New Delhi: The UPA-era aviation deal between state-owned Indian Airlines and Airbus, to purchase 43 aircraft from the French flight manufacturer, may have allegedly caused a loss of nearly Rs 1,000 crore for the government, reportedly according to Enforcement Directorate documents.The ED, which is investigating the alleged airline seat allotment scam and the Airbus deal, had earlier this month summoned former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel to appear before it on June 6. Also Read – Dussehra with a ‘green’ twistA highly placed source said that while Patel has been asked to appear before the ED to look into his alleged role in the seat allotment case, the UPA Minister might be questioned about the Airbus deal as well if required. According to the ED documents, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had initially approved the deal to purchase 43 aircraft from Airbus at a fixed price with the condition that the airplane manufacturer invests heavily in setting up ancillary infrastructure in India. Also Read – India receives its first Rafale fighter jet from FranceThe clause in the deal posed that Airbus was to put in nearly USD 175 million, approximately Rs 1,000 crore into building training facilities for Indian Airlines pilots and infrastructure for maintenance, repairs, and overhauling of the aircraft. However, before the deal was passed, this clause binding Airbus to invest in India was removed and a new one was added. The new clause approved by the CCS said that now instead of Airbus, Indian Airlines would have to bear the costs of sending its pilots and staff to training centres in the US, France, Germany, or China. Both the CBI and the ED are looking into the role of lawyer and alleged middleman Deepak Talwar for using his influence with politicians to pull favours for foreign airline companies, causing heavy losses to national carriers. In a chargesheet against Talwar and his son Aditya, the ED also mentioned Patel, claiming that he was a “dear friend” of Talwar. The agency had claimed to have email exchanges between Talwar and Patel and alleged that the two were in regular touch. According to the ED, Talwar was allegedly paid Rs 272 crore by foreign private airlines like Air Arabia, Emirates, and Qatar Airways for securing favourable air traffic rights, sometime between 2008-09.
Kolkata: Another person has been arrested in connection with Nimta Trinamool leader Nirmal Kundu’s murder case on Thursday night from Hooghly.The accused, identified as Sanjay Das, was produced before the Barrackpore Court on Friday and was remanded to six days police custody. On the other hand, the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has taken over the Nimta murder case on Friday, following Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s instruction on Thursday. Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaAccording to sources, on Wednesday night two persons identified as Suman Kundu and Sujoy Das were arrested. After interrogating the duo, sleuths came up with Sanjay’s name. It has been alleged that he was riding the bike and Sujoy was sitting on the pillion rider’s seat, from where he had fired the shots at Nirmal. On the other hand, on Friday afternoon, CID sleuths went to Nimta police station and took over the charge of the investigation. All the documents including case diaries were handed over to CID team by the investigating officer of Nimta police station. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersSources have informed that the accused persons who were remanded to police custody will also be handed over to CID after maintaining legal procedure. Sleuths are trying to find out who else are connected with the planning of the murder. The CID team has already met with Nirmal’s family and will question the persons who were on the spot on Tuesday. Sleuths may also question the accused persons named in the FIR, apart from the arrested trio. Sleuths are also trying to know from whom the contract killers had got the one-shotter pistol, which was seized after arresting Sujoy. Earlier on Thursday evening, the Chief Minister had ordered a CID probe to solve the Nirmal Kundu murder case. She also alleged that BJP is behind the violence taking place across the state and pointed her finger at the saffron party for the murder as well.
Kolkata: The area adjacent to Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) turned into a battlefield after BJP leaders and workers forcefully tried to enter the HMC premises on Monday afternoon in Howrah.According to sources, BJP Yuva Morcha had called for a rally to HMC, demanding an immediate municipal election in Howrah. At present, the HMC is run by a board of administrators. On Monday afternoon, BJP Yuva Morcha workers were marching towards the HMC building when police intercepted the rally at Mangalahat. Despite repeated requests, BJP workers refused to cooperate and tried to move ahead. Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaThough police set a barrier using aluminum guard wall and guard rails, BJP workers forcefully removed the guard rails and went towards HMC. Having no other way to stop the violent BJP workers, police applied force. But that did not help much. Later, police had to initiate lathi charge to disperse the BJP workers. However, that move failed as well and BJP workers started assaulting police personnel who were trying to refrain them from going to HMC. Some BJP workers tried to climb up the closed gate of HMC. Police subsequently called in a water cannon and charged it on BJP workers, which dispersed the mob. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersOn the other hand, a similar situation arose near Karunamoyee in Salt Lake after teachers of Sishu Siksha Kendra (SSK) and Madhyamik Siksha Kendra (MSK) tried to move towards Bikash Bhavan on Monday afternoon. Since the last few days, several SSK and MSK teachers have been showing agitation, demanding salary hike. On Monday, they tried to break the barricades put up by police to reach Bikash Bhavan. The police force deployed there tried to stop them and later a huge police force was sent to bring the situation under control. During the agitation, the road towards City Center from Karunamoyee via Bikash Bhavan was closed and all the vehicles were diverted through other link roads.
New Delhi: Minorities have never been more safe in the country than under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP leader K J Alphons said in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday amid opposition references to lynching cases. Speaking on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address, he said Modi is “more democratic” than anyone before him. Five years back it was said that Christians will be beaten up and churches will be burnt once the BJP comes to power, he said. Also Read – Cong may promise farm loan waiver in Haryana “Have you seen any Christian being beaten up or any church being burnt (since the BJP came to power),” he asked. “Never has it been safer for minorities than under Modi,” he said as some in the opposition jeered, making references to lynching of Muslims in some parts of the country. Alphons, who was a minister in the first term of the BJP government but was not made a minister in Modi-2.0 government, targeted the Congress saying if it wants to live in a make- believe world, history will write it off. Also Read – Modi formed OBC commission which earlier govts didn’t do: Shah “You shall have a new India,” he said in an apparent jibe at Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who in his remarks during the debate, had called for giving back the ‘old India’ and Modi keeping his ‘New India’ with himself. He said instead of whining, the country should be celebrating achievements such as 99.2 per cent of the population now having toilets, 35 crore people getting bank accounts, 7.5 crore getting gas connection, 19 crore getting loan under Mudra scheme, the jump in ease of doing business ranking and India striking at the heart of the enemy. In his speech on the debate, Veer Singh (BSP) attacked the government for the unemployment rate climbing to a 45 year high due to “ill-planned” decisions and “wrong policies” such as demonetisation of high value currency notes and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. “Unemployment rate has risen from 2.1 per cent in 2011-12 to 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. This means 19 crore youth in the country are unemployed,” he said, adding reservation for SC/ST and OBCs is being diluted by the government in outsourcing work to private sector. Wansuk Syiem (Cong) said the President’s address did not have any mention of special package for the North East. It also did not have any mention of the telecom sector, where state-owned firms BSNL and MTNL are in a “bad shape” and are “unable to compete with the private sector.” Kirori Lal Meena (BJP) raised the issue of alleged dilution of tribal rules by the Congress-led government in Rajasthan in granting mining rights in tribal area. Participating in the debate, Abdul Wahab (IUML) asked how the government is going to win the trust of the minorities and Dalits when they were being “subjected to atrocities” everyday. He also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, saying they had invented a new branch of engineering – election engineering. Saroj Pandey (BJP) in her maiden speech hit out at the leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, saying he has insulted the mandate of the people by saying the prime minister won the elections riding on divisive politics whereas the fact remains that the people have voted for change. Attacking the opposition, she said they never cared for the women, poor and the people and it was Prime Minister Modi who felt their pain and built toilets for women, brought gas connection to their homes and ensured girls’ education. K Ravindra Kumar (TDP) said the BJP is all out to wipe the opposition in order to exercise monopoly which was not a healthy sign.
Srinagar: BJP President Amit Shah arrived in Srinagar on Wednesday to start his two-day maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir after taking over as the Union Home Minister. A Border Security Force (BSF) plane carrying the Home Minister landed at the technical area of Srinagar airport at 3.15 p.m. Shah is accompanied by a high-ranking team of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which includes Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba. J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, advisor to the Governor K. Vijay Kumar, state Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, state police chief Dilbag Singh and Joint Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Rahul Rasgotra were among the senior officials who received Shah at the airport. From the airport, Shah, along with Malik, Subrahmanyam, Dilbag Singh and Rasgotra, boarded a chopper enroute the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Complex (SKICC) on the banks of Dal Lake. Shah is scheduled to address a security review meeting for the upcoming Amarnath Yatra besides attending another meeting of the unified headquarters at the SKICC on Wednesday. This year’s Amarnath Yatra will begin on July 1 and end on August 15.
Ovadan-Depe: Turkmenistan on Friday opened a USD 1.7 billion gas-to-liquids plant as it seeks to monetise vast but idle gas reserves amid an economic crunch. The isolated Central Asian country holds the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves and has in recent years sought to diversify an economy battered by low energy prices. The plant opened in the desert town of Ovadan-Depe outside the capital Ashgabat with Japanese and Turkish investment is the largest gas-to-liquids plant in Central Asia. Also Read – Merkel warns UK Brexit deal ‘unlikely’ without compromise: London “Our country keeps pace with scientific progress,” Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said at the opening ceremony. “We want Turkmenistan to become the centre of a ‘green’ economy.” In a message read out at the ceremony, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was glad that Japan helped diversify Turkmenistan’s economy and ramp up energy exports. The plant will process 1.785 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually, producing 600,000 tonnes of gasoline a year among other liquid fuels. Also Read – India, China should jointly uphold peace and stability, resolve disputes through dialogues: Chinese ambassador The plant was built by Turkey’s R?nesans and Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Construction began in 2014. Japanese companies have recently ramped up investments in Turkmenistan, a country overwhelmingly dependent on gas exports to China via the Central Asia-China gas pipeline completed in 2009. In building a gas plant to convert gas into liquid fuels Turkmenistan emulated Qatar. Other mega-pipeline projects involving Turkmenistan including one to India and another to Europe via the Caspian Sea have long been held up by questions of economic and political feasibility. The secretive country of 5.7 million people suffers from widespread unemployment and economic stagnation. At the beginning of the year the government hiked fees for utilities, including water, gas and electricity which were once free. Turkmenistan’s neighbour Uzbekistan is reportedly planning a similar plant that will produce around 1.5 million tonnes of liquid fuels per year.
Madrid: A supertanker suspected of carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions was detained in Gibraltar on Thursday, the territory’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said. The Grace 1 vessel was halted in the early hours of Thursday by Gibraltar police and customs agencies, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines. “We have reason to believe that the ‘Grace 1’ was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria,” Picardo said in a statement. Also Read – Turkey preparations for Syria offensive ‘completed'”That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.” The Grace 1 is a Panamanian-flagged tanker, according to the shipping trade publication Lloyd’s List. “We have detained the vessel and its cargo,” Picardo said. European Union sanctions against Syria have been in force since late 2011. The 28-member bloc has imposed sanctions on 277 Syrian officials including government ministers over their role in the “violent repression” of civilians. It has frozen the assets of some 72 entities and introduced an embargo on Syrian oil, investment restrictions and a freeze on Syrian central bank assets within the EU.
Mumbai: “Are you ostriches,” an angry Bombay High Court bench on Friday asked the censor board for refusing to issue a universal (U) certificate to a children’s film and asserted the board will “not decide what one wants to watch and see”. In strongly-worded observations, a division bench of justices S C Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel also said that it may have to redefine the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) entirely as the latter thinks that it was the “only one with an iota of intelligence to decide for everyone”. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!The bench was hearing a petition filed by the Children’s Film Society (CFS), India, seeking directions to the CBFC tribunal to hear its plea to issue universal certificate to its film “Chidiakhana”. In January, the board issued universal/adult (U/A) certificate to the film, owing to an abusive word and a particular scene in it. The Society has claimed that the film is meant for children and is to be screened in schools. It said it is willing to remove the two objections. Also Read – Encounter under way in Pulwama, militant killedThe bench said the CBFC, by asking for such scenes to be deleted in films, was pretending that these issues do not exist. “Are you (CBFC) ostriches? Put your head in the sand and pretend something does not exist,” Justice Patel said. The CBFC Friday told the court that it has laid down certain conditions and if those are fulfilled then the film will be given ‘U/A’ certificate. Irked with this, the high court asked how can the board say that it will give ‘U/A’ certificate irrespective of whether the scene and abusive word is deleted. “We actually wonder if the CBFC officials have children of their own. You (CBFC) are a certification board and not a censor board. You will not decide what one wants to watch and see,” Justice Patel said. “Nobody has given you (CBFC) the intellectual morality and authority to decide what one wants to watch and see,” he added. The bench further said that the world was changing and so was the art of storytelling. “Looks like we may have to redefine your (CBFC) role entirely. You (CBFC) are forming an opinion that the whole population is infantile and imbecile and you are the only one with an iota of intelligence to decide for everyone,” Justice Patel said. The court said when a children’s film shows or speaks about issues like racism, discrimination, child labour and drug abuse, then it is better to use the films to explain these issues to children.
Washington DC: The Justice Department says it will press its search for legal grounds to force the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census, hours after President Donald Trump said he is “very seriously” considering an executive order to get the question on the form. Trump said Friday his administration is exploring a number of legal options, but the Justice Department did not say exactly what options remain now that the Supreme Court has barred the question at least temporarily. Also Read – Imran Khan arrives in China, to meet Prez Xi JinpingThe government has already begun the process of printing the census questionnaire without that question. The administration’s focus on asking broadly about citizenship for the first time since 1950 reflects the enormous political stakes and potential costs in the once-a-decade population count that determines the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives for the next 10 years and the distribution of some 675 billion in federal spending. It also reflects Trump’s interest in reshaping how congressional districts are drawn. Also Read – US blacklists 28 Chinese entities over abuses in Xinjiang”You need it for Congress, for districting,” he said Friday. “How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.” Districts now are based on the total population. Some Republicans want them based on the population of eligible voters, a change that could disadvantage Democrats by excluding immigrants. The Supreme Court has left open the issue of whether districts based only on the population of eligible voters is constitutional. The Census Bureau’s own experts have said a citizenship question would discourage immigrants from participating in the survey and result in a less accurate census that would redistribute money and political power away from Democratic-led cities where immigrants tend to cluster to whiter, rural areas where Republicans do well. Trump, speaking as he departed the White House for a weekend in New Jersey, said he might take executive action. “It’s one of the ways that we’re thinking about doing it, very seriously,” he said. An executive order would not, by itself, override court rulings blocking the inclusion of the citizenship question. But such an action from Trump would perhaps give administration lawyers a new basis to try to convince federal courts that the question could be included. “Executive orders do not override decisions of the Supreme Court,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement Friday. The organization is representing plaintiffs in the census lawsuit in Maryland. Later Friday, Justice Department lawyers formally told U.S. District Judge George Hazel in Maryland the administration is not giving up the legal fight to add the citizenship question to the next census. But they also said it’s unclear how they will proceed, according to a court filing. “They still say they don’t have clear instructions on what to do,” said Saenz, who took part in a conference call with the judge and lawyers for both sides in one of three lawsuits seeking to keep the question off the census. The other two are in New York and California.
New Delhi: Reliance Jio, the newest entrant in the telecom sector, has piped Bharti Airtel to become the second largest mobile operator with 32.29 crore subscribers and 27.80 per cent market share in May, according to regulator TRAI’s data. The move assumes significance as Reliance Jio stormed into the highly-competitive telecom sector in September 2016 with its disruptive voice and data offerings, while Bharti Airtel had launched its services way back in 1995. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to CustomsAs per the latest data released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Vodafone Idea – born last year from the merger of older operators Vodafone India and Idea Cellular – continues to be the largest operator with 38.75 crore consumers and 33.36 per cent market share in the wireless segment as on May 31, 2019. Sunil Mittal-promoted Bharti Airtel has slipped to the third spot with 32.03 crore mobile subscribers and 27.58 per cent subscriber market share during the month. Also Read – Coking coal shipments rise 15 pc to 29 MT at 12 state-run ports in Apr-SepReliance Jio added 81.80 lakh new subscribers (on a net basis) in May and ended the month with 27.80 per cent market share and 32.29 crore subscribers. Interestingly, cash-strapped telecom PSU Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), that is awaiting a relief package from the government and has undertaken severe cost-cutting measures – added 2,125 wireless subscribers during May. Established players like Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel – which have introduced minimum recharge schemes in their quest to chase higher ARPUs (average revenues per user) and improve financials – lost subscribers, at 56.97 lakh and 15.08 lakh users, respectively. The change in pecking order in May contrasts with the rankings in April 2019 when Bharti Airtel was the second largest mobile operator with 32.18 crore subscribers and 27.69 per cent share of the overall wireless market. Reliance Jio, in April, had trailed the older operator and held the third spot with 31.48 crore subscribers and 27.08 market market share. Vodafone Idea, in April too was the largest operator in India, by a wide margin, with 39.32 crore subscribers and 33.83 per cent of the overall wireless market, last month’s data put out by TRAI showed.
Kolkata: West Bengal Orthopaedic Association (WBOA) is conducting a week-long campaign on Osteoporosis from August 1 to 7 to spread awareness about ailments related to bones.This apart, Kolkata will host the 64th Annual Conference of Indian Orthopaedic Association in the third week of November 2019. Osteoporosis occurs due to in adequate intake of key bone nutrients during early age. The problem may account for 5-10 % decline in peak bone mass later in life. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaWorld Osteoporosis day will be observed on August 4. “The theme of the campaign is —Healthy Aging with Strong Bones. As part of the campaign, WBOA is conducting a mega rally in Howrah from People’s Nursing Home to Birla Seva Sadan on August 4,” said president of WBOA Dr N K Das. Osteoporosis is common among elderly women. This apart, one in eight men is predicted to have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. During teen years, bone not only increases in size (with growth) but also becomes stronger to reach its peak bone mass. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway”We need to have strong bones and joints. Awareness about bone health is still in the state of infancy, we need to raise awareness about the importance of strong bones and joints,” Das said. “Annual Conference of Indian Orthopaedic Association 2019 will be held at Biswa Bangla Convention Centre Kolkata, West Bengal. It will start on November 19 and end on November 24,” said Dr Partha Sarathi Sarkar, secretary of WBOA. West Bengal Orthopaedic Association focuses on academics, research and social networking.
Udhagamandalam (TN): The DMK on Monday announced Rs 10 crore from the Local Area Development Fund of its MPs and MLA, to take up relief works in the rain-ravaged Nilgiris district.Announcing this to reporters, DMK President M K Stalin said A Raja, representing the hilly Nilgiris Lok Sabha constituency, will contribute Rs three crore, five Rajya Sabha MPs Rs one crore each and local MLA Dravida Mani Rs two crore. Accusing the Tamil Nadu government of not taking any preventive measures to tackle the impact of rains and floods, he demanded the district be announced as a natural disaster-prone district. Stalin, who visited the kin of two people, killed in rain-related incidents, said besides financial aid, one of the members of the family should be given Government job. The government should take steps to clear the water pathway from Gudalur in the Nilgiris to Mettupalayam in Coimbatore district, to facilitate smooth flow of water, the DMK chief said. Mpost
New Delhi: The Congress on Saturday alleged that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was “clueless” in dealing with the economic slowdown and termed the latest steps announced by her to boost the economy as “cosmetic” and “piecemeal”.The Congress’ attack came after Sitharaman announced an over Rs 70,000-crore package for export and real estate sectors, including setting up of a stressed asset fund, as the government continued with firefighting measures to pull the economy out of a six-year low growth rate. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM'”I can only say that the finance minister is clueless as to how to deal with the gravity of the crisis,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said at a press conference. After the earlier announcements of stimulus package, the situation deteriorated and the latest steps are not going to help, Sharma asserted. “The finance minister of India is lacking in macroeconomic understanding. A comprehensive package for economic revival was expected,” he said. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K”The steps announced today will not revive the Indian economy, they are purely cosmetic, piecemeal and also convey the arrogance of the government and its indifference to the seriousness of the situation,” he said. Sharma said what was required to revive the economy was infusion of capital and not merely “small interest subventions” which have been announced. The government is unable to do so because it does not have money, the Congress leader claimed. Like last year, this year also the situation of revenue shortfall appears to be more serious, he said. Sharma also hit out at Sitharaman’s earlier statement blaming millennials’ preference for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Ola over owning cars, and not high taxes, for slumping vehicle sales. He also took a swipe at Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal’s apparent gaffe in explaining that achieving the target of nearly doubling the size of the economy to USD 5 trillion should not be looked through the prism of Maths. Goyal had remarked that maths did not help Albert Einstein ‘to discover gravity’. The slip up was not lost on netizens who quickly took to Twitter to point out that gravity was discovered by Isaac Newton and Einstein is credited for his theory of relativity.
VANCOUVER – Canada’s correctional service continued to use indefinite solitary confinement for prisoners despite decades of policy-reform recommendations and a call for change from the prime minister, a lawyer said Tuesday.Joe Arvay told a B.C. Supreme Court judge that change did not come after the Liberals won the election in the fall of 2015, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered the justice minister to implement recommendations from a coroner’s inquest into the suicide death of a young inmate who’d been isolated.Arvay is representing the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada in a lawsuit launched against the federal government in January 2015. He told the court that even a bill Ottawa introduced two weeks ago to impose a time limit on what prison officials call administrative segregation falls short.“Instead, through the course of this litigation there has been policy tinkering, and at the 11th hour the introduction of a bill that may one day but has not yet amended the laws that govern solitary confinement in Canada,” he said in his opening submission.The federal legislation was introduced after several high-profile cases emerged involving extended isolation, including that of Moncton, N.B., resident Ashley Smith, an emotionally disturbed 19-year-old who died in custody in 2007 after tying a strip of cloth around her neck.In his mandate letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Trudeau tasked her to take a second look at the Smith inquest’s recommendations “regarding the restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness.”Among the recommendations from the 2013 inquest was a call to end indefinite solitary confinement and the use of segregation beyond 15 days for female inmates with mental health issues.Under the current law, Correctional Service Canada is required to release prisoners from administrative segregation at the earliest possible time. The new law would establish an initial time limit of 21 days, with a reduction to 15 days once the legislation has been law for 18 months.However, Caily DiPuma, acting litigation director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said wardens will retain the final decision-making power despite a proposed independent review process and there would be no caps on how long an inmate can be held in a solitary cell.“But we have seen far too much abuse under a system that has more guidelines than guarantees,” she said outside the court.“We say that what’s really critical to understand about this proposed law is that what happened to Ashley Smith can still happen under this proposed bill.”Correctional Service Canada has said administrative segregation is used when inmates are difficult to manage, their safety may be at risk in the general population, or if there is no reasonable alternative to maintain the safety and security of an institution.Arvay quoted the 2014-2015 correctional investigator’s annual report that says 14 of 30 suicides during that time involved inmates who were segregated.Mentally ill and aboriginal prisoners are segregated more often and women tend to inflict more self-harm when isolated, Arvay said.Several current and former inmates are expected to provide evidence during the nine-week trial, including a woman who spent 3-1/2 years in solitary confinement.Mitch Taylor, a lawyer representing the government, said prison life is stressful and inmates who end up in administrative segregation fare no worse than those in the general population because staff ensure their mental health and other needs conform to professionally accepted standards.“Under no circumstance is an inmate expected to be subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment,” Taylor said.Current practices based on recent reforms comply with the charter and don’t infringe on inmates’ rights, he said, adding: “It’s not a historical review. It is about the here and now.”Taylor said the number of people in solitary confinement has fallen from 800 in 2014 to about 400 on an average day this year.Reforms as of Aug. 1 mean certain categories of inmates will no longer be placed in solitary confinement, including pregnant women, people at risk of suicide or those with serious mental disorders, he said.—Follow @CamilleBains1 on TwitterNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Caily DiPuma’s surname.
CALGARY – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says some of the people he met during his Calgary Stampede visit on Saturday lightheartedly mentioned a gaffe he made during a Canada Day speech, during which he skipped Alberta as he rattled off Canada’s provinces and territories.“I got a couple of people teasing me for it, but no one’s made a big deal of it. It’s sort of a gentle ribbing,” Trudeau told reporters on the second-last day of the 10-day western celebration.“I think everyone understands that mistakes happen every now and then and the fact that I keep coming back to Alberta regularly to connect with people, to work on issues that matter to Albertans is something that I know people appreciate very much.”It was earlier thought that Trudeau would miss the Stampede — a popular schmoozing event for politicians of all stripes — as it coincided with G20 meetings in Hamburg, Germany, and a U.S. governors’ meeting in Rhode Island.But Trudeau says he managed to rearrange his schedule for Saturday’s whirlwind visit.The day started off with a meeting with Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi at a downtown hotel.From there, he headed to two community breakfasts, where he held babies, took selfies and served up pancakes amongst big crowds.He then visited with Indigenous leaders at the Stampede’s Indian Village, where he spoke with community members inside a tipi and accepted gifts that included a blanket, a hand-made beaded medallion, sweetgrass and smudge box.He capped off the day with an appearance at the rodeo.The controversy over the Omar Khadr settlement followed Trudeau on his trip, with a man who lives across from one of the pancake breakfasts putting up a big sign on top of is garage that read: “Trudeau, why don’t you pay the widow Speer?” — referring to the wife of Sgt. Chris Speer, the U.S. soldier Khadr is accused of killing in Afghanistan 15 years ago.Khadr had filed a $20-million lawsuit against the government for violating his Charter rights, and has received an out-of-court settlement reportedly worth $10.5 million.Daxton Yont decided to put up the sign because he and others in the community feel the payout was out of line and unjustified.“We just thought we’d put it up to get a light message across. We didn’t want to be rude about it, didn’t want to do something extreme, but just a nice gentle message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” said Yont.Khadr was sent to the notorious U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after being captured during a firefight with U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002. He was 15 years old when he was wounded in a battle in which Speer was killed and fellow Delta Force soldier Layne Morris was blinded in one eye.Khadr, now 30, pleaded guilty to five war crimes before a widely condemned military commission at Guantanamo Bay in 2010. He said he agreed to the plea so he could get out of the American prison and return to Canada.In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadian officials violated Khadr’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms during their interrogations.“It’s easy to understand why people are frustrated about this. I’m concerned about the money as well, which is, as I said, why we settled,” Trudeau told reporters Saturday.He reiterated that fighting Khadr’s lawsuit in court and losing could have cost $30 million to $40 million.“So we decided that it was the right thing to do, to settle, both because it was the fiscally responsible thing to do, but also because we recognize that when governments violate Canadians’ fundamental rights, there have to be consequences.”
OTTAWA – One month into her new job as Canada’s Governor General, Julie Payette is taking on fake news and bogus science.Payette was the keynote speaker at the ninth annual Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa Wednesday night where she urged her friends and former colleagues to take responsibility to shut down the misinformation about everything from health and medicine to climate change and even horoscopes that has flourished with the explosion of digital media.“Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately, we’re still debating and still questioning whether humans have a role in the Earth warming up or whether even the Earth is warming up, period,” she asked, her voice incredulous.“And we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”She generated giggles and even some guffaws from the audience when she said too many people still believe “taking a sugar pill will cure cancer if you will it good enough and that your future and every single one of the people here’s personalities can be determined by looking at planets coming in front of invented constellations.”Payette was trained as a computer engineer and later became an astronaut and licensed pilot and in 1999 was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station.Appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, one of the conference-goers Wednesday noted she was now the second astronaut to be part of the Trudeau government, along with Transport Minister Marc Garneau.Trudeau has pledged to give science a more prominent place in his government’s policy-making, appointing a chief science adviser earlier this fall and undergoing a national science policy review that reported in the spring. The government’s response to the report of the scientific review panel is still in the works.Science Minister Kirsty Duncan speaks at the conference Thursday evening where she is expected to outline more of the government’s vision for science. Chief Science Adviser Mona Nemer addresses the gathering earlier in the day.Payette clearly signalled her background will play a major role in her tenure as Governor General.She urged her former colleagues in the room to be “vigilant” and aim to make science a topic so well known and understood it is a subject of conversation at cocktail parties in the same way people now talk about the weather or the latest hockey scores.She said the “the internet, social media, 24-hour news” have meant more and more information is accessible to the public. A learned society is a better society, Payette said, but the fake news and bogus scientific claims have to be refuted.“Democracy and society have always gained from learned debate but we have to remain vigilant and we cannot let ourselves fall into complacency and we must be vocal, all the time, everywhere, every single one of us, so we can deconstruct misinformation and don’t end up in an echo chamber just listening to what we want to hear,” Payette said.— follow @mrabson on Twitter.
OTTAWA – Federal New Democrats have been forced to relocate a planned caucus retreat to Ottawa after poor weather scuttled the party’s original plan to hold the meeting in Saguenay, Que.The three-day gathering was supposed to start in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean on Tuesday, but a winter-storm warning led to the cancellation of several flights to the area, located about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.Environment Canada said it was expecting 25 to 40 centimetres of snow and blowing snow as well as freezing rain over parts of central and eastern Quebec through Wednesday.The storm sent NDP officials scrambling to find an alternative venue before the party decided to have MPs fly to Ottawa.The caucus retreat will kick off on Wednesday morning and run through Thursday.The NDP had been hoping to use the Saguenay meeting to get the community — where the party was trounced in a byelection in October — and Quebecers as a whole better acquainted with new leader Jagmeet Singh.“Unfortunately, the storm has had an impressive impact on the movement of our MPs in the rest of Canada,” Singh said.“I am extremely disappointed that we have been forced to postpone our visit to Saguenay. I was really looking forward to coming back to the area, especially after being so well received in the fall.”New Democrats placed a distant fourth in the Lac-Saint-Jean byelection after finishing a close second in the 2015 federal election.
VICTORIA – A British Columbia court has granted Victoria an injunction to shut down a marijuana dispensary, marking the first court-ordered closure of a pot shop in the city.Victoria was the second city in Canada to regulate cannabis stores in 2016, requiring shops to obtain business licences and follow strict location rules after Vancouver introduced regulations the previous year.Both cities have struggled with stores that refused to close down after they were denied a business licence.Victoria says in a news release that last week’s decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Hinkson was the first of its kind in the city.Hinkson ruled in favour of Victoria’s decision to decline a rezoning application for the Green Dragon Medicinal Society and approved the city’s request for an injunction, meaning the dispensary is required to shut its doors.The city denied Green Dragon the rezoning because it was within 200 metres of a school, which is a violation of the municipal regulations.A post on the dispensary’s Facebook page on Saturday said it was “closed for good.”Vancouver has filed for injunctions against 53 unlicensed marijuana dispensaries, but a test case will not be heard until September, more than two years since some of the court documents were filed.
TORONTO – Ontario’s embattled Progressive Conservatives tried to put on a united front Tuesday, saying the party has turned the page following weeks of unprecedented tumult triggered by its leader’s abrupt resignation — and his short-lived quest to reclaim his job.But questions remained about the party’s ability to restore confidence among the rank and file while holding a leadership contest that could see the Tories walk away from the “People’s Guarantee” — a platform touted by ousted leader Patrick Brown as the path to victory in the spring election.“The last 10 days have been unprecedented in Ontario’s politics,” interim leader Vic Fedeli told a news conference. “No one will question that it has been a difficult time for our party, but we are now ready to turn the page.”Fedeli, however, repeatedly dodged questions about his promise to “root out the rot,” following allegations of corruption, fixed nomination contests, abuse of funds and inflated membership numbers levelled against Brown, who is also being investigated by Ontario’s integrity commissioner.“Our party is bigger than one person,” he said, adding that the Tories have never been in a better position to defeat the Liberals, who have governed the province for over 14 years.“Quite frankly, this has made us a lot stronger,” he said.But turning the page won’t be easy given the media coverage of Brown’s resignation in January amid sexual misconduct allegations and the chaos that ensued, said University of Guelph political science professor Tamara Small.“The party itself and all of the candidates are not going to want to talk about Patrick Brown,” she said. “Their messaging will be about moving on and defeating (Premier) Kathleen Wynne….but it will depend on whether or not the media decides they’re going to let the PCs set the agenda.”Barry Kay, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said barring any further revelations involving Brown, the party, or major gaffes by the yet-to-be elected leader, history favours the Tories when it comes to replacing the Liberals.“There is a sense that the Liberals have had more than a fair shot, 15 years,” he said. “That should give the Conservatives, all things being equal, an edge coming into this election.”The four remaining leadership hopefuls — former legislator Christine Elliott, lawyer Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and parental rights advocate Tanya Granic Allen — will face each other in a debate Wednesday in Ottawa.Members will start voting for the new leader on March 2, with the winner to be announced on March 10.If elected leader, Mulroney said she would introduce a plan to clean up the party, beef up its sexual harassment policies, modernize its technology and establish rules for “legitimate” expenses.“I’m going to build a party members can trust again,” she said. “A party ready to bring a new generation of leadership to our province.”Elliott said some change is in order for the party, but there was no need for a major internal shakeup.“We do need to make some changes…but I do believe that foundation is strong,” she said. “I don’t think things are in the kind of terrible shape that Caroline seems to think they are, I think things are much more healthy and we’re ready to go.”Doug Ford and Tanya Granic Allen did not respond to requests for comment.Meanwhile, the Liberals seized the opportunity to attack the Tory leadership candidates, who have opposed not only the province’s current cap-and-trade system, but also Brown’s plan to replace it with a carbon tax.The Tories will have to cut services to make up for the billions of dollars the program would bring in, said Deb Matthews, former president of the Treasury Board and Liberal campaign co-chair.“I’m looking to see who’s going to come clean,” she said. “Who is going to say this is what we’re going to cut.”NDP legislator France Gelinas said it’s becoming clear that the Progressive Conservative party is not ready to run the province.“We don’t have to choose between bad and worse,” she said. “We can choose the NDP.”Gelinas added that she won’t be tuning in to watch Thursday’s leadership debate.“I look at the Conservatives a bit like … a dumpster fire,” she said. “You know there are flames coming of that big box but I’m not interested to see what’s in there.”— With files from Paola Loriggio.
LADYSMITH, B.C. – Transport Canada has announced funding to help coastal communities clear out abandoned boats and vessels that pose both as an eyesore and safety concern.The department says $1.3 million is being made available to assess and remove abandoned boats from ports and harbours in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as to support an education campaign to deter the practice.Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement Monday abandoned vessels are a financial burden to communities and the funds will help mitigate the costs.At least 21 vessels are slated to be removed from a number of harbours including in Ladysmith, B.C., Vancouver, Victoria and Port Saunders, N.L.Sheila Malcolmson, a New Democrat MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, said the funding is “a drop in the bucket” compared with the scale of the problem.Malcolmson said local governments have struggled to respond to the hundreds of vessels estimated to be abandoned along Canada’s coastline and waterways for decades, and the federal announcement to remove only 21 boats is a disappointment.The problem stems from a poor registry system, which limits police agencies’ ability to track down irresponsible owners when they’re issued fines, she said.“Right now that vessel registry is so undermined and broken that that kind of accountability is not possible,” she said.Malcolmson introduced a private member’s bill last fall to change how the government handles vessel clean up, but it wasn’t voted on because it was too similar to legislation Garneau was introducing that would make abandoning a boat illegal.Garneau also announced funding in B.C. to assess 26 abandoned and wrecked boats, allowing port authorities and others to apply to have them removed.The funding includes $475,000 over the next three years to support research into developing environmentally friendly methods to recycle and dispose of boats.“Our government is also pursuing other measures to reduce the number of problem vessels that pose hazards in Canadian waters, and support the preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems,” Garneau said in a statement.