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Surrey mother gets 1 year in jail after child found starving to death – BC

VANCOUVER – A Surrey mother has been jailed for one year after her young child was found starving to death. The now 25-year-old woman, who cannot be named, was charged with failing to provide necessities and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

The woman’s son was 27 months old at the time and is now in foster care.

The mother also received two years probation.

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“From what we heard from investigators, this is one of the most severe cases that they have investigated,” said Cpl. Bert Paquet of the Surrey RCMP, in 2014.

The offences are alleged to have taken place between April 7 and June 14, 2014.

“We became aware of this case on June 16 [2014] after a local-area hospital contacted our investigators…making allegations of child neglect,” said Paquet. “Our investigators became involved as soon as they received the call. Our Special Victim’s Unit took the investigation over. The child was apprehended, has been removed, was removed that day from the mother’s care and has been improving since.”

Paquet said a publication ban is in effect in order to protect the victim.

“What we’re trying to do here is ensure the child’s safety,” he added.

“The child has been improving since being removed from the care of the mother.”

WATCH: Global News’ report on the case from 2014:

With files from Rumina Daya

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Robert Latimer’s lawyer asks court to overturn travel restrictions

VANCOUVER – For more than 20 years – on bail, in prison, on parole – Robert Latimer has followed every rule and condition imposed upon him, without transgression, his lawyer told a Federal Court judge on Wednesday.

Jason Gratl asked the court to overturn a parole board decision that bars Latimer from travelling outside Canada without express permission, saying it is an unreasonable limitation on the Saskatchewan farmer who was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his severely disabled daughter.

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  • Parole board denies travel request from Robert Latimer

  • Robert Latimer has parole condition lifted; two others remain

“Mr. Latimer really has done about as much as it is possible to do to demonstrate that he complies with all his conditions,” Gratl said. “The risk is essentially non-existent.”

Latimer, 60, killed 12-year-old Tracy in 1993 by piping exhaust into the cab of his truck on the family farm in Wilkie, Sask. She suffered from severe cerebral palsy and Latimer has always maintained he wanted to end her chronic, excruciating pain.

A 1994 conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, but he was convicted again in 1997. Latimer was sentenced to the mandatory life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years, despite a jury recommendation for less.

He was released on full parole, with conditions, in 2010. In July 2013, a parole board panel denied Latimer’s request to travel freely outside Canada without having to apply first for a limited-time passport.

Latimer, who did not attend the brief hearing in Vancouver, applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review of that decision.

The circumstances in Latimer’s case were unique, Gratl told Judge Michael Manson.

“His daughter was born to him with cerebral palsy,” he said. “He cared for her deeply, on a practical level and emotionally, for 13 years.

“His daughter was in unbelievable agony as her skeleton degenerated over a period of years.”

Latimer is not an advocate – no Jack Kevorkian – Gratl told the judge, referring to the now-deceased American euthanasia activist.

Should the parole board lift the travel ban, Latimer will still check in monthly with his parole officer, Gratl said, and inform the parole officer of any travel plans. He would also check in over the telephone or electronically while he’s away.

Chris Bernier, the lawyer for the federal Crown, said Latimer can apply on a case-by-case basis for permission to travel. That restriction is absolutely reasonable, he said.

“This is a life sentence for murder that he’s still serving,” Bernier said.

The parole board recognized that Latimer poses no risk to reoffend but they took into account the severity and nature of his offence, he told the judge.

“He’s still able to travel,” Bernier said. “He would need to provide information on the place, purpose and duration of his travel. I don’t think that’s unduly onerous for him to provide that information.”

Last year, the board gave Latimer permission to attend a debate on assisted suicide and mercy killings in Britain, but United Kingdom Border Services denied him a visa.

He tried to apply to travel to South America to do some work with Habitat for Humanity, but that also fell through.

“The difficulty is that international travel restriction imposes a level of red tape and certain bureaucratic hurdles that make travel, practically, very difficult,” Gratl said outside court.

The judge reserved his decision. If successful, the parole decision will be sent back to the board to reconsider.

©2014The Canadian Press

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Reports contradict PM’s view on aboriginal women victims

OTTAWA – Dozens of federal, provincial and community studies compiled by the Conservative government appear to contradict the prime minister’s contention that the problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women isn’t a “sociological phenomenon.”

But some in the aboriginal community don’t quibble with the government’s other main response to calls for a public inquiry – that there has been more than enough research.

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Officials point to a non-exhaustive list of 40 studies conducted on the issue between 1996 and 2013.

A closer look at the research shows that in nearly every case, the authors or participants highlight the “root” or systemic causes of violence against aboriginal women and their marginalization in society.

READ MORE: Premiers, native leaders call for forum on missing and murdered aboriginal women

The legacy of colonization, including the displacement and dispossession linked with residential schools and other policies, are cited frequently in the reports. The impact of poverty and lack of housing are also cited as root causes of violence against aboriginal women.

“There are root causes of violence in the aboriginal communities that include things like poverty and racism and this is why it’s incredibly important for us to work with organizations, aboriginal organizations, across the country…,” Rona Ambrose, then status of women minister, told a parliamentary hearing in 2011.

Harper has offered a different perspective.

“I think we should not view this as sociological phenomenon. We should view it as crime,” he said last month.

“It is crime, against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such.”

WATCH:Almost 1,200 aboriginal women and girls have been killed or gone missing in Canada over the past decades. Now, the country’s premiers say something needs to be done. Ross Lord explains.

The government’s related position has been that there have been enough studies – the focus needs to be on action.

“What we don’t need, is yet another study on top of the some 40 studies and reports that have already been done, that made specific recommendations which are being pursued, to delay ongoing action,” Justice Minister Peter MacKay said last week.

Some inside the aboriginal community agree there have been enough studies, but there are varying opinions on whether an inquiry would just go over the same ground.

One 2005 report prepared by three B.C. community groups, entitled “Researched to Death,” pointed to the “striking similarities” in research and recommendations done up to that point.

“The only outstanding element is action,” the authors wrote.

Dawn Harvard, president of the Ontario Native Women’s Association, agrees there has already been substantial research on the sociological causes of violence against aboriginal women.

READ MORE: No endorsement from police chiefs for aboriginal women inquiry

But she says a national inquiry wouldn’t be about the sociology, but rather about determining what specific policies and initiatives are needed to address specific community problems – in-depth research that smaller groups don’t have the resources to do.

“The sociological studies have identified that there is a problem, so your inquiry is going to get into the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of what is this problem all about,” said Harvard.

“And one would hope that therefore we would have a much more effective response when we come out of it.”

For Michelle Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, an inquiry would be an accountability exercise in a non-partisan forum – akin to the Gomery commission on the sponsorship scandal or the current Charbonneau commission into corruption in Quebec’s construction industry.

WATCH: Walk for inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women

“Do we do another research (report)? No,” said Audette. “But this inquiry will bring us together and say, why didn’t we implement those (prior) recommendations? Why are we not putting in place legislation that will force our police forces to automatically exchange data?”

Kate Rexe, who worked on the Sisters in Spirit research and policy initiative on missing and murdered aboriginal women, takes a different perspective.

She says that while an inquiry would provide public recognition for the victims’ families, it won’t necessarily reach the required level of detail.

“If we’re looking at a 30-year time span over a number of different police services, in various communities that have had varying levels of response of police to the families and the communities, you’re not going to get the answers that you would hopefully need,” said Rexe.

“I don’t necessarily agree with just having more research for the sake of research.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Nevada offers Tesla up to $1.3B for battery plant

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Thursday that Nevada won a high-stakes battle with four other states for Tesla Motors’ coveted battery factory, but the win comes with a hefty price tag — up to $1.3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives over 20 years that state lawmakers still must approve.

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Sandoval revealed terms of the deal he negotiated with the electric car maker at a ceremony on the Capitol steps attended by Elon Musk, CEO of California-based Tesla. Musk confirmed the search was over for a home for his $5 billion lithium battery “gigafatory,” which the company hopes will bring it closer to mass production of a more affordable electric car.

The Republican governor called it a “monumental announcement that will change Nevada forever” and asserted that it would create more than 22,000 jobs and pump $100 billion into the state’s economy over the next 20 years — claims that critics said were exaggerated. Sandoval didn’t mention the total value of the incentive package in his remarks but nonetheless anticipated potential criticism for the size of the package.

“Even the most skeptical economist would conclude that this is a strong return (on investment) for us,” he said about the deal that already has drawn outside criticism from both the political left and the right that the tax breaks are too generous. So far, it has not encountered significant opposition from state lawmakers who must approve the incentives.

Musk told the audience that Nevada didn’t offer the biggest incentive package among the five states that tried to lure the factory, though he didn’t specify which did among California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

The most important considerations were not incentives, he said, but rather a high confidence that the factory will be ready by 2017, followed by assurances that batteries can be produced cost efficiently.

“It’s a real get-things-done state,” Musk said in explaining how Nevada prevailed in what was a “relatively close” competition.

Musk, who arrived from London just before the ceremony, briefly bungled the pronunciation of “Nevada.” But he recovered and twice received standing ovations from more than 200 dignitaries.

Later, Musk told reporters that Tesla would stop looking for another state as a backup. “Nevada is it,” he said.

The governor will call a special session of the Legislature as early as next week to seek approval of the incentives. Legislative leaders have reacted largely favourably at first blush.

House Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-Las Vegas, said it represents “a significant opportunity to make a major stride to boost the economy” in a state that led the nation in unemployment during the depths of the Great Recession.

“I look forward to receiving the necessary information so the Legislature can meet and take necessary action to support this major industry coming to Nevada,” she said in a joint statement with Sandoval and Musk that the governor’s office issued Thursday.

Tesla’s choice for the facility gets it closer to mass producing an electric car that costs around $35,000 and can go 200 miles on a single charge. That range is critical because it lets people take most daily trips without recharging, a major barrier to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

The factory would bring down the cost of batteries by producing them on a huge scale. The facility would be approximately 10 million square feet, equivalent to about 174 football fields, and be located at an industrial park about 15 miles east of Sparks, a Reno suburb founded as a railroad town more than a century ago.

The ultimate cost of the incentive package to Nevada taxpayers depends on how much economic activity the factory generates. On the low end, it could be worth $865 million, according to Steve Hill, executive director of Sandoval’s Office of Economic Development.

Hill projected the factory would generate roughly $5 billion a year for 20 years for Nevada’s economy and directly or indirectly create 22,000 new jobs over two decades. That includes an estimated 6,500 permanent jobs at the factory with hourly wages above $25 and a peak of 3,000 construction jobs leading up to the opening of the plant in 2017.

He also that even with the tax breaks, the project should generate approximately $1.9 billion in tax revenue for all levels of government — state, local and school districts.

The largest subsidy for an auto-related plant was $1.3 billion that Chrysler received in 2010 to build an assembly plant in Michigan, according to the research group Good Jobs First, which tracks large incentive packages by states.

The group’s executive director, Greg LeRoy, said Sandoval’s projections of job creation and return on investment for the Tesla factory were implausibly rosy.

The governor said that every $1 Nevada invests in the effort will bring $80 back to the economy. LeRoy called that assertion “off the charts false.” What he described as the proper calculation of tax breaks to tax revenues would put the return on investment at $2 or less for every $1 invested.

LeRoy also said the factory would create no more than about 10,000 permanent, non-construction jobs outside the factory, bringing the total to 19,500 — not the 22,000 that Sandoval’s administration claimed.

©2014The Canadian Press

WATCH: twice-lost wedding ring returns, 12 years later – Winnipeg

WATCH: A Winnipeg man’s wedding ring made a near miraculous return after 12 years.

WINNIPEG – A Winnipeg man’s twice-lost wedding ring made a miraculous return, 12 years later and an ocean away.

Helder Prazeres, who now lives overseas, was stunned last month to get a Facebook message from someone in Winnipeg with a picture of the wedding band he last saw in 2002.

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“Really shocked not just that somebody found it but somebody took the time to track us down and return it, that’s huge something for us is really amazing,” Prazeres said via Skype from his home in Alvor, Portugal.

Prazeres dropped the ring during a family picnic in Assiniboine Park in 2002. He spent a day trying to find it, but eventually gave it up for lost. Four years later, a Winnipeg treasure hunter armed with a metal detector heard a tell-tale beep, and found the gold ring in a ditch alongside a road in the park.

“It was from the year 2000 and it had the date that they were married and their first names on the inside,” said Art Crane. He reported it to the Park Police, but they had no record of such a lost ring. So it remained in the box of coins, key chains and rings he keeps in his pickup truck for eight years, until this summer.

The topic of lost rings came up at a family gathering, and Crane showed the one he found in the park to his son-in-law, Justin Phillips. Armed only with the two first names inscribed inside the ring, Phillips worked the Internet from his smartphone, eventually finding an old obituary which mentioned Helder Prazeres and his wife Julie. He typed Prazeres into Facebook and incredibly, the two strangers had a mutual friend. Phillips sent a Facebook message to Prazeres, asking if the ring was his.

“Hello Justin, I am actually speechless right now,” Prazeres writes back in the post dated Aug 8. He describes how he lost the ring, and arranges to have it delivered to his mother-in-law in Winnipeg. “I am still in shock, I thought I would never see that ring again.”

Helder Prazeres and Julie Salgueiro at their wedding in Winnipeg in 2000

Julie Salgueiro

That was actually the second miraculous return for Prazeres’ ring. Married in Winnipeg in 2000, he and his wife Julie Salgueiro were on their honeymoon in Italy when Helder lost the ring in a pool. Staff at the spa later found the ring when the pool was being cleaned, and mailed it back to his Winnipeg address.

Later in 2002, the couple returned to Winnipeg for a visit, retrieved the ring, and within days Prazeres had lost it again in Assiniboine Park.

“Going back to Canada, gettting the ring back and like a few days later losing it again? It was really embarassing, I was devastated, really really devastated,” Prazeres said.

The ring is now in the hands of Prazeres’ mother-in-law in Winnipeg, who plans to return it on a trip to Portugal next year.

“Twelve years after, it’s back, so there’s something about this ring, something fateful kind of reason why it’s found,” said Maria Salgueiro.

And what will happen to the ring after that? Prazeres has long since had it replaced. But the original is special.

“After this it’s going in the safe and it’s not coming out again,” Prazeres said with a laugh.

Family of 14 gets first table large enough to seat them all – Toronto

TORONTO- The day the Costa family moved into their new home they received a surprise that brought tears to their eyes.

The family of 14 has never been able to sit at one table together to eat dinner, but with the help of Jackie Morra that dream has now become a reality.

The large table complete with 14 chairs has also been outfitted with all the necessary dishes, linens and flatware. The table and chairs were donated by Sunpan Modern Home and the rest was donated by Target. Design consultant Jackie Morra contacted Sunpan and Target to ask for their help.

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The table was a complete surprise for the family.

“Oh my God, It’s so beautiful. Susan, thank you, ” Tanya Costa told Susan Hay.

Jackie and her husband Dan worked together as a team to assemble the table and chairs, as well as to set the table, the night before the big surprise.

“I feel like we’re setting up for a wedding,” Jackie said as she was pulling out the dishes.

“To have a table for everyone to sit down during like Thanksgiving, Christmas, dinner in general, it’s going to be so nice to have everyone there talking and being there as a family,” said the eldest daughter Julia.

The Costa family is now in the home that was built for them by Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity has helped to provide safe and affordable housing to more than 3 million people worldwide.

“It’s so beautiful, all the hard work everyone’s put in, how can you even thank them? It’s so absolutely amazing,” Julia said.

Judge reserves decision on Omar Khadr suit claiming torture, abuse

TORONTO – Potential embarrassment to the U.S. should not stop former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr from alleging in an expanded civil suit that Ottawa conspired with Washington to torture him and breach his rights, Federal Court heard Wednesday.

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  • Omar Khadr repeats attempt to sue feds for $20M, claims US conspiracy

  • Omar Khadr agrees to stay in federal prison

In fact, Khadr’s lawyer John Phillips argued that doing so would allow a thorough airing of how the Americans treated him during years of detention.

“If this matter proceeds, I suspect the United States will be embarrassed by what comes out of the process,” Phillips told Judge Richard Mosley.

“(And) Canada is potentially liable for the torture and other punishment that was visited on Omar in Guantanamo.”

Khadr wants to expand his $20-million lawsuit against the Canadian government to include the allegation that Ottawa conspired with the U.S. to detain him indefinitely and otherwise abuse him at Guantanamo Bay.

For its part, federal lawyers argued international law does not allow Khadr to drag the U.S. into his civil action, first filed in 2004.

They also maintained that any abuses Khadr suffered at Guantanamo could be dealt with under his current statement of claim.

“He says he wants to affix Canada with U.S. acts alleged,” said government lawyer Barney Brucker.

“(But alleging) conspiracy is not necessary.”

Among other things, documents show Canadian agents went down to the infamous U.S. prison in 2003 and 2004 to interrogate the Toronto-born Khadr after first agreeing to share any intelligence with his American prosecutors.

Khadr’s military captors then subjected him to sleep-deprivation – known as the “frequent flyer” program – to soften him up for interrogation by the Canadians, previously released documents show.

Mosley, who reserved his decision, seemed disinclined to stop Khadr from trying to prove conspiracy – if the lawsuit gets to trial.

“There was clearly an effort to investigate and build a case against the plaintiff,” Mosley observed.

“That was something Canada took part in.”

Last December, Mosley ruled the proposed amendments to the lawsuit needed to be rewritten before the claims could be heard on their merits at a trial.

Phillips noted Canada made no effort to repatriate its citizen or to help Khadr deal with a prosecution under a military-commission process the U.S. Supreme Court itself ruled illegal in 2006.

He also pointed out that the Supreme Court of Canada later found that Ottawa had violated Khadr’s rights.

“I beg you to let this case proceed as pleaded,” he said to Mosley.

“We can't have child soldiers treated the way they've been in Guantanamo by this government.”

The U.S. government has denied torturing Khadr, 27, who pleaded guilty to five war crimes in October 2010 before an American military commission for incidents that occurred in Afghanistan when he was 15.

The Americans had arrested him in July 2002 following a brutal firefight in which he was terribly injured and an American special forces soldier was killed.

He was returned to Canada in September 2012 and is currently incarcerated in Alberta.

©2014The Canadian Press

Girl, 7, publishes her own comic book series – National

For many kids, comic books serve as a form of escape from the real world, a place to let their imaginations soar.

Seven-year-old Symana Symanski is no different. According to her mother Natalie, she “has loved super heroes since she could express herself.”

But Symana isn’t just escaping into comic books anymore — she’s released a comic of her own thanks to her mother’s influence, the support of strangers, and her own creativity.

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The Girl Who Rides Rainbows made its debut at Anime Expo in Los Angeles this year, the first part of  a planned comic book series written by Symanski.

According to a post on her mother’s Imgur page, the seeds for the comic series were started when Symana, at 5, stopped wanting to hear bedtime stories from her mom — so she could tell them herself.

With her daughter’s permission, Natalie began jotting down Symana’s story ideas on her cell phone to share with family and friends.

Slowly but surely, Symana’s stories started to gain a small following online.

Artists volunteered drawings of the characters in settings in her stories, and slowly the idea for The Girl Who Rides Rainbows came into being.

And Natalie says Symana had clear ideas on what she wanted right from the start.

“We’d have to rearrange the house, the character’s clothes, everything, until she goes, ‘that’s just the way I wanted it.’” Natalie told KGPE News in California.

The story follows a young girl who is transported to a magical kingdom by the pages of a magical book.

Symana got to show off her work on “Artists Row” at Anime Expo.

“The happiness I saw in her from watching complete strangers buy and return the next day ranting about it made my heart swell with so many emotions.” Natalie wrote of her daughter’s experience.

Now the family has started a crowd funding campaign to get the next installment of Symana’s series, called Tiny Tales Chess, published.

In the meantime, her mother writes that Symana’s transition to the publishing world has done worlds of good for her self-confidence, as the comic book fan was previously bullied for her love of super heroes.

So, as Stan Lee is fond of saying: until next time, true believers!

Teen who climbed World Trade Center sentenced to community service – National

NEW YORK – A thrill-seeking teenager who made a daring ascent of the 1 World Trade Center tower has wrapped up his case, with a judge praising him for taking responsibility.

Justin Casquejo was sentenced Wednesday to 23 days of service, which he already completed. He pleaded guilty in July to breaking a city law against scaling tall buildings without permission.

The stunt raised questions about safeguards at one of the nation’s most security-conscious sites.

WATCH: CBS correspondent Michelle Miller explains how the teen climbed the World Trade Center tower.

The 16-year-old from Weehawken, New Jersey, climbed to the top of the nation’s tallest building early on March 16. The 1,776-foot (541-meter)-tall 1 World Trade Center skyscraper isn’t yet open.

Court papers say Casquejo got through a small gap in a construction fence, then used a ladder, scaffolding, elevators and stairs. Authorities say he slipped past an inattentive security guard.

READ MORE: One World Trade Center named as tallest U.S. building

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  • 4 arrested in September parachute jump from 1 World Trade Center

  • Teen eludes security, climbs ladder to reach World Trade Center spire

©2014The Canadian Press

Are you the Canadiens’ next voice? Habs launch search for anthem singer and host – Montreal

MONTREAL — Get your game on Canada, the Montreal Canadiens are looking for a national anthem singer and an in-game host.

Last season, NHL fans were wowed by the singing power of Quebec chanteuse Ginette Reno and teen singing sensation Sara Diamond, but for the upcoming hockey season, the Habs have launched a talent search.

With glowing hearts, we’ll undoubtedly soon see hundreds of Montrealers rise to the challenge.

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  • Will the real Ginette Reno please step forward?

If you think you’ve got the stuff to follow in the footsteps of anthem powerhouse Roger Doucet, auditions kick off at the Bell Centre by the dawn’s early light on September 9 (for the role of singer), and on September 10 (for that of host).

Both the anthem singer and host must be available for all game nights on weekdays and weekends from September to June.

Not photogenic? No need to apply. The team’s website notes that the ideal in-game host should be attractive and camera-ready, as well as perfectly bilingual and outgoing.

Participants hoping to snag the singing role will pre-audition by performing in a capella parts of the Canadian and American national anthems. Crooners selected for the next round will have a second audition from the Bell Centre stands in the afternoon.

For those in need of a refresher, the Montreal Canadiens helpfully provided the lyrics to both anthems on the team’s website.