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

By The Canadian Press
February 21, 2018 - 4:15pm

Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, Feb. 21

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'WE HAVE A VOICE' — TEENS MARCH ON WHITE HOUSE: A snapshot of America's gun debate unfolded outside the White House on Wednesday, on the fringes of a youth-led march where teenaged demonstrators drew cheers from adult bystanders and horn-blasts of support from motorists. It was one of several protests across the country, as schools in Maryland and Virginia saw students spill out to voice their impatience with generations of politicians who have resisted taking meaningful action on gun control. There were also protests in Florida, where a school massacre revived the national debate. Students chanted in the halls of the legislature and stormed into the office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, demanding a meeting. The marches got support from parents, teachers, and school principals. In some cases, the approval was tacit: "Our principal was like, 'Because I'm the principal I can't really say you should walk out. But I’m not gonna stop you,'" said one Maryland teen, 16-year-old Jennifer Rodriguez. So they took the metro to Capitol Hill and marched to the White House, chanting, "We have a voice. We have a voice" and, "No more violence! No more silence!" and, "Hey-hey, ho-ho, the NRA has got to go."

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TODDLER MISSING, THOUSANDS EVACUATED DUE TO FLOODING: Torrential rains and mild temperatures pushed the Grand River in southern Ontario to breach its banks Wednesday, forcing thousands of people from their homes and touching off a search for a missing toddler. Local officials near the town of Orangeville, Ont., were bracing for tragedy as they scoured the swollen river for a three-year-old boy who went missing after the car he was riding in got swept off a washed-out road. Ontario Provincial Police Const. Paul Nancekevell said the boy's mother was driving near the river around 1 a.m. on Wednesday when her vehicle plunged into the rapidly rising waters. One other local official, however, said the effort was being viewed as a recovery operation rather than a rescue effort. The unexpected surges prompted a different kind of crisis nearly 100 kilometres away in Brantford, Ont., where officials declared a state of emergency due to flooding. About 4,900 people in roughly 2,200 homes are currently under an evacuation order covering neighbourhoods surrounding the river after the unseasonable conditions dislodged an ice jam near the city.

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TORIES GREENLIGHT BROWN'S QUEST FOR LEADERSHIP: Ontario's Progressive Conservatives are allowing ousted leader Patrick Brown to run as a candidate in the spring election, greenlighting his bid to reclaim the party leadership. The decision was announced Wednesday by a party committee tasked with vetting Brown, who was forced to resign as leader amid sexual misconduct allegations, and three other candidates vying for his former job. Since joining the leadership contest on Friday, Brown has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement and corruption, which have led one Tory legislator to file a complaint with Ontario's integrity commissioner. He's also been accused of exaggerating membership numbers after an internal audit found the party has about 67,000 fewer members than the 200,000 Brown has previously taken credit for. The 39-year-old politician, who was a federal Conservative MP for Barrie, Ont., under prime minister Stephen Harper, has denied all allegations against him and vowed to continue his fight until his party defeats the Liberals in the June election.

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TEACHERS' UNION GETS STRONG STRIKE MANDATE: Nova Scotia's public school teachers have given their union a strong mandate to authorize an "illegal job action" over pending education reforms, the head of the province's teachers union said Wednesday. Liette Doucet said 93 per cent of the union's membership participated in a vote Tuesday, and 82.5 per cent voted in favour of authorizing an illegal strike or some other job action. No job action is imminent, however, she said. Doucet said the union wants Premier Stephen McNeil and Education Minister Zach Churchill to hold talks with teachers on proposed education reforms before passing any legislation. "Today, instead of announcing when job action will take place, the NSTU is inviting government to work with us," Doucet said. "We are willing to do whatever it takes to protect the future of public education in Nova Scotia." Doucet said if the union decides to take some kind of job action it will give parents enough notice to make alternate arrangements for their children, but she didn't say how much time that would be.

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B.C. WINE INSTITUTE CHALLENGES ALBERTA WINE BAN: British Columbia's wine merchants say an Alberta ban on their product is having a crushing impact on the grape business and they plan to go to court to try to stop it. The B.C. Wine Institute says it has told the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission that it will seek a court injunction in Calgary as early as Monday to halt the two-week-old ban pending a legal review of its constitutionality. Miles Prodan, president of the institute, said a survey of some members showed at least $1 million in lost revenue in the ban's first week and another $4 million in losses are projected by month's end. Alberta has said B.C. takes in $70 million a year on sales of 17 million bottles of wine to Alberta. Prodan said he has yet to hear about layoffs, but some wineries are putting expansion plans on hold pending a resolution to the dispute. The B.C. government is challenging the ban as a violation of Canadian free-trade rules, but that will take months to resolve. The institute speaks for 276 wineries and 923 grape growers who employ more than 12,000 people.

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TECHNOLOGY GIVES FACE TO MOTHER OF BABY FOUND DEAD: Police have released a high-tech image they say is a likeness of the mother of a baby girl found dead in a dumpster on Christmas Eve. They have also released a composite sketch of the baby. Police say the mother's image was produced by a company in Virginia that specializes in DNA phenotyping, which can predict physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA. It's the first time Calgary police have used the technology. As part of that investigation, police found biological material at the scene that they sent in for the DNA phenotyping. The results indicate that the mother is likely to be of mixed race — possibly of Metis or Indigenous descent — with fair skin. Her hair is described as dark, probably brown or black, and her eyes are hazel that may also appear green. Schiavetta said the technology cannot predict age, weight, height or hairstyle. Schiavetta said investigators hope the image will lead to tips that help find the mother. An autopsy showed the baby was breathing on her own at some point after being born.

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BECCA LAID TO REST, IN SORROW AND GRATITUDE: A New Brunswick teen who inspired a movement dedicated to spreading acts of kindness was remembered Wednesday as a courageous, big-hearted person who never let her terminal diagnosis get in the way of celebrating the generosity of others. More than 700 people gathered at Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Riverview, N.B., for an ecumenical funeral service in honour of 18-year-old Rebecca Schofield, who died of brain cancer on Saturday. In December 2016, when doctors determined she had only months to live, Schofield drafted a bucket list that included a request for people to record personal acts of kindness on social media with the hashtag #BeccaToldMeTo. Her feel-good campaign attracted the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recognized Schofield's "inspiring commitment to community" in a February 2017 tweet. New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant called her an "amazing young woman" whose selfless dedication to helping others would inspire others for years to come. From as far away as Australia, people posted accounts of good deeds, ranging from holding the door open for someone to sending a box of bath items to Canadian soldiers in Kuwait.

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MONTREALER FIGHTS FOR DISABILITY BENEFITS: Lawyers say the case of a Montreal writer who said his insurance company refused to pay him disability benefits due in part to online postings is a reminder to people to watch what they put on the internet. Literature professor Samuel Archibald published a letter in La Presse earlier this month detailing his struggles to get disability benefits after being diagnosed with severe depression. Archibald wrote that his insurer had refused his claim in part because of photos on Facebook and Instagram that showed him jogging or playing with his children. Lawyer David Share says companies are increasingly using social media as a quick and easy way to find grounds to deny insurance claims. He says that while the issue of social media monitoring raises privacy concerns, thus far there are few government regulations in place to stop it. Share says the best advice is for people to be very careful about what they post online.

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BILLY GRAHAM DREW BIG CROWDS IN CANADA: The Rev. Billy Graham is being remembered in Canada for drawing big crowds to evangelical campaigns he led across the country over four decades. The celebrated preacher who was a confidant to U.S. presidents died Wednesday at 99 at his North Carolina home. Fred Weiss was 12 years old when he attended a few days of a week-long crusade at Calgary's McMahon stadium in 1981. Weiss, who is executive director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada, had watched Graham on TV and heard his gospel message all his life. He says he was struck by the consistency and simplicity in the way Graham preached at the Calgary event. Graham led 13 crusades in Canada between 1955 and 1998 — the first took place over a month at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

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FOOTWEAR COLLECTOR, PHILANTHROPIST SONJA BATA DEAD AT 91: Collector and philanthropist Sonja Bata, whose collection of global footwear treasures formed the basis of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, has died. The museum's acting director Sheila Knox says Bata passed away Tuesday evening at Toronto Western Hospital, surrounded by friends and family. She was 91. Bata began collecting footwear in the 1940s, and her fascination with design and history led to a collection of more than 13,000 artifacts chronicling 4,500 years of history. Born in Zurich, Switzerland to a prominent family of lawyers, Bata studied architecture until meeting Czech-Canadian Thomas Bata, the heir of a global shoe manufacturing and retail empire. The two wed in 1946 and the young woman soon joined her husband on business trips around the world, developing a passion for collecting rare and traditional footwear along the way. She is credited with creating the most comprehensive collection of historic footwear in the world, and building the Bata Shoe Museum into a world-renowned institution in downtown Toronto.

 

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