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Venezuela: National guardsman fatally shot as violence continues – National

ABOVE: Tear gas rained down on anti-government protesters in Caracas on Sunday, in a continuation of near daily confrontations with the National Guard (Mar 16) 

VALENCIA, Venezuela – The governor of a Venezuelan state says a National Guardsman has been shot and killed in the city of Maracay.

Aragua state Gov. Tareck El Aissami announced via his 桑拿会所 account Monday that National Guard Capt. Jose Guillen Araque was shot in the head Sunday night during violence in the city some 125 kilometres southwest of Caracas. El Aissami gave no details, but said the captain was “killed by fascist groups,” phrasing officials often apply to protesters.

Prior to Araque’s death, the government had identified 25 deaths related to more than a month of protests in Venezuela.

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©2014The Canadian Press

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Families of fallen Canadians in Afghanistan reflect on loss – National

OTTAWA, Ont. – Was it all worth it?

It is a brutally awkward question, especially when posed in the context of Afghanistan.

There is no shortage of people opining about the now-concluded military mission that morphed into a costly, bloody humanitarian exercise.

But few of those voices truly count as much as the ones who’ve stayed largely silent through the tempest of this war – the families of the fallen, some of whom are speaking up for the first time in a series of interviews with The Canadian Press.

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Flags that dotted the highway of heroes are folded and put away, and now as the nation moves on, these people will continue to quietly bear the burden – our burden.

They will be left to ponder that uncomfortable question, more deeply and personally than the rest of us, and long after we have stopped trying to answer it for them.

As the last 100 soldiers rush into the warmth of home this week, these people will still have empty places at the dining room table and cling to the mementoes of lives inexorably cut short.

And although the scale of casualties from Afghanistan pales in comparison to the unmitigated slaughter of the First and Second World Wars, they say the grief and sense of loss is no less sharp.

There were 158 Canadian soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors who died over the dozen years Canada’s military spent in both Kandahar and Kabul. Here are their families’ words:

MICHAEL HORNBURG

Despite the investment of blood and treasure, the Afghanistan being left behind is far from peaceful and secure.

It teeters dangerously on a knife’s edge and that’s led Michael Hornburg of Calgary – who lost his son 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Hornburg – to question why the West stayed after it was clear al-Qaeda had been routed in 2001-02.

“I think the Taliban got the message right away about not to shelter the al-Qaeda training bases there,” said Hornburg, recalling the bright September 2007 fall day when three officers came knocking on his door to announce that his “best friend” was lost to him.

“While I support human rights all over the world, in many ways I don’t understand why our Canadian Armed Forces would be there to stabilize Afghanistan.”

Michael Hornburg, who used to read classic literature out loud to his son even into his teenage years, said he tried to convince the boy to become a firefighter, or a cop, rather than a soldier. Their last 25 minute overseas phone conversation, the day before Nathan died, remains seared into his memory.

“From what (Nathan) told us privately and said publicly, he wanted to go and provide a better way of life for women and girls,” he said.

“He was always a very, very strong supporter in his life here in Calgary for the rights of women and girls, but I just don’t know that was worth his life. You know? For a worthless ass piece of (the) Rigestan Desert.”

ANNE SNYDER

Other families, including Anne Snyder – whose son Capt. Jon Snyder, 26, died in 2008 – wonder if the Afghans wanted the West there at all.

“Were we fighting a losing battle?” said Snyder, of Head of Jeddore, N.S.

When she sees the persistent, grinding poverty of the Afghan people and unabated violence, including last week’s bloody attack on the Kandahar intelligence headquarters, Snyder says you can’t help but ask questions.

“I don’t want to think my son died for nothing,” she said.

Her way of honouring Jon, who was posthumously awarded the country’s second-highest military medal for bravery, is to counsel other families of the fallen, including most recently relatives of suicide victims. She’s also dedicated a portion of her garden to him where poppies and lilies return each year.

BEVERLEY SKAALRUD

Beverley Skaalrud, whose son Pte. Braun Woodfield, 24, lost his life in 2005, wrestles with questions of political accountability and wonders if the country was mentally and physically ready for war in Kandahar.

“I feel we sent an ill prepared, inadequately equipped, enthusiastic and honourable military team into an area that was beyond our scope and means,” said Skaalrud, who lives in Airdrie, Alta.

“Did we draw the short straw? Was there political gain to be had by someone?”

Her son was proud to serve, but she isn’t convinced the government – both Liberal and Conservative – did enough to support the troops when they were in the field.

LINCOLN AND LAURIE DINNING

Cpl. Matthew Dinning would have celebrated his 31st birthday last weekend and is never far from the thoughts of his parents – Lincoln and Laurie Dinning – since his death in roadside bombing on April 22, 2006.

He believed the Canadian presence was making a difference and that’s all the validation his mother and father needed to hear.

“The soldiers who went over there really believed they could make a change,” said Laurie Dinning, of Wingham, Ont.

“Of course, from a parent’s point of view, the loss of a child is something we’ll never get over. We certainly have been able to move forward in our lives with lots of support from family and friends.”

Every Christmas the family puts two little Christmas trees alongside his grave with purple decorations marking each year since he’s been gone.

VALERIE BERRY

Being prepared to give up their lives is second nature to soldiers, and that possibility is something that haunts every military family. But the unlimited liability is not something you expect in the diplomatic service.

Their job is to prevent and war, not become one of its victims. But that’s what happened to Glynn Berry, 59, the political director of the Kandahar provincial reconstruction base, on January 15, 2006 when a suicide bomber smashed a vehicle into a military convoy.

His widow, Valerie Berry, has never spoken publicly. Like every other family interviewed by The Canadian Press, she said she was relieved to see final 100 troops are now safely out of harm’s way.

“From a purely personal perspective I am thankful our troops are returning home after having performed bravely and steadfastly in a very difficult situation, one that it would appear couldn’t possibly have been won in such a relatively short time,” she said.

Berry’s memory is kept alive in number of professional and personal ways, including a memorial scholarship at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, an annual lecture series on foreign and defence policy, and the awarding of a memorial cup at the annual Canada-Wales rugby match in Cardiff – something Valerie Berry says “would have made Glyn beam with pride because as well as world affairs and family he was passionate about the game of rugby and proud of his Welsh roots.”

She continues to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and does special things they normally enjoyed together, such as a walk in the woods amongst the deer or lunch out at a local pub.

“Sometimes, when I’m not sure how to go forward, I ask myself, ‘What would Glyn have said?’ and the answer comes to me.”

RAYNALD BOUTHILLIER

Raynald Bouthillier has immortalized his son and the images of other Canadian soldiers on the side of one of his tractor trailers, which rumbles over the highways and byways of northern Ontario.

Trooper Jack Bouthillier, 20, was killed in a roadside bombing in March 2009 and his father harbours “no doubt whatsoever” and doesn’t debate the merits of the mission with himself.

Bouthillier equates the war with the plight of first responders.

“They are ready to take risk to help others, and I think that’s why we went there in Afghanistan,” he said.

“After the World Trade Centre attack, there was no way the world could stay there and do nothing. I think it’s a bummer I lost my son, but you know, I’m not the only one. Many people there did sacrifice.”

For him, it’s not about the cause, it’s about the kind of man his son was, and what he represents to others.

“We’re so proud of the choice of career (that) Jack chose, and what he did with his life. He said, ‘I’m going to do my job as a Canadian and I’m going to give all the support I can to the (Afghan) people.”‘

WAS IT WORTH IT?

If there is something that binds all of the families together beyond their shared grief and sense of loss, it’s the belief that despite the opaque, uncertain ending to this war, their loved ones stood for something more than themselves.

“To say that our involvement was not worth it would be to dishonour my husband and everything for which he stood and everything towards which he worked during his long career,” said Valerie Berry.

“It hasn’t been a perfect conclusion and there is still instability and conflict in the region and a lot more to accomplish by the Afghans themselves but I believe that the quality of life has changed for the better for many people in Afghanistan, partly due to our involvement. Was it worth sacrificing lives? I suppose my thought is that we all die one day and if it is in serving one’s country in the most honourable way possible, then one can ask for nothing more.”

The sense of conviction among each of the fallen is something Anne Snyder clings to as she talks her way through her pain.

“I don’t want to think he died for no reason, and that’s were I’m sort of thinking perhaps it was worth it to him,” she said. “He did say he was doing the job he was supposed to do and he was being successful. He used to say to me, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am where I should be.”‘

While she may not believe it was worth it for Canada, Skaalrud, also fiercely proud of her son, described his desire to help the people of Afghanistan as honourable.

“Was it worth it? No. I don’t believe it was worth Canada’s human cost,” she said. “I can only hope, that the women and children of Afghanistan have gained a taste of freedom that will compel them to fight for it themselves.”

If there is nobility in sacrifice, there is also a tempered generosity of spirit and an expectation that the people whom Canadians fought for will show themselves worthy of what these families have given up.

“Our family hopes the Afghan people will embrace what our soldiers have done for them and just make their country what it should be,” said Laurie Dinning.

©2014The Canadian Press

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Canadian designers hope to boost business with online offerings

TORONTO – Sid Neigum’s creations are carried in shopping hotspots at home and abroad, and he’s now hoping that online sales will translate into a boost for both brand awareness and the bottom line.

The Alberta-born, Toronto-based designer is one of several homegrown talents being showcased this month on Gilt, a U.S.-based online shopping website that ships to more than 180 countries.

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“It just opens you up to the entire world versus just one town or one city,” said Neigum, a native of Drayton Valley, Alta., whose designs are sold in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, Seoul and Hong Kong.

“It opens you up to an entire new market of consumers that I hadn’t had before, and it’s just a great promotional platform, too.”

Like Neigum, Chloe and Parris Gordon aren’t relying solely on their runway presentation at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week to reach potential customers.

The sibling design duo behind womenswear and accessory brand Beaufille have an online shop on their label’s site, but see the partnership with Gilt as an opportunity for more widespread exposure.

“We’re sitting next to designers that we’d love to sit next to in a boutique setting,” said Parris of the site, which features such notable names as Diane von Furstenburg, Narciso Rodriguez and Kate Spade. “So for us as designers being new and Canadian, it’s a huge platform, and I think we’re really excited to be a part of it.”

A Statistics Canada report released last October found the value of online orders placed by Canadians reached $18.9 billion in 2012 – a 24 per cent increase from 2010. Among online shoppers, 42 per cent purchased clothing, jewelery or accessories. U.S.-based Forrester Research expects online retail sales in Canada to reach $34 billion in 2018 – representing 10 per cent of all total retail transactions in the country.

As bricks-and-mortar stores carve out a digital presence with e-commerce sites, a growing slate of Canadian online retailers are also vying for consumer dollars with curated collections of designer goods and added incentives aimed at appealing to homegrown shoppers.

Designer footwear site The September touts its duty-free offerings as well as free shipping and returns to Canadian customers, while eLUXE offers complimentary styling services and features homegrown labels like Smythe in addition to international brands. Luxury retailer SSENSE used an inventive approach to bring awareness and sales to the site a few years ago by styling the looks in a music video that consumers could click on and buy as they watched the clip.

“E-commerce in general continues to grow, but what we bring – and what some sites similar to us bring – is excitement every day, it’s inspiration,” said Marshall Porter, senior vice-president and general manager of international and business development for Gilt.

“It’s not just about finding a pair of black pants; it’s going to Gilt and seeing what inspired our curators and merchandising teams and hoping that it inspires our members as well.”

For designers looking to further bolster their brands through online sales, establishing an e-commerce platform is just the beginning with several other key elements needed to drive the momentum.

“You need to find the right programmer, you need to work on the design… and also you need to do the constant work of promoting and inviting the people to go to your page – so it’s a big challenge,” said French-born designer Cecile Raizonville of Matiere Noire, whose Montreal-based label launched its online boutique last September.

While e-commerce is a “different way of selling,” it’s one that has its advantages, like distinguishing which items are featured online versus those carried in real boutiques, she noted.

“It’s the opportunity to show all of our pieces so you can get feedback from the people, but mainly, you can divide the types of products that you sell and control the price point.”

Having an online sales presence will be of little benefit to designers without driving traffic to their respective sites, noted Steve Tissenbaum, adjunct professor with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. While some may be able to create email distribution lists and spread the message through word of mouth and social media, “the challenge is getting the critical mass of people who will attend.”

“If you’re a small designer in Canada and you are noticed, then what’s the story you’re telling? And are other people going to listen so that the site becomes popular for those designers?” said Tissenbaum.

“I don’t doubt that it will happen. I just think it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to happen in a big way,” he added. “It’s a difficult market. There are so many people who are starting companies. So many designers, so many singers.. small retailers – and then you have the large retailers to contend with.”

Another factor is attempting to shift consumer behaviour to entice them to try something new or unknown. Tissenbaum described the 80-20 rule, noting that on average, 20 per cent of the brands a consumer buys generates 80 per cent of their wardrobe.

“If you buy into that, then how likely are you to start to adopt a brand of which you’re not familiar with because it was carried by a particular distribution channel?”

Still, Tissenbaum believes the appetite for change and impulse purchases like those typically seen in traditional retail settings can translate to online.

“If I’m in Winners, and I find one of these brands… yeah, maybe I would buy it… because it’s something I really like and it’s an unknown brand, but it looks really good,” he said.

“First of all, I have to be going to Winners. The same with these websites. You have to be somebody who goes there. And second of all, you have to be someone who’s willing to buy something that you normally wouldn’t buy.

“I’m not saying that it’s not going to work – but it’s a long process.”

©2014The Canadian Press

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Transport Canada’s safety inspectors lack oversight, evaluation: audit – National

ABOVE: NDP transport critic Hoang Mai wants answers from the federal government following release of internal audit

OTTAWA — Transport Canada has a “number of weaknesses” in its oversight of safety and security inspectors, an internal audit concluded.

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This report is one in a growing number pointing to the department’s troubles with transportation safety oversight, including from the federal auditor general.

“It’s a trend we’ve seen of Transport Canada failing to properly oversee safety investigations and follow up when deficiencies are found,” said NDP transport critic Hoang Mai. “In this case, we see there are no systems in terms of performance assessments or in terms of making sure safety and security inspectors have a framework to ensure they’re not in a conflict of interest.”

According to the Transport Canada-commissioned audit, which appears to have been posted online several weeks ago, the department does not provide enough direction to give inspectors clear objectives — a shortfall that could exacerbate the department’s known weakness in conducting and documenting inspections.

READ MORE: ‘Significant weaknesses’ in Transport Canada’s oversight of rail safety: auditor general

Transport officials are also dropping the ball when it comes to gauging the performance of their safety and security staff, according to the auditors, who examined assessments of a random sample of regional inspectors and managers without being able to find any reference to either “performance gaps” or ”weaknesses.”

The department also lacks a well-developed system for preventing conflict of interests, which auditors said was especially troubling considering “it is acknowledged throughout the department that the inherent risk of [conflict of interest] is high” for inspectors.

“It was found there has been little guidance to date on the [conflict-of-interest] issues that could arise for inspectors, for example opportunities for outside work in companies whose activities are overseen by the department,” the report continued, noting the department has paid little attention to 2005 legislation requiring all federal departments to establish informal conflict resolution systems.

In an emailed statement, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said she welcomes the findings of the internal audit.

READ MORE: Not enough done to make railways safe for crude oil transport: reports

“Transport Canada has accepted all the recommendations in the report and it working on implementing them,” she wrote.

Though this audit focuses on inspectors for air, road, rail and ship, Auditor General Michael Ferguson in November found the existing frameworks at Transport do not ensure independence and objectivity of rail safety inspectors, specifically.

Ferguson’s office was looking into this because Transport Canada hires many of its rail inspectors and managers from federal railways.

“This is actually quite surprising,” Mai said.  “We know that Transport Canada has transferred a lot of the inspections to the rail companies, and now we realize there’s no one looking into what’s happening in terms of conflict of interest … It’s definitely a concern. How can you be the one who’s going to be applying the rules and also the ones who are benefitting from the lack of imposing the rules?”

READ MORE: Watchdog called for stricter rules in transporting dangerous goods

The department’s response to the audit, posted online late last month, indicates the department is taking steps to address the recommendations in the report.

For example, Transport’s human resources advisors have conducted “values and ethics awareness campaigns,” and communications have gone out to all Transport Canada employees alerting them of requirements concerning conflicts of interest.

Further says it is in the process of implementing a system to help ensure all safety staff is clear on what’s expected of them and the standards they should meet during inspections. Transport Canada has also indicated it will ensure third parties check their inspectors’ work.

The audit was completed in June 2013, and appears to have been posted online several weeks ago. The review was part of the department’s 2012-13 internal audit plan, and examined the management practices supporting Transport Canada’s 1,200 safety and security inspectors and managers.

READ MORE: Transport Canada extended deadlines imposed to address safety weaknesses

About 25 per cent of all of Transport Canada’s employees are safety and security inspectors, operating out of approximately 70 departmental offices.

“The work of these inspectors is vital to the safety and security of Canada’s aviation, rail, marine and transportation of dangerous goods,” the auditors wrote, noting those employees are responsible for determining whether industry is meeting safety standards.

“If these standards are not being met, it is Transport Canada inspectors that assess the companies’ corrective actions plans and decide when the plans can be considered implemented. “

©2014Shaw Media

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Engineers confirm concrete spacer was cause of Evergreen Line beam dislodge

A concrete spacer used for Evergreen Line construction around Como Lake Avenue and Clarke Road will not be used anywhere else on the line after a beam dislodged and caused serious traffic issues on Friday.

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Amanda Farrell, executive director of the Evergreen Line Project, says engineers have confirmed the failure was due to the concrete spacer, but they don’t know the technical reasons yet why a 300-tonne beam dislodged, shutting down the major commuter route due to fears of concrete falling.

“It’s very unusual,” she said. “But there was no risk…The guideway beam would not have fallen because it was resting on the column.”

The beam was repaired on the weekend and additional braces were put in place, with the road fully reopening Sunday afternoon. The cost of repairing it still unknown, but will be fully repaid by the contractor.

However, a portion of Clarke Road will be closed off sometime in the near future when the beam is repositioned – though Farrell said the date for the was unknown.

©2014Shaw Media

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Report card shows homelessness growing in Moncton – New Brunswick

MONCTON – A community development officer says a new report shows homelessness in Moncton is on the rise.

Sue Calhoun with the Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee said numbers from their ‘Report Card on Homelessness’ show that more people used shelters in 2013 than in 2012.

The report card also showed that the wait list for affordable housing in New Brunswick has grown by 58 per cent in the last two years. 

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“Some recent studies are showing that for every individual person who is homeless and uses the shelter, there are another three or four who are part of the hidden homeless,” said Calhoun.

She said many factors have lead to the high numbers, and one of them is people working for low wages.

“They get here and they find out a lot of those jobs are minimum wage jobs that do not pay a living wage,” she said. “They end up unemployed or underemployed.”

The high numbers are no surprise to staff at the Karing Kitchen, a soup kitchen in downtown Moncton.

“There’s just not enough money,” said Phyllis Perry, kitchen supervisor. “The wages aren’t going up, the expenses are going up.”

Shane O’Donnell has been turning to the Karing Kitchen for support because he said he can’t get into subsidized housing.

He is on the wait list, but doesn’t know how long he will have to wait before he can find a home.

“Its just a waiting game right now. If I get it or not, each will result in a different story,” said O’Donnell.

The full report card will be released next Monday.

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Manitoba mauling: Which breeds of dog attack, and why?

Every year, one to two human deaths can be associated with dog attacks, according to the Canada Safety Council.

More than 13,000 emergency room visits in Ontario were related to dog attacks in 2011-12, although many still go unreported, the council says.

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According to a report from animalpeoplenews杭州夜网, between 1982 and 2012, Pit bull terriers have been the breed with the most reported attacks at 1,985, resulting in 209 deaths in both the United States and Canada. Alaskan malamutes, the breed involved in the death of a seven-year-old girl in Winnipeg on Mar. 16, has a reported 13 attacks, 11 of those towards children, and five resulting in death.

Navtit Gill, office manager at the Wellesley Animal Hospital, says that fear is often why dogs will attack a human. “It’s not a breed-specific thing,” Gill said. “Alaskan malamutes are considered a high energy dog so sometimes people do just get them for the look and don’t really consider the requirements of the dog.”

Gill  said he can’t speak to the incident in Winnipeg, but noted that, generally speaking, malamutes do make good pets, more so for active people.

“They are a working breed so they are basically bred to do a certain thing,” said Gill. “They’re very smart and highly easy to train, a playful breed and loyal.”

The reasons for attack, says veterinary surgeon Seanna Swayne, can vary. “Some dogs get overly excited when kids are excited and screaming and playing. If the dog hasn’t been exposed to that before, and no one knows what type of reaction is going to happen, that’s when we’ll hear of dog bites accruing. Sometimes they don’t want certain part of their body touched, either, like feet or ears. Its reaction is going to be that it wants to bite or at least warn you.”

Being pack animals, she says, if one dog reacts, more dogs are likely to join in. But in order to determine why an attack happened, a look into how the dog was raised and treated is important to understanding a dog’s reaction and behaviour.

And making sure a dog is fit for a certain owner’s lifestyle is also important in avoiding similar situations, Gill says.

“One of the biggest things that is across the board is a lot of people do choose the wrong breed. Learning [a breed’s] temperaments and knowing what the dog requires are definitely ways to avoid certain situations.”

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WATCH: ‘Wife carrying’ competition held in UK – National

Dozens of couples took part in the annual UK Wife Carrying competition in Dorking, UK on this past Sunday.

According to the organizers, the men and women had to run over a 380 meter course, with obstacles, ascents and descents.

Sunday’s race was the seventh such race to be held in the UK and is believed to have its origins from Viking times, organizers say.

According to the event website:

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Wife carrying may have originated in the UK over twelve centuries ago, on 8 June 793AD, when Viking raiders rampaged into Lindisfarne on the northeast coast of what is now England, destroying the monastary and most likely carrying off any unwilling local women. Such wife carrying-off continued intermittently for around 300 years. Wife Carrying was re-introduced into the UK by the UK Wife Carrying Race in 2008, after an absence from these shores of nearly 900 years.

The 7th annual UK Wife Carrying Race was won by Rich Blake Smith, carrying his “wife” Anna (121 pounds), narrowly beating Vytautas Kirkliauskas of Lithuania, carrying his wife (actually his wife) Neringa Kirliauskiene (115 pounds), and covering the 380m course in only 2 minutes in good-to-firm conditions.

All the participants received a mini-keg of Pilgrim real ale as well as a medal and Wife Carrying t-shirt. The winners won a barrel of ale and £250 (over US$ 400) toward competing at the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland in July.

©2014The Associated Press

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What are Crimea’s first steps to leave Ukraine and join Russia? – National

ABOVE: European leaders condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimean Peninsula

Crimea is now officially a sovereign and independent state in the eyes of Russia, while the autonomous territory has, on paper, cut off most ties with Ukraine in a resolution approved on Monday.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the order to recognize Crimea‘s independence and sovereignty late Monday evening, hours after the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea approved a resolution on the region’s independence.

READ MORE: How are Canada, the U.S. and the European Union reacting to the referendum results?

A text of the Crimean resolution was made available on the website of state-run English-language news agency Russia Today.

The document declares Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which had a special administrative status in Ukraine, as independent. Sevastopol will, if Crimea’s accession to Russia goes through, have a special status within the region.

The resolution declared an end to any Ukrainian governance.

“From the day on which this resolution comes in force, no laws of Ukraine will be applicable or valid on the territory of the Republic of Crimea, and no orders or instructions of the Supreme Council of Ukraine or other bodies of authority of Ukraine issued later than February 21, 2014 will be acted upon,” the resolution decreed.

It also terminated Ukrainian control over any businesses or organizations set up “by Ukraine or with its participation on the territory of the Republic of Crimea.”

Those institutions will now belong to the Republic of Crimea, the resolution states. The same goes for all Ukrainian state-owned property in the territory, while the property of all Ukrainian trade unions and other non-governmental organizations will become assets of their Crimean counterparts.

The document concluded with a request for the Kremlin to accept Crimea as “a new constituent entity of the Russian Federation with a status of republic.”

READ MORE: Real threat of armed conflict in Ukraine, former ambassador to Ukraine, Russia says

Putin’s order acknowledged the results of the referendum, which saw almost 97 per cent of voters who turned out vote in favour or joining Russia.

“According to the will of the peoples of the Crimea on the all-Crimean referendum held on March 16, 2014, [I order] to recognize the Republic of Crimea, in which the city of Sevastopol has a special status, as a sovereign and independent state,” Putin’s signed order reads, according to Russia Today.

WATCH: Crimean residents react to news of reunion with Russian Federation

Putin is set to address the upper and lower houses of Parliament on Tuesday. Russia already appears to be benefitting from its prospective new territory.

READ MORE: What you should know about Crimea’s referendum

While these are still early steps towards Crimea reunifying with Russia, along with plans for the republic to switch time zones to be in line with Moscow and to adopt the Russian ruble as its currency, alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia until it’s withdrawn from circulation in 2016, Russia Today reported.

According to Bloomberg, the ruble ended a six-day “losing streak” on Monday and Russian equities saw gains after hitting a four-year low.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reportedly boasted about the economic advantages of welcoming Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS> reported Monday.

“I think Crimea and Sevastopol are extremely advantageous for the country from an economic point of view,” ITAR-TASS reported Sobyanin saying. “I am sure that the travel businesses will start booming in Crimea.

With files from The Associated Press

©2014Shaw Media

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Lights out: traffic signals malfunction in Winnipeg – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – Wet weather caused traffic light malfunctions throughout Winnipeg again on Monday.

In most cases, the lights that failed were flashing red in all directions.

The City of Winnipeg is putting special covers designed to prevent the problem on 50 to 80 traffic lights this year. However, it will take several years to get the majority of them covered.

Traffic lights weren’t working at Ellice Avenue and Colony Street on Monday.

Lauren McNabb

Here is a list of outages up to about 3 p.m. Monday:

11:46 a.m. – traffic lights flashing red in all directions along Route 90…. at least two intersections, Dublin, Inkster and Notre Dame. There may be others.

12:03pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Regent and Stapon. (Update at 2:22pm … still flashing and no Cadets on scene)

12:20pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at St. Mary Avenue and Memorial

12:25pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions Bison Dr. and Pembina.

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12:30pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions Portage Avenue and Moray.

12:32pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Ellice Avenue and Colony.

12:38pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Kenaston and Sterling Lyon Parkway.

12:48pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Confusion Corner (Osborne / Corydon / Pembina)

1:36pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Grant and Shaftesbury (originally sent in at 12:33)

1:38pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Stafford and Grant.

1:39pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions on Main at Marion and Goulet (originally sent in at 12:13)

1:40pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at McPhillips and Inkster (originally sent in at 12:08)

1:40pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Pembina and Stafford (originally sent in at 11:48)

1:54pm – traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Portage Avenue and Sherbrook.

2:03pm – Regent and Plessis

2:05pm – York and Main.

2:27pm – Lagmodiere and Grassie (police on scene directing traffic)

2:39pm – Nairn and Panet

(CJOB)

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New streetcars to hit Spadina in August but riders remain worried about wait times – Toronto

Watch the video above: New TTC streetcars will roll out in August. Mark McAllister reports. 

TORONTO – Cutting curbs, replacing overhead wire and changing the height of streetcar islands are among the changes needed to get the city ready for new, longer streetcars. But TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said Monday that it’s all going smoothly and on budget.

Despite those assurances, some riders still worry that the new streetcars will mean less frequent service.

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Related

    New streetcars could mean fewer streetcars, transit critic says

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  • Take a look inside the TTC’s newest streetcar

TTC passengers will get their first chance to ride the new streetcars on August 31, when six of them will be deployed along the Spadina Avenue route. That number will increase to “12 or 13” in October, Ross said.

“Over the next five to six years, [the streetcars] will roll out across the network,” he said.

The new Bombardier-built streetcars will be wheelchair accessible, have room for 251 passengers, have air conditioning and bike racks. They will also accept Presto cards.

But the $2 billion project has not been without problems, including along St. Clair Avenue where some of the islands are not the right height.

“There’s a portion of the platforms on St. Clair, not all of them, some of them… that will need to be either lowered slightly or raised. So there will be some adjustments on some of the platforms, in terms of the height,” Ross said in an interview Monday. “Nothing that will cause massive disruption on St. Clair.”

The effort involved in getting the streetcars rolled out is huge. The $2 billion cost is largely made up of the streetcars themselves ($1.2 billion), while the other $800 million funds the infrastructure needed to operate the streetcars, including the new “very modern” facility of Leslie Barns, near Leslie Street and Lakeshore Boulevard, new overhead wiring throughout the city, the curb adjustments at hundreds of intersections, streetcar island adjustments,  token vending machines that will be placed along some routes and training for employees.

In Photos: The new, longer TTC streetcar

The front of the TTC’s new streetcars.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

A look down the length of the TTC’s new streetcar.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

A look down the length of the TTC’s new streetcar.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

A look at the side doors from inside the new streetcars.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

The new TTC streetcars come with electronic warning signs for commuters.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

The streetcars come with bicycle storage inside.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

The new streetcars will have bicycle storage inside.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

The streetcar is equipped with security cameras around the outsides of the vehicle.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

A look down the length of the streetcar.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

The electronic sign that lights up when a stop is requested.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

A panorama of the new streetcar from the outside.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

A panorama of the streetcar from the inside.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

The TTC's new streetcars will be equipped with Presto card readers.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

A look down the length of the TTC’s new streetcar.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

The new TTC streetcars also come with a warning for passing drivers.

Jackson Proskow / Global News

And in five or six years, when all the streetcars are supposed to be deployed, that will mean fewer streetcars on the road, which some riders think will hamper service quality.

“Wait times on some of the lines downtown could increase because these streetcars are bigger so they are going to run them less frequently,” Jessica Bell, co-chair of TTC Riders said. “We think that is a big problem because we’re already waiting a really long time for our streetcar to arrive and ridership is at record levels.”

Ross is adamant however that the new streetcars, while there will be less of them, will be more reliable and result in better service.

“You’re going to seem much greater reliability,” he said. “You’re going to see far fewer instances of bunching and far fewer instances of large gaps.”

However, a TTC report released in June suggested wait times are likely to increase between 30 and 90 seconds depending on the route.

– With files from Mark McAllister

©2014Shaw Media

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Are you registered to vote in Quebec? – Montreal

MONTREAL – There have been many anecdotal reports circulating of Montrealers concerned because their names weren’t registered to vote on the election list.

Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer is encouraging Quebec residents over the age of 18 to check their voter information cards to make certain that their names appear correctly.

Voters can also make sure they’re registered to vote by visiting the Election Quebec website here.

The website requires the correct information, including the exact legal name of the voter, or it turns out a negative response.

Quebec residents checking to see if they’re eligible to vote need to make certain they’re using correct details.

Chief Electoral Officer

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Brenda Fayerman told Global News that she couldn’t understand at first why her children weren’t eligible to vote after checking on the website.

“At first my kids’ were not there. Couldn’t understand why not. Then figured out that their middle names had to be included,” she said.

“The website looks for an exact match on the name even though the date of birth and address match!”

Quebecers have until March 25 to add their name to the voter list or register a change of address.

There will be another revision period held from March 26 to April 3.

Have you noticed issues? Please let us know in the comments below.

©2014Shaw Media

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B.C. facing water lawsuit over fracking

VANCOUVER – A pair of environmental groups allege the British Columbia government is skirting its own laws by allowing energy firms to spend years using large quantities of fresh water for natural gas extraction without having to go through the rigorous process of applying for long-term water licences.

The lawsuit represents the latest attempt by environmental groups to target the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which opponents have linked to a litany of problems including water pollution and climate change.

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The case is also complicated by the fact that recently tabled changes to provincial water laws appear to allow the practice now being scrutinized in court, meaning it’s unclear what effect the case could actually have.

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Sierra Club of B.C. were in front of a B.C. Supreme Court judge Monday alleging the government has been “systematically” breaking the law and asking that a series of short-term water approvals granted to Encana (TSX:ECA) be thrown out.

Under provincial water legislation, resource companies that require fresh water for their operations can either apply for a long-term water licence or obtain a short-term approval that lasts up to two years.

The environmentalists’ lawyer, Karen Campbell, said the process to obtain a full licence requires that people who are potentially affected by the licence be notified and be permitted to provide input or lodge objections.

In contrast, the Oil and Gas Commission has the ability to grant short-term approvals on its own.

Campbell said the Oil and Gas Commission routinely issues the same short-term licences more than once, allowing companies to use thousands of cubic metres of water for years without going through the full licensing process.

“What we’re looking at is, in effect, each of these approvals ends up being one long approval,” Campbell, a lawyer for the group Ecojustice, told court.

“The act has more checks and balances in granting licences than it has in granting approvals … If an applicant wants to use water for more than 24 months, it should do so through a licence.”

Fracking involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure deep underground to break the rock and free the natural gas. The practice is seen as a critical component of B.C.’s push to foster a liquefied natural gas industry.

Campbell said the environmental groups’ examined years of short-term approvals issued by the Oil and Gas Commission and found 83 per cent were repeated more than once, some as many as six times.

She argued the law limits short-term approvals to 24 months to ensure companies planning to use water for longer than that obtain full licences.

The provincial government filed a written response with the court last month, insisting its officials acted within the law.

“The Water Act contains no express prohibition on repeats of approvals,” says the government’s response.

Encana (TSX:ECA) also filed a response, which says the company followed the rules when it obtained its water approvals.

The court petition targets 83 short-term water approvals issued to Encana, but the company says 82 of those only relate to water from excavated pits that collect water naturally, rather than from lakes, rivers or streams. The 83rd was for a body of water known as Wasp Lake, but that approval expired last year, the company says.

Last week, the provincial government outlined a major overhaul of its water legislation with a proposed bill titled the Water Sustainability Act.

A new provision in the current version of the bill appears to allow the government to issue consecutive short-term water approvals to the same company. The bill says short-term approvals may be issued “whether or not a use approval was previously issued authorizing the person to divert water from the same water source supply for the same water use purpose.”

Outside court, Morgan Blakley, another lawyer for the environmentalists, said it’s difficult to predict what the proposed changes will mean for the legal challenge until the bill is actually passed into law.

“Whether or not this provision would essentially gut this lawsuit has yet to be seen,” he said.

“If the government wants to change the law to essentially legalize what my clients are alleging is unlawful, that’s up to the government, but it’s also up to the voting public to choose who’s in government and what government does.”

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