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

By The Canadian Press
January 2, 2018 - 2:45pm

Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Jan. 2

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MPS NOT IMMUNE TO SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, SURVEY SUGGESTS: There have long been obstacles in the path of women seeking to succeed in politics — and some female MPs are now coming forward to share their own experiences with sexually inappropriate behaviour, both on and off Parliament Hill. The Canadian Press surveyed current female MPs to find out the extent to which they had been the targets of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct of all kinds, including during their time in elected office. Of 89 current female members of Parliament, 38 chose to respond to the voluntary survey. Anonymity was promised to ensure MPs could share their experiences and opinions without fear of reprisal. Nearly 58 per cent of respondents said they had personally been the target of one or more forms of sexual misconduct while in office, including inappropriate or unwanted remarks, gestures or text messages of a sexual nature. That includes three MPs who said they were victims of sexual assault and four who said they were the targets of sexual harassment, defined in the survey as insistent and repeated sexual advances. Nearly half of respondents — 47 per cent — said they were subjected to inappropriate comments on social media.

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IRANIAN PROTESTS SPARK DEBATE OVER RENEWING TIES: Several days of deadly protests in Iran have rekindled the debate over the Trudeau government's ongoing efforts to restore diplomatic ties with Tehran. At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds arrested over six days of protests across Iran, representing the most significant challenge to the ruling regime in nearly a decade. In response, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's office issued a statement today expressing concern about the deaths and calling on Iranian authorities to show restraint. But the protests have also cast a fresh spotlight on the Liberal government's plan to renew ties with the Islamic republic, which were first cut by the Harper Conservatives in 2012. Discussions between Canadian and Iranian officials have been moving ahead quietly, with Tehran expected to send a delegation to Ottawa for a sixth round of talks in the coming weeks. Freeland's office did not immediately respond to questions over whether the protests would affect those talks. Some experts argue the talks should be scrapped to punish the Iranian government, while other academics say the protests underscore the need for a Canadian presence on the ground.

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PILOT PROJECT TO STUDY SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS: An Ottawa-based firm has been tapped by the federal government for a pilot project designed to look for warning signs for suicide before tragedy strikes. Advanced Symbolics Inc., is an artificial intelligence service company set to spend the next three months examining suicide hot spots across the country to better understand precursors to suicide. Chief scientist Kenton White says the pilot will examine all parts of the country, including Indigenous communities, but he says the goal is not to focus on any particular group. The project is expected to start at the beginning of February. White says the work will not identify individuals who are at risk of self harm, saying safeguards are in place to ensure individuals can't be identified within samples. Advanced Symbolics uses a patented technique to create randomized, controlled samples of social media users in all regions.

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EX-HOSTAGE JOSHUA BOYLE CHARGED WITH SEX ASSAULT: A lawyer for a Canadian man recently freed with his wife and children after years of being held hostage in Afghanistan says his client has been arrested and faces at least a dozen charges. Eric Granger says Joshua Boyle faces charges including sexual assault, assault and forcible confinement. Ottawa police refused to provide any specifics. Granger says Boyle is presumed innocent. Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman were taken hostage in Afghanistan in 2012. They were freed in October with their three young children, who were born in captivity. Boyle is scheduled to appear in court in Ottawa on Wednesday. "He's never been in trouble before," Granger told The Canadian Press. "No evidence has been provided yet, which is typical at this early stage. We look forward to receiving the evidence and defending him against these charges." A publication ban bars any information that could identify the alleged victims or witnesses in the case. Another routine ban bars publication of bail proceedings.

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VICE SUSPENDS TWO TOP EXECS AFTER SEXUAL MISCONDUCT REPORT: Vice has suspended two top executives after a New York Times report on sexual misconduct at the digital media company. Vice Media has suspended its president, Andrew Creighton, and chief digital officer Mike Germano, as it investigates allegations against them, according to a company memo sent to employees Tuesday. A spokesman declined to comment. The Times had reported in late December that it found four settlements involving allegations of sexual harassment or defamation against Vice employees, including Creighton. The newspaper talked with more than two dozen women who say they experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct, including groping and forced kisses. Vice Media co-founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi have apologized for the "boy's club" culture. Vice has grown from a Canadian magazine to a dominant online video company, expanding into TV around the world. In the memo, the company said that Creighton and Germano were the only two people named in the Times story who were still employed at Vice.

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ONTARIO MAN SUES MEDICAL SCHOOL FOR $11 MILLION: An Ontario man is suing Western University, alleging its medical school didn't give him the education he needed to succeed in his chosen specialty. James Stuart alleges a five-year post-graduate residency program offered at the university didn't give him the necessary training to pass a certification exam and get licensed as a medical microbiologist. In a statement of claim, Stuart alleges the program at the university's Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry deteriorated dramatically while he was enrolled, due in part to the departure of key faculty members and all of his classmates. Stuart alleged he brought concerns about insufficient supervision, feedback and testing to school officials but despite their assurances, no improvements were made. He says he later discovered the program was on probation, and it was discontinued after he completed his studies. The allegations have not been proven in court and Western has not yet filed a statement of defence. The university is seeking to appeal a judge's ruling made late last year that allowed the lawsuit to proceed.

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TORONTO TO REVIEW SHELTER SYSTEM DURING COLD WEATHER: Complaints about the lack of adequate shelter for the homeless in the midst of extreme cold weather have prompted both the City of Toronto and its ombudsman to launch formal investigations. Advocates have said in recent days that they tried to find spots for homeless people in some of the city's 62 shelters only to be told that they were fully booked. The city has said there are still beds available for the homeless, blaming miscommunication for the confusion. The city's general manager of shelter support, Paul Raftis, says he's asked staff to review the intake process and communication about shelter bed availability. Toronto's ombudsman Susan Opler has also announced an inquiry into the situation that will focus on the winter needs of the homeless and whether the city is providing services in a way that ensures people's dignity, safety and comfort. Opler says her office has been following the situation closely since delivering its report last year on the city's cold weather drop-in program.

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EDMONTON TEEN SAYS HE WAS KICKED OUT OF CAB IN COLD: An Alberta mother wants a taxi driver fired for allegedly abandoning her son on a rural road in extreme cold on New Year's Eve, but the cabbie says the young man insisted on getting out. Phil Strong, president of the Edmonton Taxi Group and Yellow Cab, said Tuesday that the driver has been suspended while the company looks into the two different versions of what happened. It's policy that drivers don't drop off passengers when it's unsafe — even if they don't have money, Strong said. Carson Terpsma, 19, had been celebrating with friends in Edmonton. His mother said he called her shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday to ask for a ride home. Having run out of cash, he told her a cab driver had ordered him out on a back road on the way to Beaumont, a bedroom community south of the city. The temperature was -37 C with the wind chill. Wearing just a hat and a hoodie, pants and dress shoes, he walked for about 20 minutes before his mother picked him up. She said his fingers and ears were ice cold and his teeth were chattering as he curled up in a ball in her pickup truck. Terpsma said her son had been drinking that night but was not drunk or belligerent. She described him as a humble, quiet young man who recently returned from travelling in Australia.

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WITH SLIGHT MOVEMENT OF EYES, WOMAN FINDS VOICE: Using eye-gaze detection software, a severely disabled Nova Scotia woman is communicating with her family for the first time in 21 years. Joellan Huntley and her family met with the media today to talk about their heartwarming breakthrough at a rehabilitation centre in Waterville, N.S. Huntley was 15 when she suffered a catastrophic brain injury in a 1996 car accident. Since then, she has been unable to walk or talk, but her family says the 37-year-old started communicating on Christmas Day, using a special device that tracks her eye movements on a computer screen. Huntley's mother, Louise Misner, says she had commented on her daughter's new outfit, and Huntley responded by using the technology to find an icon on an iPad for a long-sleeve shirt. Misner says it was the first time she had communicated one-on-one with her daughter since 1996, and she's looking forward to more conversations.

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MORE PETS BEING SICKENED BY WEED, VETS SAY: Veterinarians say they're seeing an increasing number of dogs sickened after ingesting marijuana, and are warning pet owners to take care as Canada prepares for cannabis legalization this year. Dr. Jeff Goodall, a veterinarian who runs the Sunnyview Animal Centre in Bedford, N.S., says he's seeing a growing number of dogs with marijuana toxicity. Goodall says he saw five cases in 2017, three in 2016, and none the year before that. He says the THC in marijuana doesn't make dogs high. Rather, it makes them very sick — wobbling, crying, and urinating uncontrollably, and in rare cases it can lead to death. Goodall says he'd like to see warnings and greater public education on what marijuana can do to pets. In Colorado, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, there was a four-fold increase in reported cases of toxicity in dogs between 2010 and 2015.

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