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Canada  

Mining on sacred mountain

Dozens of protesters are taking a stand against mining projects on a Cape Breton mountain that is considered sacred by the Mi'kmaq.

Raymond Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre said traffic on Cape Breton's Seal Island Bridge was slowed in response to Saturday's rally against mining or quarrying of Kellys Mountain, and the roads were temporarily shut down by police during a Mi'kmaq ceremony.

Protesters walked down the middle of the road draped in flags and beating drums. Two people held up a sign reading "Hands off sacred Kluscap Mountain," referring to Mi'kmaq name for the mountain, which is protected by the province as a Kluscap wilderness area.

"(The mountain) is our sacred place and it is home of our sacred being," Elizabeth Marshall of Eskasoni First Nation said in a phone interview.

"To destroy that place for profit is the same thing as me going over to the Vatican and chipping off the gold, and the silvers and the rubies and the diamonds ... and maybe taking a couple of Michelangelos home."

The Nova Scotia Mining Association has expressed hope that the provincial government will revisit the status of the protected area, saying the policy has harmed Cape Breton's economy.

"We need to have a practical dialogue about protecting land and protecting jobs," Sean Kirby, the mining association's executive director, said in a statement on Saturday. "Acknowledging that the process for choosing protected lands was not perfect is a good place to start."

Kirby welcomed the protesters' "contribution" to the public dialogue, but said despite their fears, there is no proposal to build a quarry on the mountain even though reviving the shelved project could create 80 jobs.



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Ex-CN, CPR rail boss dies

Hunter Harrison, the plain-spoken, gruff American who rewrote the Canadian railroading book during his years heading both of this country's largest railways, has died. He was 73.

CSX Corp., the American railroad Harrison began leading earlier this year, issued a statement on Saturday announcing his death.

The company attributed his death to "unexpectedly severe complications from a recent illness," the same reason offered when Harrison formally went on medical leave earlier this week.

"The entire CSX family mourns this loss. On behalf of our Board of Directors, management team and employees, we extend our deepest sympathies to Hunter’s family," CSX (NASDAQ:CSX) said in the statement. "Hunter was a larger-than-life figure who brought his remarkable passion, experience and energy in railroading to CSX."

Ewing Hunter Harrison was born in Memphis, Tenn., on Nov. 7, 1944, and began his railroad career in 1964 as a 19-year-old rail car oiler for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway while attending Memphis State University.

His modest start gave no hint that he would eventually serve as the CEO of four major railroads: Chicago-based Illinois Central Railroad, Montreal-based Canadian National Railway, Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway and Jacksonville, Fla., railway CSX Corp.

Harrison joined the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1980 when it purchased the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, and he was eventually promoted to vice-president of transportation and service design.

Harrison left Burlington Northern in 1989 to become chief operating officer at Illinois Central Railroad, rising to president and CEO in 1993. There, he was credited with initiating scheduled service for freight, a revolutionary concept for the industry.

In 1998, Canadian National bought Illinois Central — considered at the time to be the most efficient railway in North America — and Harrison was appointed CN's chief operating officer.

He became CEO of CN in 2003, succeeding Paul Tellier, and served in that position until his retirement at the end of 2009. He moved to his estate in Connecticut, where he raised and trained horses for show jumping.

In the fall of 2011, Harrison was approached by activist investor Bill Ackman, head of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, and enlisted to help with a proxy battle at CP Rail. After winning the crucial vote at the annual shareholder meeting in 2012, Ackman appointed Harrison as CEO, replacing Fred Green.

In early 2017, Harrison abruptly resigned from CP, five months earlier than scheduled.

He gave up stock options and other compensation worth a total of $122.9 million to become CEO of CSX, a U.S. competitor, although he was later reimbursed by CSX.

Throughout his career, Harrison was adored by retail investors who rewarded his cost-cutting and attention to making the trains run as efficiently as possible by bidding higher on the shares of the railroads he headed.

As an illustration, CSX shares plunged nearly 10 per cent on Dec. 15, the morning after it announced he was taking medical leave and would be temporarily replaced by chief operating officer Jim Foote.



Heli crash victims named

Best friends, soulmates, fiancees and boyfriends: that's how friends and family are remembering some of the four Ontario utility workers who were killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Ontario on Thursday.

The men, identified by Hydro One on Saturday as 39-year-old James Barager, 27-year-old Kyle Shorrock, and Jeff Howes and Darcy Jansen, both 26, were working on a transmission tower in Tweed, Ont., and crashed when the chopper was approaching to land.

Jansen's mother, Brenda Jansen, said her son — a line technician from Long Sault, Ont. — was an outdoorsy person and an avid guitar player.

"Anyone that knew him just loved him, he was a really lovable kid," said Brenda, adding that he had just bought a house last year and moved in with his girlfriend.

"We're going to miss him, he's going to be really missed. He touched a lot of hearts," she added.

She said the small community in Long Sault came together to support the family over the weekend.

Friends of Howes, who was from Bath, Ont., and was a line technician with Hydro One since August 2013, took to Facebook to remember him as someone "who always had a smile on his face" with a contagious laugh to match.

Shorrock, of Inverary, Ont., was also a line technician and was engaged to be married according to his Facebook page.

"Yesterday I lost my best friend, my everything, my soul mate, the person who made my world go round," wrote Brittany Robertson, who said on Facebook that she was Shorrock's fiancee.

Hydro One said Barager, the pilot, had been with the company since 2009 and was from the Orillia, Ont., area.

The company held candlelight vigils at its offices across the province Friday morning and said most ground crews would be standing down from their jobs until Monday. Workers will still respond to any reports of power outages, it said.

"It is a time of emotion and shock for all of us at the company," said the company's CEO, Mayo Schmidt.

The Transportation Safety Board said Friday that it had obtained initial statements from the crash, but still must examine maintenance records, pilot training and several other factors.

The helicopter did not have a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder, but the TSB said it recovered a GPS, which will help in the investigation.

The agency said investigators would be looking at a wide range of factors to determine a possible cause of the crash, including pilot records, aircraft maintenance records and aircraft history.



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Carcass tied to mail box

Provincial police say a homeowner is in shock after a deer carcass was tied to a mailbox in the southwestern Ontario community of Windham.

They say the deer's head was removed and left in the driveway.

Police responded on Wednesday morning when the homeowners called to report the incident.

OPP spokesman Ed Sanchuk said the homeowners are shocked and upset after discovering the carcass on their property.

He said it was the first time he'd seen anything like this in his career.

The investigation is continuing and police are asking for anyone with information about the incident to contact Norfolk County OPP.



Employees buy newspaper

A group of employees at a Saskatchewan daily newspaper say they've reached a deal to purchase the outlet and run it as an independent publication.

Star News Publishing says it's sold the Prince Albert Daily Herald to a group of employees led by publisher Donna Pfeil.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Star News says the transaction will close "in the very near term."

Star News president Roger Holmes says the sale is good for both the city of Prince Albert and the media industry.

Employees say they're pleased to return the paper to its roots as an independent, locally owned and operated news outlet.

They say they're passionate about the Prince Albert community and feel it's important to have local news coverage for the area.

"As the third-largest city in Saskatchewan, Prince Albert deserves and needs a daily newspaper operated for and by locals, and our team is excited to be part of the long-term future of the paper," Pfeil said in a statement.



Guilty in grisly murder

Two men accused of killing a young Toronto woman and burning her body have been found guilty of first-degree murder.

Dellen Millard and Mark Smich had pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock, whose body has not been found.

Babcock's family and several jurors cried as the verdict was read out, amid quiet cheers from the courtroom.

The Crown alleges Babcock was killed in July 2012 because she had become the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend.

Prosecutors have said Millard and Smich planned the murder for months and covered up their crime by burning Babcock's body in an animal incinerator that was later found on Millard's farm.

Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have said the Crown failed to prove that Babcock is dead.

The two men were convicted last year of killing Tim Bosma, a 32-year-old Ancaster, Ont., man who disappeared in May 2013 while trying to sell his pickup truck, and burning his body in Millard's incinerator.

The pair was automatically sentenced to life imprisonment without a chance of parole for 25 years in Babcock's death, and the jury now must weigh whether they will serve their sentences consecutively, meaning they would have to wait longer for parole eligibility.

A sentencing hearing will likely take place sometime in the new year.



Billionaire, wife found dead

Toronto billionaire and philanthropist Barry Sherman and his wife were found dead in their mansion Friday, and police said they were investigating the deaths as suspicious.

Const. David Hopkinson would not identify the two bodies found at the home of Apotex founder Bernard "Barry" Sherman and his wife, Honey. But Ontario's health minister said the couple had been discovered dead.

Hopkinson noted that it was early in the police investigation.

"The circumstances of their death appear suspicious and we are treating it that way," Hopkinson said at a news conference held outside the couple's home. "Our investigators are inside investigating and taking apart the scene."

Hopkinson said police were called to the Shermans' home in an upscale neighbourhood of north Toronto just before noon on Friday in response to a "medical complaint."

He declined to say whether the bodies showed signs of trauma and did not provide details on the time or cause of death.

Hopkinson said the deaths are not currently being treated as homicides, adding that more investigation will be necessary.

"There may be suspicious circumstances. It's an investigative tool," he said. "Until we know exactly how they died, we treat it as suspicious. Once a determination has been made by the pathologist and the coroner, then we move forward from there."

Police said later Friday evening that they are not currently seeking any suspects but are keeping an open mind on all possibilities.

"We did not observe any signs of forced entry into the building and so at this point indications are that we have no outstanding suspect to be going after," Det. Brandon Price told reporters.



CPP changes panned

A change to the Canada Pension Plan to provide a flat-rate death benefit to help low-income families cover funeral costs falls short of what funeral homes say is needed to cover the cost of a final farewell.

After meetings this week, federal and provincial finance ministers set the death benefit at a flat $2,500, regardless of how long or how much someone had paid into CPP.

Leading up to the meeting, the Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580 — back to what it was in 1997 before finance ministers of the day imposed a sliding scale benefit based on an individual's contributions to the CPP, capped at a maximum benefit of $2,500.

The association also asked that the benefit be tied to inflation so its value would increase with the cost of living.

Finance ministers didn't agree. And now there are creeping concerns the decision will mean more people won't be able to afford a funeral, which costs an average $6,000.

"It doesn't make sense," association president Yves Berthiaume said.

"Government needs to look at it (the death benefit) a little more closely and how they want to deal respectfully with their citizens."

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the change would increase benefits to the estates of lower-income contributors.

The death benefit would likely be worth $5,500 today had it not been capped two decades ago. At the time, officials worried the benefit would become financially unsustainable if its value increased annually with the maximum income covered by CPP premiums.

The funeral services association estimates the benefit has lost 38 per cent of its buying power over the past two decades due to inflation.

Conservative social development critic Karen Vecchio said the finance ministers' decision runs counter to what stakeholders wanted and will force Canadians to not only find ways to save more for retirement, but for death as well.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said the flat-rate payment will ensure no one is denied the benefit because they didn't contribute enough money for a long enough period of time. But he said he was at a loss to understand why the finance ministers didn't do more.

"The numbers need to come up and we'll have to put some effort to try and address that," Yussuff said.

In the 2014-15 fiscal year, CPP death benefits totalled $312 million for about 139,000 people. One year later, payments totalled $347 million for about 150,000 people.

At the same time, a larger proportion of seniors are living beneath the poverty line: The most recent census figures showed 14.5 per cent of seniors living in poverty in 2015, an increase from the 12 per cent recorded in 2005.

That has meant Berthiaume sees 30 to 40 low-income families a year unable to pay for funeral services even with a combination of government and private benefits. Four decades ago, when he first started in the family business, Berthiaume said there were about five cases a year.

He said he and other funeral services in Canada regularly cover the shortfall out of their own pockets.

The death benefit is paid to an estate, executor named in a will or an administrator named by the court.



Gymnastics coach in court

Dave Brubaker, the women's national team director of Gymnastics Canada, faces multiple sex-related charges.

Sarnia Police said in a statement that Brubaker was charged Friday with one count of invitation to sexual touching, three counts of sexual interference, three counts of sexual exploitation, and three counts of sexual assault.

The statement said Brubaker appeared in court on Friday and was released on bail with a February 2018 court date.

Police didn't give any further details about the allegations and Gymnastics Canada said in a release that a publication ban has been imposed in the case.

Brubaker was Canada's head gymnastics coach at the 2016 Rio Olympics and was the women's national team director at the 2017 world championships in Montreal in October, where Halifax native Ellie Black captured the women's all-around silver medal.

Gymnastics Canada said in a statement that it was troubled by the allegations against Brubaker, who has been placed on administrative leave by the organization.

"Our first priority within Gymnastics Canada is always the safety of our athletes," said Richard Crepin, chair of Gymnastics Canada's board of directors. "Sport should be a safe place for everyone, and we're working hard to ensure that we have the policies and procedures, as well as the education and resources in place, to ensure the safety of all of our participants."



Billionaire's wife dead

Toronto billionaire and philanthropist Barry Sherman and his wife were found dead in their mansion Friday, and police said they were investigating the deaths as suspicious.

Const. David Hopkinson would not identify the two bodies found at the home of Apotex founder Bernard "Barry" Sherman and his wife Honey. But Ontario's health minister said the couple had been discovered dead.

Hopkinson noted that it was early in the police investigation.

"The circumstances of their death appear suspicious and we are treating it that way," Hopkinson said at a news conference held outside the couple's home. "Our investigators are inside investigating and taking apart the scene."

Hopkinson said police were called to the Shermans' home in an upscale neighbourhood of north Toronto just before noon on Friday in response to a "medical complaint."

He declined to say whether the bodies showed signs of trauma and did not provide details on the time or cause of death.

Hopkinson said the deaths are not currently being treated as homicides, adding that more investigation will be necessary.

"There may be suspicious circumstances. It's an investigative tool," he said. "Until we know exactly how they died, we treat it as suspicious. Once a determination has been made by the pathologist and the coroner, then we move forward from there."

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins sent a tweet expressing shock at the death of his "dear friends," who he described as "wonderful human beings."

"I am beyond words right now," Hoskins wrote in his tweet. "Incredible philanthropists, great leaders in health care. A very, very sad day."

Barry Sherman founded Toronto-based Apotex Inc. in 1974 with two employees and gradually turned it into the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company.

Along the way he amassed a vast fortune, recently estimated by Canadian Business magazine at $4.77 billion, making him the 15th richest person in the country.

Sherman faced legal action from family members alleging they had been cut out of the company over the years.

As a producer of more than 300 generic pharmaceutical products, Apotex has itself seen a fair number of litigation issues, as companies have pushed back on its efforts to sell cheaper no-name options.

One of the most high-profile of those clashes occurred when pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb sued Apotex in 2006 to try and stop it from selling the first generic form of the heart-disease treatment Plavix.

Today, the company has more than 10,000 people in research, development, manufacturing and distribution facilities world-wide, with more than 6,000 employees at its Canadian operations. Those include manufacturing and research facilities concentrated in the Toronto area as well as in Winnipeg.

Filling more than 89 million prescriptions in a year and exporting to 115 countries, the privately held company says its worldwide sales exceed $2 billion a year.

Sherman's wife, Honey, was a member of the board of the Baycrest Foundation and the York University Foundation. She also served on the boards of Mount Sinai's Women's Auxiliary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the International American Joint Distribution Committee.

The Shermans were among Canada's most generous philanthropists and also organized funding of charitable causes through the Apotex Foundation. The couple made numerous multimillion-dollar donations to hospitals, schools and charities and had buildings named in their honour.

A University of Toronto website lists the Apotex Foundation and the Shermans as donors in the range of $10 million to $25 million during 1995 and 2003. They also donated roughly $50 million to the United Jewish Appeal.

In a statement on the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto's website, the Shermans expressed their particular "obligation" to support the Jewish community.

"We are fortunate in being able to contribute," the couple is quoted as saying. "You can't take it with you, so the best alternative is to put it to good use while you are here."

The chair of the Sinai Health System's board said the Shermans' deaths was a big loss.

"Their visible leadership on our hospital and foundation board of directors was infused with warmth, passion and a fierce intelligence," Brent Belzberg said in a statement. "Their loss will be felt by our organization, our community, and our country."

Apotex called news of the deaths "tragic."

"All of us at Apotex are deeply shocked and saddened by this news and our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time," the company said in a statement.

The address where the bodies were found was recently listed for sale for $6.9 million. Neighbours confirmed that the property was the couple's home.

— with files from Michael Oliveira in Toronto and Ian Bickis in Calgary.



PM's popularity rating dips

According to a recent Angus Reid Institute poll, the prime minister's approval rating has taken a dip.

For the first time since being elected, Justin Trudeau's approval rating has dropped below 50 per cent — “half of Canadians (49 per cent) now say they disapprove of the PM.”

Trudeau's disapproval rating is also higher than those of his opponents. 

More Canadians say it is “time for a change” in government (46 per cent) than say Trudeau’s Liberals should be re-elected (32 per cent).

The Angus Reid Institute's quarterly analysis of polling data cities does not attribute the dip to the PM's failure to secure a trade deal with China and having to repeatedly defend Finance Minister Bill Morneau against accusations of unethical behaviour and conflicts of interest.

However, it's not all bad news for the prime minister. The poll shows Trudeau is still more popular than his federal leader counterparts - Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh.

Trudeau’s approval rating has fallen by at least 10 percentage points across all regions and age groups since he became prime minister, and has fallen dramatically in certain regions – notably Quebec and Atlantic Canada – in the last 12 months.

Singh debuts with an approval of 39 per cent of Canadians and the disapproval of 33 per cent (28 per cent are unsure about him). Canadians have a slightly less favourable view of Scheer (35 per cent approve, 36 per cent disapprove, and 29 per cent are unsure)

“The economy” (chosen by 25 per cent of respondents), “the deficit/government spending” (25 per cent), and “health care” (24 per cent) top Canadians’ list of the most important issues facing the country today.



Tribunal to settle trade spat

The bitter dispute between Bombardier and Boeing will enter a critical phase next week, when the two aerospace rivals appear before an all-important trade tribunal — whose ruling will ultimately decide the fight.

The U.S. International Trade Commission will hold hearings Monday in which Boeing will explain why it believes it was hurt — or could be hurt — by Bombardier's landmark deal to sell C-Series passenger jets to a U.S. airline.

Bombardier will have its own chance to fire back by arguing that the multi-billion-dollar deal involving up to 125 planes had no impact on Boeing's economic well-being.

Canada's ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, along with his British counterpart, are also expected to attend on behalf of their governments, which support Bombardier.

The hearings mark the last chance for all sides to try and sway the commission before it issues a final ruling, likely in February, which will determine whether every C-Series jet entering the U.S. is hit with a hefty duty.

The U.S. Department of Commerce proposed a 300-per-cent duty after finding that Bombardier broke trade rules, but the penalty will only apply if the trade commission sides with Boeing.



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