A major gas leak in downtown Ottawa forced the evacuation of four city blocks on Tuesday afternoon.
The leak began shortly after 1 p.m. and there were reports of a large “bang” followed by the distinct smell of gas in the air on Sparks Street. The leak occurred in the heart of the downtown core, right across from Parliament Hill and only a block or two away from the prime minister’s Langevin offices.
There is a large condo construction site nearby but as of 2 p.m. it was unclear if work on the site is what caused the leak. Construction on the city’s new light-rail transit line is also ongoing in the area.
The smell outside is overwhelming actually. Emergency crews on scene. pic.twitter杭州桑拿/umF92cikiu
— Monique Scotti (@moniquescotti) May 2, 2017
Ottawa emergency services were on scene as of 1:30 p.m. attempting to get the leak under control. Police initially taped off a two-block radius surrounding the site of the apparent accident before expanding the perimeter to four blocks.
Metcalfe Street was closed to all traffic from Albert Street to Queen Street, and O’Connor Street was closed from Wellington Street to Albert Street. Buses had to be redirected ahead of the rush hour.
Update | Four buildings are being evacuated for safety measures. Please avoid the area and yield to emergency vehicles. #ottnews https://t.co/G5vLs1NvFe
— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) May 2, 2017
People were being advised to avoid the area. There have been no reports of any injuries.
The deaths of Canadian Francesca Matus and her American boyfriend, Drew DeVoursney, in Belize are currently being investigated as homicides, and a security expert says travellers should exercise caution when visiting the tropical hot spot.
The bodies of Matus, 52, of Markham, Ont., and DeVoursney, 36, from Georgia, were discovered Monday in a sugar cane field in the Corozal district and police say the cause of death appears to be strangulation.
DeVoursney’s mother says the American embassy told her that the pair was found with duct tape wrapped around their wrists.
WATCH: What we know about the Canadian found dead in Belize
Global Affairs Canada does not have a nationwide travel advisory in place for Belize, but advises on its website that Canadians “exercise a high degree of caution due to a high rate of violent crime throughout the country.”
“Criminal activity, including armed robbery, mugging and sexual assault, is a significant problem throughout Belize,” Global Affairs writes on its website. “Robberies and assaults have been reported in resort areas. There has been a noted increase in violent crime targeting tourists since the end of 2013.”
The agency advises visitors to stay in groups and ensure that personal belongings and travel documents are secure at all times. Tourists are also advised not to show “signs of affluence” and use taxis after dark instead of walking.
READ MORE: Most dangerous countries for Canadians to travel to include popular hot spots
Walter McKay, a former Vancouver police detective and security expert, says the country is relatively “quiet” and safe compared to its neighbours, like Mexico and Honduras.
“It is on the ocean so you’ll have connecting points for drugs and what not but it’s not a main transit point,” McKay said. “There is an uptick [in violent crimes] but in general there is an uptick all over Latin America.”
Belize (approximately 335,000 people) has the world’s third-highest homicide rate, with 44.7 homicides per 100,000 population, according to 2013 data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
READ MORE: Two teens charged in killing of Canadian found stabbed in Belize
By comparison, U.S. cities like Detroit had a rate of 43.5 in 2015 or Baltimore with a rate of 55.3 homicides per 100,000 people, according to 2015 FBI statistics.
McKay said following travel tips like avoiding bars after dark, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding unlicensed taxis can help you stay safe in Belize.
“Make sure you have enough money and don’t use an ATM,” he said. “If somebody is going to target you they know they will get money.”
McKay said while there are still few details in this case, drinking to excess can lead to personal injury or death in tourist destinations throughout Central America.
“It’s amazing that people go into a foreign country that they may or may not speak and drink as much as they can,” he said. “Go ahead and have fun, drink in moderation, and be aware of your surroundings.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada has also issued a health notice over concerns of the Zika virus in Belize, recommending that pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to the country.
Meanwhile, family and friends of Matus and DeVoursney are still coming to grips with the deaths of the couple who were last seen April 25 leaving a bar at night.
“I’m not able to really do anything, kind of just sit and think and cry and that’s all I’m capable of at the moment,” DeVoursney’s mother, Char, told the Canadian Press. She said her son was a former U.S. marine who had overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.
Canadian and American expats had been scouring the area in the past week in a desperate search to find the couple.
“Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the Canadian citizen who passed away in Belize. Consular services are being provided to the family during this difficult time,” Austin Jean, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, told Global News Tuesday.
“Canadian consular officials continue to liaise with local authorities to gather additional information.”
Saskatoon police say a man discharged a pellet gun on Monday and he is also facing firearm-related charges for a disturbance this past weekend.
At around 7:50 p.m. CT on Monday, officers were called to an unknown problem at a residence in the 300-block of Avenue K South. Upon arrival, police discovered an altercation had taken place inside.
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As a result, a 19-year-old man was charged with such offences as carrying a weapon dangerous to the public and reckless discharge of a firearm.
READ MORE: Saskatoon police recover stolen car from Prince Albert with swords, drugs inside
Police also identified him as being one of the individuals involved in an incident that occurred on April 30 in the 2200-block of 22nd Street West.
Shortly before 3:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, witnesses reported seeing a man with a gun and being chased by two other men, one of whom was also armed with a firearm. Witnesses also indicated they heard a shot.
Officers attended the scene but found no physical evidence of a gunshot or any of the involved parties.
READ MORE: Over 150 charges laid in Saskatoon laundry room break-ins
For this event, the 19-year-old man is also facing charges that include careless use of a firearm, possession a firearm obtained by crime and possession of a firearm contrary to a prohibition order.
No injuries were reported by police.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Saskatoon police at 306-975-8300 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
What was meant to provide kids with a full belly to start off their school day on the right foot has turned into so much more for students at a Fort McMurray elementary school one year after a devastating wildfire ripped through the community.
Dr. K A Clark Public School in Fort McMurray suffered extensive smoke damage in last May’s wildfire. Seven staff members and several students lost their homes.
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Staff and students were displaced for four months before returning to class in September 2016.
“We serve two of the most affected neighbourhoods in Fort McMurray and we knew that a lot of our students lost their homes or were displaced from their homes long-term, so we really didn’t know how many we would expect on that first day of school,” said principal Merrie-Rae Mitropoulos.
READ MORE: ‘We didn’t spend 12 years not to have one’: Fort McMurray high school grads go back to say goodbye
The majority of the 400 students from the school returned in the fall, even those who moved away from the surrounding community.
“We really saw the resiliency in our students,” Mitropoulos said. “This is the place where they have their friends, they know their teachers and we have a real sense of community here.”
READ MORE: Fort McMurray children processing wildfire trauma: ‘I’m still not sleeping right’
One year later, that sense of community is thriving, even before class starts. The school offers a breakfast program, providing a meal to about 80 students each morning. But the principal says it does much more than that.
“Not only does it meet the needs of students that may not have breakfast at home or don’t have time for breakfast at home, it also meets that need of coming together, sitting with friends, having some time with the teacher and staff members who come in to visit and really spending that time together as a school community.”
READ MORE: Feelings of hope, uncertainty one year after Fort McMurray wildfire
The school started offering the breakfast program in 2015. Breakfast Club of Canada started providing funding for the program in January 2017, which included money for new dishes and supplies in order to offer a wider range of food options.
On May 3, 2016, while tens of thousands of people fled Fort McMurray, hundreds went running in to begin to battle the wildfire now known as “The Beast.”
Christian Oberegger was in Week 5 of his firefighter recruit training when he got the call.
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“We weren’t really set. We had wildland gear so I got out with a water pack and went into Beacon Hill and tried to put out a shed fire with a little water pack here… I thought I was going to get it, but we didn’t get it.”
READ MORE: ‘Guys feel guilty’: emotional demons to slay after Fort McMurray wildfire
Ed Grainger was at the gym downtown.
“I remember thinking about Slave Lake and thinking about how insane that might have been. And then thinking about what would happen to our city, not fully understanding what was going to happen. And then it just showed up. Like it was out of a movie.”
READ MORE: ‘These guys are working around the clock’: Alberta firefighters share what it’s like in Fort McMurray
Ryan Pitchers had just started a day shift.
“I had parts of my crew running around with garden houses putting out fence fires and deck fires as we were fighting the big house fires,” he said. “Everybody had the duty to do what they could to save what they could.”
READ MORE: ‘I want us to recognize the true heroes’: Fire chief shares stories of heroism from Fort McMurray
One year later, these men sat down with Global News to talk about some of the memories that stand out from that day and the wave of emotion that followed in the days, weeks and months after the wildfire.
Watch below: Ongoing Global News coverage to mark one year since the Fort McMurray wildfire
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The mayor of a community just south of Winnipeg has resigned, amidst allegations of bullying on the local council.
The Rural Municipality (RM) of Ritchot is seeking advice on what to do after its mayor and two councillors quit. That means council only has two members, which is not enough to function.
In a letter sent to Global News, now former mayor Jackie Hunt calls her decision to leave “heartbreaking” but said, “when a council cannot function as a group, and when mediation does not work, and when name calling and belligerent behaviour become the norm, it is time to re-evaluate your spot at the table.”
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Hunt said she hopes her decision will start a conversation on how to better protect citizens who serve their communities. She does not get into specifics and is not giving interviews. You can read her full statement below:
“Our job as members of the RM of Ritchot Council was to work together for the betterment of the Municipality. To make decisions that were in the best interest of our residents today and for years to come.
I had the opportunity to work with some of the finest people. Not only staff, but community groups, planners, developers and elected officials from other municipalities and other levels of government. The decision to walk away was heartbreaking.
When a Council cannot function as a group, and when mediation does not work, and when name calling and belligerent behaviour become the norm, it is time to re-evaluate your spot at the table.
There is currently no mechanism in The Municipal Act that allows for elected officials to be disciplined for behaviour that would not be tolerated in any other work environment. There is a Council Code of Conduct, but it allows only for censuring, which is ultimately a public slap on the wrist.
I gave up my seat so that it might start a conversation at the Municipal and Provincial levels of government about how to better protect the residents that want to serve our communities. If I stayed and did nothing, then I became complicit and accepting of the behaviour. We are trying to encourage people to run for public office, and we need to ensure they are protected from bullying and inappropriate behaviour while serving their communities.
My hope is that the RM of Ritchot can find people to run for office who are community minded, want to work together towards common goals, and always, always look at the big picture when making decisions.
I always served my municipality with integrity and put its needs ahead of my own.
I would like to thank my colleagues Jeannot Robert and Ron Mamchuk, Mitch Duval and all of the staff at the Municipality for their dedication, integrity and support of the RM of Ritchot. It has been a pleasure serving with you.
I am now a private citizen and this will be my only statement on this matter. I plan to take time to regroup and focus on my family and charitable work.”
The other councillors to resign are Jeannot Robert and Ron Mamchuk.
In a statement, the province says it will be appointing an administrator to make decisions on behalf of the RM, until new councillors can be elected. A press secretary for Municipal Affairs Minister Eileen Clarke says by-elections will be held “as soon as practically possible.”
Ritchot is south of Winnipeg and made up of communities like Ste. Agathe, St Adolphe and Ile des Chenes.
Editors Note: Profiles of all major party leaders will be released throughout the week.
The way Gary Burrill tells it, his journey to socialism began at a clapboard church in Harbourville, N.S., a small fishing community on the shores of the Bay of Fundy.
His father was a preacher there – a remarkable one, Nova Scotia’s NDP leader says.
On Sunday afternoons, the two would head to the small church, where Burrill would sit, the wooden pew hard on his small back. He was usually the only child in the room, but he was always enraptured by his father’s sermons.
“At that time, he was at the height of his power,” said Burrill in an interview from his downtown office overlooking Halifax harbour.
“The core thought of my father’s sermons was that we’re here with a purpose to improve the world … I absorbed this truth into the fibre of my character. It wasn’t a very big move for me to become a socialist.”
Burrill is now vying to become the 29th premier of Nova Scotia in the May 30 provincial election.
READ MORE: All our Nova Scotia election coverage
Religion and a political life
The 61-year-old clergyman wears wire-rimmed glasses with an open-collared shirt and speaks candidly about the intersection of religion and politics in his life.
“I regard my political work as an expression of my ministry vocation,” said Burrill, a former member of the legislature who won the party’s leadership in February 2016, and is now running in Halifax Chebucto, once an NDP stronghold.
At the root of his beliefs is a concept in Christianity called the Kingdom of God, imparted on him through his father’s sermons in that United Church on the coastal side of North Mountain.
“The core idea I ingested as a boy is that people ought to have a better life, we are not put on this earth to have 50,000 meals and 20,000 sleeps and move on. We’re here with a purpose to improve the world,” he said.
Burrill has been described by some pundits as the Bernie Sanders of the North, a reference to the U.S. senator who energized last year’s Democratic leadership race by openly talking about socialism. Like Sanders, he is expected to focus on left-wing issues.
He was left out of cabinet when former leader Darrell Dexter took the NDP to power for the first time in Nova Scotia in 2009, and ran a centrist government that fell from grace after a single term.
Burrill lost his seat when the party was reduced to third place in the 2013 election, but he decided to throw his hat in the ring for the leadership of the NDP last year.
Without a seat, he defeated two sitting members of the legislature – perceived front-runner Dave Wilson, a former cabinet minister, and Lenore Zann, in a tight three-way race.
“The situation called for us to seriously examine our purpose and our mission,” Burrill said of the NDP’s existential crisis and leadership race. “We needed to focus with renewed sharpness on social, economic and environmental justice.”
READ MORE: ‘I didn’t train to be the premier’: Liberal leader Stephen McNeil as he prepares for Nova Scotia election
Family and the state of Nova Scotia
The preacher, a graduate of Harvard and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., says his commitment to social justice comes from working in hard-scrabble communities in Nova Scotia.
“The struggles of the people were daily and deeply apparent to me,” he said. “There is a deep sense among people that something isn’t working.”
As a man of the cloth working in communities across the province, Burrill confronted rising poverty, income inequality and lengthy waits for long-term care.
For Burrill, soaring tuition and crippling student debt are challenges that have grown exponentially worse over time.
With the income from a minister’s salary, Burrill says his parents saved enough money to pay for the higher education of their four children.
“We were fortunate enough to have six or eight degrees between us,” he said. “Our total indebtedness was not much more than what you would need to buy a van.”
One generation later, Burrill and his wife, Debra Perrott, saved the exact same, inflation-adjusted amount for their four children. But the outcome was wildly different.
His children – Eva, a clinical therapist, Fred, a historian, and musicians Clayton and Rosanna – now owe a quarter-million dollars.
“You can speak to any family in Nova Scotia and you’ll find parallel things,” Burrill said. “Something over the space of a generation gave us a very serious opportunity deficit.”
The NDP’s anti-austerity platform includes eliminating tuition for community colleges, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and hiring more doctors.
He said the balance-the-books approach to public finances – something his own party was guilty of when it held power – is outdated.
“We are in a new moment,” he said. “There is a role for governments to do stimulative spending, which calls for sometimes short- and medium-term deficits to be run.”
Nearly 15 per cent of Canada’s economy is vulnerable to a housing slump, according to a new report by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
If several housing markets across the country were to see a 30 per cent decrease in home sales — a scenario similar to what recently happened in Vancouver after the introduction of a foreign homebuyers’ tax — Canada’s GDP could shrink by one per cent to two per cent, RBC noted.
READ MORE: Why Canada wins, but many Torontonians lose, from Ontario’s new housing measures
Whether a housing downturn means a recession would depend on what triggers the plunge in home sales, RBC economist Laura Cooper, who authored the report, told Global News.
“If we had relatively stable economic growth and [home] resale activity fell, like we saw in Vancouver, then the economic impact would be muted,” Cooper said.
However, “if we were to have a sharp rise in unemployment and an increase in interest rates that then spurred a more severe downturn, then that certainly would play out in a different fashion.”
READ MORE: Canadian housing price trend ‘very similar’ to U.S. just before the crash: National Bank
Homebuilders, real estate agents and real estate lawyers would likely suffer most
Homebuilders, real estate agents and real estate lawyers are among the groups that would take the hardest hit from a fall in home sales, the report suggests.
When homes sales plummeted by 30 per cent in 1990, new-home construction also fell by around 30 per cent over the following months, shaving nearly $10 billion off GDP, Cooper wrote.
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Business generated by the buying and selling of homes dropped even more, by over 40 per cent, in the housing correction of 1990, she noted.
WATCH: Ontario’s plan to fix out of control housing market
Business from home renovations would also decrease
Home renovation activity would also likely slow down as home sales decline.
Historically, the value of home renovations tends to decrease by about one-third of the home sales drop, Cooper wrote.
That would suggest a 10 per cent decrease in home renovations for a 30 per cent slump in the number of home sales.
However, Canadians’ collective obsession with home makeovers has reached such a high over the past decade or so, it is likely more susceptible than usual to a housing downturn, according to the report.
WATCH: Interior designer Candace Wolfe on dos and don’ts of home renovations
Just how much the renovations business would suffer also depends on the extent to which Canadians have been relying on debt to finance their home upgrades, Cooper told Global News.
On that, she noted, there just isn’t data to formulate an assessment, she added.
“We know that 70 per cent of household debt is related to mortgages, but in terms of home-equity lines of credit [HELOCs] and how those are being used, we have limited data on,” she said.
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Household spending more broadly would probably take a hit as well
Whether or not they plan to sell, homeowners feel wealthier when the price of their home goes up, economic research shows. And when families feel wealthier, they tend to spend more.
There’s no doubt that “wealth effect” has been boosting household spending in Canada, too, according to Cooper.
READ MORE: Could you handle a 33 per cent interest-rate hike on your debt? If not, start paying it off now
“Rising housing wealth amongst households likely contributed to the record levels of car sales in Canada and an insatiable appetite for renovations in the recent housing upswing,” the report reads.
But a housing slowdown would have the opposite impact, likely put the breaks on “vehicle purchases, eating out at restaurants, spending on recreation, cultural events and financial services,” Cooper wrote.
There is also the question of whether Canadian families would cut down on spending more drastically than they have in previous housing downturns because they’re so heavily indebted.
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“Estimating the wealth effect if prices were to go down is a little bit trickier this time,” because of the currently elevated levels of household debt, Cooper told Global News.
Still, “we don’t expect a downturn similar to that recorded in the early 1990s or even in the United States leading up to the financial crisis,” the paper noted.
Rather, Cooper expects “a mild hangover” after “Canada’s years-long housing-market party.”
Her research did not look at how a drop in home sales would affect housing prices.
Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby has been diagnosed with another concussion and will miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against Washington.
Coach Mike Sullivan disclosed the severity of the injury Tuesday, one day after Crosby left in the first period of a 3-2 overtime loss after getting cross-checked in the head by Capitals defenceman Matt Niskanen.
WATCH: A controversial hit has sidelined Sidney Crosby. As Eric Sorensen reports, it’s symptomatic of a broader problem in a thrilling but sometimes brutal sport.
“He’s very upbeat and he’s very positive and we’re very optimistic and we’re hopeful we’ll get him back in a timely fashion,” Sullivan said. Crosby was at the team’s practice facility earlier in the day. The Penguins lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is Wednesday night.
Crosby has dealt with multiple concussions during his career, including one against Washington in the 2011 Winter Classic that he needed nearly two years to fully recover from. The two-time MVP also missed the first couple weeks of this season with a concussion but returned to lead the NHL in goals as the Penguins try to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.
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Niskanen received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The league decided against holding a hearing to determine whether the hit should be subject to review from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Niskanen said following the game the hit was not intentional.
WATCH: Obama acknowledges Sidney Crosby’s leadership during White House visit
The NHL’s leading scorer and one of the game’s best players was skating by Washington goaltender Braden Holtby when he turned awkwardly after being stick-checked by Alex Ovechkin. He ended up facing Niskanen as his body was going toward the ice and took Niskanen’s stick across the side of the head . Crosby was on the ice in obvious pain for several minutes before exiting slowly under his own power.
Crosby entered the game tied for second in scoring for Pittsburgh with 11 points, including two goals in Pittsburgh’s Game 1 victory over Washington. Pittsburgh forward Conor Sheary is also dealing with a concussion after colliding with teammate Patric Hornqvist in the second period Monday night. Sheary’s status for Game 4 was uncertain.
Warning: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing to readers.
The passenger in a truck involved in a fatal hit and run cried as he described seeing the fear in a gas station employee’s eyes and the colour drain from her face before she was run over.
Braydon Brown jumped into the back seat when Joshua Cody Mitchell fled the parking lot at the Calgary Centex station in June 2015.
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Mitchell, who is 22, is on trial charged with second-degree murder.
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Mitchell is charged with second-degree murder.
Maryam Rashidi, 35, chased the truck out into traffic and climbed onto the hood in an attempt to get the driver to come back and pay for $113 worth of fuel.
“She started banging on the window and said, ‘You didn’t pay,’” Brown, who is now 18, told court Tuesday.
“He said, ‘If she gets in front of me I’m just going to go.’ As soon as she got onto the hood, I told Josh to shake her off. Then he put the truck into reverse and tried stepping on the gas quickly to try to get her to fall back off the hood.”
Ashtiana Rashidi, also known as Maryam, succumbed to her injuries on June 9, 2015 after a hit and run at the gas station where she worked in Calgary.
The driver then swerved around the vehicle in front of them, causing Rashidi to fall to the ground, where she was run over by the truck’s front and rear dual tires.
“I could see the look of fear in her eyes as soon as he put it in drive. They got big and then her face went white,” Brown said as he tried to hold back tears.
“I felt the boomp, boomp, boomp in the truck. I looked out the back window and all I seen is her body rolling and it looked like her head exploded. It looked like she had coughed up blood while she was rolling.”
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Brown testified before the seven-man, five-woman jury that Mitchell didn’t stop and drove away quickly since two other cars were following them.
That day still haunts him, he said.
“I still have nightmares about it,” Brown said.
Mitchell’s lawyer Kim Ross suggested they never intended to hurt anyone.
“I’m going to suggest to you that the intention was like any other gas-and-go — to get gas, fill up that truck and go. At no time was there any conversation in that truck about hurting somebody?” asked Ross.
“No,” replied Brown.
Rashidi never regained consciousness. She suffered multiple head injuries and died two days later.
Brown was the Crown’s final witness. The defence did not call any witnesses.