Kevin Vickers seen as national hero, but considered an outsider as he considers political bid: pundits

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Kevin Vickers has been described as a national hero for his role in stopping a gunman’s attack on Parliament Hill in 2014, but New Brunswick pundits say he’s largely seen as an outsider as he considers a political bid in his home province.

Vickers, who has served as Canada’s ambassador to Ireland for the past four years, announced this week he may be interested in seeking the leadership of New Brunswick’s Liberal party.


READ MORE:
Hero of 2014 Parliament Hill attack says he’s considering a run for New Brunswick Liberal leadership

The out-of-the-blue statement came days after former premier Brian Gallant confirmed he would be stepping down as Liberal leader sooner than expected.

“It was a surprise,” said J.P. Lewis, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, adding there were no previous indications Vickers had partisan leanings.

Though Vickers could be considered “almost a historic figure,” he doesn’t have a much of a presence in the province, Lewis said in an interview.

“For most people, he’s a public figure from one moment in time. That’s it.”

On Oct. 22, 2014, Vickers was serving as sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons when he fired the shots that killed a man armed with a .30-30 rifle. Michael Zihaf Bibeau had barged into Centre Block on Parliament Hill after killing honour guard reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

Vickers was appointed ambassador to Ireland by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in January 2015.

On Monday, Vickers told The Canadian Press he’s a “long ways from making a decision” about contesting the Liberal leadership, noting that he’s been in public service for nearly 43 years.

Born and raised in Newcastle, N.B., which is now part of the City of Miramichi, Vickers worked as an RCMP officer for 29 years before joining security staff at the House of Commons in 2005.

“It’s a long haul,” he said in an interview Monday from Trout Brook, N.B.

WATCH: Former sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers awarded Star of Courage for actions taken during Ottawa shooting






Vickers has deep roots in New Brunswick. His father, Bill, helped establish the Northumberland co-op dairy in the province decades ago.

However, Vickers has spent many years working outside New Brunswick.

“He has largely been away for so long he is an outsider,” Mario Levesque, a politics professor at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., said in an email.

“At best, he has drawn some media attention to the Liberal party … They now have a ‘star’ candidate media-wise, but thin on the politics side.”

Still, Levesque said Vickers’ outsider status may not diminish his political capital.

“It is acceptable to move away and come back if you are a Maritimer,” said Levesque. “After all, people are our No. 1 export.”

Other political observers say Vickers’ absence from New Brunswick’s political scene could be his greatest strength.

“On the plus side, he is an unknown political quantity and perhaps the Liberal party wants a shakeup with some new people and fresh ideas,” Jamie Gillies, a political science professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said in an email.

Roger Ouellette, a public studies professor at the Universite de Moncton, suggested the Liberals would be wise to seek a leader from outside the political establishment and, preferably, a bilingual anglophone.

“He will fit the bill,” Ouellette said, noting the party is keenly aware that it has lost much of its support in largely English-speaking areas of the province.

“Maybe it’s a good thing to have a fresh face, and a fresh way to look at the issues.”


READ MORE:
Kevin Vickers talks about his emotions after Parliament Hill shooting

Lewis agreed, saying Vickers’ experience stands in contrast to that of Gallant, who was widely considered a career politician by the time many voters turned their backs on the province’s entrenched two-party system in last September’s provincial election.

Last week, Gallant said the party needed to move on after winning just 21 seats – one fewer than the Tories. The Liberals relinquished their hold on power in November after losing a confidence vote in the legislature.

Like Vickers, Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs is considered a political outsider, having worked at Irving Oil for 33 years before turning to politics four months after he retired in 2010.

“Maybe someone like Vickers, an outsider, is a good match to Higgs,” said Lewis. “That’s what the Liberals need to challenge Higgs in the next election.”

No candidates have entered the Liberal leadership race, though several names are circulating.

Vickers has already met with at least two members of the Liberal caucus – former seniors minister Lisa Harris and former health minister Benoit Bourque.

Bourque said Vickers would bring a “wealth of experience” to the party.

He said Vickers was not actively recruited as a candidate.

“I wouldn’t say anybody went after anybody. It kind of just organically happened.”

Higgs’ minority government is relying on support from a third party – the right-leaning People’s Alliance, led by Kris Austin. But that arrangement is set to expire in less than 18 months.

That means an election could be less than two years away.

“We are very mindful that we are in a peculiar minority government situation,” Bourque said. “Our leadership situation tends to be a bit more pressing … The ball is in Mr. Vickers’ court.”

According to federal rules, Vickers must get permission from the Public Service Commission if he plans to be a candidate in an election. However, the commission says seeking the leadership of a party is considered a “non-candidacy political activity,” which does not require permission.

However, the commission says all diplomats must carry out their public duties in a politically impartial manner and “should not carry out political activities if they would cast doubt on the integrity or impartiality of their office.”

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Ottawa considers gun control options with a handgun ban seen as costly and possibly ineffective

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OTTAWA—The federal government is considering further restrictions on handguns but will stop short of an absolute ban, as the cost to buy back legally owned handguns is pegged as high as $2 billion, the Star has learned.

Escalating gun violence across the country, including Toronto, spurred calls for the federal Liberals to act. After public consultations, deliberations are now underway with a proposal being readied to take to cabinet early next year.

Among options under consideration are the imposition of tougher legal obligations on gun owners such as mandatory storage in secured lockers at a shooting range, not at home, and wider powers for police to preventively suspend a gun owner’s licence where there is a risk someone may be harmed. For instance if a health professional raises an alarm about an individual’s mental health, police would be able to act to suspend a licence in absence of a criminal charge or the registration of a criminal conviction.

A senior government official who was granted anonymity in order to discuss the debate underway within government, said no final decisions have been made about whether to propose a ban on handguns and assault weapons.

In the case of the latter, there is no precise definition in law of just what an assault weapon is, but the government wants stricter controls on “assault-style” firearms, said the source.

Overall, the Liberal government is looking to package a combination of measures that will be effective at addressing gun violence and at curbing the diversion of legal guns into illegal hands; and there are doubts that a ban will have the desired effect, according to the insider with knowledge of the file.

It appears, however, there is public support for a handgun and assault weapon ban in most parts of the country, with the source citing internal polling that indicates 70 per cent of Canadians would support a ban. The numbers vary across regions, the source said, with the highest support in Quebec at 76 per cent, roughly 73 per cent in Atlantic region, 70 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area and support dropping to as low as 50 per cent in western Canada.

(That overall number — 70 per cent — appears slightly higher than a recent opinion survey by Nanos Research conducted for CTV News, published in September, which said 48 per cent support a ban, while 19 per cent “somewhat support” a ban.)

After the tragic Danforth shooting last summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Scarborough Southwest MP Bill Blair as minister of border security and organized crime reduction, and instructed Blair, a former Toronto police chief, to work with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to examine “a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians.” Blair has said he wants to complete his examination by the end of this year.

On Thursday in Montreal — where the 29th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre was marked — Trudeau pointed to Bill C-71 which his government has already introduced in the Commons that tightens some aspects of current gun laws, but said “we are very open to doing more.”

“Certainly there is the problem of criminals’ access to assault weapons and handguns and we will be looking at measures to continue to keep our communities safe.”

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The mayors of Toronto and Montreal have urged Ottawa to adopt an absolute ban on handgun sales. Toronto Mayor John Tory also wants the Liberal government to enact tougher penalties for gun traffickers, tougher bail controls on accused persons with a track record of gun crimes, along with stricter gun storage laws.

The deadline for online consultations has passed, and Blair completed stakeholder consultations last week.

The source said the federal Liberal cabinet is not expected to deal with whatever recommendations arise from Blair’s examination until the New Year.

A second Liberal source suggested it is more likely that the government would look at enacting stricter storage, transportation and transfer regulations than an outright ban.

There are 1,400 shooting ranges across Canada where restricted and prohibited gun owners could be required to safely store their guns. Gun laws already require secure storage and handling of firearms and ammunition.

Yet advocates of stricter gun laws like Wendy Cukier, a co-founder of the Coalition for Gun Control formed nearly 30 years ago in the wake of the 1989 Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique, say a ban on handguns and assault-style weapons is crucial.

In an interview, Cukier said “an integrated approach” to gun violence is needed, including better screening of licence applicants, support for victims, and more resources for intelligence-led policing to counter smuggling, and she added a ban is key to that.

“Whatever the measures are, they have to reduce access and reduce the risk that people who shouldn’t get those guns will get them,” said Cukier in an interview. “And I don’t know what besides a ban could achieve that result.”

She added had governments acted sooner, the number of restricted and prohibited weapons would not have already ballooned from about 350,000 in 2004, to about 1 million, according to the annual reports of the commissioner of firearms.

The notion of banning certain firearms raises questions such as whether Ottawa would “grandfather” those owners who already have legally registered handguns and allow them to keep their weapons, or whether the government would buy back their weapons.

The source said the $1.5 billion to $2 billion estimate for a handgun buyback was based on a loose estimate of 1 million handguns registered in Canada. The source added there are “probably” twice that number in illegal, unregistered handguns in circulation.

In fact, the RCMP-led Canadian Firearms Program says 861,850 handguns were registered to individuals in Canada as of Sept. 30, 2018. The Mounties say those handguns are registered to 292,701 licensed gun owners. On top of that, according to the federal government, there are about 100,000 other non-handgun firearms — usually rifles and shotguns — legally owned and registered in Canada.

The federal government’s consultation document published to inform public debate on a handgun ban says in most cases, individuals own handguns for sport shooting or as part of a collection and it acknowledges “most gun crimes are not committed with legally-owned firearms.”

But the same document outlines a big concern for Blair and the government: that thefts from legal owners represent a growing source of illegally-acquired domestic handguns and other firearms, citing a 70-per-cent increase in break-ins to steal a firearm between 2010 and 2017 (from 673 to 1,175 incidents, according to Statistics Canada). It says there is no information about whether the thefts were from individuals or businesses, or whether they were related to improper storage or transportation of firearms.

It acknowledged any ban of handguns or assault weapons “would primarily affect legal firearms owners, while the illicit market would be indirectly affected as there would be fewer available to potentially divert.”

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says if he formed government he would review laws and repeal any regulations or policies that unnecessarily target law-abiding gun owners. He says he would ensure Parliament, not the RCMP, has sole authority to reclassify guns, and he would provide more money for police to target gangs, to support programs for youth, and to conduct rigorous background checks on would-be gun owners.

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

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‘Rape mythology’ at issue as Supreme Court considers brutal Cindy Gladue case

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Warning: Graphic content follows.

In a Toronto courtroom exactly a year ago, a forensic pathologist on the witness stand at a first-degree murder trial showed a slide — projected on the screen and magnified — of the victim’s external genitalia. An excised scrap of flesh from the clitoris to the anus.

Rigat Ghirmay was reduced to her most intimate body parts. It was the most cruelly invasive, demeaning post-mortem evidence I’ve ever seen in decades of covering trials. And court had already been shown photographs of Ghirmay’s dismembered corpse: her buttocks, her bisected torso, her long leg bones.

I was apparently the only person present outraged by the display. It was utterly unnecessary, exposing Ghirmay’s private parts in open court. The pathologist could draw no conclusion as to whether the woman had been subjected to sexual trauma before or after death. There was no relevance to that specific piece of forensic evidence.

Ghirmay was a 24-year-old Black woman, a refugee from Eritrea.

Two years earlier, prosecutors in a murder trial in Edmonton made the unprecedented decision to bring the victim’s preserved vagina into court as an exhibit. Casting aside all existing courtroom ethics, the Crown insisted it was crucial for jurors to see the tissue with their own eyes because the trial hinged on whether an 11-centimetre wound, a slash through the vaginal wall — what caused the victim to bleed to death in a motel bathtub — had been made by a sharp weapon, as the prosecution argued, or by the accused shoving his fist into the woman’s vagina, as the defence maintained. Accidental.

In that case, long-distance trucker Bradley Barton claimed the wound had been inflicted during “consensual rough sex.” In a stunning verdict, Barton was acquitted of murder and manslaughter. That verdict was set aside by the Alberta Court of Appeal, which ordered a new trial. The case was further appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada and heard this past Thursday.

Read more:

Edmontonians closely watching landmark cases as a potential turning point for Indigenous peoples

Grisly court case heard at the Supreme Court could redefine sexual consent

An Aboriginal and a Black woman. I highly doubt that any prosecutor in Canada would ever dare take such exhibitionist liberties with the intimate remains of a white woman. To my knowledge, it’s never been done. Nor has a male murder victim’s penis or testicles been trotted into court, even in cases of dismemberment. But of course rape is almost entirely a gender-specific crime. A woman’s vagina is the crime scene.

The theme of an inherently racist justice system — particularly the original trial judge’s charge to a jury of nine men and two women, none of them Indigenous — was a common denominator in submissions to the Supreme Court justices by 16 intervenor groups. How Gladue was presented at trial, a victim who could not speak for herself, was a “horrific example of a system designed to dehumanize and punish Indigenous woman,” as asserted in a statement from Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.

I take no issue with that view. At trial, Gladue was referred to 26 times as a “native,” by both Crown and defence, rather than by her name. But, while the victim’s Indigenous status was certainly relevant to the life she led as an impoverished mother turning $60 tricks, I wouldn’t put the emphasis there. The trial perpetuated rape myths — “twin myths” — about a victim’s sexual background: that the woman was more likely to have consented to rough sex because of her sexual history and that she was less believable because of that sexual history. A sexual history that skewed to the defendant’s version of events because Gladue could not speak for herself.

During trial, Gladue was referred to as a prostitute 25 times.

The Alberta Court of Appeal took pointed note that the trial judge had erred in his jury instructions by allowing evidence of Gladue’s sexual history, which flung open to door to racist and sexist stereotypes.

“This case has revealed the inescapable need in sexual offenses to properly warn jurors to disregard unfair assumptions and to ensure that jury instructions adequately and accurately reflect the current law in Canada,” wrote Chief Justice Catherine Fraser in the unanimous decision. “The courts cannot permit this to go on. We must correct this. And we will.”

Yet it is allowed, time after time in Canadian courtrooms, despite the “rape shield” amendment passed by Parliament in 1992, which — except in the narrowest circumstances — bars a complainant’s sexual history from being aired at trial. On countless occasions I’ve watched judges issue not a peep of objection when defence lawyers drag a complainant’s reputation through the mud. The women are battered and browbeaten on the stand, made to account for ever alcoholic drink they might have imbibed, every gesture they may have made, every teensy gap in their memories. On such minutiae do verdicts turn. Well, that and the one-size-fits-all of “reasonable if mistaken consent.”

At the Gladue trial, her sexual history was put before the jury without the judge first conducting a hearing for its admissibility without the jury present. Jurors were left with Barton’s account of rough sex with Gladue on their first night together, to which she’d allegedly consented, and his belief that Gladue was agreeable to similar, albeit even rougher sex, the next night.

The Alberta appeals judges questioned a woman’s likelihood to consent to force and violence and whether consent can ever be assured or argued as a defence when the acts are dangerous and harmful. As, indeed, the court noted by referring to case law from Ontario where a person died during a consensual fist fight. In that case, it was determined consent could not be given where harm was intended and caused. But the case law has not been applied to sexual assault.

Activists for women and Indigenous people are hoping the Supreme Court will set a new precedent for consent laws in Canada, including whether an “objective likelihood of harm” cancels out sexual consent. That’s unexplored territory.

The country’s top court could order a new trial under updated definitions of consent. Or, the justices could base a decision for a new trial on five other alleged errors in law by the trial judge while directing Parliament to rewrite the consent legislation. Every provincial attorney-general is watching.

During Thursday’s arguments, Justice Andromache Karakatsanis suggested past sexual activity should not be a factor.

“The fact that someone is a prostitute, and may have engaged in sexual activity in a commercially based transaction on a previous occasion, how is that possibly relevant to the issues this jury had to decide?” she asked.

Justice Michael Moldaver observed that limits on sexual history, intended to avoid potential prejudice, had been “skipped over” at trial.

“It would be a mistake of law to say (Gladue) consented the night before, therefore I can assume she’s going to consent tonight. That is classic error of law. That is rape mythology.”

The Supremes reserved decision. A decision is not expected for several months.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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Top court hears grim details of Cindy Gladue’s last hours as it considers new murder trial

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Details of a murder trial that saw the sexual history of the victim, Cindy Gladue, presented to the jury — and her torn vaginal tissue entered as evidence — played out before the Supreme Court of Canada today as the justices heard arguments on whether her accused killer should face a new trial.

Bradley Barton, an Ontario trucker, was acquitted of murdering Gladue, a 36-year-old Indigenous sex trade worker who bled to death in the bathtub of Barton’s Edmonton motel room on June 21, 2011. The case sparked country-wide protests and emotional debate around Canada’s sexual assault laws and the lack of protection they afford Indigenous women.

Today, a series of lawyers intervening in the case presented their arguments to the Supreme Court of Canada. Gladue’s death, they said, is a symbol of the poverty, abuse and lack of dignity suffered by Indigenous women.

Julie McGregor, representing the Assembly of First Nations, called on the justices to send a message to lower courts across the land.

« This case demonstrates, with shocking and disturbing detail, that these women and girls don’t receive the same protections under the law, » she said. « Rather, their privacy and equality rights get blatantly violated by the same individuals charged with ensuring the laws of this country are upheld. »

Gladue bled out from an 11 cm wound to her vaginal wall. Her vaginal tissue was admitted as evidence at trial, sparking outrage about the indignity to her body.

Graphic details of the sexual act with Barton the night before the fatal encounter were also presented to the jury, without first holding a separate hearing to determine their admissibility in court.

Cindy Gladue, 36, was found dead in the bathtub of a motel room in Edmonton in 2011. (Facebook)

Section 276 of the Criminal Code, known as the « rape shield law, » prohibits the admission of evidence about a victim’s sexual activity that could infer the victim is more likely to have given consent, or is less worthy of being believed.

Supreme Court justices posed tough questions about why those intricate details of Gladue’s sexual past were both openly disclosed and deemed relevant in Barton’s trial.

Concerns around ‘consent’

Justice Andromache Karakatsanis suggested past activity should not be a factor.

« The fact that someone is a prostitute, and may have engaged in sexual activity in a commercially based transaction on a previous occasion, how is that possibly relevant to the issues this jury had to decide? » she asked.

Justice Michael Moldaver said facts of past sexual history are permitted as evidence in narrowly limited circumstances because of their potential for prejudice. In this case, he said, that prudence got « all skipped over. »

Moldaver also noted that consent on one occasion does not extend to another, and that in the second encounter, Barton admitted the act of inserting his hand into Gladue’s vagina was « more extreme and forceful. »

« It would be a mistake of law to say she consented the night before, therefore I can assume she’s going to consent tonight. That is classic error of law. That is rape mythology, » Moldaver said.

Peter Sankoff, one of two lawyers representing Barton, said the defence only elaborated on details of the sexual activity after the Crown told the court Gladue was a prostitute and that it was the second of two sexual encounters between the two that ended in her death.

He said the appeals process, which overturned Barton’s acquittal and ordered a new trial, was flawed because it accepted « alternative theories » from the Crown that hadn’t been raised at trial. Ordering Barton to be tried again amounts to « double jeopardy, » Sankoff said.

‘Erroneous narrative’

Sankoff said an « erroneous narrative » has developed around the case.

« In spite of the many important social issues raised by these parties in their submissions, I would suggest to you this appeal is actually what can go wrong when appellate courts go forget their role in the adversarial system and ignore due process standards in an effort to reach outcomes they regard as more desirable, » he said.

Lawyers for the Alberta government said the trial judge made several errors and omissions in his charge to the jury regarding absence of motive, the accused’s conduct after the act and what constitutes consent.

Jean Teillet, representing the Women of the Metis Nation, called the act of presenting Gladue’s body tissue in court « horrific. »

« The dismemberment of an Indigenous woman’s body and the use of it as evidence in a trial was an assault by the state on an Indigenous woman, » she said. « It has shocked the conscience of the country and I say it has brought this system of justice into disrepute. »

The Supreme Court will weigh the arguments — which included submissions from 15 intervenors — before issuing a judgment. Justice Sheilah Martin did not sit on the bench because she served on the three-member Alberta appeal court that overturned Barton’s acquittal.

Jean Teillet, representing the Women of the Metis Nation, called the act of presenting Gladue’s body tissue in court « horrific. » (Brian Morris/CBC)

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U.S. considers further measures to protect North Atlantic right whales

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A new U.S. government assessment of the plight of the North Atlantic right whale is questioning whether local fishing closures are enough to save the endangered species, pointing to the threat posed by vertical sea floor-to-surface fishing lines throughout their range.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) evaluation of « recovery challenges » was released ahead of a meeting next week to address proposals to protect the whales that would alter the lobster fishery in New England.

Those proposals include reducing the number of sea floor-to-surface lines by 50 per cent over five years and a month-long lobster fishing closure in the western Gulf of Maine.

Single sighting shuts down fishery

American and Canadian authorities have used local area closures as a preferred management tool to protect the whales.

This year, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans imposed severe restrictions on snow crab fishing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after 12 right whales died there in 2017. 

In the Bay of Fundy in June, the appearance of a single right whale in a protected area shut down the lobster fishery on Grand Manan, N.B., for 15 days. The industry claims it cost a million dollars in lost income.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates nearly 85 per cent of right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once, 59 per cent at least twice and 26 per cent of the regularly seen animals are entangled annually. (Center for Coastal Studies)

« They closed the lobster fishery in an area that hadn’t harmed a whale in several decades for absolutely no reason, » said Laurence Cook, president of Lobster Fishery Area 38.

« To close us down once because one was seen travelling through a box was economically damaging to the island and completely unnecessary to protect right whales. »

Still, after a catastrophic 2017, no right whales were found dead in Canadian waters in 2018.

A million lines in the water

NOAA said closures « while very effective, regionally, may not be enough » to stop the population decline.

It estimates there are a million vertical fishing lines in the path of the right whales, with 622,000 in U.S. waters from Georgia to the Gulf of Maine and the remainder in Canadian waters along the Scotian Shelf and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The agency said nearly 85 per cent of right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once, 59 per cent at least twice, and 26 per cent of the regularly seen animals are entangled annually.

« With a 26-per cent annual entanglement rate in a population of just over 400 animals, this translates to about 100 entanglements per year, which is significant for such a small population, » the report states.

1 in 10,000 chance of entanglement

The report acknowledges with more than 1 million lines out there, any single line has perhaps a 1 in 10,000 chance of entangling a whale in any one-year period, meaning an individual fisherman — and his or her descendants — could go several generations without ever entangling a right whale.

Scientists are working to map and model where the North Atlantic right whales main food source has been found in high concentrations in the past in order to get an idea of where they may be found in the future. (Pat Foster/Adrian Colaprete)

« Given this, it’s easy to believe that all these entanglements are happening somewhere else, regardless of where one fishes. »

« But by mapping known locations of gear that led to the entanglement of a right whale, one can see that there is no place within the fished area along the East Coast of North America for which entanglement risk is zero. »

Canadian role singled out

The NOAA report echoes a criticism from Canada’s Environment Commissioner this week that Canada waited until 12 of the whales died in the Gulf of St Lawrence to before taking « strong » measures.

« Notably until spring of 2018, very few protections for right whales were in place in Canadian waters, » NOAA stated.

« In comparison to recent decades, more right whales now spend significantly more time in more northern waters and swim through extensive pot fishery zones around Nova Scotia and into the Canadian Gulf of St. Lawrence. »

The New England Aquarium, which operates whale-watching tours, is one of seven organizations and governments to submit proposals to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team.

The aquarium claims only one-third of right whale deaths are detected each year, meaning an average of between 12 and 16 right whales are dying each year.

« We assume that 50 per cent of all right whales deaths are occurring in Canada, » the New England Aquarium states in its proposal.

Better identification of entanglement sources

While American advocates urge larger closures and line reductions, the state of Maine said more data is needed and proposes that its fishermen use specially marked gear to rule them out as the source of entanglements.

« The best available data on whale sightings, whale behaviour in specific areas, and entanglement data indicate a low probability of right whales interacting with Maine fishing gear, » said Erin Summers, of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, in a proposal to the Take Reduction Team.

Read more stories at CBC Nova Scotia

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