Loading articles...

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

Last Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 4:20 pm PDT

Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, Jan. 3

———

WOMEN CLAIM CANADIAN THEATRE FIGURE HARASSED THEM: A prominent figure in the Canadian theatre world has been forced to step down from the well-known company he co-founded amid separate lawsuits from four actresses who allege he exposed himself, groped them, and otherwise sexually humiliated them. The lawsuits naming Toronto-based Soulpepper Theatre Company and its founding artistic director Albert Schultz were filed this week by Patricia Fagan, Hannah Miller, Kristin Booth and Diana Bentley, who have all agreed to be named publicly. In her claim in Ontario Superior Court, Miller says Schultz, 54, harassed and sexually assaulted her when she was a performer with Soulpepper and as a member of Soulpepper’s academy. Miller is seeking $650,000 in general and punitive damages for “sexual battery, the intentional infliction of mental suffering (and) harassment of a sexual nature,” according to her claim, which has yet to be tested in court. The claim also seeks $800,000 from Soulpepper. Similarly, Fagan alleges in her lawsuit that Schultz assaulted her during a rehearsal of “Twelfth Night” in 2000, when he tried to show an actor what he wanted by “pushing his penis against her buttocks.” The women’s lawyer, Alexi Wood, said in a statement that Soulpepper did nothing to protect the actresses from Schultz, who is also an accomplished stage and screen actor.

———

TWO GUARDS CHARGED IN INMATE’S DEATH: Three years after a troubled Cape Breton man died after being hit repeatedly with pepper spray in prison, two correctional officers have been charged with manslaughter. RCMP had originally said foul play was not suspected in Matthew Hines’s death, but the charges come after Canada’s correctional investigator found prison staff used unnecessary force. Hines, who was serving a five-year sentence for crimes including robbery, died on May 26, 2015, at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick. Family members were originally told the 33-year-old died of a seizure, and said in a statement Wednesday they are relieved that his death has been thoroughly investigated. On Wednesday, two men, 48-year-old Alvida Ross and 31-year-old Mathieu Bourgoin, both of Dieppe, N.B., were charged with one count each of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death. Ivan Zinger, Canada’s correctional investigator, said in a May 2017 report that the repeated use of pepper spray at very close range appears to have contributed to Hines’ rapid onset of medical complications.

———

FEWER JOBS DUE TO MINIMUM WAGE HIKE, BANK OF CANADA SAYS: The Bank of Canada estimates there will be about 60,000 fewer jobs by 2019 due to the increases in minimum wages across the country, but that labour income will be higher due to the increases. In examining the impact of the wage increases, the report estimated that the consumer price index could be boosted by about 0.1 percentage points on average and real gross domestic product could be cut by 0.1 per cent by early 2019. The number of jobs lost was based on a 0.3 per cent decline in the number of hours worked, while aggregate real wages were estimated to increase 0.7 per cent. The research paper by the staff at the central bank noted that if the average working hours declined following the increase in the minimum wage, the number of jobs lost would also be lower. The Bank of Canada estimated that about eight per cent of all employees work at minimum wage, a proportion that increases to 11 per cent if a threshold of five per cent above minimum wage is used. Ontario raised its minimum wage to $14 per hour on Jan. 1 from $11.60 and plans to increase it to $15 in 2019, while Alberta is expected to raise its minimum wage to $15 later this year.

———

TRAIN CONDUCTOR PLAYED BIG ROLE IN LAC-MEGANTIC TRAGEDY, TRIAL HEARS: Train conductor Thomas Harding played a significant role in the deaths of 47 people in the Lac-Megantic tragedy because he didn’t sufficiently apply the brakes after parking the oil-laden convoy, the Crown argued Wednesday. Harding applied only half the required level of brakes and didn’t test them to ensure they worked properly before leaving for the night, prosecutor Sacha Blais said in his closing arguments at the trial of Harding and his two co-accused. In the wee hours of July 6, 2013, a runaway train carrying crude oil from the United States derailed in Lac-Megantic and exploded, killing the 47 and destroying part of the downtown core. Harding and former colleagues Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre are each facing one count of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people. They have all pleaded not guilty. The Crown wrapped up its closing arguments Wednesday and will be followed Thursday by lawyers for Labrie and Demaitre. Harding’s lawyer will get his turn Friday and Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas is expected to give his instructions to the jury Monday.

———

JOSHUA BOYLE CASE ADJOURNED UNTIL MONDAY: Joshua Boyle, the former Afghanistan hostage who now finds himself behind bars in Canada facing a battery of serious criminal charges, will have to wait at least a few more days to find out if he’ll be released on bail. A pro-forma court appearance Wednesday was over in a matter of minutes, with the 34-year-old Boyle appearing via video link from the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre, clad in an orange jumpsuit. Boyle was arrested by Ottawa police late last month and made his first court appearance on New Year’s Day to face 15 charges, including eight counts of assault, two of sexual assault, two of unlawful confinement and one count of causing someone to “take a noxious thing, namely Trazodone,” an antidepressant. The charges relate to two victims, but a court order prohibits the publication of any details that might identify them or any witnesses. None of the charges have been proven in court. Boyle did little beyond confirm his identity for Justice Norman Boxall before the case was adjourned until Monday to set a date for a bail hearing. Court also heard that Lawrence Greenspon, one of Ottawa’s most high-profile criminal lawyers, has joined his defence team.

———

MANAFORT SUES MUELLER, U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OVER RUSSIAN PROBE: U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman sued special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department on Wednesday, saying prosecutors had overstepped their bounds by charging him for conduct that he says is unrelated to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The lawsuit by Paul Manafort, filed in federal court in Washington, is the most direct challenge to date to Mueller’s legal authority and the scope of his mandate as special counsel. It comes amid Republican allegations of partisan bias among members of Mueller’s team, which for months has been investigating whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the U.S. election. Manafort was indicted in October on charges including money-laundering conspiracy, related to his lobbying work on behalf of a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. He has pleaded not guilty. He is one of four Trump associates — including former national security adviser Michael Flynn — to be charged so far in Mueller’s investigation.

———

TRUMP BLASTS FORMER ADVISER BANNON OVER BOOK: U.S. President Donald Trump launched a scathing attack on former top adviser Steve Bannon on Wednesday, responding to a new book that portrays Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and quotes Bannon as calling his son’s contact with a Russian lawyer “treasonous.” Hitting back via a formal White House statement rather than a more-typical Twitter volley, Trump insisted Bannon had little to do with his campaign. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said. It was a blistering attack against the man who helped deliver the presidency to Trump. It was spurred by an unflattering new book by writer Michael Wolff that paints Trump as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of the presidency and spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the phone to old friends. White House aides were blindsided when early excerpts from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” were published online by New York magazine and other media outlets ahead of the Jan. 9 publication date. The release left Trump “furious” and “disgusted,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who complained that the book contained “outrageous” and “completely false claims against the president, his administration and his family.”

———

SECURITY ISSUE EXPOSED IN COMPUTERS WITH INTEL HARDWARE: Technology experts warn a “really, really serious” security vulnerability could affect the majority of computers made in the last decade, but a fix being rushed to users has a downside: it may slow down your machine. Tech news website the Register reported a glitch has been identified with Intel processing chips that could cause data to become vulnerable to hackers. While software developers have been covertly working since late last year to address the widespread issue, news of the problem began spreading beyond the development community late Tuesday. Intel’s stock dropped about four per cent on Wednesday while the company’s main competitor AMD saw its stock surge by more than five per cent. “This is a really, really serious problem,” said Vlado Keselj, a professor of computer science at Dalhousie University. “The good news is I think it’s really hard to exploit this vulnerability. But it could just be a matter of time before someone manages to do that.” In a statement released Wednesday, Intel attempted to downplay worries about the hardware issue, saying it believes hackers “do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data.” The company also said a performance hit from a future software update “should not be significant and will be mitigated over time.”

———

FUNDRAISING DRIVER LAUNCHED FOR QUEBECER WHO LOST LIMBS: A young Quebec woman has had her arms and legs amputated after she spent four hours in freezing temperatures following an electric jolt that raced through her body. Samantha Mongeon says her younger sister Sabryna, 18, was driving a car early on Christmas morning when she lost control of the vehicle and collided with a hydroelectric pole in western Quebec. “The pole did not fall down but wires came down and fell on her vehicle,” Mongeon said. “She was afraid it would catch fire so she left the vehicle (and) it was at that moment that she received an electrical charge of 14,500 volts.” Mongeon said the jolt entered through her sister’s hands, coursed through her body and exited her two feet, adding “she immediately lost her left foot.” She remained conscious for four hours and painfully tried to get back into her car but wasn’t able to start it to get some heat, her sister said. Mongeon said a “Good Samaritan saw the vehicle, called 911 and stayed with her and warmed her in his arms” until help arrived. Mongeon said she started a fundraiser on the “Onedollargift” website so their mother can spend as much time as possible at her daughter’s side. Mongeon said the goal is to raise $50,000 so her sister can also get all the necessary care after she’s released from hospital. As of late Wednesday afternoon, more than $30,000 had been raised.