Tag Archive: Canada


SMITHERS, British Columbia — Less than a year after her 15-year-old cousin vanished, Delphine Nikal, 16, was last seen hitchhiking from this isolated northern Canadian town on a spring morning in 1990.

Ramona Wilson, 16, a member of her high school baseball team, left home one Saturday night in June 1994 to attend a dance a few towns away. She never arrived. Her remains were found 10 months later near the local airport.

Tamara Chipman, 22, disappeared in 2005, leaving behind a toddler. “She’s still missing,” Gladys Radek, her aunt, said. “It’ll be 11 years in September.”

Dozens of Canadian women and girls, most of them indigenous, have disappeared or been murdered near Highway 16, a remote ribbon of asphalt that bisects British Columbia and snakes past thick forests, logging towns and impoverished Indian reserves on its way to the Pacific Ocean. So many women and girls have vanished or turned up dead along one stretch of the road that residents call it the Highway of Tears.

A special unit formed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officially linked 18 such cases from 1969 to 2006 to this part of the highway and two connecting arteries. More women have vanished since then, and community activists and relatives of the missing say they believe the total is closer to 50. Almost all the cases remain unsolved.

The Highway of Tears and the disappearances of the indigenous women have become a political scandal in British Columbia. But those cases are just a small fraction of the number who have been murdered or disappeared nationwide. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have officially counted about 1,200 cases over the past three decades, but research by the Native Women’s Association of Canada suggests the total number could be as high as 4,000.

In December, after years of refusal by his conservative predecessor, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a long-awaited national inquiry into the disappearances and murders of indigenous women.

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The inquiry, set to cost 40 million Canadian dollars ($31 million), is part of Mr. Trudeau’s promise of a “total renewal” of Canada’s relationship with its indigenous citizens, and it comes at a critical time.

Aboriginal women and girls make up about 4 percent of the total female population of Canada but 16 percent of all female homicides, according to government statistics.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister of indigenous and northern affairs, has spent months traveling across the country to consult with indigenous communities. During her meetings, families and survivors have complained of racism and sexism by the police, who she said treated the deaths of indigenous women “as inevitable, as if their lives mattered less.”

“What’s clear is the uneven application of justice,” Ms. Bennett said.

One reason to doubt the estimate by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, she said, is that the police often immediately deemed the women’s deaths to be suicides, drug overdoses or accidents, over the protests of relatives who suspected foul play. “There was no investigation,” she said, citing one recent case. “The file folder’s empty.”

A United Nations report last year described measures by the previous government to protect aboriginal women from harm as “inadequate” and said that the lack of an inquiry into the murders and disappearances constituted “grave violations” of the women’s human rights. Failures by law enforcement, it added, had “resulted in impunity.”

Ms. Radek, a co-founder of Tears4Justice, an advocacy organization, said, “When it comes to the missing, racism runs deep.”

The federal government has allocated 8.4 billion Canadian dollars ($6.4 billion) over five years to aid indigenous communities, which have disproportionately high levels of poverty, incarceration, alcoholism and substance abuse, and often lack basic necessities like safe drinking water.

Ms. Bennett said the breakdown in aboriginal communities was the product of generations of socioeconomic marginalization and trauma tied to government policies. Particularly damaging was a state-financed, church-run boarding school system for aboriginal children who were forcibly taken from their families by officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Many of the 150,000 children who were sent to residential schools over a century became victims of physical and sexual abuse. The program was fully shut down in the mid-1990s.

Covering 450 miles between the city of Prince George and the Pacific port of Prince Rupert, the Highway of Tears is both a microcosm of Canada’s painful indigenous legacy and a serious test for Mr. Trudeau as he tries to repair the country’s relationship with aboriginal people.

On a recent journey along Highway 16, scenes of stunning wilderness were flecked by indigenous communities reeling from economic decay and the anguished memories of missing and murdered women.

A few miles outside Prince George, the highway plunges into thick forests veined with logging roads and the occasional “moose crossing” sign. “Girls Don’t Hitchhike on the Highway of Tears,” reads a large yellow billboard alongside the road farther north. “Killer on the Loose!”

As a bald eagle soared overhead, Brenda Wilson, 49, the Highway of Tears coordinator for Carrier Sekani Family Services and the sister of one of the victims, gestured to the wall of evergreens that flank the road. “The trees are really dense here, so if you’re looking for someone, it’s pretty hard to find them,” she said, listing the names of several women who are still missing.

The provincial government announced plans in December to improve safety along Highway 16, including funds for traffic cameras and vehicles for indigenous communities. But little has changed on the road, which lacks lighting or any public transportation other than infrequent Greyhound bus service that does not reach remote communities.

The perils do not stop desperate people from thumbing rides in a region where public transportation is practically nonexistent. Just outside the village of Burns Lake, Drucella Joseph, 25, an unemployed aboriginal woman, eagerly climbed into the back of a passing car along with her boyfriend, Corey Coombes. “Friends will drive me when I really need a ride, but other than that, we just hitchhike,” she told the driver. The couple gets by on his disability payments and on donated food from food banks. Neither has a cellphone. When hitchhiking, Mr. Coombes says he protects himself by carrying a club or a screwdriver.

British Columbia is infamous for serial killers and criminals who often targeted aboriginal women. In 2007, Robert William Pickton, a pig farmer, was convicted of killing six women, though the DNA or remains of 33 women were discovered on his land. Many of them were aboriginal. One of Canada’s youngest serial killers, Cody Legebokoff, was 24 when he was convicted in 2014 of killing four women near the Highway of Tears. David Ramsay, a former Prince George provincial court judge and convicted pedophile, was imprisoned in 2004 for sexually and physically assaulting indigenous girls as young as 12.

Anguished family members said they received little help from the authorities, a sharp contrast to the cases of missing white women. After Ms. Chipman vanished in 2005, her aunt, Ms. Radek, said the police objected to the family putting up its own missing posters. “They knew we were searching day and night, and they did nothing to help us,” she said. The next day, she said, a white woman disappeared near Vancouver “and the police were out in the streets putting up posters.”

After her daughter Ramona disappeared in 1994, the police refused to act, said Matilda Wilson, a member of the Gitxsan First Nation. “They gave us all these different excuses that she might be back tomorrow or next week,” Ms. Wilson said. “There was no hurry or alarm about it, so we started looking ourselves.”

Despite multiple searches, Ms. Wilson, a single mother of six who is now 65, said there was no sign of Ramona until she had been gone for seven months, when Ms. Wilson received an anonymous phone call telling her that the girl’s body was near the airport. Police officers searched the area but found nothing, she said. In April 1995, two men riding all-terrain vehicles by the airport discovered Ramona’s remains buried under some trees. Plastic flowers and a glass cross now decorate her grave in a Smithers cemetery, a few blocks from Ms. Wilson’s tidy trailer-park home.

Angry with the police for failing to find the teenager or to alert people to the history of missing women near Highway 16, Ms. Wilson and her family organized a memorial walk in June 1995 that has become an annual event, garnering attention from the news media and inspiring activism from families of other missing women.

“We want closure, and we’re not going to give up,” Ms. Wilson said as she swept leaves from her daughter’s gravestone.

One recent afternoon, three young aboriginal sisters and their female cousin were walking across the Moricetown Indian Reserve, which abuts the highway. Asked about the Highway of Tears, one of the women, Rochelle Joseph, an unemployed 21-year-old, said the sisters never hitchhiked because they grew up hearing about the victims, including their cousin, Ms. Chipman.

Still, the menace of the highway haunts their lives.

“The stories made us cautious,” Ms. Joseph said quietly, voicing their fear of a serial killer lurking behind the steering wheel of any strange car. “He’s probably still out there.”

Source: Dozens of Women Vanish on Canada’s Highway of Tears, and Most Cases Are Unsolved – The New York Times

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Eighty-thousand people in the Canadian city of Fort McMurray have been told to get out as a massive wildfire approaches.

Authorities have issued a mandatory evacuation order for the city, which is in the heart of the country’s oil sands region and is about 267 miles northeast of Alberta’s state capital of Edmonton.

The city’s main southern exit, Highway 63, has been closed due to the danger, leaving residents to head north.

Alberta has asked for help from other provinces to help fight the fire – which now stretches for 2,650 hectares – and airlift people from the city.

Already, nine air tankers, more than a dozen helicopters and more than 100 firefighters are battling the fire.

Premier Rachel Notley said her province was experiencing the biggest evacuation in its history.

She told a news conference: “We need to find more camps, we have secured spaces for about 6,000 people, we know we need to find more and that work is underway.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted on Tuesday night: “Tonight I spoke with Premier Notley and offered our government’s support to the people of Fort McMurray. We stand ready to help.”

A local radio reporter said a trailer park that was evacuated on Monday was on fire and flames were heading towards businesses.

Carina Van Heerde, with radio station KAOS, said: “It’s chaos on the roads. People are panicking. It’s gridlock on the roads. Flames are right next to a gas station.”

Carol Christian said she was very scared as she drove to an evacuation centre with her son and cat.

“When you leave… it’s an overwhelming feeling to think that you’ll never see your house again,” she said, her voice breaking.

“It was absolutely horrifying when we were sitting there in traffic. You look up and then you watch all the trees candle-topping … up the hills where you live and you’re thinking: ‘Oh my God. We got out just in time’.”

There are no casualties or injuries so far but Bruce Mayer, assistant deputy minister of Alberta’s Forestry Division, warned: “Tomorrow is expected to be a more intense burning day than today is.”

While weather forecasters expect a cold front to reach the city by Wednesday afternoon, it will bring stronger wind, which will make it tough for firefighters.

Last May, wildfires led to the evacuation of hundreds of workers from the oil sands area, leading to a 9% cut in Alberta’s oil sands output at the time. Operations this time, however, are reported to be unaffected.

Source: Whole City Evacuated As 80,000 Flee Wildfire

Canada is likely to become one of the first Western countries to legalise cannabis after the government promised to introduce the necessary legislation next year.

The proposed law would allow the recreational use and sale of cannabis, raising fears that Canada could become a hub for drug tourism, attracting pot-seeking visitors from across the world.

Jane Philpott, the Canadian health minister, said the policy would keep cannabis “out of the hands of children – and profits out of the hands of criminals”.

She added: “We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem. We will work with law enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal justice measures.”

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, won an election last year on a pledge to legalise and regulate the recreational use of cannabis. Mr Trudeau promised that his reforms would fix a “failed system” and help remove the “criminal element” linked to the drug.

Although the ban remains in place for now, illegal dispensaries for cannabis have already sprung up since Mr Trudeau’s Liberal government came to power.

Source: Canada to introduce laws to decriminalise cannabis by spring 2017

Netflix announced in a blog post in January that it would be employing new high-tech methods to stymie VPNs and other side-doors to the “geo-blocking” of programming.

The movies and TV shows illegally streamed are generally not licensed by Netflix in Canada.

And by all accounts, Netflix was not bluffing.

One of the larger for-pay VPN services, Unblock-Us.com, seems to have had its access U.S. Netflix crippled. Its Twitter feed is an endless stream of posts like “Sorry, we are a few days behind, but we are working as fast as we can around the clock,” and, “If you would like a refund, please let support know and they can help.”

And according to posts in the Reddit-based board NetFlixByProxy, people using all sorts of VPNs are receiving the notice “Proxy Detected — Access to America Denied” and headers like “Anybody know how they are blocking us?” Others on the board are warning not to mention VPNs that are still functioning, fearing Netflix is monitoring such comments and will target offenders accordingly.

One Toronto-based digital professional, who preferred his name not be used, confirmed to the Sun he subscribes to UnBlock-Us.com and that he has lately been unable to access American Netflix with it.

“It sounds like Netflix will triumph, which sucks for me,” he said. He said he has been using a VPN to access Netflix and other geo-blocked U.S. streaming services like Hulu because “it makes cutting the (cable) cord that much less painful.”

How many Canadians are affected by the techno-attack on VPNs is unclear. But about 40% of English-speaking Canadians have Netflix subscriptions, according to Media Technology Monitor. And of them, about a third admit to having accessed the American version.

Contacted this week by Canadian Press, Netflix offered no comment on the current state of its VPN war, beyond what was announced in January.

Source: Netflix drops tech-bomb on Canadian VPN users | News | Tech | Toronto Sun

MONTREAL—Former federal cabinet minister Jean Lapierre was among seven people killed in a plane that crashed as it was trying to land in Quebec’s Magdalen Islands.

The TVA network, Lapierre’s employer, confirmed that the former Liberal transport minister who went on to prominence as a political analyst on television and radio, was on the plane.

A local Magdalen Islands radio station, CFIM, reported that Lapierre’s wife, his sister, his two brothers and an aunt were also killed in the crash—information that the Star could not independently confirm.

Lapierre noted on Twitter Monday that his 83-year-old father had just died after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was travelling back to the island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for the funeral.

The Surete du Quebec confirmed Tuesday afternoon that all those on board the turbo-prop airplane died. Benoit Leblanc, a supervisor with Ambulance Leblanc, said in an interview with radio station FM93 that six of the passengers were dead by the time that paramedics arrived at the scene of the accident. A seventh person survived long enough to be transported to hospital but died from their injuries, Leblanc said.

The airplane, a Mitsubishi MU-2B-60 Turbo-prop, crashed just north of the island’s airport, the Transportation Safety Board said in a news release. The agency, which investigates all air, marine and rail accidents, has dispatched a team of investigators to the crash site.

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Source: Former federal cabinet minister Jean Lapierre among seven people killed in plane crash | Toronto Star

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