Canada’s Quebec battles floods; police search for toddler, man swept away

Quebec was in the grip of historic flooding, forcing more than 1,500 people in 146 communities to flee their homes, officials said. Canada’s federal government has deployed 1,650 troops and 250,000 sandbags to the inundated province, the officials said.

Montreal, Quebec’s largest city, and several other municipalities have declared a state of emergency.

“It’s a serious situation, but people should know that every level of government is pulling together seamlessly to do everything necessary to keep Canadians safe,” Ralph Goodale, public safety minister, told reporters in Ottawa.

The man and 2-year-old girl were swept away after their car swerved into the Sainte-Anne River, a tributary of the Saint Lawrence River in the province’s eastern Gaspé region, on Sunday evening, a Quebec police spokesman said.

The man, the girl and the child’s mother had climbed onto the roof of the vehicle but choppy waters flipped the car over, sending all three into the water, Sgt. Claude Doiron said.

The woman hung onto a branch, escaped, then was taken to the hospital. She was released from the hospital Sunday evening but her husband and toddler were swept away and remained missing as of Monday afternoon, police said.

About 30 police officers and firefighters patrolled the river banks as the severe weather made it impossible to use helicopters. Divers headed to the scene Monday afternoon but conditions were expected to be too harsh for them to enter the water, Doiron said.

The floodwaters were expected to peak in Montreal later on Monday, Quebec Public Safety Minister Martin Coiteux told reporters. The Red Cross asked for donations to provide emergency aid to more than 1,500 displaced by the floods.

“We couldn’t save anything,” Mina Tayarani, 53, whose family moved from Iran in 2004, told Reuters while standing outside her Montreal home. “Now we have to start from zero a second time,”

Approximately 60 mm (2.4 inches) of rain fell in eastern Ontario and western Quebec late last week.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Dan Grebler, Bernadette Baum and Jeffrey Benkoe)


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Canada’s Morneau, U.S.’ Mnuchin to talk trade at G7 meet in Italy -source

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau will discuss trade and infrastructure financing during a bilateral meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the G7 meeting in Bari, Italy, this week, a senior Canadian finance official said on Monday.

Trade in dairy and softwood lumber has emerged as a major irritant between Canada and the United States in recent weeks, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure to protect Canadian jobs as U.S. President Donald Trump forces the renegotiation of NAFTA, the trilateral free trade agreement with Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Trade is not part of the formal agenda of the meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven rich nations in Italy this week but it will be discussed as part of the broader economic growth discussion and Morneau will raise the issue in bilateral meetings with Mnuchin, the source said.

Washington last month imposed tariffs on timber imports, alleging they are unfairly subsidized, prompting Trudeau to say he was considering a ban on exports of U.S. coal through Pacific ports.

In a briefing with reporters, the senior finance official said Morneau will speak as a proponent of free trade as a driver of innovation and economic growth.

Trade emerged as a sticking point at the meeting of the larger Group of 20 financial leaders in Baden Baden, Germany, in March, when ministers dropped their traditional pledge to keep global free trade open, acquiescing to an increasingly protectionist United States.

A formal joint statement will be issued at the end of the meeting, the official said. The statement will make reference to exchange rates and there already has been an agreement to maintain the language used by the G20 in Baden Baden, he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by G Crosse and Bill Trott)


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Canada political pressures force PM’s hand on U.S. trade disputes

By David Ljunggren
| OTTAWA

May 8 Canada escalated a trade dispute
with United States by making threats Washington called
inappropriate in part because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is
under pressure to secure support in a key region ahead of the
country’s 2019 elections.

Washington last month slapped tariffs on timber imports,
alleging they are unfairly subsidized, prompting Trudeau to say
he was considering a ban on exports of U.S. coal through Pacific
ports.

As well as lumber, the administration of U.S. President
Donald Trump has targeted Canadian dairy farmers, while Boeing
Corp launched a trade challenge against Montreal-based
planemaker Bombardier Inc.

All three are vital to the economy of Quebec, Canada’s
second most-populous province. And Quebec is seen as vital to
Trudeau’s hopes of maintaining a strong grip on power in a
national election set for October 2019.

As contentious talks on renegotiating NAFTA draw ever
closer, Trudeau has little choice but to defend dairy farmers
and offer help to the lumber industry, even though that is
likely to prompt fresh U.S. challenges.

“Quebec is the key,” said one senior Liberal organizer.

The predominantly French-speaking province holds 78 of the
338 seats in the House of Commons and Liberals acknowledge they
need to win extra seats there to offset expected losses
elsewhere in 2019.

The challenge is that the Liberals won 40 seats in Quebec in
2015, which was far more than expected.

The Liberals say they can capture another 10 to 15 seats,
but only if everything goes their way. This in effect means
showing support for the dairy industry – and its industry’s
influential lobby – amid a fresh attack from Washington.

The United States has long complained about Canada’s system
of domestic protections for its dairy industry, which bars most
imports and keeps prices high. Trump last month branded the
industry “a disgrace.”

The system is unpopular in large parts of Canada, where
people complain about paying high prices for milk and cheese.

NO CHOICE?

Trudeau, however, has little choice but to defend it.

Christian Bourque, a pollster for Leger Marketing, noted
there are dairy farms in every part of Quebec.

“If you’re seen as attacking farming and the land, it’s
probably easy for the farmers’ union to get Quebeckers onside.
You don’t necessarily want to forget farmers,” he said in an
interview.

While observers say there is little risk of Trudeau being
defeated outright in 2019, the danger for the Liberals is losing
enough seats to lose their majority, forcing them to rely on
opposition parties to govern and pass budgets. This would
inevitably mean political compromises and a diluted policy
agenda.

The Liberals have so far tried to maintain calm as tensions
on trade ratchet up, relying on a series of visits from cabinet
ministers and senior officials to key states and constituencies
to press the message that trade benefits both sides.

BARK VS BITE

The outreach efforts will continue, according to a source
familiar with official strategy, adding that Ottawa will show
its teeth where necessary.

“Do people honestly expect the Canadian government just to
say ‘We accept these lumber duties, we will move on and pay the
price?'” asked the source, who requested anonymity given the
sensitivity of the situation.

In a sign of the mounting pressures, former Quebec Liberal
premier Jean Charest said Ottawa should consider loan guarantees
to affected firms to help them pay for the tariffs.

“It is very black and white now: either the government
supports them or they will just close down,” he said in an
interview.

Although giving such aid could prompt fresh challenges from
the U.S. industry, insiders make clear the Ottawa government has
no option.

In the short term, Trudeau faces few immediate threats.
Polls show the Liberals well ahead of the opposition
Conservatives and New Democrats, both of which have stand-in
leaders and will not choose permanent replacements until later
this year.

“He’s had an exceptionally long honeymoon, he’s still having
a honeymoon, but that has a lot to do with the absence of
opposition,” said pollster Nik Nanos.

Although being seen to openly favor one province or region
over another can be politically fatal in Canada, Liberal
sensitivity toward Quebec is clear.

When it came time to deciding on federal aid to Bombardier –
a company which has already received billions in subsidies from
Ottawa – the Liberals made clear the only question was not if,
but how much.

Party operatives also admitted relief after it became clear
the government would not have to decide before the 2019 election
on whether to allow TransCanada Corp to build a crude
oil pipeline across Quebec.

Environmentalists and aboriginal activists had promised
high-profile protests that senior Quebec Liberals said they
feared could hurt the party’s political chances.
(Additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins, editing by G Crosse)


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CANADA STOCKS-TSX rises as energy and Home Capital rally

(Adds portfolio manager quotes and details on Canadian Natural
Resources, CIBC and background and updates prices)

* TSX closes up 70.04 points, or 0.45 percent, at 15,652.08

* Eight of the TSX’s 10 main groups end higher

* Energy group climbs 1.6 pct

* Home Capital Group Inc rallies 16.8 pct

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO, May 8 Canada’s benchmark stock index
rose on Monday as energy stocks climbed after investors gauged
the recent selloff had gone too far, while shares of Home
Capital Group Inc recovered from a nearly 14-year low
to end 16.8 percent higher.

It was the second straight session of gains for the Toronto
Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index after it had
posted on Thursday its lowest close in six weeks. The energy
group, which had slumped last week to its lowest since
September, rose 1.6 percent.

“Investors think at this point maybe the market is
oversold,” said Brian Pow, vice president, research and equity
analyst at Acumen Capital Partners.

U.S. crude oil futures extended their recovery from a
five-month low last week, settling up 21 cents at $46.43 a
barrel after Saudi Arabia’s oil minister said that he expected
major oil producers to consider extending their deal to cut
supply possibly into next year.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd climbed 1.8 percent
to C$43.04, while Suncor Energy Inc gained 1.5 percent
to C$43.24.

Suncor plans to submit an application to regulators for a
new thermal oil sands project later this year, which could
eventually produce up 160,000 barrels per day.

Home Capital Group Inc suspended its dividend,
tapped its credit line and added new directors, the latest
attempts from Canada’s biggest non-bank lender to restore
investor confidence and stem the flow of customer withdrawals.

Its shares tumbled to its lowest since 2003 in early trade
before recovering to end up 16.8 percent at C$6.83.

The TSX closed up 70.04 points, or 0.45 percent, at
15,652.08. Eight of the index’s 10 main groups ended higher.

Recent weakening of the Canadian dollar improves the
profitability of those companies on the index that are
exporters, Pow said.

The loonie touched a 14-month low on Friday at C$1.3793, or
72.50 U.S. cents.

Institutional Shareholder Services urged PrivateBancorp
stockholders to reject Canadian Imperial Bank of
Commerce’s latest takeover offer, citing possible
Canadian housing market contagion that could undermine the $4.9
billion cash-and-stock bid.

CIBC’s shares edged up 0.3 percent to C$108.95, while the
overall financials group gained 0.2 percent.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals
miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.3 percent even as
copper slid to a four-month low after data showed a sharp drop
in imports into China.
(Additional reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Meredith
Mazzilli and Lisa Shumaker)


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Four people feared dead in Canada floods

Four people are missing after some of the worst flooding in decades in parts of Canada.

In the eastern province of Quebec, police are searching for a man and a toddler who were swept away after their car swerved into a river.

In British Columbia (BC), on the other side of the country, rescue crews are searching for two men, including a fire chief who went missing late Friday.

Flooding has also affected the provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick.

Quebec’s deluge has been caused by a combination of melting snow and much heavier than average spring rainfall in April and May.

The inundation has affected 146 Quebec communities and created more than 1,500 evacuees.

In eastern Quebec, police say a man and a toddler are still missing after their car was swept into the swollen Riviere Sainte-Anne in the Gaspé region on Sunday night.

The mother of the toddler was able to escape, but she lost sight of her boyfriend and her child, said constable Claude Dorion.

A helicopter searched the area on Sunday night, and dozens of emergency services workers have helped, he told the BBC.

Crews dredged the lake on Monday afternoon to look for bodies, Mr Dorion said.

In BC, search and rescue teams are looking for Cache Creek Fire Chief Clayton Cassidy, 59.

He was checking creek-flow levels in the province’s interior late on Friday before going missing. He is presumed dead, RCMP Corporal Dan Moskaluk told the BBC.

A 76-year-old man is still unaccounted for following a landslide in Tappen, BC, on Saturday and teams there are also on site.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families,” Federal Public Safety Ralph Goodale said during a news conference on flood relief efforts.

Mr Goodale also said more Canadian troops are being deployed to Quebec.

About 1,650 soldiers and support personnel are helping flood victims and sand-bagging homes.

Schools are closed in numerous municipalities. There are currently 1,520 evacuees in the province.

Some 2,500 homes and 427 roads were flooded throughout Quebec. Ten towns have declared a state of emergency, including the province’s largest city, Montreal.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said city officials are considering extending that state of emergency for another five days.

The floodwaters are expected to peak in Montreal late on Monday.

The Canadian Red Cross has launched a campaign asking for donations for those affected by the flooding.

Canada’s national capital region has also seen severe flooding, with high water levels in the Ottawa and Rideau rivers.

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Officials in Ottawa and Gatineau have asked the federal government for additional supplies to help deal with the deluge after having run out of sandbags.

Federal civil servants were told to stay home on Monday to help keep roads clear for emergency vehicles. Federal government offices located in Gatineau, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, were closed on Monday.

Flood levels in the Ottawa River are stabilising in the region though it will take several days for the water to recede to normal levels, despite light snowfall on Monday morning.

David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said the spring rainfall in the flooded regions is historic.

“We’ve had anywhere in eastern Canada of two to three times the (normal) amount of rain, and breaking records by a long shot,” he said.

Since 1 April, Montreal alone received 232mm (9in) of rain. Mr Phillips said the average for the city is 86mm (3.4in). The previous record was 162mm (6.4in).

“It’s rained hard, it’s rained often,” he said. “It’s like that dark cloud that hangs over you and won’t leave you.”

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Canada funding rehabilitation for convicted sex offenders

The Canadian government is to hand millions of dollars to an organisation that provides rehabilitation to people who have been spent time in prison for sexual offences.

The Ministry of Public Safety will be giving $7.48 million (£5.76 million) to the Circle of Support and Accountability (CoSA) National Capacity Project.

The organisation “allows the community to play a direct role in the restoration, reintegration, and risk management of people who are often seen with only fear and anger”.

It works mainly with ex-offenders who have committed one or more sexual offences. 

By providing a support network, called the “Circle”’, and meeting with people who have committed serious sexual offences, they hope to prevent them from re-offending.

Participants of the program are also given help to access medical services, social assistance, seeking employment and affordable housing. 

David Byrne, chair of CoSA’s board of directors said: “CoSA Canada is committed to making communities safer for all Canadians”.

Director Byrne claims that attending Circles has been shown to reduce the likelihood of re-offending by more than 70 per cent.

Data from CoSA confirms that recidivism rates over five years were much lower – 5.6 per cent in comparison to 22 per cent of former offenders not participating in the programme.

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale said providing funding for the programme “demonstrates [Canada’s] commitment to evidence-based criminal justice policy”. 

The money will go to 14 CoSA sites across the country. 

Mr Goodale said he was confident in the programme. saying: “This project will help reduce victimisation…by holding ex-offenders accountable for their actions and giving them the support they need to become responsible and productive members of society.”


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France Fights to Keep Emmanuel Macron Hack From Influencing Election

(PARIS) — France sought to keep a computer hack of frontrunner Emmanuel Macron’s campaign emails from influencing the outcome of the country’s presidential election with a warning on Saturday it could be a criminal offence to republish the data.

Macron’s team said a “massive” hack had dumped emails, documents and campaign financing information online just before campaigning ended on Friday and France entered a quiet period which forbids politicians from commenting on the leak.

The data leak emerged as polls predicted Macron, a former investment banker and economy minister, was on course for a comfortable victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s election, with the last surveys showing his lead widening to around 62 percent to 38.

“On the eve of the most important election for our institutions, the commission calls on everyone present on internet sites and social networks, primarily the media, but also all citizens, to show responsibility and not to pass on this content, so as not to distort the sincerity of the ballot,” the French election commission said in a statement on Saturday.

However, the commission – which supervises the electoral process – may find it difficult to enforce its rules in an era where people get much of their news online, information flows freely across borders and many users are anonymous.

French media covered the hack in various ways, with left-leading Liberation giving it prominence on its website, but television news channels opting not to mention it.

Le Monde newspaper said on its website it would not publish the content of any of the leaked documents before the election, partly because the huge amount of data meant there was not enough time to report on it properly, but also because the dossiers had been published on purpose 48 hours before the election with the clear aim of affecting the vote.

Related

“If these documents contain revelations, Le Monde will of course publish them after having investigated them, respecting our journalistic and ethical rules, and without allowing ourselves to be exploited by the publishing calendar of anonymous actors,” it said. As the #Macronleaks hashtag buzzed around social media on Friday night, Florian Philippot, deputy leader of Le Pen’s National Front party, tweeted “Will Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism has deliberately kept silent?”

As much as 9 gigabytes of data purporting to be documents from the Macron campaign were posted on a profile called EMLEAKS to Pastebin, a site that allows anonymous document sharing.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible, but Macron’s political movement said in a statement the hack was an attempt to destabilise democracy and to damage the party.

En Marche! said the leaked documents dealt with the normal operations of a campaign and included some information on campaign accounts. It said the hackers had mixed false documents with authentic ones to “sow doubt and disinformation.”

Sunday’s election is seen as the most important in France for decades, with two diametrically opposed views of Europe and the country’s place in the world at stake.

Le Pen would close borders and quit the euro currency, while Macron wants closer European cooperation and an open economy.

Voters in some French overseas territories and the Americas were due to cast their ballots on Saturday, a day before voting in France itself. The first polling stations to open at 1000 GMT were in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, islands off Canada.

Others in French Guiana in South America; Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean; the South Pacific islands of French Polynesia and French citizens living elsewhere in the Americas were also due to vote on Saturday.

In France, police union Alternative Police warned in a statement that there was a risk of violence on election day by activists of the far-right or far-left.

Extreme-right student activists burst into the office of Macron’s political movement in the southeastern city of Lyon on Friday evening, setting off smoke grenades and scattering false bank notes bearing Macron’s picture, police said.

France is the latest nation to see a major election overshadowed by allegations of manipulation through cyber hacking after U.S. intelligence agencies said in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered hacking of parties tied to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to influence the election on behalf of Republican Donald Trump.

Vitali Kremez, director of research with New York-based cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint, told Reuters his review indicated that APT 28, a group tied to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence directorate, was behind the leak.

Macron’s campaign has previously complained about attempts to hack its emails, blaming Russian interests in part for the cyber attacks.

The Kremlin has denied it was behind any such attacks, although Macron’s camp renewed complaints against Russian media and a hackers’ group operating in Ukraine.

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Syria refugees in Canada name their baby Justin Trudeau

When Muhammad and Afraa Bilan arrived in Canada in February last year, they were starting a new life in a completely new country.

Originally from Damascus in Syria, they, daughter Naya and son Nael arrived as refugees in Montreal in the depths of winter.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wasn’t there to greet them at the airport, as he did with other Syrian refugees.

But the couple felt they had to give their thanks to him in some way – so have named their newborn son after him.

Justin Trudeau Adam Bilan was born on Thursday in his parents’ new city of Calgary. (His first name is Justin Trudeau, not Justin, by the way.)

In Damascus, Muhammad, now 29, worked as a barber. But he had once been targeted by the Syrian army and detained.

After he was freed, his family learned the authorities were looking for him again, and that he could face further detention – a fate from which many have not emerged.

Their chance to leave came when they found out Canada was starting to take in Syrian refugees after Mr Trudeau took office. Five years into Syria’s war, they jumped at the chance.

After spending some time in Montreal, in the eastern province of Quebec, the family was eventually moved to Calgary, in the western province of Alberta.

“Canada is much more safe – there’s no war, nothing,” Afraa Bilan told the BBC by telephone. “Everything is different, everything is good – nothing like Syria.”

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Afraa admitted to having been “a little bit distressed” on arriving in Canada, and to have found it difficult to adapt – especially to the winter weather.

But she now speaks fluent English and Muhammad works part-time in a grocery shop.

They hope baby Justin Trudeau will one day meet his rather more famous namesake.

“He is a really nice man,” Afraa said. “He helped us a lot. This was a small thank you for bringing us to Canada. We want to thank him and all the Canadian people.”

Between November 2015, when Mr Trudeau became prime minister, and January this year, more than 40,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Canada. About 1,000 of them moved to Calgary.

In late January, after US President Donald Trump imposed a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, Mr Trudeau took to social media to confirm his government’s commitment to helping “those fleeing persecution, terror & war”.

In Ontario in February, another Syrian couple named their newborn Justin in tribute to the prime minister, but Justin Trudeau Adam Bilan is thought to be the first baby Justin Trudeau (not counting the original Justin Trudeau, of course).

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Canadian teen convicted on 34 counts in international ‘swatting’ case

A Canadian teenager who taunted authorities after anonymously making bomb threats to schools throughout North America was found guilty of nearly three-dozen charges Friday related to online harassment.

Ontario Court Justice Mitch Hoffman convicted the teen on 34 counts Friday, the Ottawa Citizen reported, all but ending a criminal case initiated by U.S. authorities three years earlier.

Prosecutors argued the teenager began targeting victims over the internet in 2013 at the age of 16 and said he soon began making bogus bomb threats and other falsified emergencies in order to dupe police departments into deploying swat teams, a practice colloquially known as “swatting.” The FBI eventually obtained clues linking him to crimes aimed south of the border, and authorities in Ottawa brought charges against the teen the following year thanks to evidence supplied by U.S. investigators.

At the time of his arrest in 2014, the then-17-year-old faced 60 charges related to internet harassment. He eventually was tried for 38 charges and was convicted Friday on all but four, The Citizen reported.

Unidentified on account of his age, prosecutors said the teen publicly taunted the police from his Twitter account prior to being arrested, boasting: “I have guns pointed at your heads. Catch me if you can.”

Investigators said they were later able to link the teen to various crimes in the U.S. and Canada thanks in part to analysis of chat logs saved to boy’s computer in addition to reviewing more than 200,000 internet calls made over Skype, a platform he repeatedly utilized to place bogus emergency calls, according to prosecutors.

The teen’s victim’s weren’t always personal targets, according to prosecutors. Investigators said the teen advertised his swatting services on Twitter while residing in Barrhaven, Ontario, and had customers in the U.S. and Canada.

The four not-guilty verdicts returned Friday involve swatting cases in California, the Citizen reported. The teen will face sentencing for the 38 other convictions at a later date.

Meanwhile, the teen remains subject to outstanding warrants issued in Florida for related cases, according to the newspaper.

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