Urged to avoid attack area

Canadians in Spain are being urged to avoid the Las Ramblas area in Barcelona, where a van has plowed through a crowd in the popular tourist area near the city centre.

Global Affairs Canada is also urging Canadians in Spain to let their "loved ones know you are safe."

"Canada condemns today’s terror attack in Barcelona – our hearts, sympathies & support are with the victims and their families,' tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Catalonia's interior minister Joaquim Forn has confirmed 13 people were killed and at least 50 injured when a rented white van drove at high speeds into the crowds on the street.

Global Affairs says Canadians in the Spanish city should monitor local media and follow the directions of local authorities.

There is no word yet on whether any Canadians are among the dead or injured.

Global Affairs officials said any Canadians in Barcelona with questions should direct them to consular staff or to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

Las Ramblas is a tree-lined pedestrian mall lined with streetside cafes and souvenir kiosks. There are two narrow service roads running along either side of the pedestrian mall.


Deficit smaller than forecast

A new report says last year's federal budgetary shortfall was smaller than the government predicted last spring.

The parliamentary budget officer projects Ottawa's 2016-17 shortfall was $2.1 billion smaller than forecast.

The report says the improved deficit figure was due in large part to lower-than-expected expenses booked for the Liberals' infrastructure investment program.

The independent budget office projects the final 2016-17 shortfall at $21.4 billion, although the government's March prediction was $23.5 billion.

A preliminary Finance Department analysis of the federal books in May estimated that, after accounting for year-end adjustments, Ottawa ran a deficit last year of about $23 billion.

Looking at this year, the budget watchdog is predicting a shortfall of $24.8 billion — which is essentially in line with the federal 2017-18 deficit forecast of $24.4 billion.

An emotional reunion

A woman in Winnipeg tightly embraced her 12-year-old son for the first time in three years Thursday morning when the child was reunited with his family after his liberation from Iraqi militants.

Cheers went up from a large crowd on hand when Emad Mishko Tamo arrived at James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, just weeks after he was freed from captivity.

He was separated from his mother after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant displaced thousands of members of the Kurdish-minority Yazidis in 2014, but he was freed earlier this summer in the city of Mosul.

His mother has been living in Winnipeg as a refugee but it wasn't until a relative recognized his photo on social media that she knew her son was still alive.

Emad was brought to Winnipeg through the efforts of the Yazidi Association of Manitoba.

A refugee co-ordinator says the boy, who is still recovering from gunshot wounds, will be closely monitored by doctors while he settles into his new life in Winnipeg.

"Thank you Canada," said Emad while surrounded by a throng of relatives and supporters at the airport.

Speaking through an interpreter, the boy said there are a thousand other children like him who are still being held captive and he wants to share his story so that they can be helped.


3 kids killed in crash

Three children are dead after a semi-trailer truck collided with an SUV Wednesday near Hanna, Alta.

Chris Kalyn with Alberta Health Services said paramedics were dispatched to the crash at a highway intersection around 5:45 p.m.

"We had three children, an 11-month-old and two children in their mid teens, that were deceased on scene," Kalyn said.

RCMP said the dead included an infant girl, a 16-year-old girl and a boy.

A man, 44, and a woman, 32, who were in the SUV were both hurt and were listed in stable condition.

The man was taken to hospital in Brooks, Alta., and the woman was flown by air ambulance to a hospital in Calgary. The driver of the truck was treated for minor injuries.

"Early investigation suggests that an SUV travelling westbound on Highway 570 collided with a semi tractor trailer unit travelling southbound on Highway 36," RCMP Cpl. Laurel Scott said in a release.

RCMP collision experts were investigating.

$130M drug ring bust

A Canadian man has been sentenced to 20 years in a U.S. federal prison for his role in a smuggling operation that sent more than $130 million worth of drugs between the United States and Canada.

Harinder Dhaliwal, of Brampton, Ontario, was sentenced on conspiracy charges Wednesday in federal court in Buffalo.

Prosecutors say that the operation involving Dhaliwal and at least six others sent cocaine from the United States into Canada and marijuana and ecstasy from Canada to the United States between 2006 and 2011. The drugs were hidden in secret compartments in the floors of tractor-trailers.

Six co-defendants also have been convicted.

Cops charged in beating

The family of a black teen who lost sight in one eye after a confrontation with a Toronto officer and his brother is calling for an investigation into how two Ontario police forces handled the incident.

Lawyers representing Dafonte Miller and his family have filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director in connection with the December 2016 incident.

They allege Toronto police and Durham regional police tried to cover up the attack on Miller to protect Michael Theriault, an off-duty Toronto constable, and his brother Christian Theriault from prosecution.

The complaint, which was filed Tuesday, alleges the police forces "blindly" accepted the brothers' accounts of what happened, despite Miller's obvious and severe injuries and the presence of witnesses, who they failed to interview.

It also alleges that the Theriaults' father, a detective with the Toronto police professional standards unit, was in contact with Durham investigators about the case, "thereby furthering the concealment" of the incident. Toronto's police chief has said that unit made the call not to contact the province's police watchdog.

The Special Investigations Unit wasn't notified of the alleged incident until months later and has since charged the brothers with assault and other offences.

"This represented, in my opinion, a deliberate and intentional effort on the part of police authorities to conceal a crime by one of their own," said lawyer Julian Falconer, who represents the Miller family.

The allegations have not been proven in court. Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash declined to comment, citing an ongoing external investigation of the force's involvement. Durham police, who are conducting an internal review, said they couldn't comment on the allegations since the case is before the courts.

Angus takes leave from race

NDP leadership hopeful Charlie Angus is taking a leave from the race following the death of his sister.

The longtime New Democrat MP from Ontario announced late Tuesday that Kathleen Angus had passed away after a lengthy illness.

Angus missed the last leadership debate in Victoria on Aug. 2 to be by her side, taking a 10-day break from his campaign.

This time, he will only be absent until Monday to plan and attend her funeral.

The MP for Timmins-James Bay will be back for a French language debate on Aug. 27 in Montreal.

Besides Angus, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Quebec MP Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh, a member of the Ontario provincial legislature, are running.

A deadline for candidates to sign up new members is Thursday.

Fire atop CN Tower

Firefighters have put out a smouldering fire at Toronto's landmark CN Tower that broke out in the early morning hours Wednesday.

Toronto Fire Service tweeted just before 7:15 a.m. that the flames at the CN Tower's main antenna mast had been put out and firefighters were coming down.

Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell said earlier the fire broke about 4 a.m.

He said crews had turned off power to the antenna, which affected some local TV and radio signals.

The chief said firefighters had to use ladders above the SkyPod observation platform to reach the fire.

Some 30 emergency workers and about eight fire trucks were at the scene.

Neil Jones, chief operating officer for the CN Tower, said there was no threat to public safety or the structure.

He said all cleaning staff were cleared from the building and no injuries have been reported.

He added that the CN Tower will be opening to the public Wednesday once fire officials give the green light.

Climber dies in accident

Resourceful and demanding, with a big heart under a tough exterior, Richard Boruta touched the lives of many Canadian biathletes.

The former national team coach died in a climbing accident near Canmore, Alta., on Aug. 9 at the age of 49.

Biathlon Canada confirmed Boruta's death Tuesday on its website.

Born in Prague, he emigrated in 1998 to Canmore. Boruta coached Canada's national team from 2002 to 2006, including the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.

"He's shaped and affected and challenged a lot of athletes on the national team and provincially as well," said three-time Olympian Zina Kocher. "He was an incredible part of our biathlon community and pushed so many athletes to do better, achieve more."

Boruta coached Kocher for a combined 13 years on both on the national team and at the Biathlon Alberta Training Center.

"He was always strong and direct, but he always had a great, dry sense of humour that was often hidden just below the surface," she said. "He was always this stable rock. You could always depend on him and trust him."

Boruta is survived by his wife Kamila and sons Michal, Thomas and Lukas, as well as his mother Jirina, father Richard and granddaughter Sophie.

A memorial will be held at the Canmore Centre Day Lodge on Friday.

Lost ring found on carrot

A woman who lost her engagement ring 13 years ago while weeding her garden on the family farm is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot.

Mary Grams, 84, said she can't believe the lucky carrot actually grew through and around the diamond ring she had long given up hope of ever finding again.

"I feel relieved and happy inside," Grams said Tuesday from her home in Camrose.

Grams said she never told her husband Norman, who died five years ago, that she had lost the ring, but she mentioned it to her son.

Once she realized it was missing, she spent hours looking through the garden for the keepsake, but to no avail.

"I got on my hands and knees and looked all over and I could not find it. I looked for days and days."

Colleen Daley found the ring while harvesting carrots for supper with her dog Billy at the farm near Armena, Alta., where Grams used to live. The farm has been in the family for 105 years.

Daley said while she was pulling the carrots she noticed one of them looked kind of strange.

When she was washing the carrots she noticed the ring and spoke to her husband, Mary's son, about what she had found.

"I said we found your ring in the garden. She couldn't believe it," Daley said. "It was so weird that the carrot grew perfectly through that ring."

Fruit growing goes high-tech

Canada's agriculture minister says using DNA-based technology to test the health of fruit plants will grow Canada's agricultural export sector.

Lawrence MacAulay announced Tuesday that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is leading two projects with multiple industry and research groups where new science will be used to find faster ways of determining if fruit plants are infected with viruses.

One project will test seeds, cuttings and bulbs imported to Canada for growing new varieties of plant, with the aim of reducing quarantine times from three years to one year.

The other project looks to use a single test to determine if strawberry plants have any of a number of viruses, reducing the time and cost of getting Canadian strawberry plants to markets.

MacAulay says protecting plant health has direct impacts on the Canadian economy, noting the strawberry industry is valued at $17 million.

The projects are expected to cost $500,000, with funding coming from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the industry and research groups.

MacAulay says that as a farmer, he understands the financial threats viruses pose to crops.

"The idea, again, is to put more money in the farmer's pocket," he says.

The minister says it's important for Canada's industry to stay on the cutting edge of such technology.

"We're committed to giving Canadian farmers all the tools they need to be successful."

Boy stops sister's abduction

Edmonton police are praising the actions of a boy who they say thwarted the attempted abduction of his sister.

Police say a man allegedly took the five-year-old girl who was riding her bike with her older brother on Saturday evening.

Officers say the man, who wasn't known to the girl, took hold of her handle bars and led her away.

They say her brother went to get help from family members, who chased the man and found the girl unharmed a block away.

A suspect was found in the area shortly thereafter and arrested. Dusty Greg Chalifoux, who is 37, is charged with abducting a child under 14 and breaching recognizance.

Det. Manuel Illner, with the Edmonton police's child protection section, praised the boy for acting quickly to protect his little sister.

"This young man followed his instincts and certainly did the right thing by running home and notifying family members immediately," Illner said Tuesday. "I encourage all parents to talk to their children about what to do in the event they are approached by a stranger."

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