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TORONTO — As much of Ontario faces extreme cold weather, concern is mounting for the well-being of Toronto’s homeless population, which numbers in the thousands. The city has set a target rate of 90 per cent occupancy for homeless shelters. But Saturday night, when the temperature with the wind chill was down to -29 C, occupancy was at an average rate of 95 per cent. Some services, including family shelters, were full. Many temporary facilities have been set up to provide relief during the winter months, when shelter occupancy tends to spike. But temporary shelters are not required to meet the same service standards as permanent facilities. Not all of the sites have showers, and most don’t offer support services like counselling or case management. “It’s a catastrophe,” said Cathy Crowe, a street nurse who works to provide services for homeless people. In a phone interview from a temporary shelter in the city’s east end — she didn’t want to identify it, for fear that describing its conditions might cause the city to shut it down — Crowe described a scene of chaos and neglect. “It’s pretty desperate,” she said. “Very crowded. People are in rough shape. Mostly people are sleeping on the floor… I’m actually sitting inside and I’m shaking with cold.” On the phone from another temporary shelter at the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place, city Coun. Joe Mihevc described a very different scene. “The service is very good. The food is good,” said Mihevc. “I just talked to some of the clients here, and they are quite content here.” The shelter at the Better Living Centre is one of few in the city where places are still available. But Crowe says its location near the south end of the city, by Lake Ontario, makes it inaccessible for much of the downtown population. There used to be street outreach vans to transport homeless people to shelters, but those systems were dismantled, she said. Instead, the TTC has said it is redirecting buses to stop outside the shelter. Its relative isolation was compounded Saturday night, when due to what the city has characterized a “miscommunication,” prospective clients were turned away. People were told the shelter was full,...

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CALGARY — Their black and white coats are built to withstand the cold, but many of the Calgary Zoo’s penguins have been moved inside because of the bone-chilling weather. Zoo curator Malu Celli says the king penguins have been brought in from their outdoor enclosure after Calgary’s cold snap dropped temperatures below -25 Celsius. Celli says the tuxedoed birds would likely be fine if they waddled into the cold, but with chicks still maturing, zookeepers prefer to err on the side of caution. She says king penguins are accustomed to chilly weather, but they tend to live in milder climates than their Antarctic cousins, emperor penguins. She says king penguins spend their winters outside at the zoo, but every year, Calgary’s frigid temperatures force them to temporarily return indoors. Celli says zookeepers have made adjustments for several exhibits on account of the cold, and humans are still welcome to check out the park’s attractions. By The Canadian Press Source...

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As a last resort, Kolla said she was told to send people to the city’s Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre at 129 Peter St., which can accommodate about 25 people, when the overdose prevention program closed for the night at 10 p.m. “The Moss Park Armouries would have been an ideal situation for a respite shelter,” she said, adding she feels for everyone impacted by this difficult time, including overworked shelter workers. In a statement released shortly before 5 p.m., Tory said the city feels the winter respite shelter offered at Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre is the right way to address the need for more emergency shelter spaces during the colder months. “Our expert staff continue to believe the Better Living Centre is a better option for a winter respite than the armouries. The Better Living Centre can accommodate 110 people right now, it is open 24/7, and it is a city-owned site.  I continue to support our hard working shelter staff in deciding when and if extra capacity is required,” Tory said in the release. He also went on to say that while shelter occupancy was at 95 per cent last night, the system is “coping with that demand.” “According to staff, there were around 60 spaces available at the Better Living Centre overnight and the women’s respite on Cowan Ave., along with around 20 to 30 spaces at the Peter St. Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre,” he said. “Staff have been working throughout the day to clarify information about where people can find shelter in the city and to let people know that shelter is available.” Tory also noted that the City’s outreach team would be visiting the Moss Park overdose prevention site tonight before it closes at 10 p.m. to “ensure anyone who needs shelter is able to access it.”  “I appreciate the advocacy and outpouring of emotion from people who want to help Toronto’s homeless population. I share the desire to make sure we are doing everything possible to help people who find themselves homeless in Toronto,” said Tory, who thanked city shelter staff and everyone working in the shelter system for the work they’ve done to deal with the...

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ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — Propane torches are among the tools crews are using to help restore power to thousands of customers still in the dark after ice storms swept through British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. BC Hydro spokeswoman Tanya Fish said teams have been working around the clock and have restored electricity for about 131,000 people since the first storm hit on Thursday, but about 9,000 others are still without power. Another storm came Friday, leaving the region coated in thick layers of ice, which snapped tree branches and downed power lines. Some BC Hydro substations were also frozen solid, with sensitive equipment encased in ice. Crews finished repairs to the substations Saturday night, but the work took some unusual tools, Fish said. “To do this crews actually had to manually de-ice frozen equipment using propane heaters and propane torches to melt the ice,” she said. About 90 teams continued work in the region on Sunday, but Fish said some customers could be facing another night without power. “Unfortunately, we’re asking customers to prepare for the potential that they will be without power for another night,” she said. “And this is just due to the extensive damage that we’re still continuing to deal with. We still have frozen equipment, broken power poles, downed power lines.” Freezing temperatures have added to the “incredibly challenging conditions,” Fish added. “The frozen equipment and the fact that we have the frozen branches falling on our crews and the safety risks that we’ve had to deal with … has been challenging and has slowed our efforts down more than we’d like.” Source...

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Lawrence said that despite its injuries and ordeal, “Tahoe” as staff have named him, will hopefully make a full recovery. This month, snowy owls were listed as vulnerable — one step away from endangered — by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The large white raptors have descended on the Great Lakes region and northeastern U.S. in huge numbers in recent weeks, hanging out at airports, in farm fields, on light poles and along beaches, to the delight of bird lovers. But researchers say the population of snowy owls is likely far less than previously thought and are using the opportunity to study them. Instead of 300,000 snowy owls worldwide, as long believed, researchers say the population likely is closer to 30,000 or fewer. The previous calculation assumed snowy owls acted like other birds, favouring fixed nesting and wintering sites. But researchers discovered the owls are nomads, often nesting or wintering thousands of kilometres from previous locations. Lawrence said the first year Salthaven West was operating, they rescued a couple of snowy owls. Last year it was four or five, and this year it’s up to ten. Mostly, she said, they’ve been hit by cars. “Animals don’t know to look both ways before they cross the road, so once they get their eyes on some prey they’re going to follow it until they catch it. And of course in the Arctic, where they come from, there’s not a lot of vehicle traffic. They’re not used to that at all,” Lawrence said. By The Canadian Press Source...

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MONTREAL — A Montreal mother whose son is missing in Peru said she won’t give up until he’s found, even though an elite Israeli search-and-rescue team she hired has failed to turn up any trace. Alisa Clamen hired Magnus International Search and Rescue in November to search the rugged Peruvian terrain for any hints of her son Jesse Galganov, who disappeared in September while on a backpacking trip. She said that after 35 days of unsuccessfully combing over every inch of the territory within several kilometres of her son’s last known wheareabouts, the search-and-rescue team believes foul play was involved. “If he had fallen into the water or off a cliff they would have found him, had he been there undisturbed,” she said in a phone interview. “Their hypothesis is there’s been some intervention.” Clamen said nobody has heard from her son since two French hikers reported having camped with him on Sept. 30. She said the team has been compiling lists and interviewing anyone who was on the trail at the time of her son’s disappearance, as well as searching on foot and by air, using drones. But so far, they haven’t found a shred of physical evidence linked to her 22-year-old son, who was in Peru as part of a backpacking trip through South America and Southeast Asia that was scheduled to end next May. Clamen said she’s still holding out hope that her son is alive, although after more than three months missing she’s prepared for the worst. Whatever the outcome, she said she’ll never give up until she finds out what happened to her son. “I have to be realistic and I have to keep looking for him no matter the result,” she said. “And if something happened and he’s out there and not alive, I still have to bring him home.” Clamen said the last few months have been “hellish and exhausting” as she lives what she said is every mother’s worst nightmare. Earlier in December, she was horrified when her son’s Facebook page was temporarily changed to a memorial page, which occurs after someone has died. She said she’s grateful to everyone who has sent messages of support or contributed financially to the...

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OTTAWA — Moments after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on behalf of Ottawa for decades of discrimination against the LGBTQ community, Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan emerged from the House of Commons. In a dark navy suit, tie and a crisp white shirt, he looked down solemnly and paused. The others cabinet ministers around him fell silent as O’Regan delivered remarks far more personal than some had on offer that November day. The apology was about more than prejudice and discrimination, he said. “This is about shame,” he said. “Being made to feel shame for being different. Growing up terrified of being ostracized, growing up, keeping some of the most beautiful, intimate parts of your life a secret, wondering if there was something twisted in you.” O’Regan, 46, said he is now reflecting on how he internalized shame over his sexuality — something he did not embrace until about a decade ago, when he met the man who became his husband, Steve Doussis. “When the time came when I fully realized I’m gay … I went ‘OK, this is not in question anymore,” O’Regan said in a recent interview. “This is not an exercise in fluidity … I realized I was in love and there was no question.” It wasn’t until after he became an MP and went through rehab for alcohol addiction in late 2015, however, that O’Regan realized his sexuality was connected to his substance abuse. He describes this is an emotional holdover. “This is what happens often,” O’Regan said. “Men who were struggling with their sexuality often turn to alcohol to deal with the anxieties of it and I did. I am very typical.” O’Regan said he now hopes he can help reframe the discussion around discrimination toward LGBTQ people in Canada. “There’s the battle that is fought on ‘This is my identity, this is who I am,'” O’Regan said. “There is also the battle of ‘Who the hell is the government to tell me who to love? Who the hell is the government to tell me who I can’t love?” As part of its apology, the Liberal government earmarked $110 million to compensate members of the military and other federal agencies whose careers were sidelined...

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DENVER — Authorities in Colorado say a number of deputies from a sheriff’s office in suburban Denver have been wounded. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said via its Twitter account that a major highway south of the city was shut down Sunday. Residents in the vicinity were asked to shelter in place, and avoid windows and exterior walls. No other details were immediately available. The nature of the injuries to the Douglas County deputies wasn’t disclosed. It also wasn’t known how many deputies were involved. By The Associated Press Source...

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It’s unknown why the impaired driving rates are so much higher in Saskatchewan, but Quaye says it could be that people are unaware of the implications or don’t think they will get caught. The province has started to address the problem with legislative changes in recent years. The changes include tougher penalties and vehicle seizures for first-time offences. In the Van de Vorst case, SGI has filed a statement of claim in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench against the corporations behind the two bars who served McKay before the collision. It’s the first time the agency has taken legal action against liquor establishments. No statement of defence has yet been filed. Jim Bensa, president and chief executive officer for the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association, says the legislative changes have come at a cost for businesses. “As an industry, we’ve seen a dramatic effect,” he says, noting people are spending less money on alcohol when they are out. “People are really conscious about how much it is that they drink — we really noticed it at Christmas time. “It really has hurt our industry.” Some businesses have even had to close as a result, he says. Still, no operators have asked the province to roll back the changes. “We did have to change,” said Bensa. “Those statistics were real.” Both he and the Van de Vorsts, however, say more personal responsibility must be taken by Saskatchewan drivers. “The biggest thing for my husband and I is that people plan ahead and don’t drive drunk,” says Linda Van de Vorst. “It’s a personal responsibility to each individual.” She worries that it will get worse instead of better with the legalization of marijuana in July. SGI has announced new legislation to deal with drug-impaired driving in November. The province will have zero tolerance for anyone driving with drugs in their system. Quaye says they will have also brought in an additional 200 traffic enforcement officers in 2017 and continue to launch public awareness campaigns to remind people about why it’s important not to drink and drive — including one late last week on resolving to drive sober. “We continue to look for ways and means to change the picture with respect...

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OTTAWA — Canada’s 150th birthday bash draws to a close today with Heritage Canada saying 87 per cent of Canadians participated in at least one event. Here’s how some of the year counted out. 31 million: Estimated number of people who participated in at least one Canada 150 event. 5,800: Number of Canada 150 projects and events within Canada. 1,000: Number of Canada 150 events hosted by embassies abroad. 1.8 million: Number of times the #Canada150 hashtag was used on Twitter. 7,500: Number of licensing applications to use the Canada 150 logo which were approved. 1,700: Number of Canada Day celebrations across the country. 27.3 million: Number of visitors to a national park or heritage site during year of free admission. $200 million: Budget for Canada 150 events and programs. $300 million: Budget for Canada 150 community infrastructure fund. 42 mm: amount of rain that fell in Ottawa on Canada Day. 55,000: Number of people who skated on the Canada 150 Parliament Hill skating rink in first three weeks. By The Canadian Press Source...

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