Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in legal government talks about fate of SNC-Lavalin, sources say

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Canada’s former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in government discussions last fall about whether engineering firm SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to avoid criminal prosecution, and the talks were perfectly legal, government officials have told The Canadian Press.

The officials said the government would have been remiss not to deliberate over the fate of the Quebec giant, given that a prosecution could bankrupt the company, putting thousands of Canadians out of work.

They spoke on condition their names not be used. CBC News has not independently verified the claims. 

Wilson-Raybould, currently minister of Veterans Affairs, said Friday she would not comment on claims that the Prime Minister’s Office tried to pressure her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in pending legal action against the construction company.

« As the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, I am bound by solicitor-client privilege in this matter, » she said.

The lobbyist registry shows representatives of SNC-Lavalin logged more than 50 meetings with federal officials and parliamentarians on subjects that included « justice » and « law enforcement. »

The Conservatives and NDP are demanding investigations by a Commons committee and the federal ethics commissioner into allegations Wilson-Raybould was pressured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.

Wilson-Raybould moved from being attorney general to minister of Veterans Affairs on Jan. 14. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer also suggested Friday morning that his party is looking at pursuing unspecified « legal avenues » if the governing Liberals « continue to cover this up. »

The government denies the allegations that surfaced Thursday in a Globe and Mail report, but Wilson-Raybould’s continued refusal to comment on the matter has added fuel to the political fire.

SNC has previously been charged with bribery and corruption over its efforts to secure government business in Libya.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in government talks about fate of SNC-Lavalin

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Government officials have told The Canadian Press that former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in government discussions last fall about whether engineering firm SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to avoid criminal prosecution.

They say the discussions were perfectly legal and that the government would have been remiss not to deliberate over the fate of the Quebec giant, given that a prosecution could bankrupt the company, putting thousands of Canadians out of work.

The officials spoke on condition their names not be used.

Wilson-Raybould said Friday she would not comment on claims that the Prime Minister’s Office tried to pressure her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in pending legal action against the construction company.

« As the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, I am bound by solicitor-client privilege in this matter, » she said.

The lobbyist registry shows representatives of SNC-Lavalin logged more than 50 meetings with federal officials and parliamentarians on subjects that included « justice » and « law enforcement. »

New Veterans Affairs Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Conservatives and NDP are demanding investigations by a Commons committee and the federal ethics commissioner into allegations Wilson-Raybould was pressured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.

Tory leader Andrew Scheer also suggested Friday morning that his party is looking at pursuing unspecified « legal avenues » if the governing Liberals « continue to cover this up. »

The government denies the allegations that surfaced Thursday in a Globe and Mail report, but Wilson-Raybould’s continued refusal to comment on the matter has added fuel to the political fire.

SNC has previously been charged with bribery and corruption over its efforts to secure government business in Libya.

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Surrey Six Mountie’s misconduct involved boozy affair with a potential witness

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A primary RCMP officer assigned to the deadliest gangland shooting in B.C. history had a months-long, alcohol-fuelled sexual affair with a key potential witness in the case, spanning several provinces in hotel rooms paid for by the force.

Then-Sgt. Derek Brassington described it himself when he apologized during a sentencing hearing that revealed details of the relationship earlier this month.

« I treated her like a girlfriend, » the ex-officer said through sobs in B.C. Supreme Court.

Brassington admitted spending several dozen nights with her in hotel rooms paid for by the RCMP, getting drunk and having sex during the affair in 2009. Then 39, the ex-sergeant took the witness to bars and strip clubs during nights together.

He lied to hide their relationship from most colleagues, but told the court others were well aware after a while — and at least once, actively participated in the debauchery.

Brassington is one of three officers sentenced for their misconduct in the investigation this month. Two others admitted they knew about his affair and failed to report it during their own hearings on Wednesday.

The officers — Brassington, former Staff Sgt. David Attew and suspended Cpl. Danny Michaud — were charged with misconduct in 2011. They all pleaded guilty in separate hearings this month.

A body is loaded into a van following a multiple homicide in Surrey, B.C., on Oct. 21, 2007. Five people have been convicted in connection with the Surrey Six murders. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The details of the behaviour were a mystery for the better part of a decade, but details were revealed during their hearings. Those proceedings were initially protected by a publication ban, but portions of that ban were rescinded Wednesday afternoon after a challenge from CBC News and Global News.

The Surrey Six investigation continued and resulted in five murder convictions despite the officers’ conduct, but court heard the individual officers’ credibility as investigators was tarnished, and hours of police work needed to be redone.

During the hearings, the men also touched on what they were thinking at the time. Two said they weren’t thinking clearly at all, crippled by the punishing stress and trauma of their jobs as principal investigators on high-profile cases to a point beyond reason.

In short, as Brassington would tell the court through tears: « I sold my soul for this. »

Colossal investigation of 6 killings

Brassington, Attew and Michaud worked with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) — a speciality homicide unit made up of officers from the RCMP and municipal police.

They were working on the Surrey Six file, a colossal investigation launched after six men were shot to death at a Surrey highrise on Oct. 19, 2007.

Attew and Brassington were principal investigators assigned to witness management, with Attew as Brassington’s superior. Michaud worked in exhibits. 

Brassington pleaded guilty to breach of trust and compromising the integrity and safety of a witness involved in the mass-murder investigation on Jan. 18.

He did so, in short, by dating her for about six months.

Brassington speaks to journalists on Dec. 11, 2013. (CBC)

« I treated her like a girlfriend, » Brassington told the court through sobs after his sentencing. « I didn’t mean to fall in love with her. »

Brassington met the witness on June 6, 2009. She agreed to co-operate as a witness the next month.

Brassington, a brawny man described by colleagues as an « all-star » investigator, wrote a report explaining how crucial the witness would be to the investigation and was assigned to manage her in the witness protection program.

In order to keep the witnesses on board and keep them out of gang life, the Crown explained, it was necessary for RCMP officers to stay in touch as the civilians established themselves in their new, secret homes — which sometimes meant flying to visit them in pairs.

At first, Brassington would sneak the witness back to his hotel room after his partner went to bed during those trips. They’d spend the night together before he snuck back to his own room by morning, undetected.

Then they got bold, and the public outings to bars and strip clubs began. 

Brassington also admitted to sexual activity with a third witness on one occasion.

Officer’s relationship with suspect’s girlfriend

Brassington and Attew were also assigned to manage another witness, identified in court documents as Person X.

Person X had confessed to his girlfriend that he was involved in the Surrey Six shootings. She encouraged him to turn himself in to police, and they both were recruited to the witness protection program.

It was Attew’s job to ensure their continued co-operation, mainly by securing the girlfriend’s trust. 

RCMP officers search property on Oct. 24, 2007 surrounding the apartment building where six people were killed. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

In April 2009, Brassington and Attew visited Person X’s girlfriend at her new home. They got drunk at a bar and stayed until closing.

Later, Attew went to the girlfriend’s hotel room alone. They ended up kissing, with Attew touching her over her clothes, but she rejected him when he tried to go further.

Court heard Person X nearly turned on police after he found out what Attew had done, risking his role as another key witness. He would ultimately continue to co-operate with the investigation.

Once, Brassington and Attew took Brassington’s clandestine girlfriend to the bar where Person X’s girlfriend worked. They spent $800 on alcohol that night, with Brassington’s witness sitting on his lap in front of his superior officer.

Attew, whose marriage ended largely over the scandal, pleaded guilty to failing to maintain law and order in B.C., contrary to the RCMP Act, on Tuesday. He was sentenced to six months house arrest with conditions.

RCMP under enormous scrutiny

Another revelation from the sentencing hearings was that both Brassington and Attew were working on the Dziekanski investigation as well as the massive Surrey Six case.

Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant to Canada, died after he was Tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007 — five days before the Surrey murders.

The Dziekanski investigation brought the force under enormous scrutiny, and Brassington told the court he saw the murder case as a chance at redemption.

« Instead of restoring public trust and faith in the RCMP, I killed it, » he told the court through sobs during an apology.

« I am sorry to everybody in this country that looks to the police to do what’s right. »

​Brassington’s affair only ended for good when someone told RCMP what was happening in the winter of 2009. He and his wife would later divorce, and he left the family home he shared with their children. 

« As a dad I shouldn’t have done this. As a father I shouldn’t have done this. As a cop I shouldn’t have done this, » Brassington told the court.

The force asked the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate in February 2010. Michaud, the third officer ultimately charged, pleaded guilty to lying when he was asked if he knew about the affair.

He was sentenced to three months house arrest on the same offence as Attew on Tuesday. 

Brassington was sentenced to two years less a day house arrest under conditions. 

Five people have been convicted in connection with the Surrey Six murders.

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3 people involved in naked kidnapping have rare, psychotic disorder: court

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Court has heard that three people involved in a bizarre naked kidnapping case south of Edmonton last year suffered from a rare, shared psychotic disorder.

A courtroom in Leduc was packed with supporters as a judge heard a joint recommendation from lawyers for a conditional sentence.

Court has heard the group was not affected by alcohol or drugs but believed it was the end of the world and wanted to save their neighbours when they forced them from their home last November.

Two women and one man, who cannot be identified under a publication ban, earlier pleaded guilty to unlawful confinement.

One of the women, the only one dressed at the time of the kidnapping, also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.

Her teenage daughters were also arrested but not charged.

Strange things happened

An agreed statement of facts says the group, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, had gathered at a home near Leduc on Nov. 2, 1017.

The mother, who was then 35, had taken her daughters there to visit her 27-year old nephew and his 30-year old wife.

Strange things happened over the next three days.

The group didn’t leave the house and barely ate any food. One of the teens heard screaming and banging and saw ashes in the air.

Some of the people hid in a bedroom or bathroom because they believed they were in danger from wicked people or demons.

They also believed that the Great Tribulation had happened and Nov. 6 would be Armageddon. So they rushed off to find safety and save a neighbouring family.

But four who were naked didn’t have time to put clothes on.

« They had to leave right away because it was unsafe, » said the court document.

They were in such a hurry that after piling into a BMW SUV, they drove through the garage door. 

Chant « Jehovah » 10 times

They then forced the neighbours — a man, his adult daughter and her six-week-old son — out of their house and into the snow without shoes.

The woman and her baby were put in the back seat of the SUV and the man was put in the trunk.

He was ordered to chant « Jehovah » 10 times and the group also chanted « Jehovah » as the vehicle sped down roads and through a red light on the way to nearby Nisku.

The man in the trunk was able to jump out when the vehicle slowed, because the trunk’s latch hadn’t shut properly.

His daughter was also able to get out with her child, although her hand was slammed in the door as she made the attempt.

 A passing truck stopped to help the family and they climbed inside. But the SUV then rammed the truck from behind.

The woman and her baby were thrown into the truck’s dash but not injured. The SUV then went into a ditch.

When RCMP arrived, the group were chanting and refusing to get out of the vehicle. They clung to each other and the SUV.

One of the teens believed the police « were monsters who would kill them, » said the document.

Officers said the group displayed extreme strength. Two were pepper sprayed but seemed unaffected. The three adults were also shot with Tasers several times.

One also slid under the SUV and had to be dragged out with a strap. 

The neighbours later told Mounties the group seems « demonized » and « obviously not in their right minds. »

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Edmonton cheerleaders involved in Las Vegas bus crash

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Five women and girls from Edmonton – three of which are athletes on a local cheerleading team — were taken to hospital in Las Vegas after being involved in a four-vehicle collision Friday morning.

A group of 21 girls, ages 12 to 16, plus three chaperones were on the airport connector highway en route to The Mirage hotel, where they were staying and competing at.

The girls are part of Alberta Cheer Empire (ACE), A competitive cheerleading company that has over 30 teams. Their team, called “Invictus” is in Las Vegas to compete in the American Grand National Championships.

Kim Fiissel, owner of Alberta Cheer Empire, said they had just left the airport on the short drive over to their hotel on the south stretch of the Las Vegas Strip, when the crash happened.

“We were probably only five minutes into our bus trip and it all happened very fast,” Kim Fiissel said, adding they we were thrown pretty hard when their bus was hit.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Jeff Clark said the collision happened when officers tried to stop a Chevrolet rental car, but it took off and police didn’t chase it. The car then crashed into a city bus, a pickup truck and the cheer team’s shuttle. The collision happened shortly after 11 a.m.

READ MORE: University of Alberta hockey players rattled after QEII bus crash: ‘It was really, really scary’

Fiissel said it was very scary, with the Humboldt bus crash coming to mind. She said in 26 years of touring cheerleaders, this is her worst nightmare.

“The worst thoughts go through your head, and so as soon as I was able to get myself up, that was my concern – how are the kids doing? And they’re pretty shaken up.”

Three of the girls, plus one chaperone and Fiissel were all taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries – mainly bumps and bruises.

Fiissel said she has a concussion, scratched eye, chipped tooth, sore jaw, and some stitches on her leg, and bruising and swelling on her shin.

Travis Smaka, public information officer for Nevada Highway Patrol southern command, said no one in the other vehicles were taken to hospital.

“Anytime you have multiple commercial vehicles – shuttle buses, city buses – involved in one crash, it is a big deal,” Smaka said, adding the road was closed for several hours in the early afternoon while police investigated.

READ MORE: Football team bus crash in Arkansas leaves 1 child dead, 45 people injured

The American Grand National Championships begin on Saturday. The team isn’t yet sure if it will still compete, and will meet later Friday night after everyone is out of the hospital to made a decision.

The team’s goal in Las Vegas was to quality for The Summit, an international cheer competition next May at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

A second ACE team is also in Las Vegas, but they were in a different vehicle that wasn’t involved in the collision.

Las Vegas police told Global News they have a suspect in custody, but as of Friday evening no charges had been laid.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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OSPCA to no longer euthanize dogs involved in attacks, enforce pit bull ban

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Ontario’s animal welfare agency has told its frontline officers it will no longer euthanize dogs involved in attacks as required by law.

In an internal memo obtained by The Canadian Press, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says inspectors and agents should hand off to police all cases in which courts have ordered the destruction of animals, including pit bulls, which are banned in the province.

The document, dated Oct. 9, 2018, says euthanizing dogs would violate the agency’s mission, which is to provide “province-wide leadership on matters relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals and the promotion of animal welfare.”


READ MORE:
Concerns raised over OSPCA proposal to pull out of livestock cruelty investigations

“Where legislation conflicts with the mission of the charity, the Ontario SPCA declines to enforce such legislation,” the order reads.

The only exception will be cases when the euthanization is ordered by a veterinarian and is “the most humane course of action for the animal,” says the order, which was handed over to enforcement officers at two meetings held in late October at the agency’s headquarters in Stouffville, Ont., north of Toronto.

In cases involving pit bulls that do not have behavioural issues, the animals will be moved out of province where it’s legal to own them, rather than destroyed.

A spokeswoman for the OSPCA confirmed the policy change, saying the agency’s role was to protect animals’ well-being.

“If it conflicts with our mission, we’ll hand it to another agency to address,” Alison Cross said in an interview.

The OSPCA has also ordered its officers to defy a Criminal Code law that states birds found in a cockfighting ring shall be destroyed on order from a judge. That, too, will be passed off to police, the agency said.

READ MORE: OSPCA wants out of cruelty probes on horses, livestock due to funding shortage

Those changes were news to the provincial government, which pays the charity $5.75 million each year for enforcing cruelty laws.

“The laws of Ontario and Canada provide that in certain circumstances a court may order that an animal be euthanized,” said Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which is responsible for the OSPCA.

Ross said the ministry expects the OSPCA to comply with a court order that requires an animal be euthanized, adding that the agency had the right to defer to police in potentially criminal matters.

The orders to defy the provincial laws have made some of the OSPCA frontline inspectors uneasy, given that they are peace officers sworn to uphold the law.

“We have to choose between doing our jobs or following management orders,” said a frontline officer who attended the October meetings.

The officer, who did not want his name used for fear of retribution, said the agency leaders have also ordered all cases of “blood sports” be handed over to police.

“We are not to deal with it, we would only go in a supporting role. That’s what we were told.”

READ MORE: Ontario SPCA lays 14 animal cruelty charges against mink farm

The latest changes, including a decision to pull back from investigating cruelty cases involving livestock and horses, are part of what the OSPCA calls a restructuring effort to deal with years-long funding shortage. The policy changes, however, have received rebuke from both the province and animal activists.

Insiders say part of the reason for the latest move is the bad publicity the agency received for its handling of a notorious dogfighting case in southwestern Ontario.

The OSPCA, along with Chatham-Kent police, raided a compound in Tilbury, Ont., in the fall of 2015. During that raid, officials seized 31 pit bulls, dogfighting paraphernalia including “rape stands” that are used in breeding, fighting records, guns, knives, ammunition and about a kilogram of marijuana, according to court documents. Inspectors also found anabolic steroids on site and dogfighting contracts.

The case triggered an international outcry, including harsh words from hockey personality and animal rights activist Don Cherry, after the OSPCA applied to the courts, as is it required by law, to euthanize 21 of the seized pit bulls that were deemed a menace to society and could not be rehabilitated.

The case fell apart because it took too long to get to trial, with the judge staying charges against the accused. After a second behavioural evaluation, 18 of the 21 pit bulls were sent to Florida for rehabilitation.

Insiders said the case hurt donations to the charity.

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U.S. officials think they’ve traced the source of the lettuce involved in latest E. coli outbreak

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration believes it has traced the source of the latest E. coli outbreak. The agency said Monday the romaine linked to the outbreak appears to be from the California’s Central Coast region. It said romaine from elsewhere should soon be labelled with harvest dates and regions so people know it’s safe to eat.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it is continuing its own investigation in conjunction with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Health Canada (HC) into the current outbreak of E. coli O157. But it has advised the Canadian food industry, including importers, not to import romaine lettuce from the suspect areas identified by the FDA until further notice.

The CFIA is also implementing additional control measures to ensure products from California’s Central Coast region are not being admitted to Canada, including greater scrutiny of product destined for this country.

Twenty-two people in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have been sickened by E. coli since October. Forty-three people in 12 U.S. states have also been sickened.

Labelling changes 

In the U.S., the FDA is advising people not to eat romaine that doesn’t have clear labelling information stating where the produce is from. For romaine that doesn’t come in packaging, grocers and retailers are being asked to post the information by the register.

Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from California’s Central Coast to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California’s Imperial Valley. Those winter regions weren’t yet shipping when the illnesses began. The FDA also noted hydroponically grown romaine and romaine grown in greenhouses aren’t implicated in the outbreak.

The labelling arrangement was worked out as the produce industry called on the FDA to quickly narrow the scope of its warning so it wouldn’t have to waste freshly harvested romaine. An industry group said people can expect to start seeing labels as early as this week. It noted the labels are voluntary, and that it will monitor whether to expand the measure to other leafy greens and produce.

At least 22 people in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have been sickened in the outbreak. (Matthew Mead/Associated Press)

The FDA said the industry committed to making the labelling standard for romaine and to consider longer-term labelling options for other leafy greens.

Robert Whitaker, chief science officer of the Produce Marketing Association, said labelling for romaine could help limit the scope of future alerts and rebuild public trust after other outbreaks.

« Romaine as a category has had a year that’s been unfortunate, » Whitaker said.

The FDA still hasn’t identified a source of contamination in the latest outbreak. 

Canadian officials are advising the food industry and importers not to import romaine from the California region identified by the FDA. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Even though romaine from the Yuma, Ariz., region is not implicated in the current outbreak, it was blamed for an E. coli outbreak this spring that sickened more than 200 people and killed five. Contaminated irrigation water near a cattle lot was later identified as the likely source.

Leafy greens were also blamed for an E. coli outbreak last year. U.S. investigators never specified which salad green might be to blame for those illnesses, which happened around the same time of year as the current outbreak. But Canadian officials identified romaine as a common source of illnesses in Canada. 

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University of Alberta women’s hockey team involved in minor collision – Edmonton

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Two student-athletes from the University of Alberta were taken to hospital Saturday morning after a minor motor vehicle collision involving the team bus.

Connor Hood, communications co-ordinator for U of A Athletics, said the crash happened around 1:30 a.m. Saturday just south of Leduc, Alta., on the QE2. The U of A Pandas hockey team was heading home after a game in Calgary on Friday night.

A release from the university states the two students were taken to hospital with minor injuries and have since been released. RCMP confirmed that no serious injuries were reported.

Hood said that taking the students to the hospital was a precautionary measure.

Hood provided no details on what happened but said the team bus didn’t sustain any serious damage, mostly just broken glass.

As a result, Saturday night’s game against the University of Calgary Dinos, originally scheduled for 7 p.m. at Clare Drake Arena, has been postponed.

No details for a makeup game have been finalized.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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