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Wrecked boat spurs dive – Canada News

Aug 4, 2019 / 11:21 am | Story:

Veteran Liberal MP Denis Paradis says he won’t seek re-election in this fall’s federal election.

The Quebec MP says in a message published on Facebook that it’s time to turn the page after 25 years in politics, and 15 as an MP.

He was first elected in the Brome-Missisquoi riding in 1995, then was re-elected three times before losing his seat in 2006. He finished second in 2008 and 2011 before regaining his seat in the 2015 election.

He served a number roles in government, including secretary of state for La Francophonie and secretary of state for Latin America and Africa between 2002 and 2003, and minister of state for Financial Institutions from 2003 to 2004.

In his message, Paradis said he would continue to take an interest in the files he’s championed, especially those related to the environment.

The 70-year-old said many people had asked him to run again, but he’s decided to leave the role to others.

“To me, politics is a vocation. And to this vocation, I have given the best of myself,” he wrote in a post Sunday.

“I think that every file is important. I do my utmost to carry all of them forward to the best of my knowledge.”


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Police say it’s the reason they have deployed a dive team to the area.

They explain in a news release that a helicopter search found the boat Friday afternoon and that five members of the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team were immediately deployed.

The dive team arrived in Gillam on Saturday and were expected to conduct an underwater search “of significant areas of interest” Sunday.

The area has been the focus for more than a week in the hunt for Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, who are wanted in connection to the deaths of three people last month in B.C.

The news comes after police said Wednesday they would be scaling back the search in the Gillam area, which is where the last confirmed sighting of the pair was more than a week ago.



Aug 4, 2019 / 9:58 am | Story:

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is warning the public about people posing as officials from the agency, who are asking for personal information, in a series of ongoing phishing scams.

The scams take the form of email, text messages or telephone calls asking for personal information including Social Insurance Numbers.

According to a media release, these scams use false CBSA information to make it appear that the scammers are legitimate agency officials. Telephone numbers and employee names may appear to be from the CBSA, while emails may display CBSA logos and email addresses to mislead readers.

While the methods used by the scammers, and the rationale they provide to justify continued contact with victims, are varied and ever-changing, according to the CBSA, they are always designed to lure the public into providing personal information.

CBSA is reminding the public that the agency never requests SIN or credit card numbers by telephone or email.

If anyone receives a telephone call or an email asking for personal information or requesting payments from the CBSA, it is a scam.

The CBSA is asking anyone who receives these calls to report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.


Aug 4, 2019 / 7:32 am | Story:

Kamal Ahmed, a licensed agent who wires cash to far-flung parts of the globe from a Montreal laundromat, worries he’s losing customers to a rival operating out of another laundromat who offers cheaper fund transfers though an ancient underground money network, known as hawala.

“They say, ‘hawala people give me a better rate,'” he explains.

Sandwiched between a Bengali garment shop and a South Asian grocery in the multicultural Parc-Extension neighbourhood, Ahmed’s office helps about 15 people a day transfer $15,000 on average — mainly to Bangladesh but also India, Pakistan and Senegal.

Ahmed’s business is steady, but he frets he could be losing ground to shadow banking competitors, who operate outside normal banking regulations.

Behind a desk in a backroom above another Montreal laundromat, one of those rivals works the phone between customer sit-downs.

“We help people get money back to their home, back to Somalia,” the young man says, a security camera peering down the hall outside the door. “They want to help their family. We help them.”

The employee, who requested The Canadian Press not use his name because he is concerned about legal implications and job security, works part-time as a hawala broker.

From Montreal to Mogadishu, hawala brokers co-ordinate secret cash flows across thousands of kilometres — without any money breaching international borders.

With roots that stretch back to Asia’s ancient Silk Road, hawala allows cheap, quick payments to residents of underbanked countries, where sums sent abroad — known as remittances — can be a lifeline. The informal money network operates without wire transfers or bank accounts and is entirely unregulated and untaxed, making it ripe for abuse by criminals and terrorists looking to eschew the financial system’s anti-money laundering safeguards.

Here’s how it works:

A labourer in Dubai who wants to send funds to his family in Bangladesh hands 800 dirhams, Dubai’s local currency, to a nearby broker, and receives a code in exchange. The labourer then calls his parents back home and tells them the code, who present it to their local broker and receive the cash in exchange, minus a commission fee.

No money physically crosses borders. Transactions move in both directions at agreed-upon exchange rates, and dealers periodically settle any imbalances that stem from lopsided funding flows with cash or trade-based exchanges.

The International Monetary Fund has pegged unrecorded remittances — which include hawala — at 50 per cent more than recorded international cash flow. That would mean US$1.03 trillion changed hands underground last year, based on World Bank figures.

Hawala’s model has attracted attention from fintechs looking to disrupt the traditional banking system. They have recognized the profits to be made in peer-to-peer transfers and started to serve up cut-rate payments, heedless of lines on a map.

TransferWise, founded in the U.K. in 2011 and now operating in more than 40 currencies, including Canadian, sidesteps international fees through its own system of connected local bank accounts.

Paga and M-Pesa are upending Africa’s financial system with instantaneous cash transfers via borderless accounts. With Paga, as with hawala, a broker relays a code to the sender — but by text — passing it on to a recipient who presents it to receive the cash, either in the form of bills or a beefed-up balance.

One component that startups have difficulty emulating, however, is its heavy reliance on trust, shaped as much by clan and cultural boundaries as by geographic ones.

“It’s not mixed ethnically,” said Brigitte Unger, professor of economics at Utrecht University and head of the world’s biggest tax evasion project, run by the European Union.

Hawala — especially prominent in the Persian Gulf states, India and Pakistan — came under the gaze of U.S. authorities after the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaida, which relied on hawala networks to fund the operation, authorities say.

“If you transfer money without a trace, it’s also very attractive for criminal money and also for terrorist money,” Unger said.

Growing regulation and digitization in international banking will not root out those networks, but push money-launderers deeper underground and bolster a hawala system authorities have barely scratched the surface on, she said.

“Water always finds its way to get through other channels.”

Despite the pervasiveness of hawala and other informal banking operations, Canada’s anti-money-laundering watchdog disclosed only five cases of non-compliance to police in connection with money services operations in 2017-18. The figure marks an uptick, nearly matching the six incidents it reported in the four preceding years.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada said federal legislation prevents it from revealing whether any hawala-style operations were among the cases.

Incidents have surfaced nonetheless. In 2017, the RCMP laid 16 criminal charges against a man accused of laundering $100 million in 12 months. Mounties believe the suspect was part of a vast group of underground bankers in Toronto and Montreal with ties to real-estate money laundering — a problem also highlighted in recent reports out of B.C.

Police say the figures don’t do justice to the magnitude of illicit money transfers.

“In Canada, underground banking is alive and well in a big way,” said Garry Clement, former head of the RCMP’s Proceeds of Crime program.

Hawala plays a critical role for impoverished families without easy access to banks and effectively locked out of transfer firms with higher fees.

Brokers operate out of apartments, travel agencies, grocery stores, currency exchanges and import-export companies, mixing illicit and legitimate business.

“A lot of times it’s family-organized,” Clement said.

“But they have been around for eons and eons, and they’ve done it effectively.”

Aug 4, 2019 / 6:33 am | Story:

The Royal Canadian Air Force says the body of a pilot has been found amid plane wreckage in dense forest in northwestern Quebec.

The air force says it located the missing Beechcraft Bonanza airplane around 7 p.m. Friday in Quebec’s Val d’Or region, about 525 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

The aircraft was reported overdue July 29. It was travelling from Oshkosh, Wis., to Danbury, Conn., but the pilot had to divert north to avoid a storm.

Capt. Trevor Reid says the air force, provincial police and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are investigating.

The plane was last tracked on radar flying over a region north of Senneterre, Que., about 530 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

The air force did not identify the pilot.

“We know he turned north to avoid a very large storm,” Reid said Saturday in an interview. “What remains unknown and what is now part of the investigation … is how he came to be that far north.”

The aircraft was spotted by a rescue team flying an RCAF Griffon helicopter, Reid said.

“It was found in very austere terrain, dense forest and large trees,” he said. “The pilot was found with no vital signs.”

Aug 3, 2019 / 4:53 pm | Story:

Mounties say divers will arrive in northern Manitoba tonight in the ongoing search for two British Columbia murder suspects.

RCMP say in a news release that members of their underwater recovery team are expected to begin searching a section of the Nelson River, which is northeast of Gillam, on Sunday.

The area around Gillam has been the focus for more than a week in the hunt for Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, who are accused of killing one person and suspected in the deaths of two others last month in B.C.

Police say in the news release that they will not be providing any further information on the deployment of the divers in the area.

The release doesn’t say what the divers are looking for, or what has prompted them to search the river.

The news comes after police said Wednesday that they would be scaling back the search in the Gillam area, which is where the last confirmed sighting of the pair was more than a week ago.

Aug 3, 2019 / 2:14 pm | Story:

Residents of a southern Alberta hamlet are back in their homes after an evacuation that followed a train derailment and chemical spill.

Cypress County posted on its website Saturday that the spill, which Canadian Pacific Railway says happened Friday afternoon and involved styrene, has been contained and the evacuation was lifted late Friday night.

A state of local emergency remains in effect remains in Cypress County, but the county says it’s due to a grass fire that’s been burning since last weekend, and not because of the derailment.

An emailed update from the railway says the leaks on the two styrene cars were contained to their top valves, and that about eight litres of the substance leaked.

The railway says the line reopened Saturday morning at 11 a.m. MT after track repairs and safety inspections were completed.

An investigation into the cause is ongoing, and CP thanked firefighters, government and Red Cross officials for their support in responding to the derailment.

“We also thank local residents for their patience and understanding and apologize for the inconvenience this incident has caused,” the railway said in its update.

Styrene is a synthetic chemical used in the manufacture of rubber, plastic and fibreglass, and is flammable.

A provincial government spokeswoman said Saturday that Alberta Environment and Parks is monitoring the company’s response.

“The environmental impacts related to this incident are being observed and measured by our department,” Jess Sinclair said in an email.

There was no report of any injuries.

Part of the Trans-Canada Highway east of Medicine Hat, Alta., was ordered closed but was reopened in both directions Friday night.

Witness Trehia Stevenson said the derailment included about a dozen rail cars, which she said did not appear to be tanker cars. She said it was right on the western edge of Irvine, less than a kilometre from homes.

Stevenson said she could only see one car on fire, but there was a grass fire as well.

Aug 3, 2019 / 9:36 am | Story:

Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai has died after a brief and aggressive battle with liver cancer.

Relatives of the Calgary politician say he passed away Friday in Calgary surrounded by his family.

Obhrai was the member of Parliament for Calgary Forest Lawn and dean of the Conservative caucus.

A statement from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer praised for his years of service.

“Jill and I were heartbroken this morning to learn of Deepak Obhrai’s passing. Deepak fought a brief but courageous battle against cancer and passed away last night in Calgary with his family by his side.

“Deepak was the longest-serving Conservative Member of Parliament, having been elected first as a Reform MP for Calgary-East in the 1997 election and then serving in a range of roles – both in opposition and in government – as a Canadian Alliance and then Conservative MP. He was always a champion for his riding and fought hard for his constituents. His decades of hard work to advance the conservative movement and ultimately strengthen Canada will not be forgotten,” said Scheer.

““Deepak was a constant source of joy inside the Conservative caucus. He brightened every room he walked into and often injected warmth, kindness, and good humour into our deliberations. I know I speak on behalf of my Conservative colleagues when I say that he will be missed tremendously.”

Aug 3, 2019 / 9:09 am | Story:

Transport Canada says it’s lifting speed restrictions for cargo ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after recent surveillance failed to detect North Atlantic right whales in shipping lanes.

The agency says in a statement released Friday evening that the government’s aerial surveillance team monitored shipping lanes closely over the past month.

It says its National Aerial Surveillance Program spent 240 flight hours in 44 missions scouring the waters.

They say whale surveillance will continue and that speed restrictions will resume if right whales are found in shipping lanes.

The interim slowdown was first implemented in April and expanded in area in June and July.

Transport Canada says during the slowdown period that vessels started using routes other than shipping lanes, including zones where right whales are known to gather.

“This has resulted in more marine traffic coming closer to known whale locations,” the statement says.

“In order to encourage vessel traffic in areas where no North Atlantic right whales have been spotted, vessels will once again be able to maximize efficient routes to transit through the Gulf.”

They say they’re prepared to adjust measures if necessary.

There are about 400 right whales left on the planet and eight deaths reported in Canadian waters since early June.

Aug 3, 2019 / 6:43 am | Story:

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a train derailment in southeastern Alberta that forced people from their homes and the temporary closure of a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Residents in and around the hamlet of Irvine were told to evacuate the area as a precaution after part of a Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed Friday afternoon, however, CPR says the evacuation notice was lifted just before 11p.m.

Part of the highway east of Medicine Hat was ordered closed but was reopened in both directions Friday night.

The Alberta government issued the emergency alert, noting the derailment involved chemical exposure and damage to the rail line. But there was no report of any injuries.

CPR issued a statement Friday night that said two cars carrying styrene were leaking “at a minimal rate from their top valves” and that “those small leaks were being contained.”

The statement added that no rail cars had been breached, that CP has established air monitoring in the area, has fire suppression systems on hand if required, and is taking every precaution to protect public safety.

Canadian Pacific said the derailment happened at about 3:20 p.m. and that it had dispatched a team to the site.

The railway said it is working closely with local fire officials, Alberta emergency response officials, local government, the Red Cross and other stakeholders to respond to the accident.

Witness Trehia Stevenson said she was driving down the highway with her mother when they came across the derailment moments after it happened.

“All of a sudden there was a ton of smoke. There was some kind of fire,” she said.

“When we pulled up, we could see that the train was derailed. It was all piled up and the smoke was coming from it. I am pretty sure there wasn’t any tanker cars. It was cargo cars.”

Stevenson said she could only see one car on fire, but there was a grass fire as well.

She said the derailment included about a dozen rail cars and was right on the western edge of the hamlet, less than a kilometre from homes.

Aug 3, 2019 / 6:33 am | Story:

Nushupiq Kilabuk wakes up every day in a shack on the shores Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit with only a lantern and a camping stove to keep him warm — but he says he’s one of the lucky ones.

Next to his shack, which he built himself a little over four years ago, there are two abandoned boats. One is a wooden fishing boat with a small front cabin, the other, an overturned canoe. Inside the fishing boat are sleeping bags and a jerrycan. Underneath the overturned canoe is a mat and an empty packet of cigarettes.

People have been sleeping in and under these boats at night — often several people crowded together to escape the elements.

That’s why Kilabuk believes he’s fortunate for his shack.

“I thank God for the abundance of what I have. But the people around me that are sleeping around in the boats … I have warmth. I’m lucky. I feel bad for them,” he said Friday.

“But I feel bad for myself too because I don’t have an apartment or running water or power.”

Kilabuk is one of many homeless Inuit living in dilapidated shacks along Frobisher Bay. Some are families with small children. Some are elders. Some, like Kilabuk, do have jobs and incomes, but simply cannot afford the steep rents for homes and apartments.

A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation report published last year found the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Iqaluit was $2,648 in 2017.

There is also a major shortage of housing across the vast territory of Nunavut.

The federal government estimates Nunavut needs more than 3,000 units to meet its current housing demand, with over 4,900 individuals on waiting lists.

That’s why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was keen to call a media conference during his two-day visit to the territory to announce a new housing agreement with Nunavut.

It will provide $290 million over eight years to “protect, renew and expand” social and community housing, as well as repair and build affordable homes across the territory.

“We recognize that this is a big step forward that is going to make a huge difference in creating thousands of homes and we know this is really going to make a tangible impact in the lives of people here in the North,” Trudeau said in Iqaluit.

The newly allocated money will flow to the territory under the Trudeau government’s previously announced, decade-long national housing strategy.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern stood next to Trudeau and expressed gratitude for the federal cash — but both also noted that more is needed.

“It is a housing crisis,” Savikataaq said.

“Nunavut is a cold and harsh environment and it’s no place for anyone to be homeless and we’re happy for this funding. We also need transitional housing and homeless shelter funding.

“This is like the tip of the iceberg, but we are thankful for what we’re getting and we’ll be working with the federal government to come up with a good strategy in terms of how to alleviate more of our housing crisis here.”

When cold temperatures begin to set in, some are forced to make desperate choices.

“A few of them have no other choice than to commit a crime and go to jail for the winter. They get themselves a criminal record just to stay in a warm place in the winter,” Kilabuk said, shaking his head.

Aug 2, 2019 / 1:34 pm | Story:

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has reserved her decision in the trial of a man accused of gunning down a police officer in Abbotsford.

Justice Carol Ross warned Crown and defence lawyers that if she concludes that Oscar Arfmann was the man who killed Const. John Davidson, she wants to hear from each side about the potential role of his mental state.

Ross says it’s also possible she’ll find Arfmann not guilty of the murder of Davidson, who was responding to reports of a stolen vehicle when he was killed in November 2017.

The trial by judge alone has been adjourned until Sept. 25 when Ross will set a date to release a decision.

Closing arguments in the first-degree murder trial wrapped up today with a defence lawyer arguing that Arfmann had no motive to kill Davidson and that the Crown’s case depends on conflicting witness accounts.

The prosecution has argued Arfmann ambushed the 53-year-old officer as he got out of his vehicle, shooting him twice from behind.

Crown attorney Wendy Stephen told the trial this week that Arfmann stole a vehicle two days earlier and shot at the dealership managers who confronted him, left the area briefly, then returned and killed Davidson.

Witnesses at the trial identified a black Mustang and man wearing a black leather jacket with a gun at the scene of the shooting, and that proves he’s guilty, Stephen said.

But the defence argues only two eye witnesses say they saw the shooting and their descriptions of the suspect vary.

“There is not a single witness who can say, ‘It was Mr. Arfmann who did it,’ ” said lawyer Frances Mahon, who is part of the legal team defending Arfmann.

Mahon also questioned the Crown’s assertion that the rifle accepted as the murder weapon was linked to Arfmann.

Arfmann’s DNA was found only on a small area of the gun and, since he was bleeding profusely at the time of his arrest, it’s possible that DNA was transferred by an officer at the scene, she said.

None of Davidson’s blood was found on Arfmann, nor was Arfmann’s DNA confirmed on bullet casings found at the scene, Mahon said.

“The Crown’s case is really only as strong as the foundation it rests on,” she told the court. “We say it is not so solid as it appears at first glance.”

Stephen disputed the defence’s assertion of no motive, arguing that he was driving a stolen vehicle and wanted to escape arrest.

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