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Spider scare sends federal government workers home — twice

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In a predicament that would surely elicit sympathy from Little Miss Muffet, 50 federal government employees were frightened away from their Ottawa office building not once, but twice, after someone spotted a potentially dangerous spider.

In June, managers at 2300 St. Laurent Blvd., a Shared Services Canada building, sent employees home for two days after someone spotted an unusual spider in the office. The building’s owner paid to have the offices fumigated before employees returned.

Then, on Oct. 18, there was another spider sighting, but this time it was caught. Over fears it might be a venomous brown recluse, one of only a handful of spiders in North America whose bite can harm humans, the arachnid was sent to an entomologist to be identified.

When people see a brown spider they are going to assume it is a brown recluse, even though most spiders are brown and most are harmless.– Catherine Scott, arachnologist

Without waiting for the verdict, which came later that same day, managers again decided to send employees home for two days while the building was fumigated and its ducts cleaned — this time costing taxpayers $18,000.

« Given that the spider did not appear to be a typical house spider, management decided to err on the side of caution by relocating and fumigating in order to ensure the health and safety of all, » Monika Mazur, a spokesperson for the department, wrote in an email to CBC News.

The entomologist unofficially identified the spider not as a brown recluse, but a yellow sac spider, Mazur said. That kind of spider is also purported to have a necrotic venom, but there’s little evidence it’s harmful to humans.

Mazur said Shared Services employees have the resources to work from home, so the evacuations did not impact the department’s operations. 

The spider that sent employees packing in October was eventually identified as a yellow sac spider, like this one. They are common in Canada. (Submitted by Sean McCann)

Evacuations ‘totally absurd’

Catherine Scott, an arachnologist and PhD student at the University of Toronto, said the evacuations were a massive overreaction.

« This is totally absurd and a giant waste of money, » she said. « Fumigating the office with chemicals is probably more dangerous to the people working in that office than a spider would have been, even if it had been a brown recluse spider. »

Scott is working with a research team studying how often people mistakenly believe they’ve seen a brown recluse spider. She said spotting one in Ottawa is extremely unlikely.

« Only a handful of individual brown recluse spiders, literally less than five, have ever been recorded in Canada in the last century. »  

She said even if one of the venomous spiders had been in the office, employees wouldn’t have been in danger.

« Even in a building where there are hundreds or thousands of brown recluses, the chances of getting bitten are low. The spiders are reclusive. They are not interested in humans, » she said. « It is only a very small proportion of bites, like less than 10 per cent of bites, that are really serious. »

Scott said people often mistake other varieties of spider for brown recluses because that’s a name they’ve heard.

« There are over 40,000 spider species in the world, but when people see a brown spider they are going to assume it is a brown recluse, even though most spiders are brown and most are harmless. » 



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A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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