News / Canada

The Wednesday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau boards a government plane in Ottawa, Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Trudeau is flying to France and Germany where he will address the European Parliament and meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau boards a government plane in Ottawa, Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Trudeau is flying to France and Germany where he will address the European Parliament and meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, Feb. 15

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CANADA AND EUROPE HAIL PASSING OF TRADE PACT: Lawmakers in Canada and Europe are hailing Wednesday's approval of the Canada-EU free trade deal by the European Parliament as a win for the values of openness in the face of anti-trade movements, including the Donald Trump administration. The legislature in Strasbourg, France, approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement by a margin of 408-254, with 33 abstentions. The vote clears a major hurdle for the deal that saw its first round of bargaining almost eight years ago and has had to overcome mounting anti-trade populism in Europe. Canada's Parliament is also expected to ratify the deal in the coming months, which means 90 per cent of it would come into force under provisional application — a key procedural step that allows the deal to take effect without the ratification of the European Union's 28 member countries and numerous regional governments. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was en route to France to deliver his own pro-trade message in an address Thursday to the European Parliament, a first for a Canadian leader, and to top business leaders a day later in Germany.

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CANADA'S AMBASSADOR TO WASHINGTON 'CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC' ON NAFTA: Canada's ambassador to Washington, who sat in on the Donald Trump-Justin Trudeau summit this week, says he's now "cautiously optimistic" about any forthcoming changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Those conversations focused on changes that would be beneficial to both Canada and the United States, David MacNaughton said Wednesday. "If we're going to change it, we're going to do things that are good for both Canada and the United States. That was the spirit of the meeting," MacNaughton said in Toronto. The U.S. president concluded his meeting with Trudeau with a public declaration that the trade relationship with Canada is outstanding, suggesting he only wants a few tweaks in an upgraded NAFTA. Yet MacNaughton adds one word of caution: It's hard to know exactly what the new administration will ask for, because the Trump cabinet has yet to have its commerce and trade secretaries confirmed by Congress.

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TRUMP SLAMS INTEL OFFICIALS, MEDIA OVER FLYNN AND RUSSIA: President Donald Trump blamed intelligence officials and the media Wednesday for what he called the "very, very unfair" treatment of his ousted national security adviser and for "illegally leaked" information about reported contacts between his campaign advisers and Russian officials. Trump's comments come amid a new swirl of controversy over his ties to Russia. The White House said Michael Flynn was forced to resign this week after misleading Vice-President Mike Pence and other Trump aides about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. before the inauguration. But in his first public comments on Flynn's firing, Trump appeared to side with his former aide, saying it was "really a sad thing that he was treated so badly." Trump is said to favour Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, as his next national security adviser, according to a White House official. Harward met with top White House officials last week and has the backing of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

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TRUMP URGES NETANYAHU TO 'HOLD OFF' ON SETTLEMENTS: President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Israel's prime minister to "hold off" on building Jewish settlements in land the Palestinians claim for their future state, yet held back from explicitly endorsing support for a future independent Palestine. After weeks of dancing around the issue of expanded Israeli settlements, Trump made the request to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House preceding their private discussions. It is Netanyahu's first trip to Washington since Trump became president. While Trump's call echoed that of past U.S. presidents, who've considered Israeli housing construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank an obstacle to a Mideast peace deal, the American leader broke with his predecessors on the idea of a two-state agreement. While such an accord may have once appeared to be the "easier of the two" options, Trump said he'd be open to alternatives if the two sides propose something better.

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MINISTER SAYS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES KEY TO ECONOMY: Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is delivering a direct message to naysayers in Ottawa, saying her Liberal government is fully committed to legal and policy reforms for indigenous people in Canada. Wilson-Raybould says the Indian Act — a federally imposed structure — will not disappear overnight, but that reconciliation and reform remain critical to Canada's economic growth. She says the Indian Act currently hinders the ability of First Nations to develop economies on reserve land, as well as their ability to engage with industries and businesses off-reserve. Parliament passed the Indian Act in 1876, giving the federal government enormous power over the control of First Nations people on reserves. Wilson-Raybould says she is looking to indigenous communities to tell her and the government how they want to govern themselves and who they are.

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JUDGE INSTRUCTS JURY IN CALGARY TRIPLE-MURDER TRIAL: The judge in a triple-murder trial advised jurors Wednesday to use common sense and reminded them that the accused's guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt if they wish to convict him. The charge to the jury is the last step before deliberations begin in the trial of Douglas Garland. The 57-year-old is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O'Brien. Justice David Gates told jurors they can use as much or as little of the evidence as they want from four weeks of testimony, but not to resort to speculation. Garland was charged after the couple and their grandson disappeared from the couple's Calgary home on June 30, 2014. Their bodies were never recovered — only bone fragments, burned flesh and teeth in the ash from a burning barrel on Garland's farm. There was also ample DNA evidence recovered at the property.

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MAN CHARGED WITH MURDER OF WINNIPEG BUS DRIVER: A man who allegedly fell asleep on a bus and, when roused, refused to leave has been charged in the fatal stabbing of a transit driver. Brian Kyle Thomas, 22, of Winnipeg is facing charges including second-degree murder, possession of a weapon and failing to comply with a probation order. Court records show Thomas has convictions dating back to 2012 for crimes that include weapons offences, assault and robbery. He has been in and out of custody and was last on probation in November. Police say driver Irvine Jubal Fraser had finished his route at the University of Manitoba in the early hours Tuesday. Only one passenger was left on the bus. "This individual was asked ... by the operator ... many, many times to exit the bus, that (it) was the end of the route and it was time to exit," police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said Wednesday. "Sadly, things just escalated from that point." He said the passenger walked to the front of the bus and the driver escorted him off. A scuffle continued outside and the driver was stabbed multiple times in the upper body. The suspect was arrested trying to cross the frozen Red River near campus. Fraser, 58, died in hospital.

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CROWN WANTS JAIL TIME FOR APPLEBAUM: The Crown is seeking prison time for ex-Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum, who was found guilty last month on several corruption-related charges. Prosecutor Nathalie Kleber says Applebaum should get a two-year sentence to be followed by two years' probation. Applebaum, 54, is facing a maximum of five years in jail after a judge convicted him on eight of 14 charges. During the sentencing arguments, Applebaum's 23-year-old son testified his father has endured tremendous hardship after living under the cloud of criminal charges for more than three years. Dylan Applebaum says the entire family has been affected by the situation. A judge convicted Applebaum in late January of various charges including fraud against the government, breach of trust and conspiracy. He was acquitted on two charges, while four others were conditionally stayed because of the guilty verdicts on the more serious charges. The charges stemmed from two separate deals between 2007 and 2010 when he was mayor of Montreal's largest borough. The maximum sentence for those crimes is five years behind bars. There is no minimum sentence.

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'KNEES TOGETHER' JUDGE SEEKS JUDICIAL REVIEW: A judge who could lose his job after asking a sexual assault complainant why she couldn't keep her knees together is asking for a judicial review in his case. Justice Robin Camp wants to address the Canadian Judicial Council after the accused in the original trial was acquitted again in a retrial. In court documents filed this week, Camp says the council refused his request to speak because he already had the opportunity to address a disciplinary panel and the acquittal didn't change anything. Camp wants the Federal Court to intervene. He noted that while the majority of council members agreed with the refusal, five members felt Camp should be heard. The council declined to comment on Camp's application, because it is before the courts.

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MASSIVE TORONTO FIRE FINALLY EXTINGUISHED: Many residents remain out of their homes in the aftermath of an enormous fire that ripped through a Toronto athletic club. Tuesday's fire forced the evacuation of six buildings in the busy midtown neighbourhood, but Toronto Fire deputy chief Jim Jessop and a city spokeswoman said some residents might be able to return to the buildings by Wednesday night. After inspecting the remnants of The Badminton and Racquet Club, Jessop said it "looks like a bomb went off." The blaze started shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday and wasn't extinguished until nearly 6 a.m. Wednesday, and Jessop called the damage "astronomical." Firefighters continue to battle "a few hot spots" and the cleanup is underway, he said. No one was seriously injured as more than 100 firefighters battled the raging fire that sent smoke billowing over a large area of the city.

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