CALGARY – Tom and Michelle Straschnitzki have seen the best in people over the last three weeks as their son has worked to recover after being paralyzed in a crash between his hockey team’s bus and a transport truck.On Monday, they also saw the worst.Tom Straschnitzki said he woke up early and was alerted on Twitter that someone using Ryan’s name had set up a fake account and was seeking money for a GoFundMe campaign.It had Ryan’s picture, as well as a photo of the Humboldt Broncos Saskatchewan junior hockey team.“I phoned him and said, ‘Is this your Twitter account?’ And he freaked out and went, ‘No, it’s not. Everyone is going to think this is fake. My teammates are going to hate me thinking I’m trying to get money,’” Tom Straschnitzki told The Canadian Press.“It took a long time to calm him down. I said, ‘We’ll take care of it. I kind of warned you this stuff can happen.’”Straschnitzki alerted a couple of friends who contacted GoFundMe which shut down the campaign. Tweets from the fake account, which had over 1,700 followers, were deleted and the name was changed at least twice by mid-afternoon.Straschnitzki tweeted a message to the person responsible for his son’s fake account and suggested that he “should meet me at the hospital today. This way he will be closer to emergency.”He’s most worried about the impact on Ryan.“Ryan wears everything on his sleeve. He’s kind of a little too trusting but now he knows this could happen,” he said.“But if you look at the odds out of the millions that are supporting Ryan, that’s just one.”Michelle Straschnitzki had hoped it wouldn’t happen, but said too often people try to take advantage of a tragedy.“It reminds you that there are absolute jerks out there,” she said. “In the world that we live in, it’s not surprising. It’s disheartening, but it’s not surprising.”A spokeswoman for GoFundMe said no funds were raised by the campaign, and the campaign organizer has also been banned from using the GoFundMe platform in the future.“We have a dedicated team that works around the clock to monitor campaigns set up to support the families and victims of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, and they are continuing to review all campaigns,” Rachel Hollis wrote in an email.Hollis added it is not permitted to mislead, defraud, or deceive any user on a GoFundMe campaign. If it happens, she said GoFundMe takes swift action which can include removing the campaign, banning the user,and refunding donors.Ryan, 19, continues to undergo treatment and rehabilitation.The collision April 6 in rural Saskatchewan is still being investigated. RCMP have only said the transport truck was in the intersection when the crash occurred.The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game when 16 people were killed and 13 were injured.— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
WASHINGTON – The formal process in renegotiating the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement could begin any day. The U.S. administration says it will soon serve notice that it will enter discussions with Canada and Mexico, following a 90-day consultation period.It’s now poised to happen, with Monday’s long-awaited swearing-in of Robert Lighthizer, Donald Trump’s trade czar.In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of key issues at stake:—Dairy: A prime sensitive spot when Canada negotiates trade deals. In Canada’s sheltered dairy industry, imports get slapped with a 270 per cent duty beyond a fixed quota. Canada faced intense pressure to pry open the system in recent negotiations. Canada accepted more European dairy on its grocery shelves, in a deal with the EU. It would have allowed another 3.25 per cent under the ill-fated Trans-Pacific Partnership. Dairy farmers were upset. The Harper government softened the blow with a multbillion-dollar compensation package. This time, with TPP dead, the U.S. could seek a more dramatic opening. U.S. policy-makers have two concerns: First, with Canada’s supply management controls, in general; and more specifically with rules related to milk-protein products.—Auto parts: Among the top U.S. priorities. It involves rules of origin — and how much local content is required to avoid tariffs. It’s clear the White House wants more car parts sourced at home, and fewer from Asia. What’s not clear is the details: will it insist on a specific quota for American parts, or be content with more production in North America, generally? How will it tinker with the rules — by simply raising the threshold for avoiding a tariff, currently 62.5 per cent, or by also insisting on a stricter formula for calculating that percentage? Will the policy lead to higher car prices? Will changes really shift production from Asia, or will companies simply pay more in duties and add it to the sticker price? The details matter here.—Consumer rights: The U.S. government wants to help Canadian shoppers — specifically, to help them buy more things from the U.S., through lower duties. It’s a standard priority of American administrations, and could wind up on the negotiating table. Canada has one of the most punitive duty systems in the world, taxing imported online purchases above $20, a pittance compared to the $800 limit Americans enjoy. But Canadian retailers say a change in this system would be of one-sided benefit to American retailers, resulting in shuttered bricks-and-mortar stores in Canada.—Buy American: Canada wants freer trade in public projects, specifically infrastructure. Some American lawmakers want to go the other way: they want more barriers to foreign bids, and would do away with the exemptions currently enjoyed by Canada and Mexico in NAFTA. Trump is a big booster of Biy American rules, generally, but hasn’t revealed his intended direction here. The U.S. has its own compaints about Canada. The U.S. bemoans the fact that some provincial entities have regulations that undermine U.S. suppliers, like Hydro-Quebec with wind energy. It also complains that U.S. software companies get shut out of public contracts, because of concerns about Canadians’ privacy.—Labour mobility: Canada wants changes here. So does industry. Businesses hate the current professional visa section in NAFTA. It allows easy visas for a list of jobs — but that list reflects the economy of 1993. It barely references digital jobs. Companies complain about unnecessary paperwork and hassles in sending employees to a branch across the border. Another problem involves spouses — one spouse gets a visa but the other can’t work across the border. One potential challenge in addressing this issue: it could quickly get dragged into the broader, heated and very political U.S. debate on immigration.—Softwood: Will there be peace in our time on softwood lumber? Perhaps. This was the first thing mentioned the day after Trump’s election, when the ambassador to the U.S. was asked what he’d like to see in a new NAFTA. Lumber has been the source of recurring spats: Once a decade, the U.S. imposes tariffs over what it views as illegal product-dumping from wood off public land; it winds up in tribunals; Canada tends to win most cases, and that leads to a temporary deal, with restrictions on Canadian wood, before the deal expires and the skirmishes resume. Canada isn’t the only party that wants a softwood deal in NAFTA; Trump’s point man on the negotiation, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, has also alluded to it as an ideal addition to the agreement.—Liquor: Canada’s liquor boards are a repeated source of complaint in the U.S. government’s annual report on trade barriers. It laments the high taxes and tight controls on what gets sold in Canadian stores. The U.S. is especially miffed at B.C. and Ontario for keeping imported wines off grocery shelves. It’s even launched a trade action over the issue.—Digital services: TPP allowed freer movement of data between countries. It would have restricted the right of any country to insist upon local storage facilities for digital information. Critics called this worrisome, for reasons of protecting personal information. Supporters called the change liberating — meaning it would become easier for someone to start a business from anywhere in the world.—Pharmaceuticals: The U.S. has tougher patent rules on drugs — which can delay the introduction of generics, increasing prices. One U.S. drug company, Eli Lilly, recently sued Canada at a NAFTA panel over court decisions that struck down patents. It lost. But many U.S. lawmakers, funded by big pharma, want changes in Canada. Another potential issue involves cutting-edge biologics drugs. It was a heated issue in TPP. Canada wasn’t involved in that tussle, but would be this time if the U.S. pushes a harder line: the U.S. allows 12 years of patent-like protections for data on these products, while Canada is closer to the international norm at eight years.—Telecommunications and broadcasting: Canada fought for cultural industries to be exempted from its U.S. trade deals — meaning books, recordings, broadcasts are not subject to free trade. Culture was a significant irritant in original negotiations; it hasn’t come up in recent complaints from the U.S. administration. One thing the U.S. could seek is greater access to telecommunications, like cell-phone services, according to a draft list of priorities recently sent to Congress.—Snapbacks: A controversial item on the draft document sent to U.S. Congress, a tariff snapback means a country could reinstate duties on a certain product if increased imports hurt its producers. Other countries will resist fiercely if U.S. negotiators seek this addition.—Dispute settlement mechanism: This was a make-or-break issue for Canada in the original Canada-U.S. trade deal. Rather than allowing American judges to preside over cases involving trade actions by American companies, Canada insisted upon a third-party mechanism. That demand almost sank the original trade agreement in 1987. The Mulroney government threatened to cut off negotiations over this issue. In the end, the mechanism was created. It was later incorporated into NAFTA. Many Americans still resent it. A key reason: Softwood lumber, and U.S. losses in Chapter 19 cases. The commerce secretary, Ross, says it’s unfair that an international panel, which might include one American and two Canadians, should interpret America’s domestic trade-remedy laws. Numerous members of Congress agree. Eliminating Chapter 19 is listed as a priority in the administration’s draft notice to Congress.
Five stories in the news for Wednesday, May 24———TRUDEAU HEADS TO EUROPE FOR NATO, G7 SUMMITSPrime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves today for Brussels for the NATO leaders’ summit, the first such meeting since Donald Trump became U.S. President. Trudeau will then jet to Italy, for this year’s G7 gathering and to meet with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the Pope. Officials and experts expect the fight against terrorism to be a major topic at both summits.———CENTRAL BANK TO MAKE ITS LATEST RATE DECISIONThe Bank of Canada is expected to stick with its benchmark interest rate today even though the economy is off to a stronger-than-expected start in 2017. Analysts widely predict governor Stephen Poloz will keep the rate locked at its very low level of 0.5 per cent as uncertainty continues to swirl around the U.S. policy agenda on trade and taxation.———COURT SET TO OK RCMP CLASS-ACTION DEALThe settlement in a class-action lawsuit over sexually harassed Mounties is expected to get the green light later today. The approval will pave the way for millions of dollars to start flowing to the women involved. One key part of the agreement is that the victims can make a claim for compensation without the RCMP knowing who they are. The class-action received certification in January.———B.C. ELECTION OUTCOME MURKY, TWO WEEKS LATERThe final count in B.C.’s inconclusive election will be known today, but a possible judicial recount means the actual outcome might not be known for weeks. The latest count in the hotly-contested Courtenay-Comox riding showed a 101-vote lead for New Democrat Ronna-Rae Leonard over Liberal Jim Benninger. At stake is a one-seat Liberal majority if Benninger wins. But if Leonard wins, there could be a Liberal or NDP minority government with the support of the Green party in the 87-seat legislature.———CANADIAN BAND PLAYS IN MANCHESTER AFTER ATTACKCanadian indie rock band Broken Social Scene has played the first show of their European tour in Manchester — a day after a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in the British city killed 22 people. The Toronto band headlined at Albert Hall, a little more than two kilometres south of the Manchester Arena. Broken Social Scene shared a message on social media before the show saying: “Tonight, we play for the hearts of Manchester.”———ALSO IN THE NEWS TODAY:— Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard continues his economic mission to Israel.— Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and UN officials will make an announcement in New York about peacekeeping.— BMO Financial Group will release its second-quarter results.— Statistics Canada will release farm income data for 2016.— The Pearson Peace Medal will be presented to Lloyd Axworthy in Ottawa by Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
MONTREAL – In a story published June 9 about fraud cases against former SNC-Lavalin executives, The Canadian Press reported that Yanai Elbaz was a former executive of McGill University. In fact, Elbaz was a former executive of the McGill University Health Centre. McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre are two separate entities.
TORONTO – Peter Mansbridge ended his run as CBC’s main anchor Saturday saying he wasn’t a “fan of long goodbyes”, but was a “fan of long thank yous.”“I thank the people that I work with,” Mansbridge said as he wrapped up CBC’s coverage of Canada 150 celebrations in Ottawa on Saturday.“I have been extremely lucky over all this time to have worked in this place,” he said. “It has been just a fabulous experience.”Earlier in the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped by where Mansbridge was broadcasting in Ottawa and paid tribute to the veteran anchor.“Thank you for being a steady hand and a steady voice for us always through the years, we’re going to miss you,” Trudeau told Mansbridge.Mansbridge anchored CBC’s “The National” for the final time Friday, saying it has been “quite the ride.”“Thanks for watching all these years, it’s been quite the ride for me, but always a privilege to be a part of bringing the national story home to you from wherever that story may be,” said Mansbridge at the end of the hour-long show. “I can only hope you found it worthwhile, too. Goodbye.”Mansbridge, 68, said in an interview this week that he didn’t intend to make a big fuss of his last appearance on the flagship newscast as anchor.Mansbridge revealed his retirement plans last year. The CBC has not yet indicated how it will replace him.The network ran a tribute to Mansbridge’s 50-year career in a segment broadcast on Thursday’s “The National” and has been paying tribute to him in some of its other programs during the past week.Mansbridge has anchored the newscast since his predecessor Knowlton Nash stepped down in 1988.
SASKATOON – A proposed class action lawsuit against Canada’s attorney general, the Saskatchewan government, the province’s health regions and doctors who allegedly coerced Indigenous women to undergo sterilization has been filed in Saskatoon’s Court of Queen’s Bench.The statement of claim was filed about three months after the Saskatoon Health Region released the findings of a six-month external review into Indigenous women who had tubal ligation.A judge needs to sign off on the statement of claim before it moves forward as a class action suit.The lawsuit, if certified, would seek damages for each plaintiff.Two women are currently listed as plaintiffs but more women in Saskatchewan could be included if the lawsuit is approved.The statement of claim states the women’s charter rights, including their right to life, liberty and security and their right to receive health care free of discrimination, were breached.Other damages listed include future cost of care, punitive or exemplary damages, and general damages for “lost opportunity,” among others.After the report was released, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said it was an indication of racism in a health-care system that remains biased against Aboriginal women.The report was researched and compiled by Yvonne Boyer, a lawyer and a Canada Research Chair at Manitoba’s Brandon University, and Dr. Judith Bartlett, a physician and researcher.The report suggested some Indigenous women from Saskatoon and the surrounding area were coerced into having their Fallopian tubes clamped or severed after giving birth in hospital.Most of the women who were interviewed for the report either did not recall consenting to the procedure, or did so because they were exhausted and too overwhelmed to fight any longer, the researchers found.In response to the findings, the Saskatoon Health Region said it deeply regrets what happened, acknowledging it failed to treat the women with the respect, compassion and support they deserve.(CTV Saskatoon)
OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau has opened the door to federal intervention to challenge Quebec’s new law on religious neutrality, widely seen as targeting Muslim women who wear face veils.Immediately after Quebec passed Bill 62 last week, the prime minister was hesitant to come out strongly against the legislation. He said the responsibility to challenge the law lay with citizens, not the federal government.But he was considerably more forceful Wednesday, scoffing at the Quebec government’s attempts to clear up confusion about how the law will be applied and disclosing that the federal government is exploring its options for protecting the rights of women who cover their faces.“I will always stand up for individual rights and I will always stand up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and we are looking very carefully at what tools we have and what steps we have to make sure we make this situation better for everyone,” Trudeau said.Among the federal government’s options: it could wait for an individual to challenge the constitutionality of the law and then intervene in the court case or it could pre-empt a lengthy legal battle by referring the law to the Supreme Court for advice on its constitutionality.The federal government could also help finance a court challenge through the court challenges program, which the Trudeau government reinstated to help fund individuals or groups who initiate cases involving charter rights and freedoms. However, decisions on which cases to fund are made by an independent third party, not the government.In response to Trudeau’s stepped-up criticism, Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said the province has the right to legislate on matters within its jurisdiction.“Mr. Trudeau has the right to not share our opinion,” she told reporters in Quebec City. “And he has the right to have an opinion on the law. But I am not going to get into a debate in the media about that.“But I am really confident that the law is constitutional and I am convinced that it would withstand any legal challenge.”If the law were to be struck down as unconstitutional, Vallee said the provincial government has not yet considered whether it would use the so-called notwithstanding clause to override the charter of rights and keep the law intact.“We’re not there yet,” she said.“The notwithstanding clause is not part of the debate because there is no legal challenge so far.”Bill 62 requires anyone providing or receiving provincial and municipal public services in Quebec to uncover their faces.Last week, Vallee said the law would oblige people riding a bus or the subway to do so with their faces uncovered for the entire journey.On Tuesday, however, she backtracked, saying only those whose fare requires a card with photo ID will need to uncover their faces before riding public transit — and that they can put the veil back on once they’ve been identified.Asked Wednesday about Vallee’s clarifications, Trudeau replied: “You call those clarifications?”“I think we’re seeing there are still a lot of things to clarify in this bill, including how it will be applied,” he said. “We will do our homework here in Ottawa. As I’ve said several times, I don’t think a government should be telling a woman what to wear or not wear.”NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he’s been clear from the outset that he’s opposed to the law and suggested Trudeau’s position “has been evolving.”However, he did not offer any support for federal intervention in the matter.“That’s something that’s going to be decided by the people of Quebec … if they want to question this law. There are tools that exist. There’s a strong charter of rights and freedoms that exist in Quebec and that will be a decision made by the people of Quebec if they want to challenge this legislation.”Even within Liberal ranks, opinion is split on whether the federal government should intervene.Montreal MP Alexandra Mendes called on the Trudeau government last week to challenge the law.But her fellow Montreal MP, Nicola Di Iorio, said Wednesday he believes the federal government should butt out and give “all the deference, all the latitude” to Quebec’s national assembly.Earlier this week Social Development Minister Yves Duclos and Transport Minister Marc Garneau also said the federal government shouldn’t get involved.“It’s not up to the federal government to tell Quebec how to do things,” said Duclos.
WINNIPEG – Some prominent Winnipeggers are biting back at criticism three San Jose Sharks players have levelled against the city.Mayor Brian Bowman, Premier Bill Pallister and singer Bif Naked are among those championing Winnipeg’s charms after several NHL players dismissed the Manitoba capital as the worst city to play in.Tomas Hertl, Justin Braun and Tim Heed all cited the cold, while Braun complained that the “Internet doesn’t work ever. I don’t know if they have Wi-Fi there yet.”Bowman countered that “it is a cold dark place — when you lose” while Pallister called the players’ comments “childish and immature.”Bif Naked said Winnipeggers are used to trash talk but also called the comments unfair, while Jets coach Paul Maurice said NHL players have a good life and should have nothing to complain about.The comments emerged in a video posted by the Sharks on NBC Sports California Twitter account, where the three players were asked for their thoughts about the worst city to play in. All said it was Winnipeg.“Winnipeg. Dark, cold, Internet is a little questionable,” Braun said.“Every time it’s so cold and dark there. I don’t like it there,” added forward Tomas Hertl, while Heed deemed it “a bit cold.”Bowman took the opportunity to boast about the Jets, who trounced the Sharks in the Prairie city on Sunday 4-1.“The Winnipeg Jets have one of the best home records in the NHL this year and I know that quite often other teams will feel like they are in a cold dark place when they lose, regardless of the weather outside,” Bowman said Tuesday.And Bif Naked, who spent her formative years in and around Winnipeg, boasted of the city’s tough winters: “It puts hair on your chest.”“Certainly it’s cold but it makes us tough and we love it.”Maurice admitted he hadn’t seen the full extent of the Sharks comments but said it’s cold and dark pretty regularly at night around the world.“I don’t think any coach, any player, any trainer, any referee should ever complain about a day in the NHL.”“We’ve got nothing to complain about,” he added. “It’s a pretty good life.”— With files from Cassandra Szklarski in Toronto
MONTREAL – A Quebec man who was sentenced to four years in a Cuban jail following a boating accident that killed a fellow tourist isn’t being allowed to return to Canada even though his conviction has been overturned, his wife said Wednesday.Kahina Bensaadi says her husband Toufik Benhamiche is no longer charged with any crime, but has not been allowed to leave the country because the case is still under investigation.“He’s no longer convicted, he’s no longer charged, he’s no longer anything, but they don’t want to let him leave,” she said in a phone interview.Benhamiche, 47, was driving a small boat as part of a tourist excursion in July 2017 in Cayo Coco when it veered out of control and fatally struck a woman from Ontario.A Cuban court found the Mascouche resident guilty of criminal negligence causing death and sentenced him to four years in prison.But in June, Cuba’s highest court found flaws in the lower court’s handling of the case and reversed all its decisions including the conviction, Bensaadi said.She said the judge’s decision recognized the arguments in Benhamiche’s defence and that it suggested bringing charges against those who were responsible for renting out the boat.“(The decision) clearly stated the responsibility of other people in violating all norms and procedures, and explained the violation of all these norms of conduct probably led to the accident,” she said.She says that while the family was orginally thrilled with the news, the elation turned to despair when they realized the judge’s decision means the case had been returned to the prosecutor and must be reinvestigated — a process she believes could take years.Now Bensaadi is calling on Canadian immigration officials to help allow her husband to return home while Cuban authorities decide whether to bring new charges.She says she’s been offered no help so far, and accuses the Canadian government of choosing to abandon her husband rather than ruffle feathers with Cuban officials.“It’s not normal that the Canadian government continues to favour diplomatic relations to the detriment of the rights and liberties of its own citizens,” she said.The MP representing Behamiche’s riding also issued a statement blasting Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for failing to resolve what he called an “appalling” situation.“You go for a week’s vaction with your family to have fun for seven days in Cayo Coco and end up with four years in prison,” Quebec Debout MP Luc Theriault said later in a phone interview.“Is anyone going to wake up and get him out of there?”Bensaadi said the year-long ordeal has devastated the family both financially and emotionally.Benhamiche has lost his engineering job near Montreal, and she has been forced to care on her own for their two daughters, aged six and eight, while trying to pay for lawyers and flying to Cuba for her husband’s court dates.“If we had wanted to destroy our family, we could not have done better,” she said.The family has also filed a lawsuit in Canada against travel company Sunwing, alleging Benhamiche was given little instruction on how to operate the craft and was assured it was easy to use and by no means dangerous.
KAMLOOPS, B.C. – More wildfires are burning in British Columbia in 2018 than in past years but the total amount of timber burned is well below average, a wildfire official says.“It’s very difficult to directly compare one fire season to another just based on the statistics alone, because the stats only tell part of the full story,” said Ryan Turcot, spokesman for the BC Wildfire Service.Across the province, 476 wildfires were burning Thursday, including 39 new fires sparked the previous day, while 1,565 have been recorded so far this year, well above the average of 1,130 expected by this point in the season, Turcot said.“In terms of area burned, we are still sitting at about 75 per cent of what the average would be for this time of year,” Turcot noted.Wildfires in 2018 have chewed through 1,180 square kilometres of brush and timber, far below the 10-year average of 1,550 square kilometres.“But that doesn’t tell the whole story because that doesn’t factor in things like the human impact of wildfires, the proximity of some of these wildfires to communities or to people and property,” Turcot said.Evacuation orders and alerts are in place for residents of communities near wildfires in each of British Columbia’s six fire centres, a significant difference from 2017 when huge blazes force thousands from their homes in south-central B.C., but conditions in other parts of the province were less extreme.The greatest immediate concern for the wildfire service is in the northwestern corner of the province where two fires merged overnight into one 300-square kilometre blaze that has already claimed more than two dozen buildings or properties in Telegraph Creek.Hundreds of residents have been forced from their homes while crews battling those flames brace for a shift in the weather as a heat wave is replaced by a system packing strong, gusty winds and the potential for lightning.Environment Canada maintained heat warnings for most of southern B.C. through Thursday but cautioned that winds would kick up Friday as the heat eases.That prompted regional districts in the central and east Kootenay to issue precautionary evacuation alerts for some properties near a number of wildfires that have the potential to cut road access if high winds fan flames.Skagit Valley Provincial Park at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley was also closed because of concerns that a forecast of strong winds could push a nearby wildfire toward the park, cutting off campers.The fire danger rating is extreme across the southern coast where several fires are burning, including one south of Nanaimo that has now scorched nearly two-square kilometres, and another in the hills above West Vancouver that was spotted late Wednesday but was not threatening homes.That fire was burning near the start of a popular hiking trail and its cause was under investigation.Turcot urged extreme caution everywhere in B.C., as 3,000 firefighters and support staff work to gain an upper hand on the fires.“The fire danger rating across really all of the province does range from high to extreme right now which means if new wildfires are introduced to the area there’s a high likelihood that they could take off at a very rapid, volatile rate,” he said.