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Ban on whale, dolphin captivity poised to become law in Canada

Ban on whale, dolphin captivity poised to become law in Canada


Nearly four years after the legislation was first introduced in Parliament, the Commons fisheries committee has passed a bill banning whale and dolphin captivity in Canada.

S-203, first sponsored by now-retired Liberal senator Wilfred Moore in 2015, bans keeping and breeding cetaceans in captivity through amendments to the Criminal Code — all but ending a practice that was once a staple of the theme park experience in this country.

The bill passed the committee, unamended, on Tuesday with the support of Liberal and NDP MPs.

An amendment to the legislation, however minor, effectively would have torpedoed the bill in the dying days of this Parliament, as a changed bill would have to be sent back to the Senate for another final vote. The bill has faced unprecedented resistance from some Conservative senators in the Red Chamber and there are only eight sitting weeks left in this session.

The committee’s vote — and continuing support for the bill from the Liberal government — amount to a victory for animal rights activists who maintain that holding these highly intelligent creatures in concrete tanks is a cruel and perverse form of entertainment.

“The bill is a simple and straightforward one. It works from the presumption that placing these beautiful creatures into the kinds of pens that they have been kept in is inherently cruel,” Independent Sen. Murray Sinclair, the former judge who helped usher the bill through Parliament after Moore’s retirement, told the Commons fisheries committee.

If it’s passed by Parliament before it rises for summer prior to an expected fall election, the bill will levy fines of up to $200,000 on parks and aquariums that are found to have violated proposed animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code.

Camille Labchuk is the executive director of Animal Justice, an advocacy group that has long backed the bill. She said that while the legislation is still facing a parliamentary time crunch, she’s confident it has enough votes to clear the Commons when it comes up for a final vote.

“I am delighted that the Liberals resisted pressure to kill the bill. I think the reason they were convinced to save this legislation is because … of the power of Canadians who contacted these politicians in droves,” she said in an interview with CBC News. (Liberal New Brunswick MP Pat Finnigan withdrew three such amendments Tuesday night.)

“Probably over 20,000 e-mails and phone calls were made in the days proceeding this vote. This [captivity ban] is something Canadians across the country are really ready for. They’ve seen Blackfish and The Cove, they understand that whales and dolphins shouldn’t be kept in tanks anymore — those in the wild travel vast distances, dive deeply, live in complex family structures and enjoy a quality of life that is much better than the abject misery and barrenness of living in a tank.”

Sea World trainer Michelle Shoemaker, seen here in 2014, hugs killer whale Kayla as she works on a routine before a show, in Orlando, Fla. Sea World Entertainment, Inc. has faced intense criticism over its treatment of its captive killer whales. (John Raoux/Associated Press)

Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont. — the only remaining facility in this country that is committed to holding these mammals over the long term — has been a vocal opponent of the bill, saying it would devastate attendance and threaten conservation efforts at theme parks where these animals are on display. It also has said the bill threatens the seasonal employment of hundreds of local residents during the summer months.

However, existing cetacean stocks will be grandfathered by the bill, meaning the park can keep all the animals it currently owns.

According to data supplied by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Marineland owns about 61 cetaceans: 55 beluga whales, five bottlenose dolphins and one orca, or “killer whale.” The Vancouver Aquarium has just one such mammal left.

“Marineland has enough beluga whales in existence to probably continue for another 30 years, so no jobs are going to be lost as a result of this in the immediate future,” Sinclair said.

“This [bill] is necessary because, in the long run, our society will be much better off if we start to treat other creatures … in the same way that we ourselves feel that we should be treated.”

The hope of many activists is that some or all of the mammals currently in captivity will be “retired” eventually and moved to an open water seaside sanctuary in Nova Scotia.

Andrew Burns, the lawyer for Marineland, has argued the bill is unconstitutional and has flagged potential legal problems the park might face when a currently pregnant cetacean gives birth after the bill — which bans birthing — is passed into law.



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Boeing anti-stall software engaged repeatedly before Ethiopian Airlines crash: sources

Boeing anti-stall software engaged repeatedly before Ethiopian Airlines crash: sources


Boeing anti-stall software repeatedly forced down the nose of a doomed Ethiopian jet after pilots had turned it off, sources told Reuters, as investigators scrutinize the role played by technology and crew in the fatal March 10 crash.

A preliminary Ethiopian report into the disaster, expected soon, may include evidence the software system kicked in as many as four times before the 737 Max dived into the ground, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The software known as MCAS is at the centre of accident probes in both the crash of Ethiopian flight 302 and a Lion Air accident in Indonesia five months earlier that together killed 346 people.

It was not immediately clear whether the Ethiopian crew chose to re-deploy the system, which pushes the Boeing 737 Max downward to avoid stalling. But one of the sources said investigators were studying the possibility that the software started working again without human intervention.

A Boeing spokesperson declined to comment. Ethiopian investigators were not available for comment.

The Ethiopian crash led to a global grounding of 737 Max jets and scrutiny of its certification process. Initial results of the accident investigation are due within days.

The stakes are high. The 737 Max is Boeing’s top-selling jet with almost 5,000 on order. Ethiopian Airlines is also in the midst of an expansion drive, while other 737 Max customers and victims’ families want answers, and potentially compensation.

Erroneous ‘angle of attack’ data

Getting the planes flying again depends partly on the role that Boeing design features are found to have played in the crash, though investigators are also paying attention to airline operations, crew actions and regulatory measures.

Boeing is upgrading the MCAS software and training while stressing that existing cockpit procedures enable safe flight.

People familiar with the investigation have already said the anti-stall software was activated by erroneous “angle of attack” data from a key aircraft sensor.

Now, the investigation has turned toward how MCAS was initially disabled by pilots following a checklist procedure, but then appeared to start working again repeatedly before the jet plunged to the ground, the two sources said.

Boeing issued guidelines to pilots on how to disable the anti-stall system after the Indonesian crash, reminding pilots to use cut-out switches in the console to shut off the system in the event of problems.

Cockpit procedures call for pilots to leave the MCAS system off for the rest of the flight once it has been disengaged.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the pilots had initially followed Boeing’s emergency procedures but later deviated from them as they tried to regain control of the plane.

Disabling the system does not shut down the MCAS system completely but severs an electrical link between the software’s attempts to give orders to push the plane lower and the actual controls, a person familiar with the aircraft system said.

Investigators are studying whether there are any conditions under which MCAS could reactivate itself automatically, without the pilots intentionally reversing the cut-out manoeuvre.

Safety experts stress the investigation is far from complete and most aviation disasters are caused by a unique combination of human and technical factors.

None of the parties involved in the investigation was available for comment.



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CMHC looks to raise extra money for housing outside of billions from government

CMHC looks to raise extra money for housing outside of billions from government


The president of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says his agency wants to raise millions more dollars to help Canadians afford places to live, despite the billions already available in government funding.

Evan Siddall says the aim is to raise $100 million more for housing — quickly and likely from private sources — because the tens of billions pledged by federal and provincial governments over the next decade or so isn’t enough to make housing affordable for everyone in the country.

CMHC’s corporate plan released last month set the ambitious goal of providing Canadians with homes they can afford and that meet their needs by 2030.

An estimated 1.6 million Canadian households are considered to be in “core housing need,” meaning they live in places that are too expensive or aren’t really suitable for them.

Siddall admits the goal is a moon-shot, but it’s meant to force his agency and others to achieve more than is already available in a long-term national housing strategy with a price tag of over $40 billion.

The Liberals’ latest budget included extra housing spending the government hopes will help some first-time buyers enter the housing market and expand the stock of rental units.



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Freeland says lifting U.S. tariffs must be part of ratification of new NAFTA

Freeland says lifting U.S. tariffs must be part of ratification of new NAFTA


Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is linking the lifting of “absurd” U.S. tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel to the ratification of the new North American free-trade deal.

Dealing with the tariffs — imposed by President Donald Trump under a controversial national-security provision of U.S. law — is a key part of the ratification process, Freeland said Wednesday.

Freeland says she’s heartened by the recent comments of American lawmakers who say the new trilateral trade agreement can’t be ratified with the “Section 232” tariffs in place.

“I am very glad to be hearing both in private meetings and in public statements from a number of U.S. senators, members of Congress, that they share Canada’s view that the 232 tariffs should be lifted,” the minister said in Ottawa before departing for a NATO summit in Washington, where she was expected to press the issue further.

“And that very much needs to be a part of the NAFTA ratification process.”

In a Twitter posting early this week, an influential Republican senator from Iowa called for an end to the sanctions.

“I’m calling on the Administration — specifically, President Trump — to promptly remove Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. This will help clear the path for the U.S.M.C.A. agreement,” wrote Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, using the American acronym for the new agreement.

Section 232 of the United States’s Trade Expansion Act lets the president impose duties on imported goods if the imports threaten U.S. national security. Trump asserted that the U.S. needs a domestic metals industry for national-security reasons, so imports of steel and aluminum are a danger.

Freeland’s remarks indicate an evolution in Canada’s position on the sanctions and the acrimonious three-country renegotiation of NAFTA. She has said previously that two were separate issues that could not be linked, even though Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the tariffs were actually imposed because of what the Americans viewed as the slow pace of the talks last spring.

Plans for retaliation

Canada has imposed more than $16 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, a list that Freeland said is constantly being examined so that they will have “the greatest impact” on American consumers. She said Canada has been consulting on retaliation strategies with Mexico and the European Union, which was also hit by the 232 tariffs.

“Our government feels very strongly — and indeed I think all Canadians feel very strongly — that the 232 steel and aluminum tariffs were illegal, unjustified and frankly absurd in the first place,” said Freeland.

“Now that we have actually concluded our negotiations on a modernized NAFTA there is all the more reason for those tariffs to be lifted.”

Freeland travelled to Washington later Wednesday for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers to mark the 70th anniversary of the transatlantic military alliance. Her first meeting was with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and senior officials said she intended to press for the lifting of the tariffs in that meeting.

Time is running short

With the clock ticking in Canada’s Parliament towards a June ratification deadline — before a summer break that probably won’t end until after the election due in October — Freeland remained non-committal Wednesday about moving forward on the necessary legislation with the tariffs still in place.

Some leading U.S. Democrats in Congress say they won’t approve the new trade agreement unless it is strengthened to force Mexico to adhere to tougher labour standards that elevate the rights of workers and their unions.

Mexico says it will introduce labour reform legislation in its Congress before it rises on April 30.

Freeland wouldn’t say whether that would be enough for the Canadian government to move ahead with ratification in Parliament.

Canada is watching the ratification process in both countries and Canada wants to “move forward in a co-ordinated way when it comes to the NAFTA ratification,” she said.



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India's anti-satellite test left debris that could endanger space station, NASA says

India’s anti-satellite test left debris that could endanger space station, NASA says


India declined to comment Wednesday on a statement by a U.S. space official that India’s recent test of an anti-satellite weapon created debris that could threaten the International Space Station.

India’s Defence Ministry spokesman Col. Aman Anand said there was no official response to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine’s statement at a town hall event in Washington on Monday. Bridenstine said in shooting down one of its own satellites with a missile last week, India had left debris high enough in orbit to pose a risk to the International Space Station.

India’s External Affairs Ministry in a statement after the March 27 test said that whatever debris generated would decay and fall back to Earth within weeks as the test was in the lower atmosphere.

The International Space Station serves as a research laboratory and has hosted astronauts from various countries since it was launched into orbit in 1998.

Bridenstine said NASA had identified 400 pieces of the debris and tracked 60 of them.

24 pieces higher than ISS 

“We know that 24 of these are going above the apogee of International Space Station. That’s a terrible, terrible thing to create,” he said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the test last week and said the destruction of the satellite demonstrated India’s capacity as a “space power” alongside the United States, Russia and China.

A family in India’s Uttar Pradesh state watches Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi address the nation on March 27 to announce that an interceptor missile built in India had shot down a low-orbit Indian satellite. It was the first time that India has ever successfully tested such technology. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press)

Pallava Bagla, a science writer at the New Delhi Television Channel, said Wednesday that Indian officials have clearly indicated that the debris will decay in three weeks.

“The amount of debris which the United States itself has created in space is gigantic as compared to a few pieces of debris from the Indian test. In orbit, we have 2,000 functional satellites. Eight hundred of them belong to the United States. India has only 48 functional satellites in the orbit,” he said.

In Washington, the vice commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, Lt. Gen. David Thompson, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week that the Air Force detected about 270 objects in the debris field created when India destroyed the satellite and the number was likely to increase.

He said the Air Force will inform satellite operators if any of those objects become a threat to satellites in orbit.



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Wilson-Raybould set multiple conditions for ending the rift with Trudeau, say sources

Wilson-Raybould set multiple conditions for ending the rift with Trudeau, say sources


Liberal MPs — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — tried for weeks to broker a compromise with Jody Wilson-Raybould over the SNC-Lavalin controversy, but the talks ultimately failed when it became clear they could not reach an agreement with the former attorney general, sources tell CBC News.

Over the course of the secret discussions, it emerged that Wilson-Raybould had a list of at least five conditions that could help end the civil war that has been tearing the government apart, multiple Liberal sources say.

The first three conditions involved staff changes at the very summit of the government. The sources said Wilson-Raybould wanted Trudeau to fire his principal secretary, Gerald Butts, along with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick and PMO senior adviser Mathieu Bouchard.

(The Toronto Star first reported some of these conditions, or similar ones, earlier Wednesday.)

Change at the top

This scandal has been eroding Liberal support since Feb. 7, when the Globe and Mail reported that Wilson-Raybould had faced inappropriate political pressure on the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution decision. Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott both later resigned from cabinet to protest the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file.

The sources who spoke to CBC News — on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the conversations — said Wilson-Raybould made clear her desire for staff changes to the prime minister and his staff in a series of conversations in Vancouver in the days before her resignation from cabinet on Feb. 12.

Butts was never fired, but he did resign on Feb. 18. He later testified that he never pressured Wilson-Raybould on the SNC-Lavalin file.

Wernick announced his retirement last month after intense public criticism of his testimony before the justice committee on Feb. 21 and March 6. Bouchard remains in the PMO.

An apology from Trudeau?

But Wilson-Raybould’s wishes went beyond a limited housecleaning in the PMO. Sources said 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.

Wilson-Raybould also wanted Justin Trudeau to admit — publicly, or to caucus alone — that his office acted inappropriately in its attempts to convince her to consider granting SNC-Lavalin a DPA.

The intense back-and-forth search for a compromise might help explain why the caucus drama took 54 days — from the first report in the Globe and Mail on Feb. 7 to the prime minister’s announcement Tuesday that Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott were being ejected from caucus.

CBC News reached out to Wilson-Raybould Tuesday night. She said she would not comment on the report.

In a statement released shortly after she was pushed out of caucus, Philpott pointed to the lack of an apology from Trudeau.

“Rather than acknowledge the obvious — that a range of individuals had inappropriately attempted to pressure the former attorney general in relation to a prosecutorial decision — and apologize for what occurred, a decision was made to attempt to deny the obvious — to attack Jody Wilson-Raybould’s credibility and attempt to blame her,” Philpott wrote in the statement posted to Facebook.

“This isn’t about a lack of loyalty. On the contrary, I recommended that the government acknowledge what happened in order to move forward.”

A growing list of conditions

Kate Purchase, executive director of communications and planning in the PMO, said in a statement to CBC News that Wilson-Raybould never issued a formal ultimatum to the prime minister, adding she would not comment on the details of Trudeau’s private conversations.

However, the sources said Wilson-Raybould made it clear over the course of many conversations that these were things she wanted done. The list also expanded and evolved over time, with Wilson-Raybould adding new conditions as the talks went on, said the sources.

Trudeau and his officials ultimately came to believe that the efforts to end the rift with Wilson-Raybould were futile, the sources said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tells an evening caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 that he has kicked both former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and fellow ex-cabinet minister Jane Philpott out of the Liberal caucus. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“We’ve taken every effort to address their concerns. but ultimately, if they can’t honestly say that they have confidence in this team, despite weeks of testimony, face-to-face conversations and phone calls with myself and other members of caucus, then they cannot be part of this team,” Trudeau said in front of his MPs Tuesday night.

Trudeau and his chief of staff, Katie Telford, were the point people on the weeks of fairly intense engagement with Wilson-Raybould. They scrambled people they believed to be close to Wilson-Raybould and Philpott to negotiate with them.

The Liberal B.C. caucus — including cabinet ministers Carla Qualtrough and Jonathan Wilkinson — was heavily involved in reaching out to Wilson-Raybould.

Down to the wire

Sources say the efforts continued until Monday, the day before the caucus expulsion. But by that point, Wilson-Raybould’s release of her secret recording of her Dec. 19 conversation with Wernick obliterated her already fractured relationship with much of the Liberal caucus and made a truce nearly impossible to broker.

Caucus was already growing restive and the controversy continued to dominate the public debate and overshadow the Liberal’s pre-election budget.

Philpott was confronted by anxious MPs at the Ontario caucus meeting two weeks ago. More and more Liberals MPs were going public with their concerns about a lack of trust in caucus, although some also expressed support for one or both of the former ministers.

On Tuesday, after consulting regional caucus chairs, Trudeau and senior government members met with Philpott and Wilson-Raybould to tell them they were no longer welcome in caucus. Moments later, Trudeau made his announcement to the national caucus and then to the country.



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More delays for Boeing's new space capsule for astronauts

More delays for Boeing’s new space capsule for astronauts


Boeing’s new space capsule for astronauts faces more launch delays.

The Starliner capsule was supposed to make its debut this month, after a series of postponements. But the first test flight has now been put off until August, with a launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The second test flight, with astronauts, won’t occur until sometime late in the year.

NASA announced the revised lineup Wednesday. 

At the same time, officials said the first Starliner crew will remain at the International Space Station longer than the few weeks originally anticipated. The length will be decided later.

SpaceX, NASA’s other commercial crew provider, flew its new Dragon capsule to the International Space Station last month. The first Dragon with astronauts could fly this summer, but the schedule is under review.

Boeing said the last major milestones have been cleared and the capsule is almost finished. But scheduling conflicts with an early summer Air Force launch helped push the Starliner’s debut into August.

The Starliner will fly on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, the same kind of rocket needed for the Air Force’s critical mission in late June, from the same pad.

While the first SpaceX astronauts will visit the space station for a few weeks at most, the Starliner’s three-person crew will move into the orbiting complex for an extended period. The typical station stay is about six months.

NASA wants to reduce its reliance on expensive Russian Soyuz capsules as soon as possible, and so the Boeing test flight will double as a taxi mission for station residents. NASA astronauts have been stuck riding Russian rockets since the end of the space shuttle program.

SpaceX Dragons and Boeing Starliners will return human launches to Florida, following the eight-year hiatus. NASA contracted with the two companies to handle space station ferry flights, so it could focus on getting astronauts to the moon and, eventually, Mars.



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White House says Trump will meet with Chinese vice-premier

White House says Trump will meet with Chinese vice-premier


Trade talks between the United States and China made “good headway” last week in Beijing and the two sides aim to bridge differences during talks that could extend beyond three days this week, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said.

Kudlow, speaking to reporters on Wednesday at an event organized by the Christian Science Monitor, said China had recognized problems for the first time during the talks that the United States has raised for years.

Negotiations continued in Washington on Wednesday after meetings last week in Beijing, spearheaded by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

President Donald Trump will meet with Vice-Premier Liu He, who is leading the Chinese side in the talks, in the Oval Office at 4:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, the White House said.

The United States and China have levied tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of two-way trade since July 2018. Trump has said he wants a “great deal” with China and has hinted that tariffs could remain in place for some time.

Chinese commitments to increase purchases of American agricultural, energy and manufactured products are expected to be part of a final deal, and a person familiar with the talks said China would get about six years to meet those commitments, or until 2025.

The deadline was reported earlier by Bloomberg, but Trump administration officials previously said that a six-year timeline for purchases exceeding $1 trillion had been under discussion.

A final number for the amount of purchases has not been settled, the person said.

‘We’re not there yet’

Kudlow said Liu and his team would remain in Washington for three days and possibly longer.

“We’re covering issues that have never really been covered before, including enforcement,” Kudlow said, listing U.S. accusations that Beijing engages in intellectual property theft, forced transfer of technology from U.S. companies doing business in China, cyber hacking, tariffs and non-tariff barriers for commodity trading.

“All making good progress, all making good headway, but we’re not there yet,” he said about those areas. “We hope this week to get closer.”

Kudlow said it was significant that China had “acknowledged these problems for the first time. They were in denial.”

Those structural issues along with the way a potential deal would be enforced have been sticking points during months of talks between the world’s two largest economies.

Kudlow said on Wednesday that U.S. charges against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd had generally not come up during trade talks.

Kudlow also said no decisions had been made on tariffs on auto imports coming from top U.S. allies.



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Bill Blair coy about handgun ban as time for legislative action runs down

Bill Blair coy about handgun ban as time for legislative action runs down


Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair was non-committal Wednesday about delivering a government-commissioned report on a handgun ban during this parliamentary session.

Blair also suggested the Liberals could revisit this issue if the government is re-elected in the fall.

“Canadians expect us to take the time to do it right and I’ve been doing my very best to take that time,” the former top Toronto cop told a Senate committee studying Bill C-71 Wednesday.

“As everyone can appreciate, this is a very complex discussion. We’ve looked at a number of ways we can maintain public safety but my job was also … and it’s an important caveat that the prime minister put on my mandate … to conduct that examination in a way that was also respectful of those Canadians who do responsibly own those firearms.”

Blair said he and his department are still engaged in an “exhaustive examination” of handguns in Canada. Blair initially said he would finish his consultations on the subject by the end of 2018.

When asked by Independent Sen. Marilou McPhedran if the government’s promised report would be made public by the time Parliament rises at the end of June, Blair hedged.

“As quick as I’m able, ma’am, but I can’t give you a time,” he said.

Bill C-71 is considered by many gun control advocates to be a relatively modest set of reforms to firearms law. Blair suggested Wednesday that if the Liberal government can’t do more on the firearms file this year, he’ll try again later. McPhedran said that suggestion was based on an “interesting assumption” — that the Liberals will win the fall federal election.

“It’s not an assumption, it’s an intent,” Blair said to McPhedran.

“If I can’t get it done now, I’ll come back and do it later. I know there are people who are saying, ‘Just do it quickly,’ but frankly I think we should do it right.”

When asked about the minister’s comments, a spokesperson for Blair said: “The government is still planning on releasing the report early 2019.”

The chances of the government introducing and passing new gun legislation at this late stage of the parliamentary process — with only eight weeks left on the calendar before Parliament rises for its summer break — is next to non-existent.

Legislation typically takes months to move through the House of Commons and Senate. Bill C-71, for example, was introduced more than a year ago and is still being studied by the upper house.

Heidi Rathjen, a gun control activist and survivor of the 1989 Polytechnique massacre, said anything less than a law introducing a handgun ban in the government’s current mandate would amount to a broken promise.

It would be a betrayal for them to simply kick this can down the road and promise something else, again, in the next election campaign.– Heidi Rathjen

The 2015 Liberal election platform included a commitment “to take action to get handguns and assault weapons off our streets.”

“They are breaking their word to Canadians. It would be a betrayal for them to simply kick this can down the road and promise something else, again, in the next election campaign,” Rathjen said.

“The Liberals, historically, have been in favour of gun control and now they’re just living in fear of the gun lobby and a small but very well-organized, very aggressive group of voters who speak of gun ‘rights.’ There is no right to own a gun in this country.

“It’s extremely discouraging. This government has been dragging its feet. Bill C-71 was only tabled last March and even that’s weak and the bare minimum of what the Liberals should do.”

To that end, McPhedran has suggested Bill C-71 should be amended to classify all handguns as “prohibited” firearms — the most restrictive classification for a firearm in Canada’s three-tier system, a move that would make tens of thousands of licensed owners ineligible and all but dismantle the existing legal supply chain.

“A bird in the hand, minister,” she said.

C-71 includes enhanced background checks for anyone applying for a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) or a restricted PAL, mandatory record-keeping for firearms retailers, changes to the authorization to transport (ATT) rules, and the reclassification of two types of firearms.

Any would-be gun owner in Canada already has to submit to an extensive background check and complete a training course.

The Liberal government has faced mounting pressure from gun control groups to take action on the firearms file after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern implemented a sweeping ban on so-called “military-style” semiautomatic firearms only days after a deadly mosque shooting in Christchurch.

“New Zealand shows us that if there’s political will, political courage, political leadership, a government can move extremely quickly to take action when its comes to protecting public safety,” Rathjen said.

But Blair said the Liberal government is not interested in implementing a handgun ban in such a short span of time.

“I think it’s important, before we make a decision on such an important issue of public policy and public safety, we make ourselves as well-informed as possible.”

Gun rights advocates maintain targeting legal firearms owners, through either C-71 or a potential ban, is the wrong approach given that much of the gun-related crime in this country is perpetrated by criminals using handguns smuggled from the U.S.

“The lion’s share of firearms homicide is committed by illegal gun owners. No methodologically valid study has been able to find evidence that stricter gun laws, or even gun bans, have reduced general homicide rates or spousal homicide rates,” said Gary Mauser, a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University and a noted gun rights advocate.

Out of all the violent gun crimes in 2017 in Canada, 59 per cent involved a handgun, 18 per cent involved a rifle or a shotgun, 6 per cent involved a fully automatic firearm, sawed-off rifle or shotgun and 17 per cent involved a firearm-like weapon or an unknown type of firearm, according to data from StatsCan.



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Residents far from home: B.C. killer whales spotted in California waters

Residents far from home: B.C. killer whales spotted in California waters


A recent sighting of southern resident killer whales near Monterey, Calif., has researchers taking note — as the pod usually calls the waters off B.C. and Washington state home.

Josh McInnes, research coordinator at Marine Life Studies in Monterey, was one of the scientists who spotted the pod of killer whales that had ventured more than 1,000 kilometres south.

McInnes was on a project studying transient whales that hunt grey whales migrating north.

“I saw a bunch of spouts in the distance and tall dorsal fins,” he told On The Island host Gregor Craigie.

“As they got closer, I took a photograph and looked right away and I recognized L pod, which is … one of the local southern resident pods that frequents the waters off Washington and British Columbia.

“I’ve spent many years in the water watching them. I knew right away by their markings on their dorsal fin, the saddle patches, that was them.”

The findings shocked McInnes and his colleagues, who had never seen the resident whales so far south.

A researcher thinks the whales may have been looking for food in California. (Marine Life Studies)

Could be travelling for food

So why were the whales — around 25 of them — so far from home?

McInnes says salmon are starting to come to the ocean in that part of the U.S. and the whales, which eat the salmon, might be looking for food.

“It’s a really positive thing to see, that they’re possibly in a different region where salmon might be better off, than, say, up in the Pacific Northwest, where we know chinook is critically endangered,” he suggested.

It’s not known if travelling south for food could become a trend for the southern residents. Whale research, he said, only began in the 1970s and historical data is poor.

More studies are required, but McInnes says it is possible the whales are becoming more willing to travel to find food.

The whales he observed on their California sojourn, at least, appeared to be in good health.



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