majority – but he said it was not enough and the result would be more division and acrimony in the party.

The premier told listeners the result, announced Wednesday night, surprised him but said he’s at peace with it.

“When I was given the number by the party president on the phone just about a half hour before I went on stage I was admittedly surprised because the number did not correspond to what I’d been hearing all around the province,” he said.

“The first thought that went through my mind was a little bit of relief. I’d been in elected life for 25 years and it was never my expectation to be in this job for a long time.

“The first thing I thought is, ‘Wow, I can do some personal things I’ve had on hold for many years.’”

The UCP board is now meeting to decide the details and timelines of the race.

Kenney said he would stay on as leader in the meantime to complete what he has started, including growing and diversifying the economy and reducing wait lists in health care by having more publicly subsidized surgeries done in privately run clinics.

“I’d like to be able to hand off to the newly elected leader a worksheet that’s largely done, so they can start with a fresh slate,” he said.

Reflecting on what did him in, Kenney said he likely wasn’t hard enough on bringing to heel those in his caucus openly opposing him. And he said his decision last fall to impose COVID-19 vaccine mandates after promising he never would was likely the mortal wound.

But he said if he hadn’t ordered the mandates, hospitals would have been swamped and there would have been even more deaths, tragedy and misery.

“I knew at the time that that (decision) might be the end of my political career, but I did it with a clear conscience and I would do it again,” he said.

Kenney said he won’t endorse a candidate to replace him, adding any cabinet minister who wants to run will have to step down from their government post.

He said at 53 he is too young to retire and isn’t sure what’s next but said there are other projects he wants to pursue.

He said he wants to read more books, connect with friends, get in shape, study another language, and finish his college degree.

He added: “When I leave as premier, I will leave with my head held high with what we’ve done together as a team.”

Some RVers say high gasoline prices could keep them closer to home

RVing with high gas prices

With gasoline prices hitting all-time highs, Jeff Redmond says he's planning to stay closer to home when RV camping this summer.

The owner and general manager of Bucars RV Centre in Balzac, Alta., says recreational vehicles are still one of the most affordable ways to travel as a couple or with a family once hotels, gasoline prices or airline costs are factored in.

"We laugh that RVers are the ones that are winning," Redmond said in an interview this week.

The cost of gasoline declined slightly before this May long weekend, the unofficial kickoff to summer camping season, but analysts say summer demand in coming weeks has the potential to send prices even higher.

Redmond said that could influence where he travels this year.

"The Okanagan Valley is a place I like to go ... and that's a seven-hour drive, so maybe I am going to go to Pigeon Lake or Gull Lake (Alberta), which is an hour-and-a-half drive," he said. "The good news is that I am still going.

"We're able to alter our plans and to work within our budget."

Redmond said he has heard a similar sentiment from customers. Some are staying closer to home. Others are planning to stay longer at one campsite.

"You park the larger trailer at a permanent campsite, or at your friend's cottage, or at the old family farm, or at a winery in the Okanagan — and you don't tow it," he said. "You hop in your family car and you go back and forth. You have a built-in, very affordable ... off-the-grid cabin that is extremely efficient once you get there.

"Lots of people are no longer towing."

Rob Minarchi is vice-president of sales at ArrKann Trailer & R.V. Centre with outlets across Alberta. He said there's been a lot of demand for RVs since the start of the pandemic and it hasn't slowed down this year.

"Most (people) are upgrading, as crazy as that sounds," he said from Edmonton. "Some people are selling ... because circumstances have changed but, for the most part, they are just trading in for different units.

"There's a lot of new RVers who came to the market when COVID first hit ... but they didn't know exactly what they wanted."

Those customers, he said, are trading in for units that better suit their needs.

Minarchi said he hasn't heard about anyone getting rid of an RV due to high gas prices.

"What we're seeing is a lot of people are just camping a little closer," he said. "If they were going to do a five-hour trip, now they are going to do a one-hour trip ... I think it actually ties in a little bit with COVID and staying close to home.

"They found so many hidden gems locally ... in the last couple of years that they are OK to do that."

Some campgrounds are starting to notice some changes.

"I've had a few people cancel," said Scott Kast, owner of Tomahawk R.V. at Lake of the Woods in Ontario.

But, he said, gas prices are a minor factor in those cancellations.

"We do get a lot of Americans here. One thing holding people back is vaccine mandates," said Kast.

Another campground manager told CKPG radio station in Prince George, B.C., that some people travelling from farther away have cancelled.

"A lot of people are wanting to stay local," said Bobbie Carpino, who runs the Salmon Valley campground.

"We've seen cancellations from folks coming in from the States heading up to Alaska, as well as folks coming in from the Lower Mainland."

The price of fuel could add $100 or $200 to the cost of an average camping trip, Minarchi said.

"It feels like a lot when you are at the pump but ... it's still affordable to do it," he said. "One less restaurant that you eat out at pays for the difference in your fuel for the whole camping trip."

Some RVers, he said, are adding solar panels and buying generators to make it easier to camp off the grid — including on Crown land. Others are parking their RVs at permanent sites for the entire summer.

"They are still camping, so that's good."

Redmond said the pandemic encouraged many people to get outdoors in their RVs, on a mountain bike or with a set of golf clubs.

"I am a guy that went and bought a new bicycle and there's no way I'm selling my bike. It's been awesome to get on the trails and get reintroduced to that," he said.

"There (are) lots of people, their lives got in the way of our great outdoors. They are stepping back now and saying, 'Wow, that was great' and they are going to keep doing it."

Rise of new opioid highlights unpredictable drug supply: Expert

Rise of new opioid in drugs

A national substance use research organization is warning about a new type of opioid that is increasingly being found in Canada's unregulated drug supply.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction said in an alert there is a rising presence in the drug supply of potent synthetic opioids referred to as nitazenes, which are often more potent than fentanyl.

Nitazenes usually appear unexpectedly in drugs assumed to contain other types of opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and non-medical benzodiazepines, said the centre.

The rise coincides with an increase in prevalence of benzodiazepines, which are often used as sedatives and tranquillizers.

This type of substance was only detected in less than one per cent of samples analyzed by Health Canada in 2021, said the centre, while noting it was four times the levels detected in 2020.

"One of the purposes of these alerts is not necessarily to put them out when the house is burning down, but more when there's a spark that got out of the fireplace," said Sarah Konefal, research and policy analyst at the centre.

It is likely that the presence of nitazenes is underestimated, because some drug checking services in Canada don't have the tools to actually detect this type of substance, said Konefal.

"One of the concerns is that we're only looking at the tip of the iceberg."

Recalling when fentanyl first appeared in Canada in 2013, Konefal said the centre released an alert based on a handful of reports of its presence in communities across the country.

In 2015, prevalence of fentanyl in Canada's drug supply started picking up, she said.

British Columbia declared a public health emergency in 2016 based on the significant increase in drug-related overdoses and deaths, soon followed by a national public health emergency.

The centre has been monitoring the rise of nitazenes based on data from Health Canada, which analyzes drugs seized by law enforcement. In 2021, the majority of samples with nitazenes came from Ontario, followed by a quarter of samples coming from Quebec.

Since January 2020 when one type of nitazene had been detected, over a two-year period there has been a rise not just in overall counts but also in the types of nitazenes detected, the centre's figures showed.

"The fact that there's more different types that are showing up, that's one indicator that probably the reach of nitazenes is expanding," Konefal said.

Karen McDonald, lead for Toronto’s drug checking service, said she is seeing nitazenes showing up unexpectedly in the city's supply.

Since the service started in October 2019, it lets people in the city anonymously submit a drug sample to see if what is in it matches what they expected it to be. Those results are then shared with the purchaser.

The service also combines the results from samples checked and shares information on trends in the Toronto drug supply.

When nitazenes were first identified by the service at the start of 2021, they were in only one per cent of fentanyl samples checked, McDonald said. By the end of that year, nitazenes were in about 15 to 20 per cent of the fentanyl samples, and in 2022 it is about 20 per cent.

Because newer opioids in the unregulated drug supply like nitazenes and benzodiazepines tend to show up in drugs with fentanyl, the risk of people overdosing increases, Konefal said.

Given that nitazenes are more potent along with the fact that they're in drugs that have the same effect, it will increase risk of opioid poisoning, she said.

Public Health Ontario said the risk of nitazenes is "likely moderate to high" in the province, according to an October 2021 brief.

Nitazenes have directly attributed to the death of four Canadians in Ontario, according to Stephanie Rea, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Coroner. Nitazenes have been detected in the examination of other deaths, and the investigations are still underway, Rea said.

Overdoses involving nitazenes may be hard to reverse and might require extra doses of naloxone, the centre said.

"The biggest issue is just that folks who are using these drugs don't actually know that they're using them," said McDonald, noting there is no dosing information for what people purchase on the street.

It is impossible for people to make safe choices when they don't know how much of a drug they are using, on top of the fact that they are also using a lot of other drugs they aren't even aware they are using, McDonald said.

The emergence and rise of new substances is the reality of a drug supply that is not regulated, said McDonald.

"The supply just continues to get more contaminated, more toxic, less predictable."

Since 2016, more than 9,000 Canadians have died from apparent opioid-related causes, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

"Canada recognizes that the overwhelming majority of overdose deaths have been due to the contamination of the illegal drug supply with substances such as fentanyl," said Maryse Durette, spokesperson for Health Canada.

Health Canada is aware of the increased presence of nitazenes in Canada and is analyzing emerging information on them, she said.

Since 2017, the government has committed more than $800 million to address the opioid overdose crisis, she said.

One or two doses of naloxone have successfully reversed nitazene overdoses, said Durette.

Costs reach $25.6 million for public inquiry into 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia

Public inquiry costs at $25M

The public inquiry into Nova Scotia's mass shooting has already cost $25.6 million to investigate the April 18-19, 2020, rampage — and there are still about five months remaining in its mandate.

Costs are shared between the federal and provincial governments for the inquiry, which was established in October 2020 and started public proceedings on Feb. 22 of this year.

The inquiry is probing the causes and circumstances that led to the shooting deaths of 22 people over 13 hours by a gunman driving a replica police vehicle, and it is expected to recommend ways to help prevent and respond to similar incidents in the future.

According to the expenditures breakdown presented up to March 31 of this year, the inquiry spent almost $2.9 million in fiscal year 2020-21, and in the latest fiscal year it spent about $22.7 million.

About $9.5 million of the cost has been for the salaries and benefits for 68 employees, with chief commissioner Michael MacDonald receiving up to $2,000 daily and the two commissioners, Leanne Fitch and Kim Stanton, $1,800 daily.

Some of the commission’s budget funds the cost of lawyers representing family members of victims, with that portion of the expenses totalling about $2.5 million to date.

Canada's hiring prospects among highest in the world, says new survey

Canada in hiring boom

Canada is in the midst of a hiring boom as the number of companies looking to bring on new employees reaches its highest rate in a decade, according to a new survey.

The poll, carried out by the ManpowerGroup, found that among 40 countries surveyed, Canada had among the strongest prospects of hiring new people. Only employers in Mexico, Brazil and India were more confident they’d boost staffing levels over the summer.

Much of that confidence is driven by employers in British Columbia, which at 22 per cent, had the second strongest year-over-year improvements in hiring after Ontario.

Going into the summer, 39 per cent of B.C. employers said they would hire more people — again, second only to Ontario, according to a parallel poll focusing on Canada.

“This recovery is unlike any we have ever seen,” stated the Canadian report, released Friday.

Nearly half of Canadian employers surveyed said they plan to hire new people going into the summer, nine percentage points higher than employers in the United States. Another 40 per cent of Canadian employers said they plan to keep their workforce the way it is, and 11 per cent plan on decreasing staffing.

Some industries are in demand more than others.

Fifteen per cent of Canadian organizations are having a lot of trouble finding skilled tech talent. And roughly half of employers in manufacturing, primary production, and technology or media expect strong demand for new talent.

“Employment prosperity across Canada is strong,” said country manager of ManpowerGroup Canada Darlene Minatel in a written statement.

“These survey results indicate a period of vigorous opportunity for job seekers.”

The country’s biggest employers, with workforces of over 250 people, expect to add the most employees. Roughly 40 per cent of small- and medium-size employers expect to add more people, whereas 36 per cent of micro-size employers (fewer than 10 people) said they’d add to their workforce.

One worrying sign: the not-for-profit sector is not as confident, and has the only negative outlook on hiring new people over the summer.

Wages outpaced by inflation

The hiring prospects come as Canadians grow increasingly pessimistic about the economy.

Inflation has reached 6.8 per cent this week, a three-decade high in Canada. That — along with war in Europe — has driven up the cost of nearly everything.

“Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February continued to affect energy, commodity and, most notably, food prices,” noted Statistics Canada in a May 18 report.

Statistics Canada said food prices were up 9.7 per cent in April 2022 compared to the same time a year earlier. The cost of pasta, for example, is up nearly 20 per cent, coffee 13.7 per cent, bread 12.2 per cent, and meat and fresh fruit roughly 10 per cent.

At the same time, said the StatsCan report, “In April, average hourly wages for employees rose 3.3% on a year-over-year basis, meaning that, on average, prices rose faster than wages, and Canadians experienced a decline in purchasing power.”

And as the Bank of Canada has indicated, higher interest rates loom; another survey by the Conference Board of Canada indicates consumer confidence decreased 11.7 points in May — the largest monthly drop since the pandemic’s onset.

With files from the Canadian Press

Quebec Halloween sword attacker found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder

Sword attacker found guilty

A man who used a sword to kill two people and seriously injure five others in Quebec City's historic district on Halloween night 2020 was found guilty by a jury Friday on two counts of first-degree murder.

A jury convicted Carl Girouard, 26, in the deaths of François Duchesne, 56, a museum employee, and Suzanne Clermont, 61, a hairdresser. Jurors also found him guilty on five counts of attempted murder.

Girouard had admitted to the acts, but his defence lawyer argued his client was not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder and could not tell right from wrong. The Crown countered that the killings were premeditated and that Girouard was aware of his actions that night.

Minutes after the 11 jurors delivered the verdicts on Day 5 of their deliberations, defence attorney Pierre Gagnon said his client had expected a different outcome and would be appealing.

"He knows very well that this is a battle that has just ended, but there will be a sequel," the lawyer told reporters.

According to the Crown's case, Girouard drove from his home north of Montreal with a Japanese-style sword called a katana that had a 76.9-centimetre blade. He wore black jogging pants, black leather boots, a short-sleeved kimono and a black mask. After arriving in Quebec City, he drove around before finally parking in front of Le Château Frontenac hotel, in the city’s historic quarter, and beginning his attack.

The case hinged on expert testimony from psychiatrists who presented conflicting conclusions about Girouard's criminal responsibility.

Dr. Gilles Chamberland, a psychiatrist testifying for the defence, concluded that Girouard was on the autism spectrum, suffered from schizophrenia and was delirious and in a state of psychosis the night of the killings, unable to distinguish right from wrong.

Chamberland said the symptoms were present from early in Girouard's childhood and that the accused retreated into a world of violent video games.

Girouard told the trial that by age 18, he had hatched a mission that involved killing people with a sword, creating chaos, changing the world and encouraging like-minded people — whom he called his "alter-egos" — to continue his "mission" after his death.

He said there were two competing versions of himself in his head, including a "bad'' version who was mission-focused but had ceased to exist after the Halloween attacks. He told the court that upon arriving in Quebec City from his home in Ste-Thérèse, Que., he was fearful and struggled with continuing his mission. But ultimately, "bad Carl" took over, he said.

The prosecution argued that the acts were premeditated, noting Girouard had spoken to mental health workers since his late teenage years about using a sword to attack people.

The Crown's primary expert, psychiatrist Dr. Sylvain Faucher, concluded that Girouard suffered from a personality disorder and was on a "narcissistic quest" to express his resentment toward society, concluding that there were no signs of delusional thinking and the accused knew right from wrong.

Faucher said the killer was pursuing a "malicious fantasy'' inspired by his imagination and the violent video games he played. His ultimate goal, the Crown expert said, was to gain notoriety. He said schizophrenia was unlikely, noting the absence of symptoms at a younger age, which typically precede the disease. He also found it unlikely that "bad Carl" simply vanished without Girouard taking any medication.

Prosecutor François Godin said he was happy with the verdicts.

"We're very happy for the families of the victims who, today, will be able to turn the page and we hope put some salve on their wounds," Godin said.

One of the survivors of the attack, Lisa Mahmoud, told reporters at the courthouse she wanted the maximum possible sentence for Girouard, whom she described as “very dangerous” and a “manipulator."

“I think it was the best decision to make; I thank them very much for their work. It's a good verdict,” Mahmoud said, adding that she was still recovering from her wounds.

"I'm still battling with my injuries, but I'm lucky to be here. I will take my life back. I will be very relieved once the sentence is out,” she said.

Clermont's sister-in-law, Marie-Claude Veilleux, said she was satisfied with the verdict, having followed the entire trial.

"Society will be protected from this very dangerous individual, but it won't bring us back Suzanne nor Mr. Duchesne," she told reporters. "But society will be protected."

Gagnon said there were serious grounds for appeal. Before the jury rendered its verdicts, the trial judge reproached the prosecution for the way it presented Girouard's five-hour police interrogation during which the accused spoke only once.

Gagnon said it was inappropriate for the Crown to suggest to jurors that Girouard's silence during the interrogation was a sign the accused knew he had done something wrong. In Canada's criminal justice system, suspects have the right to stay silent and neither judges nor jurors should infer anything from that silence.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Richard Grenier put off the case for sentencing until June 10, as the Supreme Court of Canada is to rule next Friday on the constitutionality of consecutive life sentences for people found guilty of multiple murders.

Trudeau pledges more action on cybersecurity following decision to ban Huawei from 5G

Cybersecurity a priority

A day after the federal Liberals banned Chinese firms Huawei Technologies and ZTE from helping build Canada's 5G networks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said more must be done to secure critical systems against threats.

The government is working closely with big financial institutions as well as other companies across the country to protect vital networks from malicious attackers, Trudeau said Friday at an event in Quebec.

Canada will do more, whether through legislation, new spending or "better and stronger partnerships," he told reporters.

Trudeau seemed undaunted by the fact Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin raised the spectre of retaliation over Canada's 5G decision at a press briefing Friday.

"Without any solid evidence, the Canadian side cited vague security risks as a pretext to exclude relevant Chinese companies from its market," Wang said.

"This move violates the market economy principle and free-trade rules and severely harms the Chinese companies’ legitimate rights and interests."

Trudeau conceded Canada's 5G policy "may well lead to challenges of the World Trade Organization."

"But we feel that it is extremely important to stand up for Canadian protection, Canadian interests and Canadian safety. That's why we took this decision and we stand by it."

The Liberal government made it clear this week that the long-awaited 5G decision is only a first step in an era of perpetual cyberattacks, ransomware operations and efforts by criminal hackers and state-sponsored players to pilfer information or sabotage key infrastructure.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Thursday the government would table legislation to protect critical infrastructure in the finance, telecommunications, energy and transport sectors.

In addition, Mendicino's mandate letter from the prime minister directs him to expand efforts to detect security risks in foreign research and investment partnerships, partly by increasing RCMP and security agency resources for this purpose.

Fen Hampson, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University, said legitimate network integrity concerns, as well as persistent pressure from the United States, helped forge Canada's decision to exclude the Chinese vendors from 5G.

"Is this going to resolve our security problems, security concerns? Absolutely not."

Much of the "hidden wiring" of the Canadian economy lies in private hands, and securing it poses a huge challenge, he said. "We need to do a lot more."

Hampson ponders whether Canada is prepared for a major cyberattack against a seaport or machines in the oilsands that rely on remote-communication technologies.

"I think the short answer is no," he said. "I mean, yes, we're getting better at it. But it's not just being able to thwart and deter those attacks, but how resilient are we?"

The latest federal budget earmarks $875 million over five years, and $238.2 million ongoing, for cybersecurity measures including programs at the Communications Security Establishment, Canada's electronic spy service, as well as more robust protection for small federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations.

The move is applauded as "utterly important" by Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, senior director for digital economy, technology and innovation at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

However, the chamber wants the government to turn next to helping the private sector bolster its defences.

Bahr-Gedalia said knowing how to predict and prevent problems in the digital sphere is essential.

"It is crucial for businesses to be secure and safe," she said. "We really want to be ahead of the game, which is so important."

The chamber is urging the government to spend $1 billion to protect Canada’s critical infrastructure, supply chains and businesses of all sizes from cyberthreats.

This will augment the more than $7 billion already being spent by the private sector on cybersecurity products and services, it says.

It is also calling for $300 million to accelerate the commercialization of such products and services in Canada, and $200 million to build Canada’s future cybersecurity workforce through education, talent development and retention programs.

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