Magnitude-6.7 quake shakes Chile’s northern Pacific coast – National

SANTIAGO, Chile – A strong 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook Chile’s northern Pacific shore Sunday, and authorities said more than 100,000 people briefly evacuated some coastal areas as a precaution. Only minor damage was reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey originally reported the quake at a 7.0 magnitude but later revised the reading down. The tremor struck offshore about 6:16 p.m. at a depth of 20 kilometres (12 1/2 miles). Its epicenter was 60 kilometres (37 miles) northwest of Iquique, Chile.

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A series of strong shocks followed in the ensuring hours, registering between 4.9 and 5.2 magnitude, the USGS said.

Chile’s navy said there had been a possibility of a minor tsunami between the northern towns of Arica and Tocopilla, so authorities urged people to evacuate along a stretch of coast where the Arica and Parinacota region adjoins the Tarapaca region. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there did not appear to be a threat of a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami.

Franz Schmauck, Arica and Parinacota regional director of Chile’s ONEMI emergency services office, told state TV that no damage was registered except for broken windows on some homes.

ONEMI’s national director, Ricardo Toro, told reporters later that about 80,000 people were evacuated in the Tarapaca region, 3,000 in Arica and Parinacota region and 22,000 in Antofagasta region. He said the sea had risen only about 32 centimetres (almost 13 inches).

The navy said the evacuation alert was lifted about three hours after the initial quake.

“We had a fright but we’re constantly monitoring,” Arica and Parinacota Gov. Emilio Rodriguez said.

Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. A magnitude-8.8 quake and the tsunami it unleashed in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded also happened in Chile, a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.

Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

Battleground shifts for Japanese whale hunt, Canadian seal hunt

Watch above: Anti-whaling activists in Australia said they were “elated” after the future of Japanese whaling was thrown into doubt.

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The international court ruling that essentially ended Japan’s whale hunt won’t affect Canada’s equally contentious seal hunt, but it may be a sign that animal rights issues can be fought and won in courts, rather than with protests and picket lines.

Monday’s International Court of Justice decision found Japan’s “scientific” whaling program was not for research purposes and was illegal.

Animal rights groups that fought the hunt for more than a decade are heralding the court’s 12-4 vote against the hunt as a victory.

“[It shows] a lack of tolerance for the slaughter of marine mammals, which is not necessary in this day and age,” said Sheryl Fink, the director of Canadian wildlife campaigns at the International Fund for Wildlife (IFAW).

READ MORE: Ellen DeGeneres targeted by #sealfie campaign

While groups such as IFAW and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society can take credit for raising awareness and criticism of the whale hunt – and Canada’s seal hunt, for that matter – a University of Ottawa law professor said this ruling shows a shift in how international panels evaluate environmental and conservation issues.

“I think we’re really at the brink of a bit of a sea change, where you can no longer just ignore environmental protection objectives,” said Markus Gehring.

“In my mind, at least, there is no doubt that international courts and tribunals are moving to adopt more sustainable development-oriented arguments.”

He pointed out the significant difference between the Japanese whale hunt and Canada’s commercial seal hunt – the most obvious being that there are no strict international treaties regarding seal hunting as there are with whales.

A hunter heads towards a harp seal in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence March 25, 2009. (File photo)

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

But like Japan, Canada’s defence of the seal hunt has gone before an international body – the World Trade Organization.

Environment and Northern Economic Development Minister Leona Aglukkaq flew to Geneva last month to appeal the findings of a WTO decision that found the European Union’s import ban on seal products undermined trade agreements but was justified under “public moral concerns.”

The Appellate Body is expected to rule on Canada’s appeal later this month.

“Any politician or policymaker in Ottawa needs to be acutely aware that blatantly ignoring international environmental standards might be palatable in certain domestic circles, but will not be welcomed by international courts and tribunals,” Gehring said. He doubts the WTO’s Appellate Body will reverse the panel’s findings.

He added the seal hunt’s future will most likely hinge on economics, not international relations.

That’s something that Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, a longtime opponent of the seal hunt, aims to capitalize on in the group’s campaign against the Canadian seal hunt.

“If we remove the market, then it removes the reason to kill seals,” Watson told Global News in a Skype interview. “That’s where the effort is being made right now – not on the ice but to undermine those markets.”

READ MORE: Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain voices support for Canada’s seal hunt

Sea Shepherd and other conservation groups argue the commercial seal hunt is not economically sustainable and would not survive without government support. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it no longer subsidizes the hunt because it’s economically viable.

But the Canadian government financially supports the hunt in indirect ways, such as funding a project that will help offer seal products in Canadian grocery stores.

Keith Hutchings, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, said the province’s seal industry can stand on its own and is growing, not faltering. And he says measures have been taken to ensure the hunt is carried out humanely.

Last spring’s commercial hunt off Newfoundland landed about 91,000 harp seals, up from 69,000 the year before but far short of the federal quota of 400,000, The Canadian Press reported.

The provincial government has provided economic support to the industry the last two years in the form of inventory financing that was paid back with prescribed interest each year, he explained.

Hutchings said the industry is thriving enough that the government won’t need to provide that financing this year.

But, the Newfoundland and Labrador government has promised $60,000 to support a campaign that will combat misconceptions around the seal industry.

He added that the EU ban “is not a showstopper for the industry, no matter what WTO rules or where that goes.”

Hutchings said he understands that people have their criticisms, but he said “we believe in what we’re doing.”

With files from The Canadian Press

©2014Shaw Media

Canada-Mexico flight makes emergency landing in Montana

A flight heading from Edmonton to Mexico with 181 passengers and six crew members aboard made an emergency medical landing Sunday in western Montana after encountering extreme turbulence that slightly injured two flight attendants.

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Sunwing Airlines spokeswoman Janine Chapman says the Boeing 737 landed around 7:30 a.m. Sunday at Helena Regional Airport, a small hub unaccustomed to dealing with international travellers. Flight 559’s passengers waited in the aircraft for more than five hours before being told to stay in a cordoned-off area in the terminal as the company dispatched another plane to continue the journey. The passengers got on the second plane and took off for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, around 6:25 p.m. MDT, airport officials said.

Chapman said a medical team cleared a 27-year-old male flight attendant who received a cut on his head during the turbulence, but didn’t need stitches. He was in an aisle serving passengers when the turbulence hit.

READ MORE: Mechanical failure causes plane emergency at Philadelphia Airport

As a precaution, responders also checked on a 27-year-old female flight attendant, who was also serving passengers and fell to the floor, Chapman said. The medical team prescribed over-the-counter pain medication.

Chapman said the captain had the seat belt sign on, and no passengers were injured.

Cathy Burden of Edmonton was among the mostly families and couples travelling from Edmonton to the Mexican resort town for vacation. She said the turbulence was “pretty scary.”

“The flight attendant was just bringing a tray of champagne, and she went up in the air and the champagne went everywhere,” she told The Associated Press. “Nobody actually got a glass, but we all got champagne on us.”

She said she saw the flight attendant fall to the ground, but didn’t see anyone on board with serious injuries. She said everyone was “a bit rattled.”

After landing in Helena, the state’s capital, passengers waited for hours on the tarmac because a customs agent couldn’t immediately get to the airport.

Helena Regional Airport Director Ron Mercer said the airport has one agent who wasn’t available Sunday, so another one made the 90-minute drive from Great Falls.

He said the airport doesn’t typically deal with international commercial flights, so the customs agent had to make sure international rules were followed before the passengers could get off the plane.

They exited into a secure area of the terminal, where the passengers had access to food and restrooms but couldn’t leave the area. Chapman said allowing them to wander the terminal would have caused problems when it came to resuming their journey because they’re international travellers.

Nonetheless, she said, “I’m told they (the passengers) were in reasonably good spirits and happy to be on the ground.”

Another aircraft was sent from the company’s headquarters in Toronto to pick up the passengers so the initial plane could be examined for damage, Chapman said, a move she called customary after severe turbulence is encountered.

The aircraft hit the rough patch northwest of Helena, somewhere over the Continental Divide, Mercer said.

The second jet and a new crew arrived in Helena on Sunday evening, and the passengers took off for Mexico.

“This winter that will not end,” Chapman said. “They’re attempting to escape it. Hopefully, we’ll get them there soon.”

With files from The Canadian Press

©2014The Canadian Press

Putin’s Winter Games end under a Crimean cloud as Paralympics flame goes out amid crisis – National

SOCHI, Russia – Triumphant in the midst of global condemnation, Vladimir Putin clinked his champagne flute with sports leaders, toasting the success of his pet project in Sochi.

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Under chandeliers in ornate surroundings, the wine was flowing over lunch during the Paralympics as the Russian president saluted the transformational effect of his nation’s six-week sporting extravaganza. For Putin, the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics were a validation of modern Russia’s place on the world stage and “our invariably kind attitude toward friends.”

But between the Olympians leaving the Black Sea resort of Sochi last month and the Paralympians arriving, Putin became rapidly isolated in the international community as Russian forces took over Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, only 480 kilometres away.

The Paralympic flame will be extinguished in Sunday night’s closing ceremony just as voting ends in a referendum, denounced in the West as illegitimate, on whether Crimea should split off from Ukraine and seek annexation by Russia.

READ MORE: Ukraine crisis: Crimean referendum ends, votes being tallied

Although Ukraine backed off from boycotting the Paralympics, the crisis afflicting their homeland remained on the minds of athletes competing in Russia. In protest, Ukrainian parathletes covered their medals during podium ceremonies.

“That is how we show our protest and disagreement that our country could be divided and part of it could be excluded from Ukraine,” said Iuliia Batenkova, who won six medals in Sochi including one gold. “Crimea is my motherland, where I was born, and of course I worry about it. I want peace.”

Such an intervention in a neighbouring country seemed to many to be at odds with the message Russia intended in this $50 billion-plus rebranding exercise – that a nation which had moved on from the Cold War since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Putin’s government remains convinced that the successful transformation Sochi – once a decaying Soviet-era resort – into a world-class tourist hotspot will override the current diplomatic tensions.

“The new Russia is a Russia that is capable of carrying out large-scale projects, capable of creating modern infrastructure in a record short timescale, both in terms of sports and the rest of society,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told The Associated Press in Sochi.

“The new Russia is a Russia that open to the whole world, which co-operates and makes friends with people from all over the world,” he declared.

That’s the impression some visitors had after the much more high-profile Winter Olympics – but it could be a rapidly shifting vision.

“I think (the Olympics) did improve the image (of Russia),” Martin Sorrell, CEO of global advertising giant WPP, said in an interview in Sochi. “But now you have this controversy over Ukraine, Crimea, and that’s driving a lot of the perception.”

READ MORE: Josh Dueck is Canada’s flag-bearer for Paralympics closing ceremony

But the world cannot afford to ostracize Putin, Sorrell said, especially with domestic polls that indicate Putin’s popularity has risen as a result of the games that are the centerpiece of his third term as president.

“Putin is extremely strong, has a clear approach and a clear strategy – you might agree with it, you might disagree with it – but he has considerable resources of all types,” said Sorrell. “We in the West don’t quite get how influential Russia is or how influential we are prepared to accept them being, politically and economically. But they are a force to be reckoned with.”

The scale of the Sochi venture – it was the most expensive Olympic Games ever, winter or summer – was matched by the record-breaking achievement of the Russian athletes who topped the Paralympic medals table.

“Russia always wants to try to be the best,” biathlete Alena Kaufman, who won three golds for Russia, said through a translator. “We have definitely done that.”

She also noted with pride how sports can give hope to those with disabilities.

“There could be small children in children’s homes with disabilities who perhaps thought before they were limited by their disability but now see there are possibilities,” Kaufman said.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of Sochi’s organizing committee, is convinced that attitudes have already shifted in this vast nation during the 10-day Paralympics, breaking down a “mental barrier” in Russian society.

“We have broken the stereotypes about people with impairments,” Chernyshenko said. “We are really different as a country.”

Visiting Sochi from Moscow, 30-year-old Yulia Simonova found moving around the resort to be far easier in a wheelchair than in the Russian capital. She said attitudes in Russia toward the disabled have steadily improved in the years since she was not allowed to attend a regular school.

“I felt very comfortable in Sochi and I could go around very easily,” Simonova said. “Maybe it’s not perfect but it’s much better.”

The challenge for Sochi is now ensuring the new resorts carved into the mountains and on the coast have a legacy and don’t become empty crumbling memories of Russia’s 2014 winter of sports.

The stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies in Sochi could remain largely empty until 2018, when soccer’s World Cup comes to Russia. But the first Formula One race will be staged this year around Sochi’s Olympic Park and officials are anticipating an influx of tourists to the mountain village of Krasnaya Polyana, which has been transformed into a Swiss-style ski resort with brand-new lifts and international hotels.

But the next major event planned here – the Group of Eight summit in June – is already in turmoil. The U.S. and six other nations have already suspended planning for the summit after Russian-backed forces seized control of Crimea two weeks ago.

By then the memories of Olympic and Paralympic glory – witnessed by record TV audiences globally – could have faded.

Chernyshenko, who lead Sochi’s Olympic bid and staging, hopes not.

“We have created a fantastic cumulative effect that united the nation and turned dramatically the attitude from abroad to Russia,” he said. “Everyone recognizes that we are modern, efficient, transparent and very hospitable. We delivered what we have promised.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Paralympic wrap: Canada wins 7 gold medals, meets Sochi 2014 goals – National

WATCH: Josh Dueck’s gold medal run in Sochi

TORONTO – With seven gold, two silver and seven bronze medals, Canada came in fourth place overall at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, after Russia, Ukraine and the U.S.

Canada started off the opening ceremony with flag-bearer and wheelchair curler Sonja Gaudet, and finished with 33-year-old Kimberley, B.C. sit-skier gold and silver medallist Josh Dueck as our closing flag-bearer.

Canadian Josh Dueck celebrates his gold medal in Sochi, Russia.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Scott Grant, Canadian Paralympic Committee

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  • Canada’s Brian McKeever falls, gets up to win 2nd gold medal at Paralympics in Sochi

  • Canada beats Norway in sledge hockey at Paralympics

  • Olympic cauldron re-lit in support of Canada’s Paralympic team

Canadians meeting goals

Brian McKeever and Chris Klebl made sure Canada finished the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games on a high note Sunday, winning their cross-country ski races. McKeever took the men’s visually impaired 10-kilometre event before Klebl surprised the field with a stunning victory in the men’s 10-kilometre sitting category.

The victories pushed Canada’s overall medal count to 16, three shy of the 19 won at the Vancouver Games four years ago.

More importantly, they moved Canada to third in the gold-medal standings, a stated goal that team officials set prior to the Paralympics.

Chris Klebl with his men\’s 10-km sitting gold medal and Brian McKeever with his 15-km free visually impaired gold medal celebrate at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, March 16, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Canadian Paralympic Committee, Matthew Murnaghan

READ MORE: Local athletes showcase importance of Paralympic Games

Canada’s curling trifecta

Canada won a historic curling trifecta in Sochi: A Saturday victory against Russia earned the gold medal, which followed Canada’s podium-topping performances in both men’s and women’s curling at last month’s Olympics and marks the first time a country has won all three tournaments in the same year.

Canada has dominated wheelchair curling since the sport made its Paralympic debut eight years ago, winning gold at both the 2006 and 2010 Games to go along with triumphs in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 world championships.

The Canadian rink included Jim Armstrong, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet, Dennis Thiessen and alternate Mark Ideson. The team defeated their Russian hosts 5-4 during round-robin play, and was supported by a small gathering of fans scattered amongst the noisy and flag-waving home country contingent.

READ MORE: B.C. wheelchair curler has sights set on gold in Sochi

Russia, Ukraine topped the podium

Russia topped the standings with an eye-popping 80 medals – including 30 gold – while Ukraine was second with 25 total medals. Germany was second behind Russia in the gold-medal count with nine.

A look back at the Paralympics opening ceremony:

A Choir performs the arena during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Ian Walton/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin the President of Russia performs a ‘toast’ prior to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Ian Walton/Getty Images

Flagbears prepare to raise the Russian flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

An athlete representing Ukraine enters the arena during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Paralympics at the Fisht Olympic stadium in Sochi, Russia, Friday, March 7, 2014.

AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

The Russian flag flies as performers participate in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Paralympics at the Fisht Olympic stadium in Sochi, Russia, Friday, March 7, 2014.

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Ballet dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Hockey player Seung-Hwan Jung of South Korea during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Artists in the colours of Russia perform qt the Fisht Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on March 7, 2014.

Getty Images

Artists perform in the Fisht Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on March 7, 2014.

Getty Images

Young dancers perform in the Fisht Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on March 7, 2014.

Getty Images

With files from The Canadian Press

©2014Shaw Media

Ottawa to argue against EU ban of seal products at international hearing – National

GENEVA, Switzerland – An international trade organization will hear arguments from Ottawa on Monday in an appeal of a landmark ruling that upheld the European Union’s ban on imported seal products.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she will argue at the three-day World Trade Organization hearing in Geneva what the Tories have steadfastly defended – that the seal hunt is humane, sustainable and well-regulated.

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READ MORE: Newfoundland and Labrador funds campaign to promote seal industry

“Any views to the contrary are based on myths, misinformation and misguided emotion,” said Aglukkaq said in an opinion editorial released Sunday.

“Canadian coastal and northern communities continue to depend upon the humane seal harvest as a vital economic activity and they should have every right to do so.”

A WTO dispute settlement panel upheld the EU’s embargo on imported seal products in November, saying that while it undermines fair trade, those restrictions can be justified on “public moral concerns” for animal welfare.

At issue was a challenge by Canada and Norway of the 28-member EU’s 2010 ban on the import and sale of seal fur, meat, blubber and other products.

Aglukkaq said the ban undercuts the livelihood of sealers who rely on the industry to support their families.

“We will continue to work with Canadian sealers to defend this industry as a healthy, humane and sustainable source of food, clothing and income,” she said.

Animal rights advocates say the commercial hunt is a needless slaughter and have called the trade ruling a major victory that protects aboriginal hunts.

But critics of the decision, including Inuit hunters, said the European ban and others like it all but wipe out major international markets. They also warned of a dangerous precedent that could be used against other commercial animal products such as beef, pork and poultry.

The federal Fisheries Department has said that as of this year, all licence holders taking part in the commercial hunt must complete training on its accepted three-step kill process.

It involves first shooting or striking the animal on the head with a hakapik or club, then ensuring the seal is dead before cutting major arteries and bleeding it for at least a minute before skinning it.

READ MORE: Pamela Anderson gets a frosty reception from Newfoundland sealers 

The commercial seal hunt off Newfoundland last spring landed about 91,000 harp seals, up from 69,000 the year before, but far short of the federal quota of 400,000. About 900,000 seals are hunted around the world each year, according to the European Commission.

Canada, Norway, Greenland and Namibia all have commercial seal hunts. Countries with bans on imported seal products include the U.S., Mexico, Russia and Taiwan.

©2014The Canadian Press

Canada’s Paralympic gold in wheelchair curling marks historic trifecta

SOCHI, Russia – Canada has a historic curling trifecta in Sochi.

Jim Armstrong’s rink showed its class and experience on the sometimes tricky playing surface at the Ice Cube Curling Centre on Saturday to defeat Russia 8-3 and win the gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games.

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The victory comes on the heels of Canada’s podium-topping performances in both men’s and women’s curling at last month’s Olympics and marks the first time a country has won all three tournaments in the same year.

Meanwhile, Britain defeated China 7-3 to win the bronze.

Canada has dominated wheelchair curling since the sport made its Paralympic debut eight years ago, winning gold at both the 2006 and 2010 Games to go along with triumphs in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 world championships.

Up 5-2 in the sixth end, Canada capitalized on one of a number of miscues by Russia to grab a commanding lead.

Russian skip Andrey Smirnov missed an attempted takeout with the hammer, allowing Canada to steal three and hand the two-time defending gold medallists a commanding 8-2 lead.

Russia got one back in the seventh end to make it 8-3, but decided to shake hands midway through the eighth to seal a Canadian victory that was really never in doubt.

Fans of both countries saluted the players with raucous applause at the end of the match as the Canadians hugged and congratulated each other.

Warm weather throughout the tournament in the city on the shores of the Black Sea wreaked havoc with the ice at times, but Canada managed to navigate the sometimes-volatile conditions to cruise to the Paralympic title.

The Canadian rink of Armstrong, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet, Dennis Thiessen and alternate Mark Ideson found themselves down early after Russia scored two in the first end in front of a boisterous and partisan gathering.

Canada, which downed China 5-4 in a tight semifinal earlier in day, got one back in the second before stealing another in the third to knot the score 2-2.

The Russians, who thumped Britain 13-4 in seven ends in the other semifinal, fell behind 4-2 in the fourth when Smirnov’s couldn’t clear the house and Canada scored two more.

An error by Armstrong in the fifth end opened the door for the Russians but Smirnov couldn’t capitalize as Canada stole another point to take a 5-2 advantage.

Canada, which defeated the hosts 5-4 during round-robin play, was supported by a small gathering of fans scattered amongst the noisy and flag-waving Russian contingent.

The gold medal is Gaudet’s third, Armstrong and Forrest won their second, and Thiessen and Ideson picked up their first.

©2014The Canadian Press

Montreal celebrates St. Patrick’s Day despite freezing temperatures – Montreal

MONTREAL – Montreal’s 191st annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade went off without a hitch this year.

Thousands braved the chilly temperatures to show their Irish pride, decked out in festive green.

The parade started at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Fort streets at noon and ended at Phillips Square at 4 p.m.

WATCH: Like every year the Global Montreal team was out in full gear

Organized by the United Irish Societies of Montreal as a way to highlight Irish people’s contribution to Montreal’s history, the parade will feature 18 floats, 16 marching bands, 130 groups and 2,500 people.

The City of Montreal will contribute $25,000 to the popular event, and City Hall will be lit up in green until March 17 for the occasion.

On Tuesday, organizers announced a partnership with Éduc’alcool to produce a St. Patrick’s Day survival guide that promotes responsible drinking.

READ MORE: Moderation encouraged at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade

Details of this year’s parade route


Take a look at all of our St. Patrick’s Day videos here:

Montreal’s St. Patrick’s day parade 2014


Montreal’s St. Patrick’s day parade 2014


St.Patrick’s Day survival guide


St. Patrick’s Society Ball


The queen and her court


St. Paddy’s Day ER issues


St. Paddy’s parade moderation

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©2014Shaw Media

Nearly 400 Nova Scotia bridges corroding, crumbling, database says

HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s bridges are corroding and crumbling to the point where 391 of those inspected were listed as having serious damage including missing concrete, says a provincial database.

Chief highway engineer Bruce Fitzner says the decline of bridges has reached the point where the government might consider closing smaller crossings that aren’t frequently used.

Using the freedom-of-information law, The Canadian Press obtained 3,021 inspection reports done on bridges in 2012, the last year where records are complete.

An analysis of the data from those reports shows 13 per cent of the bridges inspected were in poor or worse shape. The database is based on preliminary and advanced inspections of the bridges.

Bridges in poor condition were those that had advanced section loss, pieces of concrete falling off and structure that was worn away by water and sediment, the database says. Those considered in serious shape – a worse ranking than poor – had various forms of erosion and crumbling that affected primary structural components.

Fitzner said smaller bridges could be closed by the Transportation Department.

“We talk about the long-term deficit. It has to be addressed at some point or infrastructure comes out of service,” he said in an interview.

“It’s a huge challenge.”

BELOW: The Canadian Press has prepared an interactive graphic with a map looking at the data from the reports

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The percentage of bridges in poor or worse condition grew gradually from just under 11 per cent in 2010, while those listed in good or better shape fell from 54.6 per cent to 53.3 per cent over three years, the database says.

Just under half of the province’s 4,310 bridges are more than 50 years old, Fitzner said.

He said the bridges remain safe, in part because when they are too deteriorated they are either closed or a new maximum weight is posted. Fifty-three bridges are on a five-year replacement or repair list, he added.

The database does not say how many bridges have been closed.

Fitzner said tight budgets mean many of those listed as poor or worse will have to wait for repairs as the province’s salty air takes its toll.

“You start losing the metal to oxidation,” he said. “If you have a very rigorous painting program you keep that section loss from happening, and in a lot of cases we aren’t doing that as much as we should be doing it.”

Partial results released for last year show that 3,950 bridge inspection reports were done, but 527 of those are incomplete, the database says. Of those that are complete, 344 were ranked poor or worse.

The problems detected affect all sorts of bridges, from those in tiny, out-of-the way areas to busy overpasses in Halifax.

The Prospect Road Overpass on the outskirts of the city was listed in serious condition. Damage to the bridge includes the loss of structure in its steel girders, the main horizontal supports.

Inspection reports in 2012 and 2013 for that overpass also say the bridge bearings, which are sandwiched between beams and the foundations, were deteriorating to the point where pieces had broken off.

The bridge is on schedule for repairs in four years, and there are quarterly inspections to ensure it doesn’t deteriorate further.

Highway 7, located along the province’s windy and scenic Eastern Shore, has a dozen bridges that were in poor or serious condition, the database says.

“Timber abutments are rotten,” says an inspection report dated Aug. 14, 2012, on the Gaetz Brook Bridge, one of the bridges cited along that stretch of road. The Spry Bay Bridge, east of the Gaetz Brook Bridge, was found to have “severe widespread crushing of abutment and pier members” in an inspection report dated April 3, 2012.

“All of them are deteriorating at roughly the same rate and they’re all coming up due for a major rehabilitation or replacement,” Will Crocker, the province’s chief bridge engineer, said in an interview.

On the Trans-Canada Highway between Halifax and Truro, an overpass at Nine Mile River is listed as having “heavy pitting and section loss on girders,” with a note saying, “superstructure needs repairs.”

Crocker said the Transportation Department will keep monitoring the bridges and, in some cases, the work will be timed to coincide with highway upgrades.

In some counties, inspectors occasionally add handwritten notes on the state of decline of the bridges, many of them small and on quiet roads.

“Bad shape,” an inspector says about the Campbell Meadow Bridge in Kings County. “On the project list for last two or three years!”

In Cape Breton, the Crowdis Bridge over the Margaree River was closed due to its deteriorated condition. After pressure from community leaders who were worried about being cut off from emergency services, the Transportation Department agreed to replace it.

However, Fitzner said such agreements to fix one bridge could mean communities have to accept that other small bridges can’t remain open.

“We ultimately need to look at the amount of infrastructure we have,” he said. “At some point in the future does it make sense to have three or four crossings over a river if one or two of them would suffice?”

Fitzner said the province is also hoping that Ottawa’s $14-billion infrastructure program – the Building Canada Fund in last year’s budget – will add to budgets for roads and bridges.

In the meantime, he estimates the province is about $100 million a year short of what’s needed to keep its highways and crossings in good condition.

“It’s going to remain a challenge just because of the financial position of the province,” he said.

©2014The Canadian Press

Real threat of armed conflict in Ukraine, former ambassador to Ukraine, Russia says – National

Above: Canada’s former ambassador to both Ukraine and Russia, Christopher Westdal, joins Tom Clark to discuss what could happen once the Crimea referendum is wrapped, and how Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s upcoming trip to Ukraine could go.

KYIV, Ukraine — The results of this weekend’s Crimea referendum are a foregone conclusion. What countless people around the world are waiting to see, though, is how the world reacts to a vote in favour of the region joining Russia.

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  • Crimeans overwhelmingly vote to leave Ukraine, join Russia

  • Russia’s doing nothing wrong: ambassador

  • Canadians keep close watch as Crimea referendum nears

If Russia gets Crimea, does it stop there, or is this all a prelude to war?

“I think there’s a real danger of armed conflict,” Canada’s former ambassador to both Ukraine and Russia, Christopher Westdal, said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “These are days of great drama and danger. I think that Crimea is a line in the sand that is being crossed.”

Before the vote took place Sunday, Canada, the United States and the European Union deemed it illegal and said they would not recognize the results.

The vote took place several weeks after Russian-led forces took control of Crimea, a predominantly ethnic Russian region. Its residents say they fear the Ukrainian government that took over when pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month will oppress them.

Russia raised the stakes Saturday when its forces, backed by helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles, took control of a village near the border with Crimea, in the first military move outside the peninsula. The forces also took control of a nearby natural gas distribution station, claiming the need to prevent possible acts of terrorism there.

WATCH: Global National’s chief political correspondent Tom Clark gets the very latest in Eastern Ukraine with colleagues Mike Armstrong in Donetsk and Paul Johnson in Crimea, where citizens were casting ballots on whether to join Russia.

“Were there to be a fight between Ukrainians and Russians, effectively a Slavic civil war, that would jolt the security structure of Europe,” Westdal said. “I don’t think, and I pray that’s not in prospect, but these are dangerous times. And all the time we speak, a single shot could lead to extensive violence.”

Russia’s ambassador to Canada last week told Tom Clark, who has brought special coverage of the situation from Ukraine for the past two weeks, there is no way the situation will escalate into full-blown war.

Canada, along with other Western states, has imposed sanctions on Russia. Canada has cut bilateral military activities with Russia and recalled its ambassador from Russia. The United States imposed visa restrictions on opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kyiv and paved the way for upcoming financial sanctions.

But that hasn’t shaken Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conviction that his military’s presence in Crimea, a former Soviet republic, is necessary.

Westdal said that coordinated economic sanctions likely won’t have much of an effect on Putin, and might even signal a misunderstanding of the crisis.

“I think that this is a crisis about security, and I think it needs to be addressed in those terms,” he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will head to Ukraine later this week, where he will be the first G7 leader to travel there and meet with the interim government amid growing instability and violence between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists.

In Ukraine, Harper will meet with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to discuss how Canada and its allies can provide support following Thursday’s announcement from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird that Canada will contribute $220 million to an international effort to stabilize the Ukrainian government’s finances.

The visit serves to confirm Canada’s recognition of the new government in spite of Moscow’s stance, Westdal said.

“But [Harper] will have a lot of baggage. He will be carrying the hopes, and now the deep fears, of Canadians” he said.

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