Quebecers stranded by Haiti protests arrive back in Montreal

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The 113 Quebec tourists who were left stranded at resort in Haiti due to protests in and around the country’s capital have landed at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott​ Trudeau airport on Saturday evening.

The vacationers, who were staying at the Royal Decameron resort about 80 kilometres northwest of Port-au-Prince, were transported by helicopter to the Haitian capital’s international airport, then flown to Montreal.

Air Transat, the company through which the tourists booked their vacation packages, put out a statement Saturday afternoon saying that it would be a relief to have the affected passengers back on home soil.

« Our clients and their loved ones had a difficult week, » said Annick Guérard, chief operating officer for Air Transat, in a statement.

Guérard was on site in Port-au-Prince along with company president Jean-François Lemay, overseeing the efforts to fly the 113 travellers home.

« Since tensions came to a head in Haiti, our team has been mobilized and working hard to repatriate our clients safely and as quickly as possible, » reads the statement.

Cinthia Pietrantonio, left, is greeted by her mother at Trudeau airport. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Starting earlier this week, Haitian protesters blocked streets and highways to rally against skyrocketing inflation and the government’s failure to prosecute the alleged misuse of development funds from an oil assistance program sponsored by Venezuela.

The protesters want President Jovenel Moïse to step down, which he has refused to do. At least seven people have died since the demonstrations began Feb. 8.

Watch as a Haitian journalist explains the protesters’ motivations:

Violent protests in Port-au-Prince are calling for the president of the poorest country in the Americas to resign 0:38

The recent protests made the drive to the airport too dangerous, leaving dozens of Canadians — including missionaries and health-care professionals doing aid work — stranded in various towns and villages.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Global Affairs Canada and the country’s diplomatic corps are working to keep Canadians who are trying to return from Haiti informed.

But Katherine O’Neil, a nurse from Montreal who is stranded in a different town, south of Port-au-Prince, says she has had trouble getting information from the government.

She and the other Canadian nurses she’s with have managed to charter a helicopter to take them to the airport on Monday.

They plan to be on an Air Canada flight that leaves for Montreal around 3 p.m.

The nurses have raised more than $17,000 through a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of the helicopter, and say they will donate whatever they don’t use for the trip home to the charity they are volunteering with, which is called Hope Grows.

The vacationers, who were staying at the Royal Decameron resort about 80 kilometres northwest of Port-au-Prince, were transported by helicopter to the Haitian capital’s international airport, then flown to Montreal. (Radio-Canada)

The Global Affairs Canada website is advising Canadians to avoid all travel to Haiti, warning the security situation could deteriorate quickly.

In a series of tweets Saturday afternoon, the government indicated the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince is still operational and providing consular services.

Those who need emergency assistance should email sos@international.gc.ca or call 1-613-996-8885.

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Officials searching building after roof collapses in Trois-Rivières – Montreal

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Officials are searching the wreck of a heavily damaged building in Trois-Rivieres, Que., to ensure nobody is trapped inside.

Fire department spokesman Dany Cloutier says there are unconfirmed reports that a person might have been inside the commercial building when the roof caved in just after 1 p.m. today.

WATCH: Roof of Mile-End building collapses after heavy snow fall (Feb. 2017)






Cloutier says a canine search-and-rescue team has been called in to help search for any possible victims.

A team of technical specialists from the Montreal fire department is also en route to verify the site is safe before anyone ventures further under the wreckage.

READ MORE: Okotoks equestrian facility may never rebound from roof collapse

The incident occurred less than 24 hours after the roof of a grocery store partially collapsed in the Quebec City suburb of Levis.

Two people suffered minor injuries in that incident, which is still under investigation.

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Time to ‘push back’ against federal government, Conservative leaders say at Sask. pro-pipeline rally

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The battleground for pipelines and the oil and gas industry was set in Moosomin, Sask., on Saturday, as the federal  Conservative Leader blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his handling of the energy file.

« His attack on Canada’s energy sector is by design. It’s on purpose, » Andrew Scheer told the audience gathered for the pro-pipeline rally, also attended by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Conservative Senator Denise Batters.

« This is the one area where he’s doing exactly what he said would do. »

Trudeau has spoken about transitioning Canada away from fossil fuels. Scheer says, if he becomes prime minister, he would  promote Canadian oil and gas. 

« I will travel around the world promoting Canadians’ energy sector, as a source of ethical and responsible and sustainable energy around the world, » he promised, to cheers from the audience.

The federal government had bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in order to make progress on a stalled project, but a Supreme Court blocked further progress, ruling that Canada’s efforts to meaningfully consult with Indigenous people, as required by law, fell short.

Scheer criticized Trudeau for overpaying for the pipeline by $1 billion.  

« Justin Trudeau paid more than the sticker price for a pipeline that he can’t even build, » he charged.

Crowds gathered in Moosomin, Sask. to hear from various politicians and other pipeline advocates. (Trevor Botherel / CBC)

Scheer had set the stage for Saturday’s pro-pipeline appearance with an appearance in Saskatoon on Friday night, talking about the need to build pipelines.  

« We know that the best way to transport that energy, the most environmentally friendly way, taking oil and gas off of rail cars, is to build pipelines, » Scheer said, while speaking in Saskatoon on Friday, one day before news of a derailment of a train carrying crude oil in Manitoba.

« We need a government that has a plan to get them built through the private sector by providing certainty and clarity in approvals process and that’s what my plan will do. »

Scheer said his plan, if he is to become prime minister in this year’s election, would be to repeal a carbon tax and repeal Bill C-69, which he argues muddies the approval process for pipelines. Bill C-69 provides a process for assessing the environmental, health, social and economic effects of pipeline and other projects.

Instead, these pipelines need to be declared in the national interest, because of the benefits they confer to every single region, said Scheer.

« And come October, after forming government, we will start to clean up the mess that [Trudeau’s] left us, » he promised the crowd.

Moe also took to the stage, saying the strength of the audience on a frigid February day spoke volumes about their frustration with the downtrodden oil and gas sector.  

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe walks through the crowd before speaking at a pro-pipeline rally. He said ‘It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard’ against the federal government. (MIchael Bell/Canadian Press)

« For far too long, this conversation has been dominated by those who disapprove of how you and myself and and our neighbours in this province make a living in our communities, » he said, adding the federal government was simply not listening to people whose livelihoods depended on sectors like oil and gas and mining.  

« The moment has come in the nation of Canada. It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard. »

Speakers were scheduled to address the crowd on issues affecting the oil and gas sector. (Trevor Botherel / CBC)

Moosomin economy driven by energy 

The rally was organized by Moosomin Economic Development, with Moe saying that the southern Saskatchewan town of about 2,500 people was among the communities that depended on a thriving oil and gas industry. 

A news release indicates « Moosomin would have played a part in the cancelled Energy East project with a 1,050,000 barrel tank farm planned for the Moosomin Compressor Station and a feeder pipeline from Cromer, Man.,  to the Moosomin Compressor Station, both part of the Energy East plan. »

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Residents of condo tower where woman threw chair off balcony say short-term rentals are not a problem

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A video of a woman throwing a chair off a downtown highrise balcony sparked immediate anger and outrage, but long-term residents of the building where it happened say such a display of recklessness is rare and has little or nothing to do with the proliferation of short-term rentals in the area.

Kevin Gaston moved into his one-bedroom condo at Maple Leaf Square nearly 10 years ago, and he remembers his neighbours then being mostly owners or long-term tenants.

Today, he says a number of units in the two towers at the corner of Bremner Blvd. and York St. have been turned into short-term rentals. There is also a large number of young students who save on housing costs by sharing condos, he says.

So when he saw the viral video, Gaston assumed it was “one of those scenarios, like a drunk teenager throwing a chair off the balcony. Crazier things have happened.”

Over the years, the behaviour of short-term renters has raised concerns in Toronto, but most residents at Maple Leaf Square were indifferent or expressed only mild concern over it.

The woman alleged to have thrown the chair, Marcella Zoia, turned herself in last week. She was charged in the incident and released on $2,000 bail, and will return to court next month. Her lawyer said she acted under “peer pressure.”

Police said they were looking into whether the unit where the “reckless” incident took place was a short-term rental. Airbnb said there was no evidence the woman used its platform, but confirmed it had suspended the account of a guest at the building as the service reviews the incident, and it is co-operating with police.

The apparent proliferation of short-term rentals at the twin towers near Scotiabank Arena has never been a cause of concern for Gaston. He said he doesn’t feel unsafe and has never been disturbed by noise from nearby units.

“If anything, it’s funny, because I just feel like a tour guide sometimes,” he said about the many confused people who ask for directions to navigate the path between two towers, get to the Longo’s or LCBO downstairs, or find the best place to eat nearby.

“The only thing is, I have seen more people using the swimming pool, because they’re on vacation and in Airbnb, so it gets crowded. Other than that, I’ve had no complaint, no problem at all.”

He’s not alone. On Thursday, the Star spent four hours in the condo’s lobby and at the two main entrances, speaking to residents and observing as individuals and small groups of people entered and exited, some with suitcases. About a dozen people, including a couple who said they had just landed from Paris, said they were staying in Airbnb units.

Dozens of residents who spoke to the Star said they know a large number of units in their building are used as Airbnb rentals. But they said disturbing incidents are rare and that people staying in short-term rentals are generally polite.

“Honestly, it doesn’t bother me,” said Stella Cabrera, who has lived at the building for nearly a year. Two units next to hers are used by short-term renters. She said she understands the convenience of Airbnb in the area, which lies near entertainment venues. Nearby hotels are expensive.

She said people can do irresponsible things even if they own the places they live in.

“That girl would probably have done the same if she was at another place that is not Airbnb,” she said about the chair-throwing incident.

Christina Wang said a unit across from hers is rented on Airbnb, and sometimes people leave the door open and noise spills out. She said some short-term renters don’t take care of things they don’t own, such as the chair in the video.

“It’s a case-by-case, I guess, but generally people who do Airbnb are nice,” she said. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal in terms of living conditions.”

Ivonne Flores, a recent graduate and a resident of Maple Leaf Square for the past two years, sometimes feels “uncomfortable” seeing strangers strolling in the building, which happens especially on weekends. Apart from the drinking and partying that tend to happen in Airbnb rentals, major incidents of concern are few, she said.

“That chair thing was the first, and it was surprising that everyone was making such a big deal about it,” she said.

Alex Wong, who has lived at the condo for the past five years, said the building has security guards who usually ask people for their names if they don’t have keys, and there’s a computer screen at the reception on the 9th floor where those staying in Airbnbs are supposed to log in.

“I’ve seen some bad ones, like people leaving pizza boxes in a hallway. But I’ve heard worse from other buildings. I think we’re OK here,” said

The chair-throwing incident did “freak” him out though, he added.

“That’s a crazy thing to happen, but Airbnb-ers don’t usually do that. Now I basically hug the wall when I walk home, just in case,” he said.

Fairbnb, a coalition that advocates for stricter regulation of short-term rentals, has repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of residents in highrises with large numbers of Airbnb units.

Speaking to the Star after the chair-throwing incident, Fairbnb spokesperson Thorben Wieditz said there have been incidents of short-term renters vomiting in swimming pools, leaving garbage in the hallways and stairs, and making life miserable for residents by partying and making noise.

At Maple Leaf Square, an office administrator confirmed to the Star there are units in the building that are used as Airbnb rentals. But property manager Lubko Belej declined to offer any further details, saying “police told us not to comment.”

“Right now, we’re working very hard with the police on this, and trying to keep our profile as low as possible, as you can imagine.”

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

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McGill farming grad fears she’ll have to leave Quebec because of CAQ immigration plan

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Saturday morning while most people are still sound asleep, 24-year-old Sylvia Mann is tending to the cows on a farm about an hour south of Montreal in Saint-Chrysostome, Quebec.

She has been working at the farm for three years. Five days a week, she’s there at 6:30 a.m. to milk cows and feed the calves. She then returns in the evening to do the same thing. She also has a full time construction job.

“During the summer, I work construction for 10 hours, and then I do another 2 hours here. So it’s 12 hour days,” Mann told Global News.

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She studied farm management and technology at McGill’s Macdonald Campus and dreams of starting her own farm in rural Quebec.

“I would like to start a goat farm! We’ll see what happens,” she explained.

These days, Mann feels like that dream has been shattered.

“I’m nervous, anxious, angry, all the human emotions all at once. It’s not the end of your life but it almost feels like it,” Mann said.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Mann has been in Quebec since she was 18. She applied for residency last year and has been working hard to learn French.

“I’ve been working with a lot of French guys. When I first started, my French was mediocre but now it’s better. I know my accent is funny, but my boss understands me and I understand him`,” she said.

READ MORE: Quebec immigration minister defends cancellation, says 18,000 immigration applicants can re-apply

Last week, Mann became one of the 18,000 people whose immigration application was cancelled after the CAQ tabled its new immigration bill. 3,700 of those applicants reside in Quebec, including Mann.

“My life is here. My boyfriend is here. I love him so I want to be with him and I know he loves me, so I’m not sure what the next step is,” she said.

Mann is a skilled worker, working in the regions in an industry that has trouble finding labour, according to farm owner Mathieu Vincent.

“I really find this a shame,” Vincent told Global. “This is someone who wants to establish herself in Quebec, someone who speaks French, someone who wants to pay taxes here and live here.”

For her part, Mann has started to look for jobs in upstate New York, where her family now lives.

“I’ve been starting to search for jobs in New York, but there aren’t too many farms hiring these days. There’s a different economy there. I’m not sure where I’d work, what I’d do, where I’d live,” she said.

Mann says her post-grad work permit expires in May. Without a Quebec selection certificate, she cannot get a new one.

She worries time will run out.

“The federal government will not have a basis to extend her work permit unless she gets a Quebec Selection Certification (CSQ),” said Neil Drabkin, a Montreal immigration lawyer.

READ MORE: ‘Tinder of immigration’: Quebec outlines plan for how to welcome newcomers

Mann may be able to apply under the new CAQ program that aims to match workers with employers in what immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette described as a Tinder-like system. Drabkin says that process takes six months, whereas Mann’s work permit expires in three.

If her application can’t be fast-tracked, Mann fears she may have to walk away from her dreams.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘You can smell crude in the air’: Train carrying oil derails near western Manitoba village

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CN Rail is working to clean up an oil leak after nearly 40 train cars carrying crude oil derailed near a village in western Manitoba early Saturday morning.

CN crews are responding to the derailment, which occurred at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning near St. Lazare, about 300 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border, a spokesperson from the railway said. 

« You can smell crude in the air. That’s really concerning, » said rancher Jayme Corr. The derailment happened on his property, about 10 kilometres south of St. Lazare, in the rural municipality of Ellice-Archie.

« There’s oil leaking, and where they’re sitting is [near] a water lagoon, » he said.

The derailment happened around 3:30 a.m. Saturday. As of Saturday afternoon, crews were still on scene. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

Emergency personnel woke Corr up around 5 a.m. Saturday to alert him to the derailment, which happened just under two kilometres from his home.

No injuries or fires reported

Initial reports are that approximately 37 crude oil cars have derailed and that there is a partial leak of crude oil, Jonathan Abecassis, a media relations director for CN, wrote in an email to CBC.

« A perimeter has been set up around the area to facilitate site access. There are no reports of injuries or fires, » he wrote.

« CN crews will be conducting a full site assessment to determine how much product has spilled and exactly how many cars are involved. First responders are on location. »

CN’s environmental team has started cleaning up the area.

Corr said his cattle have since been moved away from the area, but he’s concerned that his main water source for the summertime will now be contaminated.

The train derailed about 10 kilometres south of St. Lazare, in the rural municipality of Ellice-Archie. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

The rancher says he thinks a derailment like Saturday’s has been a long time coming.

« It seems to be the trains go faster, they’re longer, heavier, and the maintenance is getting less and less, » Corr said.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has sent investigators to the site of the derailment. 

‘It’s discouraging’

Jean-Paul Chartier, a rural municipality of Ellice-Archie councillor, said staff from the local fire department are on the scene of the derailment, assisting CN crews.

« They’re trying to do their best to get everything contained, and trying to get the traffic going, and trying to clear whatever debris there is, » Chartier said.

Trains frequently run through St. Lazare, and Chartier said he’s thankful the crash didn’t occur closer to the community. In areas of the village, there are houses just hundreds of metres from the tracks, and 30 to 40 trains can travel past each day, he said.

« Every time they come through, you think of the tragedy that happened in Quebec, » he said, referring to the Lac-Mégantic, Que., rail disaster, which killed 47 people after a freight train loaded with fuel exploded.

« It’s discouraging. Like you look at it everyday and you say ‘hopefully it’s not today and hopefully it doesn’t ever happen.’ But you’ve always got it in the back of your mind. »

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‘Riya is an angel’ — Mississauga community gathers to mourn slain 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar

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In the flickering light of white candles, mourners cast long shadows Saturday on the snow-covered playground of Meadowvale Village Public School.

They had gathered on this cold evening to pay respects to Riya Rajkumar, the 11-year-old Mississauga girl who was found dead Thursday at her father’s residence in Brampton. Police had issued a late-night Amber Alert when he failed to return Riya to her mother after the two celebrated the girl’s birthday earlier in the day.

Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday evening at Meadowvale Village Public School, where Riya Rajkumar was a Grade 5 student.
Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday evening at Meadowvale Village Public School, where Riya Rajkumar was a Grade 5 student.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

“It’s so sad and tragic. She just turned 11. It was her birthday,” said Debra Oliver, who was among more than 300 people attending the candlelight vigil at Riya’s Mississauga school, where she was a Grade 5 student.

“She was so young. She had not even lived her life,” said Oliver, who, like many attendees on Saturday, had never met Riya.

The girl’s father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, has been charged with first-degree murder. Police said he was taken to hospital and later a trauma centre, suffering from an undisclosed medical issue. His case will be “looked at” by a judge on Tuesday, regardless of his condition.

Vigil organizer Amrita Naipaul said she was aware of a missing child from the Amber Alert Thursday evening, but didn’t realize until later that the victim was her former school friend’s daughter.

“I have my two nieces living with me and I can’t imagine having them taken away from my family,” said Naipaul, who went to cosmetology school with Riya’s mother and got her permission to organize the two-hour vigil that started at 6 p.m.

Read more:

Peel Police charge father of dead girl, 11, with first-degree murder

Late-night Amber Alert about missing girl, found dead, prompts complaints to 911: Peel police

“It is going to be a very long journey for Riya’s mother. We just want to give her all the support she needs so she knows she is not alone.”

Among the mourners who crowded the playground and laid flowers and candles were parents and children from Meadowvale Village P.S., near Mavis and Derry Rds., which has just over 500 pupils from kindergarten to Grade 5.

“We all got a newsletter from the school Friday morning about the incident. My daughter was shocked and didn’t want to eat,” said Angela Lee, a member of the school’s parents council. Like Riya, her daughter Kaitlyn is in Grade 5.

“There were police in the school. There were counsellors. The girls were crying. They all made cards and put them on a memorial table for her,” added Lee, waiting for her turn to lay a candle in front of a placard printed with the photo of a smiling Riya.

“The community is traumatized,” said parent Sushma Aradhya, who came to the vigil with husband Uday and their daughter Sanskriti, a classmate of Riya. “As parents, we don’t know how to explain it to our kids.”

Riya Rajkumar was found in her father's home in Brampton, hours after she vanished while in his care. Roopesh Rajkumar is charged with first-degree murder.
Riya Rajkumar was found in her father’s home in Brampton, hours after she vanished while in his care. Roopesh Rajkumar is charged with first-degree murder.  (Facebook)

Bianca Johnson, who teaches at a different school, said she was saddened by the little girl’s death and felt angry at those who complained to police about being disturbed by the Amber Alert notifications sent to mobile devices on Thursday night.

“That was driving me crazy,” she said. “I teach social justice and tell my students to care about other people, but some people are selfish and self-centred. It’s mind-boggling.”

Imam Ibrahim Hussain, who didn’t know Riya or her family, said the girl’s death had brought together a community from all faiths, ethnicities and cultures.

“Riya is an angel. She has brought out our humanity, love and compassion,” Hussain said.

Balloons and flowers sit outside the home in Mississauga where 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found on Thursday evening.
Balloons and flowers sit outside the home in Mississauga where 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found on Thursday evening.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Another vigil, organized by Brampton Councillor Rowena Santos, will be held in Brampton’s Garden Square on Tuesday evening from 5:45 p.m until 7 p.m.

A community program called Neighbourhood Watch Brampton has also started an online fundraiser to go toward Riya’s funeral costs. The original goal was $2,500, but by Saturday evening it had raised nearly $25,000.

Brampton court records show that Roopesh Rajkumar entered into a peace bond on Nov. 30, 2015 — the same day an assault charge against him was withdrawn.

According to the Department of Justice website, people can obtain peace bonds from court against defendants when someone appears likely to commit an offence “but there are no reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has actually been committed.”

A court may impose certain conditions designed to prevent the defendant from harming others, as part of a peace bond.

Another vigil for Riya is planned for Tuesday evening in Brampton's Garden Square from 5:45 p.m until 7 p.m.
Another vigil for Riya is planned for Tuesday evening in Brampton’s Garden Square from 5:45 p.m until 7 p.m.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

In 2009, a mischief charge and an assault charge against Rajkumar were also dismissed.

With files from Emerald Bensadoun, May Warren, Alexandra Jones and the Brampton Guardian

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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‘Zombie deer disease’ has spread to 2 provinces and 24 states – National

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An infectious disease often referred to as “zombie deer disease” has shown up in two Canadian provinces and at least 24 states, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned, with a potential risk it could spread to humans.


READ MORE:
Zombies descend by the thousands on downtown Montreal Saturday afternoon

Symptoms of chronic wasting disease (CWD) for animals include stumbling, lack of coordination, drooling, drooping ears, aggression, listlessness, drastic weight loss, excessive thirst or urination, and lack of fear of people.

The disease belongs to a family of diseases called prion diseases, which includes the human form of “mad cow disease.”

CWD was first identified in the late 1960s in Colorado and has spread since 2000.

WATCH: Mad cow disease case confirmed in northern Alberta







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There have been no reported cases of the disease in people, but studies have shown that CWD can pose a risk to non-human primates, such as monkeys, that eat meat from CWD-infected animals or come in contact with their body fluids, according to CDC.

CDC says experimental studies “raise the concern that CWD may pose a risk to people and suggest that it is important to prevent human exposures to CWD.”

The disease generally transmits between animals through body fluids and has been found to be contagious within deer and elk populations.


READ MORE:
What is mad cow disease? Quick facts about BSE

If it were spread to people, it would most likely be through eating infected deer or elk, but CDC says it is not known if people can get infected with CWD.

Currently, the disease occurs in free-range deer and elk at relatively low rates, but in areas where it is established the infection rate may exceed 10 per cent and localized infection rates of more than 25 per cent have been reported, according to CDC.

Infection rates in captive deer have been higher, with a rate of 79 per cent reported from at least one captive herd.

CDC recommends hunters test animals for CWD before eating them in areas where the disease is known to be present, and to not shoot or handle meat from deer that look strange or are acting strangely.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Longueuil renonce à construire sa propre usine de biométhanisation

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Craignant une explosion des coûts comme à Montréal, l’agglomération de Longueuil a renoncé à construire sa propre usine de biométhanisation et confiera le traitement des matières organiques des résidents de son territoire à l’usine de Varennes.

L’agglomération de Longueuil a conclu une entente d’une durée de 40 ans avec la Société d’économie mixte de l’est de la couronne sud (SEMECS), qui possède déjà une usine de biométhanisation à Varennes. En activité depuis janvier 2018, cette usine traite les matières organiques de 245 000 résidents sur la Rive-Sud.

La SEMECS est un organisme privé détenu majoritairement par les 27 municipalités des MRC de La Vallée-du-Richelieu, de Marguerite-d’Youville et de Rouville. Elle est gérée avec un partenaire privé, le Consortium Biogaz EG.

L’usine de Varennes devra être agrandie pour desservir les 426 000 résidents de l’agglomération de Longueuil. Celle-ci investira 44 millions dans ce projet d’agrandissement.

En 2010, Laval et Longueuil avaient annoncé leur intention de construire des usines de compostage. Longueuil envisageait d’y consacrer 70 millions.

Explosion des coûts

Montréal, qui comptait se doter de cinq usines sur son territoire, a fait face à une explosion des coûts. En novembre dernier, la Ville a dû admettre que le projet coûterait 523 millions, au lieu des 237 millions initialement prévus. C’est que, lors de l’ouverture des soumissions pour trois projets, la Ville a constaté que les prix dépassaient de 50 % ses estimations.

Devant ce constat, Longueuil a évalué d’autres scénarios, dont celui d’un partenariat avec la SEMECS.

« On a fait la comparaison entre les deux possibilités et force a été de constater que, sur le plan financier, c’était beaucoup plus avantageux pour l’agglomération de Longueuil de se tourner vers ce partenaire qui existe et dont la technologie est déjà éprouvée », a expliqué vendredi la mairesse de Longueuil, Sylvie Parent.

Longueuil estime à 150 $ la tonne le coût du traitement des matières organiques. Outre l’investissement initial de 44 millions, l’agglomération participera aux frais d’exploitation de l’usine.

Mais si les coûts devaient dépasser les prévisions, c’est la SEMECS qui assumerait la différence, et non l’agglomération de Longueuil, a assuré le président de la SEMECS et maire de Varennes, Martin Damphousse. Les nouveaux équipements devraient être en activité le 1er janvier 2023 et pourront recevoir les 35 000 tonnes de l’agglomération de Longueuil.

La biométhanisation est un procédé de traitement des matières organiques par digestion anaérobique. À l’heure actuelle, le digestat produit sert d’amendement de sol pour des agriculteurs de la région. Quant aux biogaz, ils sont vendus.

L’entente conclue devra être entérinée par le conseil d’agglomération le 21 février.

Le temps commence à presser pour les municipalités car, en vertu d’une politique gouvernementale, elles devront cesser d’enfouir les matières organiques en 2023, faute de quoi elles devront payer des pénalités.

À Montréal, l’administration Plante évalue toujours la situation et devrait faire connaître ses intentions sous peu. Quant à la Ville de Laval, son projet d’usine est à l’étape de planification.

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2 Ontario mayors ask province to help employees fired from RV maker

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Two Ontario mayors say they have asked the province to help hundreds of employees who have lost their jobs at a recreational vehicle maker in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry said they learned late Friday afternoon that Erwin Hymer Group North America, which has its headquarters in Cambridge, has filed for receivership and all of its employees have been terminated. 

The company operated plants in the region and between 800 and 900 employees are now out of work, Vrbanovic said.

« This is sad news and our thoughts go to the hundreds of employees and their families impacted by this sudden event, especially as they started their Family Day weekend, » Vrbanovic and McGarry said in a statement.

In a video posted to YouTube, Erwin Hymer Group North America included this shot of the recreational vehicles it manufactures. (YouTube)

McGarry said in an interview CBC Toronto that the mayors are « quite concerned » about the families affected.

« It will be a difficult transition, » McGarry said on Friday.

‘Details are sketchy right now’

« There hasn’t been an official statement that we’ve seen at all from the company or the receiver. The details are sketchy right now about what may be transpiring at the moment. All we know is that the company went into receivership and sent out termination notices to all of their employees, » she continued. 

Two employees said on Twitter that they received termination notices on Friday.

The company did not respond to a request for comment. 

Both mayors said they have talked to Ontario Economic Development Minister Todd Smith to explore « all possible opportunities » for the company and its employees. 

McGarry and Vrbanovic said they have also asked the province to activate its « rapid re-employment team » to help the fired employees. The team can assist with retraining, McGarry said.

The mayors have talked to Ontario Economic Development Minister Todd Smith in the hopes that the province can activate its « rapid re-employment team » to help the fired employees. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

« Although this is shocking news today, there is hope that they will find good employment in the region of Waterloo, » McGarry said.

Erwin Hymer Group bought Roadtrek in 2016

According to the mayors, Erwin Hymer Group, which is headquartered in Germany, originally bought the Kitchener-based company Roadtrek in 2016. The corporation then expanded its facilities in Cambridge and located its North American operations there.

When Erwin Hymer Group North America opened its doors in Cambridge in September 2017, it produced this video.

Roadtrek, ​started by Jac Hanemaayer in 1974, provided employment to hundreds of people in Kitchener, the mayors added.

« What might offer some additional hope to these affected employees and their families is that our region does have a strong, robust economy and there are many other manufacturers and companies in our area which are currently looking for new employees, » they said.

« We are a resilient community, and as a community we will work through this together. »

On Feb. 1, Thor Industries, Inc., an American company that calls itself the the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles, announced that it had finalized a plan to buy Erwin Hymer Group. 

« The acquisition excludes EHG’s North American businesses, » the news release said.

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