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The Wednesday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories


Published on May 17, 2017

La Loche teacher and shooting survivor Phyllis Longobardi (left) arrives at the sentencing trial for a teen who killed four people, in Meadow Lake, Sask., on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, along with a victim services counselor (right). Brothers Drayden, 13 and Dayne Fontaine, 17, teacher Adam Wood, 35, and teacher's aide Marie Janvier, 21 were killed during the shootings in La Loche on January 22, 2016 and seven others were injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, May 17

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EMOTIONAL STATEMENTS FROM SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIMS: An assistant principal shot at a school in northern Saskatchewan says the teenage gunman must be sentenced as an adult because he alone chose to pull the trigger. The teen committed adult crimes and should do adult time, Phyllis Longobardi said Wednesday in an emotional victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing in Meadow Lake, Sask. Longobardi was one of 11 people shot when gunfire broke out at a home and then the high school in La Loche in January 2016. Two brothers, Dayne and Drayden Fontaine, were killed at the home. Court has heard Dayne was shot 11 times, despite pleading with the shooter, saying, "I don't want to die." Teacher Adam Wood and teacher's aide Marie Janvier were killed and seven others were hurt at the school. The teen has pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. He was just shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the shooting and cannot be named. The hearing is to determine if he is sentenced as a youth or an adult.

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TRUMP SAYS NO POLITICIAN 'TREATED WORSE' AS DEMOCRATS CALL FOR PROBE: Surrounded by multiplying questions, President Donald Trump complained Wednesday that "no politician in history" has been treated worse. Democrats demanded an independent commission to dig into his firing of FBI Director James Comey, but Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan cautioned against "rushing to judgment." Ryan said Congress needs to get the facts, but "it is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president." Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on a key House oversight panel, countered that Ryan and the Republicans had shown "zero, zero, zero appetite for any investigation of President Trump." The White House has denied reports that Trump pressed Comey to drop an investigation into Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. In addition, Trump is facing pointed questions about his discussions with Russian diplomats during which he is reported to have disclosed classified information.

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MANAGING EDITOR OF CBC'S 'THE NATIONAL' REASSIGNED: The managing editor of CBC's "The National" is being reassigned after wading into a controversial debate over cultural appropriation. Steve Ladurantaye was among the journalists that engaged in a late-night Twitter conversation last week that was sparked by a contentious magazine article advocating for more cultural appropriation in Canadian literature. The opinion piece in the Writers' Union of Canada's magazine, written by novelist and then-editor Hal Niedzviecki, suggested "anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities.'' It also suggested there should be an appropriation prize in literature. Former National Post editor Ken Whyte tweeted he would "donate $500 to the founding of the appropriation prize if someone else wants to organize." Ladurantaye replied that he would contribute $100. He later deleted the tweet and apologized, saying "what I did was hurtful, and my apology is without condition."

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CHARGES LAID IN DEATH OF TINA FONTAINE'S COUSIN: Police have charged three men in the killing of a cousin of Tina Fontaine, a teenager whose death fuelled calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. Police in Winnipeg say Jeanenne Chantel Fontaine, 29, was shot in March before the home she was in was set on fire. She was later taken off life-support. Const. Jay Murray said police believe the suspects went to the home looking for a man over a methamphetamine deal. Fontaine was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Malcolm Miles Mitchell is charged with second-degree murder and arson. Jason Michael Meilleur is charged with manslaughter and Christopher Mathew Brass faces counts of manslaughter and arson. The body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was discovered wrapped in a bag in the Red River in August 2014, eight days after she was reported missing. Raymond Cormier, 54, has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.

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SAJJAN TO MARK PEACEKEEPERS DAY AT THE UN: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will travel to the United Nations next week to mark International Peacekeepers Day, where he could face some awkward questions. Sajjan is presiding over a luncheon to launch Canada's hosting of a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver in November, part of the UN's peacekeeping commemorations. But diplomatic sources expect the Liberal government's indecision on where to send hundreds of Canadian peacekeepers will be front and centre during the minister's visit. The UN has been waiting months for Canada to decide on a mission, after the Liberals promised last August to provide up to 600 peacekeepers to a future UN mission. Sajjan is unlikely to offer much in the way of clarity during his visit; a senior government official says the federal cabinet still hasn't decided where to send the troops. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that the government would not be rushed into a decision on where to send peacekeepers.

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NO ONE IN COMMAND DURING RAMPAGE, RCMP TRIAL TOLD: No one took command during a 2014 shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B., so officers were forced to make their own decisions amid the chaos, a retired assistant RCMP commissioner told the Mounties' Labour Code trial Wednesday. Alphonse MacNeil, who conducted an independent review of the shootings for the force, said few front-line supervisors were trained to take control of such situations at the time. MacNeil said there was a lack of communication, noting that no one went on the radio to report the shooting of Const. Fabrice Gevaudan — one of three Mounties who died on June 4, 2014. He said the lack of co-ordination continued after the 20-minute window of the shootings, with members from other detachments arriving in the early hours of June 5 unaware of where they should go. The RCMP is accused of violating the Labour Code for allegedly failing to provide members and supervisors with the appropriate information, instruction, equipment and training in an active-shooter event.

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TRANS PEOPLE URGE TRAVEL REGULATION CHANGE: A 43-year-old transgender person in St. John's, N.L., wants to change a long-standing regulation that prohibits airlines from transporting anyone who "does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification presented." It's a cause the federal NDP has been pushing for five years, and one for which Justin Trudeau expressed support before becoming prime minister. "It all comes back to the notion of equality," Jennifer McCreath McCreath said in an interview, citing the deep historical connections between the Liberal party and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  "Ultimately, access to air travel or any type of transportation is ... a fundamental service that's out there. It just sends the wrong message." The question came one day after Transport Minister Marc Garneau introduced a new passenger bill of rights, a response of sorts to last month's sensational viral video showing airline security forcibly dragging a passenger off a United Airlines jet. The Liberal government is looking at the transgender issue, Garneau responded. "We will have more to say in due course."

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B.C. GREEN LEADER PLEDGES TO FIGHT PIPELINE: British Columbia's Green party leader says they plan to use their increased political clout in the provincial legislature to fight Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. Green Leader Andrew Weaver says they believe it's their responsibility to stop the federally approved project that would triple the shipment capacity of Alberta oil products to British Columbia's coast. Weaver says the Greens will seek intervener status to support mounting legal challenges by First Nations and municipalities opposed to the project. When Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced on Tuesday that her province had been given intervener status in the legal action, she said she believes no one province or region can hold hostage the economy of another. Weaver says B.C. Premier Christy Clark's support for the project was reckless. Three Green members were elected to B.C.'s legislature last week and they are now in the position of wielding considerable political power in what could be a minority government after the final ballots are counted.

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WORKERS AT TORONTO POT DISPENSARY UNIONIZE: Workers at a medical marijuana dispensary in Toronto's east end have joined Unifor, the country's largest private-sector union. Forty workers — including reception, production, supervisors and packaging and retail staff — at the Broadview Avenue location of Canna Clinic are now members of Unifor. Unifor says it's believed to be the first time that marijuana dispensary workers in Canada have unionized. Marijuana dispensaries are currently illegal in Canada. The only legal way for Canadian patients to purchase the drug is directly from Health-Canada licensed producers, who ship it via mail. Unifor president Jerry Dias said all workers have a right to unionize, regardless of an industry's status. Canna Clinic has four other locations in Toronto as well as clinics in Vancouver. Unifor says the union will begin to negotiate a first contract at the dispensary.

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MONTREAL TURNS 375 AMID FESTIVITIES GALORE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to Montreal's founders and highlighted the city's cultural diversity on Wednesday as he joined the festivities in honour of the city's 375th birthday. "Its francophone roots, its indigenous origins, the contributions of different communities and people who come from all over the world to live here make it a city that is unique in its kind," Trudeau said at a ceremony honouring Jeanne Mance and Paul de Chomedey, the city's founders. Earlier, Trudeau and Premier Philippe Couillard attended a mass at the historic Notre-Dame Basilica, along with Mayor Denis Coderre and several hundred other guests. Church bells rang out across Montreal prior to the mass, which was intended to celebrate the city's religious diversity. Even Pope Francis, who declined an earlier invitation to attend events marking Montreal's 375th birthday, sent his greetings to mark the occasion. In the message, the pontiff went on to encourage the city's inhabitants "to build bridges between men, respecting their differences and thus contributing to the building of a more just and fraternal society."

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The Canadian Press