Archive for August, 2018

Bill Vander Zalm is shaking things up again

Friday, August 24th, 2018

In March 2007 — two years before he launched his anti-HST petition campaign — Bill Vander Zalm found himself at a private fundraising event with Gordon Campbell in Palm Springs, Calif.

The B.C. premier, according to ex-premier Vander Zalm, wouldn’t shake his hand.

“It’s very unusual. That’s why I remember it. I’ve never seen it happen,” recalled Vander Zalm this week at his home in Ladner.

Only Campbell and Vander Zalm know what went down that day in the California desert three years ago. (Campbell, through his press secretary Bridgitte Anderson, said he recalled meeting Vander Zalm at the Palm Springs event but couldn’t recall whether they shook hands.)

But what’s clear is that the “free enterprise” centre-right politicians have not been on friendly terms for many years.

Campbell has publicly reached out during his time in office to former Social Credit premier Bill Bennett. But the B.C. Liberal premier has never called former Socred premier Vander Zalm, who succeeded Bennett as premier in 1986 but was forced to resign five years later over conflict-of-interest allegations involving the sale of the Fantasy Gardens theme park.

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“For whatever reason, I don’t think [Campbell] was very fond of Bill Vander Zalm,” said Vander Zalm, during an interview this week.

“And I think it’s probably a lot less now.”

Vander Zalm is now the leader of the Fight HST group, which claims it’s on the verge of signing up 10 per cent of registered voters in all 85 provincial ridings — the threshold required under initiative legislation to repeal the harmonized sales tax.

Chris Delaney, Vander Zalm’s close friend and lieutenant in Fight HST, said that the former Social Credit leader told him about the alleged Palm Springs slight upon his arrival home from Palm Springs.

Delaney said that Campbell probably hadn’t forgiven Vander Zalm for earlier joining with the NDP and the labour movement in protests against the Campbell government policies on privatization of BC Hydro and BC Rail in 2003 — and against the Liberals’ decision to have new BC Ferries built in Europe in 2004.

Vander Zalm said he has no hard feelings against the premier and that his opposition to Campbell’s HST is not personal.

“I don’t have a grudge. Once we’re done with the HST issue, I hope I can concentrate on my lilac bushes and take the odd holiday.”

If Elections B.C. ratifies the Fight HST petition and the government doesn’t repeal the tax, Vander Zalm is threatening to go to Campbell’s Vancouver Point-Grey riding and seek the premier’s ouster under provincial recall legislation.

“If [Campbell] doesn’t back off, this [anti-HST] campaign will go on until the next election and beyond.”

This scenario — an ex-premier out of office for nearly two decades seeking to topple a sitting one — is very unusual, if not unprecedented.

Most former premiers shift into quiet retirement (Bill Bennett and Rita Johnston), seek elected political office elsewhere (Dave Barrett and Ujjal Dosanjh), pursue policy goals at universities or non-profits (Mike Harcourt) or take a high-paying business job in the private sector (Glen Clark).

Vander Zalm, always a political outlier, has chosen a different path — one that has led him to his showdown with Campbell.

University of Victoria political scientist Dennis Pilon said that Vander Zalm’s re-entry into the political fray reflects the same independent, self-confident streak he showed while premier.

“I would chalk it up to his particular personality. He went from scandal to scandal and never saw anything wrong with anything he ever did.”

Pilon said that Vander Zalm represents a part of the free-enterprise coalition in B.C. that is more conservative and rural while Campbell comes from the more secular and urban part of that centre-right political universe.

“In a way Vander Zalm still represents that small-town, small business part of the Social Credit coalition that has never warmed to Gordon Campbell.”

Vander Zalm left office with a certain notoriety (despite his exoneration in court), but his controversial past doesn’t seem to have hurt his anti-HST campaign.

“I think the HST is bigger than what it is people might think of me,” said Vander Zalm.

“I was in Costco a week ago and some Chinese lady grabs me around the neck and gives me a big hug and says; ‘Before I hate you. Now I love you.’”

Vander Zalm, ever the populist, believes he speaks for provincial autonomy — and for regular folks and small business. Campbell too often bows to Ottawa and the eastern establishment, according to Vander Zalm, and acts for big corporations, which have embraced the HST.

“By nature, I’ve always been more inclined to relate to the average person. You might not think so when you look at my place here, but that’s how I’ve always felt.”

Vander Zalm, now 75, lives off a country road on the outskirts of Ladner, in a large Normandy Tudor house with four bedrooms and seven bathrooms. Its front door is framed by two bronze statues of a French girl and boy.

Not surprisingly, given Vander Zalm’s status as one of B.C. most famous gardeners, there’s plenty of vegetation — and it’s all immaculate.

Portuguese laurels, pruned once a year, line the long driveway. Emerald cedars stand like sentries, their spirals something out of Edward Scissorhands.

Vander Zalm, who has four children and nine grandchildren, lives in the house with his wife, Lillian.

“When the kids were being born and growing up, we had little houses and now that we’re old and could live in a little place, we live in a big house. Crazy.”

On the flanks of his 10-hectare property are two fields of hay, which are harvested by a local farmer. Out back is a glass-covered conservatory with a swimming pool. Further back still is a nursery where Vander Zalm grows lilacs, which he mostly gives away.

“We used to grow 100,000 lilacs but I couldn’t sell any lilacs this year because I’ve been busy doing the HST stuff,” said Vander Zalm.

“I didn’t realize at the beginning that it would take so much time. Nobody did.

“Now my phone never quits ringing, day and night. People asking: ‘Where can I sign the petition.’ It never stops ringing.”

A guest house off to the side of the main residence is where Vander Zalm conducts most of his HST business. The Dutch immigrant has a framed copy of a Rembrandt self-portrait, a few prints of prewar Dutch scenes, a painting of Vander Zalm when he was a young mayor of Surrey, a bronze bust of the ex-premier’s head and a stack of his self-published autobiography titled For the People. (He’s sold 1,600 of the 3,000 he had published.)

A bouquet of iris’s sits on a long oak table where Vander Zalm holds his meetings with his Fight HST board, which includes two New Democrats (longtime strategist and political commentator Bill Tieleman and Cheryl Baron), two B.C. Liberals (Rainer Schmoll and Annie Storey) and two B.C. Conservatives (former party leader Delaney and Sal Vetro).

Vander Zalm’s return to the political fray began last July, as he tells us, when he and Lillian learned from the dinner-hour TV news that B.C. had agreed to adopt the HST.

“I said to Lillian: ‘This is crazy, absolutely crazy.’ Every B.C. government since Bill Bennett has been approached by the federal government to adopt the HST and every premier and finance minister has said we don’t want any part of it.”

Vander Zalm was frustrated the next morning by the lack of media coverage of the HST so Lillian told him to contact the media. An article on Vander Zalm attacking the HST appeared in the morning newspaper with Vander Zalm’s e-mail address.

“Well, my e-mail went nuts. I started getting so many e-mails, I didn’t know what to do.” Vander Zalm phoned his friend Delaney and the two of them agreed to discuss how to oppose the HST.

A few weeks later they met with Tieleman, who had started an anti-HST Facebook site, at the Maurya Restaurant on West Broadway. Vander Zalm and Delaney had worked with Tieleman — their political opposite — on the aforementioned rallies over BC Rail, BC Hydro and the offshore construction of ferries.

Tieleman described Vander Zalm as a “B. C. firster” and as a right-wing populist just as former premier Dave Barrett was a left-wing populist.

“I think Bill is showing that the populist appeal he had when he was premier still exists today but in a different form.”

They agreed to set up Fight HST and seek the tax legislation’s repeal with Vander Zalm as the campaign’s public face and official proponent.

“We agreed the proponent should be somebody with a profile so that it couldn’t be ignored,” said Vander Zalm.

The irony that the former Socred leader is now collaborating with New Democrats to fight the HST — causing the Campbell government’s poll numbers to fall — isn’t lost on anyone.

“I worked for quite a while to get Bill Vander Zalm out of government and now I’m working with him,” said Tieleman, who arranged for Vander Zalm and NDP leader Carole James to share the stage at an anti-HST rally late last year.

Vander Zalm is no fan of the NDP but is willing to work with them on specific issues. Does he feel that he’s being used by the NDP? “I’ve heard that. But they joined us and they’ve been helpful.

“But it’s all about the people. So I don’t particularly care which parties join in.”

Vander Zalm said he didn’t realize he was signing on to what would become a full-time job with many weeks spent on the road with two to three speaking engagements a day.

“I’ve been to every major community in B.C. except for Campbell River and Prince Rupert.”

Vander Zalm, a natural politician who never tires of pressing the flesh and making small talk with voters, acknowledged enjoying being back on the trail.

“It felt a little bit like a political campaign tour. I met a lot of people who reminded me that they had met me 20 years ago,” said Vander Zalm.

“The neat part of it was that in an election campaign, 50 per cent of the people are in favour of you and 50 per cent of the people are damning you.

“Whereas now it’s 100 per cent of people saying nice things. So it’s much better.”

Vander Zalm dismisses the notion that he’s seeking some kind of redemption two decades after being hounded from office. But it’s hard not to think he’s not enjoying his return to the limelight.

“I think that there is some element for Bill of proving that he can still be popular in B.C. the way he was before he became premier,” said Tieleman.

Vander Zalm knows he owes his second life in politics to the anti-HST campaign’s appeal to those on the right who are instinctively anti-tax and suspicious of government and to those on the left who hate Campbell and view the HST as a huge tax shift from big business to regular folks.

“I could go out there in front of my house with a sign right now that says ‘No HST’ and I’d get cars stopping one after another with people wanting to sign.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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Sheriff’s office gets nearly $1M in B.C. cocaine cash

Friday, August 24th, 2018

The sheriff’s office in Bakersfield, Calif. is nearly a million dollars richer this week, thanks to money seized from B.C. drug smugglers.

United States attorney Benjamin Wagner and Carl Beckett, of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Bakersfield, handed over a cheque for $968,694.14 Wednesday to Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

The money came from a cocaine case involving two Metro Vancouver men.

Davinder Singh, 42, of Delta and Thai Hoang Nguyen, 33, of Surrey, were recently sentenced for their role in a cocaine-for-cash conspiracy with two Californians.

Singh, who is cooperating with U.S. officials, got five years May 3.

He pleaded in a letter to the court "to have the opportunity to go back to my family."

Nguyen was sentenced to eight years and was described by an associate as "a big fish" who wanted to bring 100 kilos of coke a week into Canada.

The pair worked with two Californians to get their hands on 85 kilos of coke back in September 2008.

As a member of the group asked around about cocaine purchases, someone tipped the DEA, which started an undercover sting.

An official with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office posed as the cocaine supplier and met with the drug gang and a mysterious Canadian named "Bobby," who has not been charged.

Police followed the Canadians and their American associates – Sokha Bhopal and Vath Lim – as they arranged and completed a cocaine-for-cash deal worth $1,487,500 US.

"As the negotiations continued, it became apparent that Nguyen was the primary individual attempting to purchase cocaine," special agent Trent O’Neill said in court documents.

"Nguyen indicated he was having difficulty locating his ‘accountant’ to obtain the money."

When Nguyen got his cash, the DEA seized $1,253,500 the group was carrying in two suitcases. Another $106,806 was obtained from a bank account linked to the gang.

The DEA decided to forfeit most of the cash to the local sheriff’s office for its assistance in the case.

Wagner said this week that asset forfeiture has become one of the most powerful tools for crippling drug-trafficking organizations.

"If you take away their cash, you can effectively stem the flow of drugs," Wagner said. "This case demonstrated how effective federal and local law enforcement can be when we work as a team. I commend the Kern County Sheriff’s Department and the DEA for their outstanding work in this case."

The B.C.-led group was snared by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, an inter-agency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug-trafficking organizations throughout the U.S.

Nguyen’s lawyer Richard Troberman argued his client was just a bit player who flew down to California to vouch for "Bobby," whom he had never met.

Troberman said U.S. law enforcement agencies preyed on vulnerable traffickers at the time of the sting.

"In the fall of 2008, the cocaine supply dried up along the I-5 corridor. Drug traffickers became more desperate, and less cautious, in their efforts to obtain product, and sought out new sources of supply," Troberman said in court documents.

But U.S. attorney Karen Escobar argued in court filings that Nguyen had a major role.

"The ability to obtain over $1.2 million in cash to finance a large cocaine transaction suggests that this transaction was not Nguyen’s first," she said.

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‘Facebook creep’ border guard may not be off payroll

Friday, August 24th, 2018

A B.C. border guard who used passport details to hit on women through Facebook is no longer on duty, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

But the CBSA refuses to say if he’s still receiving a paycheque.

On Wednesday, The Vancouver Sun reported the details of an internal CBSA investigation which found that "on numerous occasions" a border guard e-mailed himself the names and photographs of attractive women so he could hit on them later on Facebook.

The behaviour came to light only after a married woman complained to the CBSA that the guard tried to contact her through Facebook just hours after she came through his inspection line.

"I don’t mean to creep you out," the guard wrote the woman on Facebook. "I met you and thought you were stunning and if you are the person I think you are we kinda shared a chemistry. I thought it might be worth a shot to see if I could find you, but I can’t just come out and tell you where or when because if you object to me befriending you I could get into trouble."

The CBSA did not respond to The Sun’s questions about the guard by the paper’s deadline on Tuesday.

However, CBSA spokeswoman Hannah Mahoney has since emailed The Sun a statement that "behaviour of this nature is clearly inappropriate" and that "the border services officer in question is no longer performing his duties, pending the outcome of the investigation."

The Sun asked Mahoney to clarify if that meant the guard had been suspended — and, if so, whether the suspension is with or without pay.

Mahoney refused to say, stating in a second e-mail: "The Privacy Act prevents me from speaking to any further details about this situation".

The CBSA’s statement said it doesn’t hesitate to take disciplinary measures against misbehaving staff, "up to and including termination of employment".

But when The Sun asked if it would let it know when, or if, the guard is terminated, the CBSA once again refused to comment.

"The CBSA must follow due process in any investigation," Mahoney wrote in her e-mail. "As the process is not yet complete, it would be inappropriate to speculate on outcomes."

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CBSA – Facebook


iPad-mania hits Vancouver today

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Apple fans are expected to start lining up early to be among the first in line for Friday morning’s launch of Apple’s new iPad in Canada.

As the launch date nears, Bell became the second Canadian carrier to announce its wireless data plan for the popular device, with pricing that matches that already announced by Rogers. Bell’s plans, which like Rogers are available with no contracts, start at $15 a month for 250 megabytes of data and $35 a month for five gigabytes. The plans include unlimited access at Bell Wi-Fi hot spots across Canada.

Apple retail stores are opening at 8 a.m. Friday for the launch of the iPad, which will also be available at Best Buy and Future Shop although there is no word on quantities. In addition, Apple has said the iPad will be available at "select" authorized resellers but Simply Computing, an independent Apple reseller in Vancouver, said it won’t know until Friday if it will get stock.

Best Buy communications manager Danielle Jang said stores will open at their usual times although staff will be handing out tickets to customers to exchange for an iPad if there are lineups.

"We don’t know how many we are going to be getting in," she said. "We know there is going to be a lot of interest."

Unlike the American April launch that only had the Wi-Fi version of the iPad available, both the Wi-Fi and 3G versions will be available in Canada. The lowest price iPad is the $549 16 GB Wi-Fi version, with the priciest the $879 64 GB Wi-Fi and 3G model.

Scott Michaels, vice-president of Atimi Software, a Vancouver development company that creates iPad and iPhone apps, said the rush of early adopters across the border to buy iPads when they were first available there may mean shorter lineups in Canada.

He said major Canadian companies seem to be waiting for the iPad to arrive, rather than creating apps to be out in time for the launch here.

"I’m interested to see the uptake in Canada to see if it matches the U.S. adoption of the device," said Michaels.

Gary Ng, who runs the blogs and, agrees that many of the early adopters already have their iPads.

Others pre-ordered in time for the May 28 delivery although orders now on the Apple site promise delivery only in June with no date specified. Still, Ng expects Friday’s launch will likely draw some crowds.

"I think people will line up," he predicted. "I think the iPad is living up to the hype, I think the sales numbers reflect that."

Ron Burnett, president of Emily Carr University of Art + Design, attributes the popularity of the iPad to its touch interface and how it is changing the way people use a computing device.

"That for me is a natural user interface as opposed to the traditional GUI [graphical user interface]," said Burnett. "You hold it, you touch it, feel it, play with it — it personalizes the relationships that you’ve created."

Burnett uses working with photo images as an example, pointing out that shuffling and sorting through photographs by touching the screen brings the user back to the days of actually handling prints.

"Both my hands are functionally active as I’m playing with it from a design perspective," he said. "I think that is something that is a game changer."

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Apple Store in Oakridge Centre Apple Store in Pacific Centre Any Future Shop or Best Buy

To find Apple retail stores across Canada: apple杭州龙凤/ca/retail/storelist

To find Apple resellers: apple杭州龙凤/ca/buy/locator


Murdered Island teen probably knew her killers, police say

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Click here to see more photos of Kimberly Proctor and of the investigation into her murder

VICTORIA – The brutal murder of Kimberly Proctor, an 18-year-old from Langford whose charred body was found near the Galloping Goose Trall was not a random crime, police said Thursday.

Cpl. Darren Lagan, RCMP Island district spokesman, said police have identified a number of suspects, but declined to say how many and would not name them. He said investigators are confident they have gathered most of the evidence needed, but would not speculate on how close police are to making arrests. She likely knew her killers, he said.

“There is a large difference between being a suspect and being arrestable and being able to prosecute somebody in the courts,” he said. “We are still at that in-between phase.”

Proctor’s burned body was found March 19 on a rock ledge next to Millstream Creek under the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, a place popular with local youth. She was last seen at the Station Avenue bus interchange 36 hours earlier.

Shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, investigators executed a search warrant at a one-storey house with a tidy garden on Happy Valley Road in Langford. Police stressed the search was only part of a much larger and complex investigation.

Neighbours said a woman and her teenage son live at the house.

Lagan said police expect to be at the house for several days. He said investigators are primarily interested in objects inside the house and not the residents, but they are connected to the investigation.

The house is a short walk to the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, the site of two searches connected to Proctor’s death – one on March 19 when her body was found, and again on March 31, when police divers searched Glen Lake, which is along the Galloping Goose.

Lagan would not disclose whether police think Proctor’s killers travelled along the trail, which is largely shielded from view by trees and shrubbery.

He said more searches could take place as the investigation unfolds.

Police believe people who were part of Proctor’s social circle have been holding back information. Lagan said some have already been interviewed by police, while others have not, but police are aware of them.

“The information is going to come out, and it best come from them,” said Lagan. “We need to ask them to think of Kimberly’s family and to think of her mother and father.”

Reached at her home, Proctor’s mother Lucy was upset. “How do you think I feel when [my] daughter’s been brutally murdered?” she said in a brief conversation.

The teen attended Pacific Secondary School in the Sooke school district.

A team of 40 investigators from the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit, E Division Serious Crime Unit, the West Shore RCMP and other specialized support sections and agencies have been working on the case since Proctor’s death.

“[It’s] the highest-priority file on Vancouver Island, and I dare say one of the highest priority within the province,” said Lagan.

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Researchers alarmed at bacteria in Canadian bottled water

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Canadian researchers say they’ve learned some bottled water in Canada contains more bacteria than what comes out of the tap – although they won’t reveal which brands are the culprits.

Researchers from C-crest Laboratories in Montreal bought and tested several popular brands of bottled water, and found many of them had heterotrophic bacteria counts that were "surprisingly high."

Heterotrophic bacteria require an organic carbon source in order to grow.

More than 70 per cent of popular brands they tested did not meet the standards set out by the United States Pharmacopeia, a non-governmental agency that sets safety standards for medications and health-care products.

No more than 500 colony forming units (cfu) of bacteria per millilitre should be present in drinking water, according to the USP.

"Heterotrophic bacteria counts in some of the bottles were found to be in revolting figures of (100) times more than the permitted limit," said Sonish Azam, a researcher on the study, in a news release.

Some brands had as much as 70,000 cfu per millilitre, said Azam.

The average number of colony forming units in tap water samples they tested in order to compare results was 170 per millilitre, she said.

"Despite having the cleanest tap water, a large number of urban Canadians are switching over to bottled water for their daily hydration requirements," Azam said. "The consumer assumes that since bottled water carries a price tag, it is purer and safer than most tap water."

This kind of bacteria doesn’t normally cause any disease in healthy people, but could make pregnant women, infants and the elderly sick, she said.

Although researchers didn’t actually find any pathogens – or germs – in the bottled water, they said the high bacteria counts mean Canadian regulations should be stricter, just in case.

The researchers, who work in a pharmaceutical lab, got the idea for the study after a fellow employee complained that their bottled water tasted bad and made them sick.

According to Azam, Health Canada hasn’t set an allowable limit for heterotrophic bacteria in bottled water, and neither has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Their intention is to change Canadian regulations, said researcher Ali Khamessan, and not point the finger at specific companies.

Health Canada points out that bottled water is already regulated under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.

"Under these regulations, bottled water is required to be free of disease-causing organisms. Like most foods, bottled water may contain naturally occurring bacteria which typically have little or no health significance," it said in a statement.

It contends that a recent World Health Organization study concluded "heterotrophic bacteria counts in drinking water are not a health concern to the general public."

Researchers presented their results Tuesday at the general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

"Bottled water is not expected to be free from micro-organisms but the (colony forming unit count) observed in this study is surprisingly very high," Azam said. "Therefore, it is strongly recommended to establish a limit for the heterotrophic bacteria count as well as to identify the nature of micro-organisms present in the bottled water."


Recruitment of doctors in rural communities backfiring

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Like hundreds of other places across Canada, the Saskatchewan town of Wakaw has gone all out to recruit doctors, recently luring two South African physicians to the community with free housing, car allowances and financial bonuses.

Barely six months later, though, the young husband-and-wife team is leaving, partly because of an unusual complaint: they say there are simply not enough patients in the supposedly under-serviced area to sustain their practices. They also charge the town essentially misled them about the nature of their roles, which include one or other of the physicians being on call in the hospital emergency department, 24 hours a day, 20 days out of 30.

Aggressive doctor recruitment has become an integral, if less than welcome, part of Canada’s MD-starved health care system. Dr. Paruk, 28, suggested his and his wife’s experience might serve as a cautionary tale for physicians tempted by generous incentives to make long-term commitments to particular jurisdictions.

He has heard of other Saskatchewan communities where the recruitment of doctors has backfired, too.

“A lot of towns will say “˜We’ll give you this, this and that if you commit to stay here for two or three years,’ “ he said. “We’ve learnt our lesson now … My best advice is don’t make any commitments until you work in a place, until you know.”

The town, though, has its own tale of woe, including other doctors officials had almost recruited in the past, only to have them stolen away by sweeter offers from competing municipalities.

Ed Kidd, Wakaw’s mayor, said Dr. Paruk and his wife, Dr. Tasnim Gafoor, were fully informed of the nature of their jobs, and would undoubtedly have built up a heavier patient roster in the town of 864 if they had simply stayed longer.

As it is, they lasted until just after they had gained their Saskatchewan medical licences, he said.

“It’s like any business, you have to attract people, you have to attract your clientele,” said Mr. Kidd. “Another doctor claims that there are enough patients for three doctors to keep very busy. It just takes a little patience and to get out there.”

Many people in town see family physicians in other communities, like Saskatoon, 90 kilometres to the southwest, and are loathe to leave them for a local doctor until they know for sure the Wakaw practitioner is staying for the long haul, he said.

The mayor said he realizes now the key for communities like his is to find doctors who are suited to a rural lifestyle.

Some researchers have estimated that as many as five million Canadians, many in small or isolated municipalities, are without a family doctor. Recruitment efforts – and the commitments asked of doctors – have escalated in recent years, with some places offering young doctors as much as $150,000 in exchange for a minimum five-year stint.

Drs. Paruk and Gafoor say they decided to emigrate to Saskatchewan in part to be close to family members who are also physicians and had moved to the province earlier. They talked to a number of communities before settling on Wakaw, which offered incentives partly funded by the Saskatoon Health Region and by the municipality itself.

Dr. Paruk says the town’s people welcomed them with open arms. Despite assurances they would have lots of patients, however, they rarely see more than 10 a day, when 25 or 30 a day would be more usual in a rural practice, he said. Meanwhile, he and his wife now constitute two-thirds of the on-call rotation for the local hospital’s newly re-opened emergency department, which he believes is the real reason they were brought to town.

The late-night phone calls disrupt both their lives, no matter who is on duty, he said. “It’s just become way too much for us. We don’t have a life, basically.”

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Record snowfall in Calgary overnight

Friday, August 10th, 2018

CALGARY – The weather in Maui on Thursday was 30 C and humid. In Calgary, the mercury was 3 C at the dinner hour and it snowed for the first time in recorded history on this date.

Environment Canada issued a warning Thursday night indicating a disturbance from northern Montana was poised to wallop southern Alberta with snow.

However, this morning Calgarians awoke to a somewhat improved forecast. Environment Canada expects the wet snow to end early today. Later today, expect cloudy conditions and a 40-per-cent chance of rain showers.

Still, as of 7 a.m. Calgary time, the city’s temperature is tied for the lowest among major Canadian centres, at 1 C. Only Iqaluit, Nunavut, matched Calgary’s temperature levels.

Among the cities warmer than Calgary this morning are Yellowknife (6 C), Whitehorse (7 C), and Prince George (11 C).

AMA is reporting patches of icy sections on highways southwest of town, around the area of Black Diamond, Turner Valley and Bragg Creek.

For Friday night, the Calgary forecast calls for a low of 1 C and periods of rain becoming mixed with wet snow before morning.

Thursday’s foul weather led to the cancellation of the Calgary Vipers’ opening home game against the visiting Maui Strong Warriors at Foothills Stadium.

Left fielder Mark Okano and many of his Maui teammates would rather have been surfing in the ocean than shivering in the snow.

"There are guys from Hawaii on the team and most of them haven’t even seen snow before," said Okano, a former Viper. "They are not dressed for it. Me? I layered it up because I am lucky enough to understand Calgary."

It’s the first time the Hawaiian team has visited here.

"Everybody was excited to play, but the field looks like a skating rink," said Okano.

The risk of snow flurries is expected to linger into Saturday — which has led to the cancellation of the annual Calgary Stampeders’ Fan Fest.

It will start to warm up Saturday afternoon, but only to a high of 4 C. The weekend should end on a high note.

That’s good news for Jennifer Rempel, organizer of the annual Lilac Festival on 4th Street S.W. slated for Sunday. "We weren’t even paying attention to the "S" word," she said.


‘Crossbow cannibal’ in court over U.K. prostitute murders

Friday, August 10th, 2018

LONDON — A 40-year-old man accused of murdering three women who worked as prostitutes in Bradford told a court on Friday his name was “the crossbow cannibal”.

Stephen Griffiths, a mature student studying criminology at Bradford University according to media reports, was charged on Thursday with killing sex workers Suzanne Blamires, 36, Shelley Armitage, 31, and Susan Rushworth, 43.

The remains of Ms. Blamires, who had been missing since last Friday, were discovered in a river in West Yorkshire on Tuesday, while Ms. Armitage has been missing since April 26, and Ms. Rushworth disappeared on June 22 last year.

Mr. Griffiths appeared at Bradford Magistrates’ Court on Friday morning for a brief hearing and when asked to confirm his name, he said: “The crossbow cannibal”.

At other times he sat fidgeting and touching his head or staring silently at the floor. He was remanded in custody to appear at Bradford Crown Court later in the day, the Press Association reported.

Mr. Griffiths, a former public schoolboy, was arrested on Monday and the head of West Yorkshire’s Crown Prosecution Service said there was sufficient evidence to charge him with all three murders.

“Mr. Griffiths now stands charged with three extremely serious criminal offences and has the right to a fair trial,” Peter Mann said on Thursday.

The killings have rekindled memories of the “Yorkshire Ripper” Peter Sutcliffe, named after the notorious Victorian murderer “Jack the Ripper,” who was blamed for killing five women in east London in 1888 but was never found.

Bradford lorry driver Sutcliffe, 63, was jailed for life in 1981 for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven others during a five-year killing spree in the 1970s and 80s when he mainly targeted prostitutes around northern England.

After confirmation that her daughter had been killed, Ms. Blamires’s mother Nicky paid tribute to her daughter.

“Unfortunately my daughter went down the wrong path and she did not have the life she was meant to have,” she said in a statement.

“She was a much loved daughter, sister and niece and what has happened to her will haunt me to the day I die. At the end of the day nobody deserves this. All these girls were human beings and people’s daughters.”

The English Collective of Prostitutes said the deaths, coming just a few years after the murder of five sex workers by Steve Wright in Ipswich, showed there needed to be a change in the law.

The group said prostitutes in Bradford had been complaining about increased arrests and prosecutions.

“Sex workers continue to pay the price for decades of criminalization and, more recently, for a government-led moral crusade against prostitution,” it said.

“If women were able to come forward to report attacks and these were vigorously investigated, violent men could be stopped, maybe even before they kill.”

© Thomson Reuters 2010


Quebec forest fires continue to rage out of control

Friday, August 10th, 2018


QUEBEC – The situation was still critical Friday in central Quebec as a dozen forest fires continued to rage out of control – forcing residents of two native reserves to flee.

Quebec’s forest fire protection agency, the Sopfeu, said 62 fires were burning across the province Friday morning and 14 were out of control. More than 29,000 hectares of forest have so far been destroyed.

The Abitibi region, in northern Quebec, and the Haute-Mauricie region, located north of Trois-Rivieres, are the two provincial hot spots.

The recent heat wave in Quebec has increased the risks of forest fires and lightning has also sparked fires.

As well, the forecast for hot and dry conditions for the next few days isn’t encouraging firefighters.

The Sopfeu also noted20 new fires flared up overnight Friday.

The fire protection agency has 14 water bombers, 50 helicopters and more than 800 firefighters battling the flames across the province.

It has requested reinforcements from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre and two water bombers from Manitoba have landed in Quebec. The state of Maine said Friday it is sending 21 firefighters to help battle the wildfires.

One of the biggest blazes in central Quebec forced the evacuation of more than 1,300 people from the Wemotaci First Nation reserve, located some 300 kilometres north of Trois-Rivieres.

The residents were taken by bus Wednesday night to nearby La Tuque and bunked down at the school or with friends, family or at the hotel.

"There’s room for everyone to sleep, that’s good news," said Transport Minister Julie Boulet speaking to reporters in La Tuque Thursday. "We’re here should other needs arise and we will support these people so their stay is the most comfortable possible, considering the circumstances."

The fire was still at the village’s boundaries Thursday and a thick cloud of smoke covered the region. "There’s smoke over an area of 100 kilometres by 100 kilometres," said Jacques Raymond, spokesman for civil security in the Mauricie region.

The provincial police said fire damage in the Wemotaci Atikamekw reserve was limited to a home and a shed. The evacuation order was still enforced and the road that leads to the village remained closed.

Authorities are also keeping their eyes on fires near the reserves of Obedjiwan, where about 70 residents were evacuated, and Manawan, as well as the village of Parent, all in central Quebec.

Late Thursday provincial police said a preventive evacuation of 300 people was taking place in Manawan, involving people with health or mobility problems and pregnant women.

They were bused to Joliette where they were to set up camp in a local arena.