Teenage gunmen waited three hours before attack on Kabul hotel: sources

WATCH ABOVE: (Mar. 21, 2014) Two Canadians are among nine people who died in a Taliban attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul. As Jacques Bourbeau reports, it looks like an ominous sign of things to come in Afghanistan.

OTTAWA – Disturbing details are emerging about a horrific attack at a high-end hotel in Afghanistan’s capital that killed nine people, including two Canadian women.

Global News has learned teenage gunmen gained access to the tightly-secured Serena Hotel in Kabul by telling security they wanted to enjoy Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebrated in Afghanistan.

Sources say the gunmen waited three hours until the restaurant was full before attacking foreigners at around 9:45 p.m. local time.

One of the victims was Roshan Thomas from Vancouver, B.C. Her identity was first announced on 桑拿会所 by British Columbia Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer.

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  • Vancouver mother, doctor, killed in Taliban attack in Afghanistan

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  • Three gunmen killed after attack on Kabul luxury hotel

  • Taliban kill 11 policemen in eastern Afghanistan

  • Photos, video of Canadian troops welcomed home from Afghanistan

  • Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan formally ends

READ MORE: Vancouver resident killed in Taliban attack in Afghanistan

Thomas’ colleagues, who were also at the hotel, were offered refuge and assistance at the Canadian embassy, located 3.2 kilometres from the hotel.

The second Canadian victim is Zeenab Kassam, a nurse from Calgary. Her family said she was volunteering as an English teacher in Afghanistan and had been in the country for a year and a half.

Kassam’s brother told Global News in Calgary that Kassam and Thomas were out for dinner at the hotel celebrating the vernal equinox. He said he hoped someone held her hand as she died, and that she didn’t suffer.

WATCH: Video of Roshan Thomas provided by her family.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called the attack “brazen and cowardly.”

Baird described the two Canadian victims as “development workers,” but said they didn’t work directly for the federal government.

“A tragedy for the families,” Baird told reporters Friday as he boarded a plane in Ottawa to accompany Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a trip to Ukraine and a nuclear security conference in the Netherlands.

“Many of these people dedicated their lives to helping everyday Afghans build a better country for themselves, including education, and enhancing the role of women and girls in Afghan society. For this selfless work to be met with violence, especially on the occasion of Nowruz, just further proves the depravity of the Taliban and those who support them,” said Baird.

WATCH: Baird calls attack on Kabul hotel “brazen and cowardly”

A statement from Foreign Affairs issued Friday said only that Canadian diplomats in Kabul are working with authorities to gather additional information. A spokesman for Baird tweeted that all Canadian staff at the embassy in Kabul are safe and accounted for.

Officials say a total of four foreigners were among the nine people who died in the attack, including two children who were shot in the head.

READ MORE: Three gunmen killed after attack on Kabul luxury hotel

The Afghan capital has been hit by several attacks, but authorities appeared stunned the militants had managed to get through the tight security at the Serena hotel – considered one of the safest places to stay in Kabul.

The shooting rampage was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks as the Taliban and allied militants step up a campaign of violence in the weeks leading to April 5 national elections.

It’s the second time this year that Canadians have died in Kabul.

In January two Canadian accountants died in a Taliban suicide attack in Afghanistan.

Martin Glazer, of Gatineau, Que., and Peter McSheffrey, of Ottawa were among 21 people killed when a suicide bomber and two gunmen attacked a popular restaurant in the Afghan capital.

The two were in Afghanistan doing an audit for the Canadian International Development Agency.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the Calgary victim’s first name to Zeenab Kassam. Global News regrets the error.

©2014Shaw Media

Flight MH370: 14 days of searching, no plane debris found – National

WATCH: (Mar. 21, 2014) Australian search planes head back to the southern Indian Ocean, for another attempt at spotting possible debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Hours of searching on Friday, turned up nothing in the increasingly frustrating search for answers. Brian Mooar reports.


Malaysia asking US to provide undersea search equipment; Pentagon has spent $2.5M on search so far, $1.5M still budgeted for aidPlanes flying deep into the southern Indian Ocean find ”nothing of significance” FridaySearchers are looking for two large floating objects detected by a satellite off the southwest coast of Australia, about halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.U.S. company provides Australia satellite imagery of possible debris

An Australian search plane returned to Perth on Friday after its hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 turned up no new information.

Flight Lieutenant Russell Adams told media at an air force base in Perth that conditions near the site of the spotted objects was excellent but that they had to return because “conditions back here precluded us from staying on.”

READ MORE: Australia spots possible plane debris

The P-3 Orion is one of five planes searching on Friday for objects spotted in satellite images released on Thursday thought to possibly be linked to the missing airliner.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, the acting transport minister said they were still waiting for Australia to confirm whether the objects had any connection to the flight.

WATCH: Search for missing Malaysian plane turns up no leads in southern Indian ocean

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  • Flight MH370: U.S. company provides Australia satellite imagery of possible debris

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  • Flight MH370: What if missing plane is never found?

At a daily news briefing, Malaysia’s Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said they were continuing search operations in both northern and southern “corridors.”

‘It may have slipped to the bottom’

Warren Truss, who is acting prime minister while Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, said the search was difficult due to testing weather conditions and because the satellite imagery was five days old.

“So something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating – it may have slipped to the bottom. It’s also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometres.”

MORE: Flight MH370: frequently asked questions, few answers

Truss told reporters that two Chinese aircraft are expected to arrive in Perth on Saturday to join the search, and two Japanese aircraft will be arriving Sunday. A small flotilla of ships coming to Australia from China was still several days away.

“We are doing all that we can, devoting all the resources we can and we will not give up until all of the options have been exhausted,” Truss said. “We can’t be certain that the sightings are in fact debris from the aircraft (but) it is about the only lead that is around at the present time.”

U.S. company provides Australia satellite imagery 

A U.S. satellite imagery company said it provided the Australian government with images located by satellite and identified by analysts as possible debris.

READ MORE: U.S. company provides Australia satellite imagery of possible debris

“We have been informed by an Australian government official that it was our imagery Prime Minister Abbott referred to in his recent comments,” said DigitalGlobe in a statement to Global News. “No conclusions have been reached about the origins of the debris or objects shown in the imagery, and we are not aware that any subsequent search missions have been able to locate it.”

Discussion with relatives of passengers ‘difficult’

Malaysia’s acting transport minister acknowledged on Friday that discussions with relatives of those missing onboard Flight MH370 had been “very difficult.”

“The one question that they really want to know is the answer to which we do not have, which is ‘where are their loved ones, and where is the airplane?’” said  Hussein at a daily media briefing.

READ MORE: Anger, heartbreak as families of missing jet passengers demand answers

Earlier this week, frustrated Chinese families of passengers said they would set up a “self-help” committee and urged the Malaysian government to send representatives to Beijing to brief them.

“We want Malaysia to send government representatives to attend the meeting with families,” said Mr Wen, the father of one of the missing passengers.

“Only the government can answer our questions about where the plane is and where our families are,” he added.

Follow @ireneogrodnik

WATCH: Aliens? Zombies? A black hole? The island from “Lost”? With no solid leads yet in the case of the missing Malaysian airliner, wild theories are starting to run rampant. 

©2014Shaw Media

Supreme Court will hear appeal for Derksen’s alleged killer – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – Three decades after the murder of Candace Derksen, the identity of her killer is once again in dispute.

“My hope, our hope, it would be a done deal,” said Fred Derksen, Candace’s father. “That would be great, but we’re not hanging on that.”

Canada’s highest court will now hear the case and decide whether Mark Edward Grant deserves a new trial.

Grant was convicted of second-degree murder in 2011, but last October, that conviction was overturned by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

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“My hope is that they will uphold the decision. I think [the murder conviction] was the right decision,” Candace’s mother, Wilma Derksen, told Global News Thursday.

When the 13-year old went missing in 1984 it sparked a massive manhunt. Derksen was eventually found frozen to death, her body tied up, in an East Kildonan shed.

The case went cold for 20 years but in 2007, DNA evidence led police to Grant.

After a lengthy trial, Grant’s lawyer appealed the conviction, arguing the judge made several errors during the trial. The DNA evidence was also questioned.

Grant’s lawyer wasn’t expecting the Supreme Court of Canada to step in.

“I was surprised,” said Saul Simmonds, Grant’s legal counsel. “I would have thought the decision by the Court of Appeal was so strong we wouldn’t be there, but you never know what drives [the Supreme Court of Canada’s] attention.”

Grant is still in custody but can apply for bail as his conviction has been overturned. Simmonds wouldn’t say whether he plans to do that at this point.

It could take more than a year before the Supreme Court of Canada hears Grant’s case.

©2014Shaw Media

BLOG: Morning News Rewind – March 21 – Saskatoon

On Friday’s Morning News, Melissa headed down to see what was taking place at HomeStyles show and Jessica had a visit from a bronze medallist.

Jessica talks bronze with a member of the Huskies women’s hockey

Way to go ladies, you made Saskatoon proud!

Talking to Marley, you could still feel her excitement from her big win on Sunday. This is the first time the Huskie’s women’s team has ever placed at the CIS national championship, and I can imagine that bronze was well deserved!

Keep it up ladies!!

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Melissa looks at what’s taking place at HomeStyles

The HomeStyles show isn’t what I expected it to be. I thought it would be mostly home décor and appliances but there was anything from wine to olive oil!

It was great to learn that spring is bringing about more textures and pastels. But the neatest thing I saw today was the full size home that was up for display inside Prairieland Park. Pam mentioned that they had to move it in piece by piece from the bottom up.

If you had a chance to watch this morning, the furniture was just out of this world! If that’s anything similar to the direction that the 2014 home trends are moving towards I’m considering jumping on board!

The HomeStyles show takes place runs until March 23 at Prairieland Park.

Jessica and Kevin preview Monday’s Morning News

Court grants injunction for patients growing medical marijuana

VANCOUVER – Patients who are currently licensed to grow their own pot will be permitted to continue producing the drug despite regulations banning homegrown medical marijuana starting April 1, a Federal Court judge ruled Friday.

VIDEO GALLERY: Medical marijuana debate

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Judge Michael Manson granted an application from a group of medical marijuana patients, who asked for a temporary injunction to preserve the status quo until a constitutional challenge of the new system can be heard.

The decision represents a significant blow, at least in the short term, to the Conservative government’s attempt to overhaul this country’s medical marijuana system, which it says is rife with problems ranging from unsafe grow-ops to infiltration by criminals.

WATCH: Global 16X9’s investigation into Canada’s medical marijuana system

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Judge concludes some patients may be unable to afford marijuana under new rules

The new regulations restrict medical marijuana production to commercial growers, though the injunction does not affect the new licensing system.

Health Canada had warned any patient licensed to grow pot under the current rules must confirm they have destroyed their plants or they would be reported to the police.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued the updated regulations violate their right to access important medicine, because marijuana is expected to initially be more expensive under the new system. They also say they won’t have as much control over which strains of the drug they use.

The judge concluded some patients will not be able to afford marijuana if prices increase as they are predicted to do under the new system.

“This group will be irreparably harmed by the effects of the (new regulations),” Manson said in a written decision.

“I find that the nature of the irreparable harm that the applicants will suffer under the (updated regulations)constitutes a ‘clear case,’ which outweighs the public interest in wholly maintaining the enacted regulations.”

Under the terms of the injunction, patients who were licensed to possess or grow marijuana, whether for their own personal use or as a designated person for another patient, as of Sept. 30 of last year can continue to do so.

Those patients will be permitted to possess up to 150 grams of marijuana, the decision says.

Canada’s medical marijuana history

Canada first regulated medical marijuana in 2001, but only after the government was forced to do so by the courts. A year earlier, an Ontario court concluded the law at the time violated the rights of sick people who used pot to alleviate their symptoms.

The number of people authorized to possess — and often grow — marijuana has increased to 37,000 this year from fewer than 100 in 2001. The federal government says the current licences translate to about 3.5 million plants.

The Stephen Harper government announced a significant overhaul of the system last year and has since been accepting applications from commercial growers.

In this week’s court hearing, a government lawyer said there is no constitutional right to cheap medicine, and he argued there was no scientific evidence to show specific strains of marijuana are better suited to particular illnesses or patients.

The patients’ lawyer suggested the government had offered little concrete evidence that the medical marijuana system actually poses as many risks as it claims.

While the injunction application didn’t specifically target the new commercial licensing regime, the government argued that allowing some patients to continue growing their own pot would prevent the fledgling medical marijuana industry from fully developing.

The Federal Court ruling notes the potential for the injunction to affect the commercial market, but Manson writes the impact will be short-lived and won’t have a major impact on the government’s ability to implement its regulations.

A trial has not been scheduled, though Manson’s judgment says a trial is expected within nine to twelve months.

Striking container truckers rally in Vancouver – BC

VANCOUVER – Hundreds of striking container truck drivers at Canada’s largest port rallied in downtown Vancouver Friday in unanimity that they would not be intimidated, even as the B.C. government prepares back-to-work legislation.

The provincial government is set to bring in legislation that includes a 90-day cooling off period as early as Monday. Port Metro Vancouver has also announced both unionized and non-unionized truckers whose licences and permits are about to expire won’t have them extended if they don’t return to their jobs.

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Only unions can be legislated back to work, but Unifor members say they will not cave under pressure.

“These workers will not be cowed, we will not be bullied, we will not be swayed,” Unifor spokesman Gavin McGarrigle told the crowd Friday.

“We need to get around the negotiating table, sit down and get this thing done in a way that there’s a standard rate for everyone across the board.”

McGarrigle said it is too early to predict what unionized truckers will do once the back-to-work law is in place, but he expects the cooling off period will further anger workers.

More than 1,000 non-union truckers have been on strike since late last month, and several hundred Unifor members joined the job action March 10, demanding shorter wait times at the port and standardized rates of pay across the sector to prevent undercutting.

Port Metro Vancouver’s vice-president of operations, Peter Xotta, has said the labour dispute has had a significant impact on operations and the port’s reputation.

Xotta said earlier this week that truckers who are not prepared to return to work immediately won’t have their licences renewed.

Harman Shergill, who speaks for the United Truckers’ Association of B.C., which represents non-unionized workers, said the licence terminations mean little to operators who no longer have funds to put into their vehicles.

“On one side they are telling us our concerns are legitimate, but if it’s legitimate, why are they overlooking them?” he said. “Let’s sit on the table and negotiate.”

A government-backed 14-point proposal was introduced last week to persuade the truckers to return to work. The plan includes a 10 per cent rate increase within 30 days and compensation for wait times, but the truckers rejected it, saying it wasn’t enough.

A spokesman for Port Metro Vancouver accused the truckers on Friday of holding the port hostage.

“People are losing their jobs and businesses may go under because truckers insist on negotiations where negotiation is simply not possible,” said a statement released by port spokesman John Parker-Jervis.

The truckers are not employed directly by Port Metro Vancouver. They are usually independent contractors or sub-contractors working directly for shipping companies.

Unifor’s national president Jerry Dias, members of several other labour unions and New Democrat politicians, including B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix, attended the rally in support.

Dix said he doesn’t expect the back-to-work legislation to pass by Monday.

“What’s got to happen here is people have got to come to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith, and the provincial government’s actions make that harder, not easier,” he said.

The strike has affected the port’s four container terminals in Metro Vancouver. At its peak, the job action was estimated to be costing the Canadian economy about $885 million. However, the port said container truck traffic is now up to 40 per cent of normal.

Follow @vivluk on 桑拿会所

Prince Albert Raiders give cheque to Tim Bozon

SASKATOON – The Prince Albert Raiders had a special delivery for Kootenay Ice player Tim Bozon, who is now in stable condition in a Saskatoon hospital recovering from meningitis.

Bruce Vance, the Raiders business manager, visited Bozon and his family at Royal University Hospital on Friday morning.

Vance had a get well poster that was signed by Raider fans at their final regular season home game on March 14.

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  • Tim Bozon awake, out of intensive care at Saskatoon hospital

Along with the poster, he had a cheque for $1,715 for the Tim Bozon Trust Fund to help pay for medical expenses. The money was raised at the team’s watch party on Tuesday.

The Montreal Canadiens prospect was taken to hospital on March 1 after the Ice’s game against the Saskatoon Blades, where he was diagnosed with Neisseria meningitis.

His parents flew in from Switzerland the next day to be by his side.

Bozon was placed in a medically induced coma at the time. He was slowly awaked last week and earlier this week was moved from the intensive care unit to a regular ward.

The WHL has set up a trust fund to assist Bozon and his family with his medical and rehabilitation costs.

Donations can be made to the Tim Bozon Trust at any BMO branch in Western Canada. People in other parts of Canada can send a donation to the Tim Bozon Trust c/o Western Hockey League, 2424 University Drive NW, Calgary AB, T2N 3Y9.

Meningitis, an inflammation of membranes around the brain and spinal cord, can be fatal if not treated quickly.

John Leonard MacKean found guilty on all charges in teen confinement case

Scroll to the bottom for a recap of the trial

BRIDGEWATER, N.S. – A Halifax man was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting a blindfolded 16-year-old boy who said he was kept captive in a remote cabin for more than a week.

A jury also found John Leonard MacKean, 64, guilty of communicating for the purpose of obtaining sexual services from a person under 18. He will be sentenced June 24.

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“I’m glad it’s going to be over,” said the mother of the victim, whose identity is protected by a publication ban. “My son doesn’t have to talk about it any more until he’s ready to.”

The verdict came after more than four hours of deliberations. The trial, which began Monday, heard MacKean and the victim each give their accounts of what happened on Sept. 20, 2012.

The teen testified that he was blindfolded with a sleeping mask and his hands and feet were chained to a bed when a man sexually assaulted him at a cabin in rural Nova Scotia where he was held against his will for eight days.

The youth, now 17, later told the province’s Supreme Court in Bridgewater that a man performed oral sex on him as he cried, unable to move.

The teen said he was certain the man was not one of two other men accused in the case, one of whom was later convicted of kidnapping him, because he was able to determine from a limited view beneath his blindfold that the perpetrator was a balding, heavy-set man who wore glasses.

“He’s just a very brave boy,” the teen’s mother said Friday.

Crown prosecutor Lloyd Tancock said he believes a video of an interview MacKean gave to police after his arrest, during which MacKean said he was inside the cabin and involved in a sexual encounter with the boy, was a major factor in the jury’s decision.

Tancock said the case has been an ordeal for the victim and his family.

“It’s been a terrible case for the family and it doesn’t end here for them I’m sure,” he said.

He said he is not yet sure what sentence he will seek.

Defence lawyer Mike Taylor agreed that MacKean’s interview with police harmed his client’s case.

“It certainly posed problems for the defence,” Taylor said. “There were acknowledgments by Mr. MacKean that he had done certain things.”

MacKean testified Thursday, saying the youth did not seem upset and was not in chains at the time of the incident.

MacKean denied he performed oral sex on the youth, said he was led to believe the teen was a young adult and that if he felt the youth was distressed, he would have made sure he was freed.

He said he was invited to the cabin by Wayne Alan Cunningham, with whom he had a sexual relationship after the two met at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

MacKean said Cunningham suggested in the summer of 2012 having a third person involved during their sexual massages that cost MacKean $45 each. Cunningham told him that person was in his 20s, MacKean told the jury.

MacKean said he believed that based on a photo of the youth he was shown and that in fact, the boy looked to be around the same age as Cunningham, who was 31.

When he arrived at the cabin, MacKean saw the youth blindfolded on a bed, court heard. Cunningham said the youth preferred to have a blindfold on because he was shy, MacKean told the jury.

MacKean said the youth didn’t talk while the three engaged in a sexual encounter.

David James LeBlanc, another man accused in the case, was sentenced last June to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping, forcible confinement, sexual assault, uttering threats and breach of conditions.

An agreed statement of facts in LeBlanc’s case said he offered the teen a painting job and drove him in a van from Halifax to a cabin in Lunenburg County about 130 kilometres away in September 2012 on the pretext of picking up painting supplies.

The youth later escaped and a woman reported seeing a barefoot teenager at her doorstep, chained at his wrists and ankles.

LeBlanc was arrested in northern Ontario in September 2012. Police were also searching at the time for Cunningham, whose body was later found near the area where LeBlanc was arrested. Foul play was not suspected in his death.

*with files from Global News reporter Natasha Pace and The Canadian Press

©2014The Canadian Press

Convicted fraudster Earl Jones could be considering move to Westmount – Montreal

MONTREAL – If you ask Joey Davis what he thinks of convicted fraudster Earl Jones, you’ll get an earful.

“The man is a sociopath, I have no trust in him, I am frustrated and angry,” Davis told Global News.

Jones robbed Davis’ mother of her life savings — more than $200,000. Through his Ponzi scheme, the West Island financial advisor fleeced 158 seniors of more than $50 million.

Davis can’t believe Jones has been released from prison after serving only four years of an 11-year prison sentence.

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Jones is out on parole under several conditions including avoiding contact with his victims or their families.

Davis worries for his elderly mother who he feels may one day come face-to-face with the now 71-year-old convict.

It appears Jones is considering calling a Westmount apartment building home.

A newly-released parole report states Jones has discussed moving back with his spouse with prison officials. The same report states he’s currently living in an unknown location.

Maxine Heayberd-Jones refused an interview with Global News Friday.

According to Davis, eight of the 158 fraud victims have passed away.

Davis believes the time has come for Jones to deliver a public apology.

“If you are sincerely sorry, or have any sense of remorse,” Davis said, “step forward in the media.”

©2014Shaw Media

Get your facts straight: Quebec Liberal Party

“Together, addressing the real issues” – slogan

The Quebec Liberal Party (Parti libéral du Québec, PLQ) is considered a centre-right party in the context of Canadian politics.

Live coverage of the 2014 Quebec election

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The party platform focuses mostly on economy and social policy and supports the idea of what it calls Quebec federalism – an autonomous Quebec within Canada, and the party was an vocal campaigner for the “No” vote in the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

The Liberals regained power from Bernard Landry’s Parti Québécois in the 2003 elections, lead by Jean Charest. He was subsequently defeated almost a decade later in the 2012 provincial elections by Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois.

After the 2012 provincial elections, the Liberals held 49 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly.

Interested in reading more about the Quebec Liberal Party’s 145 year history? Click here for details.

The economy is one of the main key issues for the Quebec Liberal Party in the 2014 elections. To read their framework, click here.

Party leader: Philippe Couillard

Quebec Liberal Party Leader Philippe Couillard.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

A former university professor and neurosurgeon, Philippe Couillard joined politics for the first time in 2003 when he was elected MNA of Mont-Royal. In that same year, he was also appointed Minister of Health and Social Services.

He held this title as he left Mont-Royal to become the MNA of Jean-Talon in 2007; he resigned as MNA and Minister of Health and Social Services in 2008.

Some of his accomplishments include a $4.2 billion increase in the Quebec health budget and he was behind the movement to prohibit smoking in public spaces.

During his time away from politics, Couillard worked at the Security Intelligence Review Committee and the Privy Council. His return to politics came in 2012 when he ran for leader of the Quebec Liberal Party.

He was the third person the enter the race to succeed Jean Charest (after Raymond Bachand and Pierre Moreau). Couillard was elected with 55 per cent of the vote as the MNA of Outremont in the 2013 by-election.

In the 2014 provincial elections, Couillard will run in Roberval, one of the most rural ridings in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, which is often classified as extremely “pure laine.”

Key ridings to watch

The Liberals boast several strongholds, most of them located in the Greater Montreal region. These include Acadie, Anjou-Louis-Riel, Bourassa- Sauvé, D’Arcy McGee, Laporte, Nelligan, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Robert-Baldwin.

La Pinière: The Liberal’s newest candidate, Gaétan Barrette will face off against incumbent Fatima Houda-Pepin, who was first elected to La Pinière in 1994.

On January 20, 2014, Houda-Pepin left the Quebec Liberal Party due to disagreement with the party’s views on Bill 60.

Watch: Houda-Pepin leaves the Quebec Liberal Party

©2014Shaw Media

Constitutional lawyer wonders why he had to clean up Harper’s ‘subversive mess’ – National

OTTAWA – Constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati was in the middle of a month-long sojourn on the Indian subcontinent when word reached him Friday that he’d brought down a Supreme Court appointee and rattled the legal underpinnings of the Conservative government.

But the man who first challenged Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choice of Justice Marc Nadon for the top bench was not in a celebratory mood after playing David to a constitutional Goliath.

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  • Top court begins to hear case for Marc Nadon eligibility

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WATCH: NDP ‘very, very satisfied’ with Supreme Court decision on Nadon

“When I started this I was very, very clear and convinced that I was right and that this was as clear as a bell to me,” Galati told
The Canadian Press in a telephone interview from India.

In an unprecedented reference, the top court agreed by a 6-1 margin that Nadon was not eligible to sit amongst them and that the government could not unilaterally rewrite the Supreme Court Act rules on the composition of the bench.

“I just regret the fact the government can make a subversive mess of our Constitution and it’s got to be private citizens like me – at my own expense, this has cost me a lot of money, my own time, energy and money; I’m not getting any of that back – to clean up what?” said Galati.

“To clean up the mess of the subversive government that doesn’t want to respect the Constitution. Why should a private citizen have to do that, quite frankly?

“If I hadn’t brought the challenge, Justice Nadon would be deciding cases as we speak.”

The reference ruling came a day after the top court had struck down retroactive Conservative changes to parole eligibility, ruling them a clear breach of the Charter and pointedly noting “that enactment of Charter-infringing legislation does great damage to that confidence” in the justice system.

The back-to-back rulings by a court that now has a majority of Harper appointees reinforces a growing impression in legal circles that the Conservative government is playing fast and loose with the law.

Some, such as Justice Department whistle-blower Edgar Schmidt,  are openly questioning who in government is minding the constitutional store.

“If the attorney general, the prime minister, Governor General and the chief justice of the Supreme Court aren’t, it’s pretty pathetic that they rely on citizens,” Galati said.

It’s hardly the first time the Toronto lawyer, who specializes in constitutional and immigration law, has stepped up to kick the court system in the shins.

In 2011, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Federal Court was in breach of the law after Galati questioned why retired judges over 75 were being retained as deputy judges, despite mandatory retirement language in the Federal Courts Act.

Thirteen deputy judges had to be let go.

“People said to me in that case, ‘They’ve been doing it for 60 years, how can it be wrong?”’ Galati related in an interview last November.

“I said, ‘Nobody’s challenged it.”’

Ultimately, private citizens must be prepared to step up and challenge government and the courts, Galati said Friday.

“It’s probably apt, because the Supreme Court in 1951 ruled specifically that the Constitution doesn’t belong to either government. It belongs to the citizens and it’s there that we find our protection,” he said.

“That’s true, it’s often the citizens that bring up these challenges. It’s just pathetic that the court doesn’t recognize that the citizens who are grieved by these constitutional breaches shouldn’t have to be the ones to pay to fix the constitutional breaches.”

Group of travelling thieves targeting Edmonton seniors with fake gold – Edmonton

EDMONTON – Edmonton police say a group of travelling thieves has reappeared in the city, allegedly targeting seniors with distraction-style thefts.

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) says the same transient group was present in the city last year, and was responsible for 107 crimes.

Officers say the thieves typically target elderly people who are alone or may not speak English as their first language. They approach their victims with fake gold jewellery — either to give it to them as a gift or offer it in exchange for money.

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Meanwhile, police say the thieves swipe the victims’ real jewellery without them knowing. Often times the thieves will use force and violence.

So far this year, 17 distraction-style thefts, robberies and frauds have been reported to police, with 12 incidents in March alone.

“We encourage the public to report these crimes and other suspicious activities, such as street corner gold jewellery offers, to police as soon possible,” said Acting Det. Emeric Derczeni with the EPS.

“These thieves are very good at what they do. They target as many victims as possible in a short period of time before moving on. The sooner police can get involved, the sooner we can stop these criminals.”

The suspects are described as a group of adult men and women with dark complexions and dark hair. Police say they have heavy accents and may be either Eastern European or Middle Eastern.

The thieves are currently believed to be in Edmonton, but police say they may be making their way around Alberta.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.

©2014Shaw Media

Veteran with service dog turned away by Saskatchewan restaurant

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – A military veteran who needs a service dog says he was turned away from a restaurant in Saskatchewan.

Michael Sharron, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, says he needs the dog, Rylie, with him for medical reasons.

Sharron says he and his father-in-law went to a Smitty’s restaurant in a Prince Albert mall for lunch on March 3.

He says they were greeted by a man, who turned out to be the owner, who told them that dogs weren’t allowed.

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Sharron says he explained that he needed Rylie with him for medical reasons, but when asked what they were, Sharron wouldn’t go into details.

Owner Ray Littlechilds says Sharron gave no indication he was an Armed Forces veteran.

“I told him that he was a service dog, and he was certified, and he said, `Is he a seeing-eye dog?’ I said, `No, he’s for a medical service for a condition that I have,”‘ Sharron said.

Sharron also explained he had paperwork for Rylie.

Service dogs can help people with PTSD manage their symptoms. Sharron keeps Rylie’s leash tied to his waist and the dog provides him with a distraction.

The conversation between Sharron and the man was loud enough to draw attention from other people in the restaurant, said Sharron, who is from Shellbrook, Sask.

“I’m looking around and feeling like if I can crawl into a hole, I would,” he said.

Littlechilds emphasized his support for Canadian military veterans. His uncle died in combat and other family members have served.

“We couldn’t allow him in on the way he talked to us,” Littlechilds said. “He says, `This is none of your business’ … and I said, `Well, I can’t let you in.”

Sharron said he decided not to press the issue. He started to leave, but briefly sat on a bench near the exit to make a phone call to Rylie’s trainer.

He said Littlechilds told him he would have to go out into the foyer of the mall to do that.

Sharron called a lawyer for Manitoba Search and Rescue, which trained and provided his service dog. The lawyer has been in contact with Littlechilds.

The owner said another person came to the restaurant days later to scold him and to tell him that Sharron is a veteran. Littlechilds told the man he had no idea that was the case at the time.

“We would have been happy to have him as a guest, as far as an individual,” he said. “I don’t stop people from coming to my business. I welcome every single customer there is. It doesn’t matter what you are, what colour, what race, if there’s any disabilities whatsoever, they are welcome at Smitty’s.”

He said he would welcome Sharron back.

“All we were trying to do was live by the letter of the law of the health regulations and purposes. That’s something that’s very strict.”

Earlier this year, a military veteran based in Cold Lake, Alta., was not allowed to board an Air Canada flight with her service dog. She was told she could travel with the pet for a fee. She, too, has PTSD and owns the dog because it helps her stay calm.

The airline later apologized.

©2014The Canadian Press