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As threat of wildfire grows, B.C. lets logging debris litter landscape for years

As threat of wildfire grows, B.C. lets logging debris litter landscape for years


After managing the fight against last summer’s massive Shovel Lake fire, a member of the B.C. Wildfire Service had a major complaint about what he was seeing on the ground.

He’d noticed large piles of logs and other woody debris lined up along roads in the wildfire zone near the northern community of Fraser Lake, west of Prince George, B.C. He suspected all that timber was helping the fire spread and intensify, and filed a complaint with B.C.’s forestry watchdog, the Forest Practices Board.

“The complainant told the board that he has worked throughout the province and has never seen the amount of debris that he saw at the Shovel Lake wildfire,” an investigative report from the board says.

But as it turns out, every logging company in the area had met their legal requirements under B.C.’s Wildfire Act for clearing out wood and debris.

That’s a problem, the watchdog says. The current rules allow forestry firms to wait too long and leave too much wood on the ground, and the board is asking the province for changes

“If [the time frame] could be reduced, you’d basically improve your chances of fighting fires in those areas,” the board’s chair, Kevin Kriese, told CBC.

“If they can reduce it even a little, that would be helpful.”

’30 months is too long’ 

Right now, forestry companies have 30 months — a full two and a half years — to clean up debris after logging.

Even then, huge amounts of dead, woody material are allowed to remain on the ground. On a relatively flat, south-facing surface, up to 99 tonnes of branches and twigs can be left behind in every hectare of lodgepole pine that’s been harvested, according to the board’s report.

Millions of tonnes of slash are left behind from B.C. forestry operations each year. There’s concern that the piles of dry fuel contribute to the growth of wildfires. (Sam Beebe/Flickr)

After two record-breaking wildfire seasons in a row, the province is listening to the board’s concerns.

“The ministry agrees the current time period of 30 months is too long and has already started reviewing the guidelines with a view to making changes,” a forests ministry spokesperson said in an email.

The wildfire service has formed a working group to look at the current strategy for dealing with fire hazards on the landscape, according to the board.

The pine beetle problem

The Shovel Lake fire was sparked last July and eventually burned through 922 square kilometres, forcing evacuations, destroying buildings and threatening the Fort St. James National Historic Site. It was one of the biggest wildfires in B.C.’s worst season on record.

Forests in the area had been hit hard by the mountain pine beetle — trees killed during an infestation can fuel particularly intense wildfires. Combine that with the effects of climate change and the results are potentially catastrophic, according to the board.

The annual allowable cut for the area around the Shovel Lake fire was increased in 2002 in an attempt to deal with  beetle-killed trees and potentially head off the threat of fire.

The impact of that plan was complicated in 2004 when the Wildfire Act came into force and extended the deadline for dealing with logging debris by almost a year from the previous limit of 19 months. The reasoning for the extra time was to give the pellet industry a chance to come in and collect the woody leftovers, according to the board’s report.

Forestry companies in B.C. have 30 months to clean up debris created from harvesting timber. (CBC)

Taken together, increases to the allowable cut and the timeframe for cleaning up debris meant that huge swaths of the region’s landscape were covered with woody slash.

“According to B.C. Wildfire Service staff, when a fire gets going in this situation and is accompanied by drought conditions, ‘only a change in the weather can put it out,’ ” the report says.

Need for more planned burns

The board also points out that the forestry industry used to rely on prescribed burning to deal with fire hazards, but that has virtually been abandoned in recent decades because of public complaints about the smoke. That has only contributed to the problem.

Kriese said B.C.’s forest industry often gets a lot of flak from the public, but when it comes to wildfire prevention, these companies play a crucial role.

“In terms of fuel reduction, the logging they’re doing out there is actually really positive. We want to encourage them to still go back into these pine beetle stands,” Kriese said.

Diamond Isinger, a spokesperson for the Council of Forest Industries, said industry representatives have yet to review the watchdog’s report, but they look forward to looking at the recommendations.

The board has asked for a response from the government outlining its progress by the end of the year.



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In wake of shootings, group updating its security guidelines for Canadian mosques

In wake of shootings, group updating its security guidelines for Canadian mosques


The National Council of Canadian Muslims in Ottawa is updating its Muslim Community Safety Kit to include sections on lockdown drills, active shooter scenarios and bomb threats to be shared with mosques across the country.

The kit was first developed in 2011 to assist the Muslim community in preventing or responding to anti-Muslim incidents, such as vandalism and hate crimes.

“In the wake of the shootings in New Zealand and in Quebec City just over two years ago, NCCM is looking to revise its guide once again. This is the unfortunate reality of the world that we seem to be living in now,” said Ihsaan Gardee, the organization’s executive director.

Last month, 50 worshippers were killed at two mosques in New Zealand after a lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending prayers. In January 2017, six men were killed by a gunman at a mosque in Quebec City.

Gardee said the council felt it was important for mosques to have the necessary resources to ensure their institutions and congregations are safe and secure.

The guide was last updated in 2015 and it included recommendations about how to build a community support network and make the mosque a more secure place. Some of the recommendations included that mosques and community centres trim shrubs and vines to have fewer concealed areas, request more police patrols and install fire and burglar alarms.

Imam Abdallah Yousri of the Ummah Masjid in Halifax says the mosque is looking at upgrading its security measures. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

After the mosque shooting in New Zealand, the Ummah Masjid in Halifax decided to use the guide for its upcoming community gathering in April to discuss recommendations and to review its security plan.

“It’s better to be cautious,” said Imam AbdallahYousri. “We want to find all possible means to secure the mosque and feel like we did our best.”

He said the mosque is looking at upgrading its security measures.

‘Incidents are deeply troubling’

Gardee said the council doesn’t want to be alarmist.

“We don’t want to cause unnecessary fear in our communities, but I think that these incidents are deeply troubling,” he said.

Gardee said there has been “tremendous support” from Canadians of all backgrounds, but he believes more needs to be done.

More than prayers needed

“Thoughts and prayers are welcomed and appreciated, but we need to be looking at what are some policy solutions that government and other stakeholders can undertake to curb the growth of right-wing extremism and white supremacy, as well as the growth of online hate,” he said.

The launch date for the updated guide hasn’t been finalized, but Gardee said it would come out sometime this year.

“There is definitely a sense of urgency to this and we will be making it a priority,” he said.



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Public Health Agency of Canada says salmonella outbreak hits 6 provinces, dozens sick

Public Health Agency of Canada says salmonella outbreak hits 6 provinces, dozens sick


Health officials are investigating an outbreak of salmonella in six provinces that has sickened 63 people, including 18 who have been hospitalized.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says there are laboratory-confirmed cases in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

The agency says the source of the bacterial infection has not been identified.

“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is conducting a food safety investigation,” a government release says. “If contaminated food products are identified, they will take the necessary steps to protect the public, including recalling food products as required.

“Currently there are no food recall warnings associated with this outbreak.”

It says the outbreak appears to be ongoing, as illnesses continue to be reported.

Two deaths have been reported, but the agency says it has not been determined whether salmonella was a contributing cause.

The agency says the people who became ill range in age from one to 87. Individuals became sick between November and March.

The agency said anyone can become sick from salmonella but infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness.

Salmonella is a common bacteria that causes intestinal illness. Symptoms may include chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and vomiting. 

It is usually caused by eating contaminated foods that have not been cooked properly, but can also be spread from one person to another if people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.

The breakdown of known cases as of Friday includes 23 people in B.C., ten people each in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. There are eight cases in Saskatchewan and two in Quebec.

Deaths reported in Winnipeg

Earlier Friday, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said two people had died after testing positive for salmonella at a personal care home in the city, but health officials said it has not been confirmed whether the bacterial infection contributed to the deaths.

Three residents of the Golden West Centennial Lodge tested positive last month and two of them later died in hospital. The third person recovered.

Joyce Kristjansson, the care home’s executive director, said staff brought in special measures while the outbreak was investigated. Residents were not allowed to move off their own floors, all group activities were cancelled and extra emphasis was put on hand-washing for people entering and leaving the building.

“What I would stress is that we do have a very frail population here and we did communicate with all of the families when we were first notified,” she said.

Public health inspectors worked with the care home to try to determine how the outbreak began. The investigation included a kitchen inspection, but no signs of contamination were found.

Health officials lifted the measures on Tuesday and the cases were reported to a national intestinal monitoring program and the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

Three residents of the Golden West Centennial Lodge tested positive last month and two of them later died in hospital. The third person recovered. (CBC)

Food safety expert Rick Holley, professor emeritus in food science at the University of Manitoba, said the rate of hospitalizations due to salmonella in Canada is about 20 cases per 100,0000 people. The federal government estimates there are about 87,500 cases each year.

Most people recover from the infection after about three days of feeling ill.

“But in about 10 per cent of the population — these would be folks that are older or very young, or those that would suffer a health condition that affects the operation of their immune system — there can be very serious effects” including death, he said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recalled frozen chicken nuggets three times this year over fears of salmonella contamination.

If people cook their food properly and practice good hygiene, they can usually avoid serious issues with salmonella, Holley said.

“These organisms don’t fool around. They exist to multiply and grow, and they just love to grow at body temperature.”





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Accused in Toronto van attack faces mounting lawsuits from victims with traumatic injuries

Accused in Toronto van attack faces mounting lawsuits from victims with traumatic injuries


Traumatic brain injuries, spinal fractures and internal bleeding are among the litany of ailments described in a mounting number of lawsuits against a man accused of killing 10 people and injuring 16 others in a van attack in Toronto last year.

Lawyers involved in the suits against Alek Minassian believe the cases, which the court is working to pull together in one large proceeding, will take years to come to a resolution.

On April 23, 2018, police allege Minassian drove a white Ryder rental van south along Yonge Street in the city’s north end, hopped the curb and deliberately mowed people down.

While Minassian’s criminal case slowly makes its way through the system — his trial on 10 first-degree murder charges and 16 attempted murder charges has been scheduled for February 2020 — the 26-year-old already faces four civil suits, with more expected.

The lawsuits, from the families of one person who died and three who were injured, are seeking millions of dollars from Minassian and Ryder Truck Rental Canada, alleging the devastating injuries and deaths on that day were due to an intentional act by Minassian and negligence on his and the rental company’s part.

The unproven civil suits will be fought in the trenches of insurance law.

“This is going to drag on for a long, long time,” said Gus Triantafillopoulos, who represents the family of Anne Marie D’Amico, a young woman who died that day and whose family filed a $1-million suit in January against Minassian and Ryder.

Triantafillopoulos said if the family receives any money through the civil proceedings, it will all be donated to the Anne Marie D’Amico Foundation, which supports women who are victims of violence.

On April 23, 2018, police allege Alek Minassian drove a white Ryder rental van south along Yonge Street in Toronto’s north end, hopped the curb and deliberately mowed people down. Ten people were killed and 16 others were injured. (LinkedIn)

The first suit related to Minassian was filed in November 2018 by Amir Kiumarsi, a chemistry instructor at Ryerson University who is seeking $6 million in damages.

He suffered a traumatic brain injury and several skull fractures, spinal fractures, traumatic internal injuries including a displaced kidney, and numerous other injuries throughout his entire body, the claim says.

“These injuries have been accompanied by severe physical pain, suffering and a loss of enjoyment of life,” the claim alleges, noting that his future holds “numerous surgical and medical assessments, treatments and procedures.”

Since Kiumarsi filed his suit, the court is in the process of getting all the cases on one track, documents show.

Another suit was filed in mid-January by Amaresh Tesfamariam and her family, who are seeking $14 million. Tesfamariam has a complete spinal cord injury, multiple spinal fractures, rib fractures and a traumatic brain injury.

She cannot move her body below her neck, cannot breathe without a machine, suffers a total loss of independence and a “profound and permanent loss of her cognitive ability,” according to the claim.

Tesfamariam also has short-term memory loss, depression, anxiety, a “drastic personality change,” cannot communicate properly with others, and cannot return to her work as a nurse, the claim alleges.

Latest suit filed last week

The latest suit, filed last week by Catherine Riddell and her family, alleges the “sustained serious and permanent” injuries the woman suffered are the result of negligence on the part of Minassian and the rental company.

Riddell lost consciousness, suffered a brain injury, hurt her head, neck, shoulders, arms, back, legs and arms. She fractured her spine, ribs, pelvis, scapula, and suffered internal injuries including a collapsed lung, the $3.55-million suit alleges.

She lives with headaches, memory loss, difficulty finding words, dizziness, back and neck pain, loss of mobility, nausea, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia and depression, her claim alleges, noting that she now faces a life of therapy, rehabilitation and medical treatment.

“Her enjoyment of life has been permanently lessened, and she has been forced to forgo numerous activities in which she formerly participated,” the claim reads.

Minassian does not yet have legal representation in the civil matters and has not responded to the claims, according to the documents. His criminal lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawyers for Ryder, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment, detailed the expected complexities in the litigation in an affadavit filed with the court.

It notes that notice has been given for 12 claims and more are expected. There will be numerous parties in the case, from families of the dead to the injured and the various defendants. There will be examinations for all plaintiffs, and testimony is expected from numerous medical experts.

“It would be safe to assume this matter will require a lengthy trial,” said the affidavit.

Kiumarsi’s lawyer, Darcy Merkur, said there will be a slew of arguments brought forward.

“One interesting question is this: Is every different person hurt considered a separate accident?” Merkur said. “It’s a legal question, but also a philosophical one.”

The answer to that question will be important for potential payments, he said.



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All B.C. schools must provide free menstrual products for students, government orders

All B.C. schools must provide free menstrual products for students, government orders


All B.C. public schools are now required to provide free menstrual products for students in school bathrooms, the provincial government has announced.

Under a ministerial order issued Friday, schools must make the products available by the end of 2019. 

“This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need, with no stigma and no barriers.”

A statement from the ministry said B.C. is the first province in Canada to mandate free menstrual products in all bathrooms.

The ministerial order comes with $300,000 in provincial startup funding. A statement said the education ministry will be working with school districts in the coming months to ensure they have funding to meet the new requirements.

In February, the New Westminster school district passed a motion to provide free menstrual products in all its schools. The board said it hoped the move would inspire other districts in B.C. — or the provincial government — to do the same.

The move in New Westminster follows a United Way campaign called Period Promise, which advocates for access to free menstrual products.

Members of the New Westminster school district backed calls by Period Promise to provide free menstrual products in schools in February. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

Rebecca Ballard, a Grade 11 student in New Westminster, applauded the government’s decision.

“In my own experience, I know that many young women feel awkward asking for menstrual products at a school office, especially if there isn’t an adult there with whom they feel comfortable,” she said at a news conference on Friday.

“I believe the decision to provide this free service also symbolizes a progression towards eliminating the taboo nature of menstruation. This is something all young women go through and should never feel bad about, or ashamed.”

Rebecca Ballard, left, a Grade 11 student in New Westminster, B.C., said young women should never feel ashamed about having their period. (CBC)

Fleming said the stigma-free aspect of providing menstrual products in bathrooms is important for students, who would sometimes need to ask school staff for tampons or pads.

“Administrative leaders … they understand that students don’t want to talk about everything that’s going on with them,” the education minister said Friday.

“This is something that will help students not only have access to a product they can’t afford, that sometimes isn’t available in the school systems, but [now] principals, vice-principals, teachers and support staff won’t necessarily have to know what your business is on a particular day.”

Susanne Skidmore, co-chair of the Period Promise campaign, said she and her colleagues have been working toward this goal — and other, national goals — for 10 years.

“This a fundamental shift to improve accessibility of menstrual products and reduce period poverty across British Columbia.”

The province also announced Friday that it’s providing a one-time grant of $95,000 to support the United Way Period Promise research project. The money will pay for menstrual products at up to 10 non-profit agencies and for research into how best to provide services and products.



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Provincial memo lays out plan to cut 3,475 Ontario teaching positions in 4 years

Provincial memo lays out plan to cut 3,475 Ontario teaching positions in 4 years


A provincial memo obtained by CBC Toronto lays out the Ford government’s plans to cut thousands of full-time teaching positions in Ontario beginning this fall. 

In the 2019-2020 school year, the memo says, there will be 1,558 fewer full-time teachers in Ontario. By the 2022-2023 school year, that number will be 3,475 — about three per cent of Ontario’s current teacher workforce. 

The total savings for removing those full-time positions would be $851 million. 

The memo, which was sent by the Ministry of Education to school board administrators, also clarifies that the positions will be shed through attrition — meaning teachers that quit or retire and are not replaced — as well as changing student enrolment numbers and bumped-up class sizes. 

Class sizes going up 

Concerns about teacher job losses have been swirling since March, when the province revealed its education plan, which includes increases to class sizes for intermediate and high school students. 

The average class size requirement for Grades 9 to 12 will be adjusted to 28, up from the current average of 22.  

The Toronto District School Board had predicted that the larger classes would result in about 1,000 fewer teachers in its schools. 

On Friday, TDSB trustee Robin Pilkey told CBC Toronto by email that the memo doesn’t provide any new information, and that “the number of positions we anticipate being eliminated has not changed.”  

It comes just one day after students across Ontario staged a province-wide protest over the planned changes to the education system. 



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Insurer can challenge claim over stolen diamond-studded eagle, court rules

Insurer can challenge claim over stolen diamond-studded eagle, court rules


The legal battle between owner and insurer over a missing diamond-studded statue continues its long, protracted journey. 

In December, a B.C. Supreme Court registrar ordered Lloyd’s Underwriters to honour a claim from Ron Shore’s company — Forgotten Treasures International — for the golden eagle statue which was allegedly stolen along with a silver decoy in May 2016.

On Wednesday, a B.C. Supreme Court judgment overturned that decision, allowing the insurer to challenge Shore’s claim.

The golden eagle, which weighed eight kilograms and was encrusted with 763 diamonds, was supposed to be part of an international treasure hunt to raise money for cancer research.

Shore told reporters the bird was worth $5 million, but the initial notice of civil claim said the bird’s value was $930,450.

On May 29, 2016, after an event in Delta, B.C., the eagle and a smaller silver one were stolen from Shore as he was putting them back into his car. 

Ron Shore pauses while speaking about the theft of the golden eagle in 2016. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The eagles have never been found.

The insurer says one of the terms of its policy was that the eagles had to be accompanied by a designated employee or representative of Shore’s at all times other than when deposited in a bank safe or vault. It claims that at the time of the mugging, Shore was alone and therefore breached the policy.

Thus began a legal battle, with Shore’s company filing a notice of civil claim against the insurers. Eventually, after missed deadlines and procedural delays, Shore was granted a default judgment in December against the insurer.

Justice Robin Baird overturned that ruling on Wednesday.

Baird said the insurers hadn’t willfully and deliberately failed to respond to Shore’s civil claim. He said it appeared the correspondence between the two parties showed the insurers would be mounting a solid defence.

He has given the insurers 21 days to file a response to Shore’s civil claim.



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Calgary teacher who preyed on dozens of underage girls pleads guilty to 17 sex offences

Calgary teacher who preyed on dozens of underage girls pleads guilty to 17 sex offences


Former Calgary teacher Christian Sarile has pleaded guilty to 17 charges involving dozens of child victims over an eight-year period. 

The sexual predator admitted to targeting girls as young as 12 whom he would pay to perform sexual acts. At the time of his first arrest, in May 2017, Sarile was a Grade 6 teacher and also taught music. 

The Calgary police investigation dubbed Operation Choir found Sarile would pay the underage girls in money, drugs, alcohol and vaporizers in exchange for sex and nude photos.

On Thursday, Court of Queen’s Bench Earl Wilson accepted the plea negotiated between prosecutors Martha O’Connor and Aurelie Beland and defence lawyer Yoav Niv.

He pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault, paying minors for sexual services, sexual extortion, luring and making child pornography.

A 78-page agreed statement of facts was read aloud by the two prosecutors, giving the disturbing details of each of Sarile’s crimes involving every victim.  

Threats and bribes

In several cases, Sarile targeted girls who were particularly vulnerable — one teen was drunk, another told Sarile she was cutting herself. He even targeted children who attended the schools where he worked. 

Sarile sent tens of thousands of messages to his victims over various social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram and AskFM.

When the girls stopped sending him sexual photos, Sarile threatened to send the nude images to their friends and families. 

In the summer of 2016, Sarile met one of his victims, whom he began paying for oral sex. She was 14 at the time; he was 26 years old. 

The girl had two friends who were 13 and 14 and both of those girls also began sexual relationships with Sarile, who was lying about his identity and age. 

On one occasion, Sarile made the girls wear blindfolds while they took turns giving him oral sex in the back of his father’s van. He made a video of the encounter, which was later recovered by police. 

In several cases, while pretending to be someone else, Sarile would contact his victims and threaten them if they did not perform sexual acts. Out of fear he would release their nude photos, some of the teens complied and had sexual contact with Sarile.

Taking advantage

After Sarile was arrested on May 2, 2017, he admitted he knew the girls he’d had contact with were underage and that he’d been taking advantage of them. He said he knew what he’d done was wrong. 

Calgary police were concerned about the possibility of more victims so a press release was sent out on May 3, 2017. Investigators were contacted by 30 people. 

He was released on bail but Sarile continued to prey on underage girls.

On Dec. 5, 2017, while under police surveillance, Sarile was observed picking up a 14-year-old at a Calgary junior high school. He drove to an LRT parking lot where she performed oral sex on Sarile before she got out of the car and he drove away.

Police accelerated their planned arrest of Sarile to Dec. 7, 2017. He has been in custody ever since.

A sentencing hearing will take place later this year. 



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'Why did I grab the coffee maker?': A writer's memoir of the Fort McMurray wildfire

‘Why did I grab the coffee maker?’: A writer’s memoir of the Fort McMurray wildfire


Therese Greenwood fled the Fort McMurray wildfire two years ago with a small bag of important documents, an embroidered wall hanging and a coffee machine. 

She was one of the lucky ones.

Anticipating the worst, Greenwood had already packed an emergency bag and had taken the time to think about what needed saving most. 

During the panicked evacuation of the city in May 2016, few people had that luxury. 

“Your subconscious is working overtime,” Greenwood said in an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

“You’re grabbing all kinds of things that later, when you’re looking at them, you’re thinking why did I grab the coffee maker? Do I really need this rolling pin?”

“Everyone tells almost exactly the same story, running around, grabbing things.”

Sentimental objects

Greenwood has published a new book, chronicling her escape from the  city. 

What you take with you: Wildfire, Family and the Road Home is a deeply personal account of the disaster.

Greenwood said the book is also an examination of the personal artifacts people learn to cherish most in times of crisis. 

“When I really started thinking about it, I realized that I all the things I grabbed, it wasn’t about monetary value. It was totally the sentimental value and the memory of the person you associate with it.” 

The May 2016 wildfire devastated Fort McMurray and forced residents to flee with only a moment’s notice. (Sylvain Bascaron/Radio-Canada)

Greenwood — a crime fiction writer and former journalist —  had been living in Fort McMurray for four years when the wildfire hit the city on that hot May afternoon and forced thousands to flee for their lives.

As the flames approached, Greenwood had 15 minutes to pack before driving south to safety in Edmonton.

“I was able to run out and throw my go bag right into the car and then spend the remaining 14 minutes running around,” Greenwood said. 

Her home was later completely gutted by the fire. She, like many others, dealt with the loss with a wry sense of humour.

“We have a very zany sense of humour up there, and the day after the wildfire there was already a social media site called ‘Silly things I grabbed while escaping the wildfire.’

“People posted things like, ‘I took the bear head from my husband’s trophy wall’ or, ‘I took my grandma’s canned moose meat.’ ” 

‘Unresolved feelings’ 

While Greenwood can laugh about it now, she was surprised to see how raw the memories still are for some in her home community. 

The memory of the catastrophe has been slow to fade for those who lived through it, she said.  

At Greenwood’s book launch in Edmonton last month, fellow evacuees in the crowd were overwhelmed with emotion.

“It was very hard for them to sit through the reading,” she said. “People who started hearing it realized that they really had a lot of unresolved feelings about it. I was surprised to see people crying.” 

Greenwood said writing was cathartic. She hopes fellow evacuees can find solace in chronicling their own stories.

She is hosting a series of free memoir-writing workshops in Fort McMurray to help others begin the process. 

“I hear from a lot of people that they really want to write about this but it’s really hard to sort through all the images,” she said.

“We’re going to do some exercises this weekend and see if we can help people make their peace with their own story.”



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Philpott says clear apology from Trudeau could have quickly contained SNC-Lavalin scandal

Philpott says clear apology from Trudeau could have quickly contained SNC-Lavalin scandal


Jane Philpott was “stunned” to be turfed from the Liberal caucus, and says the SNC-Lavalin controversy could have been contained much earlier with an apology from the prime minister for alleged political interference in a criminal trial and a promise that it would not happen again.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s The Current Thursday morning, Philpott said she learned as a medical doctor that when bad things happen and mistakes are made, the sooner you deal with it, the better.

“Without malice, sometimes errors take place, but you need to own up to the people who may have been harmed and you need to find out why it happened and make sure it never happens again,” she told host Anna Maria Tremonti.

“I think those lessons could be transferred quite easily into the political sphere, and this could have been taken care of and addressed in a forthright, honest way much earlier.”

Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould, both former senior ministers in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, were expelled from the Liberal caucus Tuesday.

‘Respect the decision’

Philpott told The Current she was “stunned” since she hadn’t been given the opportunity to explain her actions. She was advised earlier on Tuesday during a brief meeting with Trudeau, and said she had not had a discussion with him from the time she resigned from cabinet a month ago.

Jane Philpott suggests that the whole SNC-Lavalin affair could have been avoided if the Prime Minister had just taken ownership and apologized for trying to interfere. 1:21

“I respect the decision that was made, and I told the prime minister that I do wish him the best,” she said.

Trudeau broke the news during a special national caucus meeting Tuesday night, which was open to the media and televised.

“The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken, whether it’s taping conversations without consent, or repeatedly expressing a lack of confidence in our government or me personally as leader,” Trudeau said.

“It’s become clear that Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott can no longer remain part of our Liberal team.”

Philpott resigned from cabinet March 4, citing lost confidence in how the government was handling the SNC-Lavalin affair. She remained in the Liberal caucus and said she intended to run in the fall election under the Liberal Party banner.

CBC News reported Wednesday that Wilson-Raybould had a list of at least five conditions to end the SNC-Lavalin controversy, including three staff changes and an apology from the prime minister.

Jane Philpott says that she chose to resign from Cabinet because to her the truth is more important than anyone’s political success. 1:16

Sources told CBC News she also sought assurances that her replacement as attorney general, David Lametti, would not overrule Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussell and direct her to give SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement.

The first three conditions involved staff changes in the senior levels of government. The sources said Wilson-Raybould wanted Trudeau to fire his principal secretary, Gerald Butts, who has since resigned, along with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, who has since announced his retirement, and PMO senior adviser Mathieu Bouchard.



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