Highlights from the news file for Friday, September 15th
BAIL CONDITIONS FOR OMAR KHADR REVIEWED: Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr has been denied unsupervised visits with his controversial older sister who has expressed support for al-Qaida. Justice June Ross ruled Friday that Khadr and his lawyer, Nathan Whitling, have offered nothing new to allay security concerns surrounding Zaynab Khadr, who is currently believed to be in Sudan. Zaynab Khadr, 37, has spoken in favour of al-Qaida and was investigated in Canada more than a decade ago for helping the terrorist network, but she was never charged. She is reportedly planning a trip to Canada, and the rules of Khadr’s bail allow him to meet with her but only in the presence of his bail supervisor or one of his lawyers. Ross did allow a change to Khadr’s internet use. He had been restricted to personal internet devices and subject to checks. Whitling argued that the internet is available everywhere on multiple devices — at friends’ homes and in public places — and that there is no way for Khadr to avoid it. Ross agreed to expand Khadr’s internet use as long as he doesn’t use the web to seek out terrorist propaganda or organizations.
BOMB PARTIALLY EXPLODES ON LONDON SUBWAY, INJURING 29 PEOPLE: A homemade bomb planted in a rush-hour subway car injured 29 people in London on Friday, sparking a huge manhunt for the perpetrators of what police said was the fourth terrorist attack in the British capital this year. Prime Minister Theresa May said the device “was intended to cause significant harm,” but to the relief of authorities and Londoners, the bomb — hidden in a plastic bucket inside a supermarket freezer bag — only partially exploded, sparing the city much worse carnage. “I would say this was a failed high-explosive device,” Chris Hunter, a former British army bomb expert, said of the blast, which caused no serious injuries. The bomb went off around 8:20 a.m. as the train, carrying commuters from the suburbs — including many school children — was at Parsons Green station in the southwest of the city. Police and health officials said 29 people were treated in London hospitals, most of them for flash burns. None of the injuries were serious or life-threatening, the emergency services said. The Islamic State group is claiming that the London subway explosion was carried out by an affiliated unit. The claim was posted Friday on channels affiliated with the extremist group.
CANADIAN PRIVACY WATCHDOG TO INVESTIGATE EQUIFAX: Canada’s privacy watchdog says it has opened an investigation into the massive Equifax Inc. data breach after receiving several complaints and dozens of calls from concerned Canadians. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says that the credit monitoring company has committed to notifying all impacted Canadians in writing as soon as possible, but it will not be calling affected consumers. Equifax said last week that it was the victim of a massive cyberattack that may have compromised the personal data of as many as 143 million Americans and a limited number of Canadian and U.K. residents, but has not specified how many individuals in Canada were impacted. The credit monitoring company’s call centre staff have told callers that only Canadians that have credit files in the U.S. were likely to be impacted. However, the privacy commissioner says at this point, it is not clear that the affected data was limited to Canadians with U.S. dealings. The watchdog added that Equifax will also offer free credit monitoring to those Canadians that are affected.
B.C. LIFTS WILDFIRES STATE OF EMERGENCY: The British Columbia government is lifting a provincial state of emergency declared more than two months ago before what would become the province’s worst fire season on record. The declaration that expires at midnight Friday was made July 7 after dozens of out-of-control wildfires broke out in B.C.’s Interior, forcing thousands of people from their homes. The state of emergency allowed for better co-ordination between agencies responding to the fires and to public safety needs, and a $100-million fund was made available to support thousands of evacuees. More than 11,700 square kilometres of land has been charred since April 1, which the BC Wildfire Service said is the largest area burned in the province’s recorded history. “While the extraordinary powers of the provincial state of emergency are no longer required, the wildfire season is not over,” the government said in a news release Friday. “It is vital that the public remain prepared and follow the continued direction of local authorities” There are still 153 fires burning in B.C., and 11 evacuation orders are in place affecting more than 3,000 people.
HOME SALES TO FALL 5% IN 2017, REAL ESTATE GROUP SAYS: Canadian home sales are expected to drop to their lowest level in three years in 2018, driven largely by a decline in Ontario, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Friday. The association expects that 495,100 homes will be sold next year after downgrading its sales forecast for 2017 on a 9.9 per cent drop in August compared with a year ago. It expects sales will fall 2.3 per cent in 2018 following a 5.3 per cent decline this year to 506,000, or 20,000 fewer than previously forecast in June. Seasonally adjusted sales in August rose 1.3 per cent from the prior month — the first gain in five months — due to a 14.3 per cent boost in the Greater Toronto Area. Still, sales in this area were down 35 per cent from a year ago. CREA projects sales in British Columbia and Ontario will fall by about 10 per cent in 2017, compared to record highs set in 2016. The association said sales in August were down in nearly two-thirds of all local markets, led by the Greater Toronto Area and nearby housing markets. In Vancouver, August sales were up 7.3 per cent from July and 21.3 per cent higher than a year ago.
UBC FACES NEW SEXUAL ASSAULT HUMAN RIGHTS CASE: The University of British Columbia is facing a second human rights complaint over its handling of sexual violence. Stephanie Hale says she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student in 2013 and while she told many UBC staff members no one told her to file a formal complaint. Hale says her grades slipped and she felt suicidal before she took medical leave in 2015. She only found out about a disciplinary process for students accused of sexual assaults in 2016 — but the process involved a panel of students judging whether an attack occurred. Hale asked for a trained investigator to handle her case but the school refused, held a hearing without her, and then cleared the man of misconduct when he denied the allegations. Hale’s complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal comes after Glynnis Kirchmeier filed a similar complaint last year. UBC introduced a new sexual assault policy in the spring that allows for expert investigators to handle cases.
TRIBUNAL TO REVISIT AIR CANADA RETIREMENT AGE: The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will be revisiting the issue of whether Air Canada was wrong to force some pilots to retire at age 60. A decision publicly released on Friday says the tribunal will hold another hearing to determine whether the airline had the right to force 45 pilots to retire at an age it deemed to be the industry standard. The decision says the case originally had 97 complainants, but 52 of them will not have their retirement age scrutinized by the tribunal. The issue of retirement age for Air Canada pilots has come up both at the tribunal and in federal court numerous times in the past decade. Two cases with different complainants, but similar arguments, were ruled upon by the tribunal, reviewed in federal court, then ultimately dismissed by the Federal Court of Appeal. The tribunal says the 52 pilots whose retirement dates were covered by the previous cases will not be included in the new hearing, but says it will hear arguments from the remaining 45 whose retirement dates fall outside of the timeline covered by the other cases.
NEW BRUNSWICK CREATES MARIJUANA CROWN CORPORATION: The New Brunswick government has created a new Crown corporation to oversee the sale of recreational marijuana, and signed deals with two suppliers. Finance Minister Cathy Rogers said Friday the deals with Organigram and Canopy Growth Corp. secure a supply for the New Brunswick market in time for the July 2018 launch. The federal government has introduced legislation to legalize recreational weed by July 1, but left distribution and regulation to the provinces. Ontario was the first out of the gate, announcing a detailed plan last week that would restrict sales to residents 19 and older from as many as 150 dedicated stores run by the province’s liquor control board or through the Internet. A New Brunswick legislature committee recommended selling marijuana through government-operated stores to anyone 19 years or older, but Rogers said the government has yet to make a final decision on a retail model. Rogers said the Crown corporation will not directly conduct retail operations, but will eventually work with another entity or entities to provide that framework.
FACEBOOK LAUNCHES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE LAB IN MONTREAL: Facebook has become the latest technology company to dig into Montreal’s burgeoning artificial intelligence sector, announcing the opening of a research lab in the city Friday. The lab, known as FAIR Montreal, is headed by Joelle Pineau, a professor in McGill University’s computer science department and co-director of Reasoning and Learning Lab. The social media giant follows Google and Microsoft in establishing AI roots in Montreal. The lab is open and ready for business, with the first researchers already setting up shop in a new building. Pineau finished her degree in the United States and came back to Montreal against the advice of some of her American colleagues, who felt it would hinder her ability to do world-class research. She said she’s proven them wrong and added she hopes the new lab will give talented researchers in the field another option to stay put. That would put it on par with three other Facebook hubs currently based in New York City, Paris and Menlo Park, Calif., and serve as recognition that Montreal has quickly developed a concentration of expertise in the area of artificial intelligence.