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In The News for April 21 : Canada's premiers, police chiefs to talk bail reform

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 21 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson delivers her annual state of the province speech at the convention centre in Winnipeg, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. The association representing Canada's chiefs of police is expected to meet with provincial and territorial premiers today to talk about reforming Canada's criminal justice system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 21 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The association representing Canada's chiefs of police is expected to meet with provincial and territorial premiers today to talk about reforming Canada's criminal justice system.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, who chairs the Council of the Federation, says premiers aim to hear chiefs' public-safety concerns and their perspectives on how Ottawa should amend federal law, including on bail reform.

Premiers have been calling on the federal government to renew and enhance its Guns and Gang Violence Action Fund, which supports provincial and territorial public-safety initiatives.

That request follows previous calls for Ottawa to create "reverse onus" measures for certain offences that would require a person seeking bail to prove why they should not stay behind bars.

Justice Minister David Lametti committed to move forward quickly on "targeted reforms" to the Criminal Code that would update Canada's bail system after meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts last month.

The virtual meeting with police chiefs, which is also expected to touch on broader public-safety concerns, is taking place after recent violent attacks and murders in Metro Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Toronto. 


Also this ...

The Defence Department's procurement chief is hoping to have a better sense by the end of the year as to how much Canada will have to pay to build a new fleet of warships for the Royal Canadian Navy.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, assistant deputy minister of materiel Troy Crosby said officials continue to review and refine Ottawa's plan to build 15 new warships to replace the Navy's frigates and destroyers over the next two decades.

That includes moving closer to a final design and preparing to cut steel on a test model next year on what will eventually be the largest and most complex military procurement in Canadian history.

Yet Crosby said he won't have an updated cost estimate until at least later this year, when he expects Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding to submit a formal plan for building the first three ships.

"We will have a better sense of that once we get through to the shipyard's proposal for the build of the first batch of three ships, which I would expect to receive later this year," he said.

Defence insiders and industry have been eagerly awaiting word on how much the government expects the ships to cost. A big increase is likely to force the government into making a tough decision: find more money or scale back on the fleet.

The government's most recent estimate in 2017 was around $60 billion, which was more than double the original budget of $26 billion earmarked for the fleet when Irving was selected to build the warships in 2011.

In a report last year, parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux pegged the price at more than $84 billion — and climbing — as the project continues to hit delays. Officials have questioned that figure, but acknowledged the price will be higher than in 2017.

That has prompted questions about whether this government or a future iteration will scale back its plans and purchase fewer ships, which are based on a British design known as the Type 26 and slated to be built by Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax.


And this too ...

Canada has promised up to $13 billion in subsidies to Volkswagen to secure the automaker's first battery plant outside of Europe, but it remains to be seen whether that's enough to kick start the manufacturing sector's future.

Experts are divided on whether the rising sticker shock of establishing a manufacturing base for electric vehicles is a worthy investment to secure the next generation of auto assembly or a sign that Canada should not worry so much about the sector.

Flavio Volpe at the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association says people should focus more on the $200 billion in output the company will have to meet to secure the full payout.

The subsidy is designed to spur the volume of production needed to meet emissions targets and comes as governments worldwide are looking to secure the future of auto sectors as the industry undergoes the tectonic shift to a fully electric future.

But Rob Gillezeau at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management says the auto industry is already humming and it doesn't seem to make much sense to spend so richly to establish the plant.

He raises doubts about the economic models justifying the plant and the supposed payback on the investment in a few years, noting that Canada is already shifting more to a service economy.

Gillezeau adds Canada has seen numerous wins on electric vehicles already that secure an electric vehicle manufacturing base.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

NEW ORLEANS _ A U.S. federal judge donated tens of thousands of dollars to New Orleans' Roman Catholic archdiocese and consistently ruled in favour of the church amid a contentious bankruptcy involving nearly 500 clergy sex abuse victims, The Associated Press found, an apparent conflict that could throw the case into disarray.

Confronted with AP's findings, which have not been previously reported, U.S. District Judge Greg Guidry abruptly convened attorneys on a call last week to tell them his charitable giving "has been brought to my attention'' and he is now considering recusal from the high-profile bankruptcy he oversees in an appellate role.

"Naturally,'' Guidry told them, "I will take no further action in this case until this question has been resolved.''

AP's reporting on Guidry and other judges in the New Orleans bankruptcy underscores how tightly woven the church is in the city's power structure, a coziness perhaps best exemplified when executives of the NFL's New Orleans Saints secretly advised the archdiocese on public relations messaging at the height of its clergy abuse crisis.

It also comes at a fraught moment when attorneys in the bankruptcy are seeking to unseal a trove of thousands of secret church documents produced by lawsuits and an ongoing FBI investigation of clergy abuse in New Orleans going back decades. Guidry had rebuffed at least one such request to unseal some of the documents.

Ethics experts said the 62-year-old Guidry should immediately recuse himself to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, despite the slew of new hearings and appeals it could trigger three years into a complex bankruptcy.

AP's review of campaign-finance records found that Guidry, since being nominated to the federal bench in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump, has given nearly $50,000 to local Catholic charities from leftover contributions he received after serving 10 years as a Louisiana Supreme Court justice.

Most of that giving, $36,000 of it, came in the months after the archdiocese sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2020 amid a crush of sexual abuse lawsuits. That included a $12,000 donation to the archdiocese's Catholic Community Foundation in September 2020 on the same day of a series of filings in the bankruptcy, and a $14,000 donation to the same charity in July of the following year.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

KHARTOUM, Sudan _ Sudan's top general on Friday declared the military's commitment to a civilian-led government, an apparent bid for international support days after brutal fighting between his forces and a powerful paramilitary group derailed hopes for the country's democratic transition.

In his first speech since the conflict engulfed Sudan nearly a week ago, army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan pledged the military would prevail and secure the vast African nation's "safe transition to civilian rule.'' But for many Sudanese, Burhan's claim rang hollow 18 months after he joined forces with his current rival to seize power in a coup that cast aside Sudan's pro-democracy forces.

Burhan's announcement came on the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan and its month of fasting. The day _ typically filled with prayer, celebration and feasting _ was a sombre one in Sudan, as gunshots rang out across the capital of Khartoum and heavy smoke billowed over the skyline. Mosques held mass morning prayers inside to protect worshippers from the intensified fighting, which so far has killed some 300 people.

"We are confident that we will overcome this ordeal with our training, wisdom and strength,'' Burhan said in his speech, vowing to preserve "the security and unity of the state.''

"Ruin and destruction and the sound of bullets have left no place for the happiness everyone in our beloved country deserves,'' he added.

The video marked the first time Burhan has been seen since violence erupted in Khartoum and other areas of the country.

The explosions and gunfire rocking Khartoum on Friday followed frenzied international calls for a holiday ceasefire. After the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged a respite from the spiralling violence, Burhan's military claimed Friday the sides had agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire. Its rival, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, also promised to stop fighting for the three days of Eid al-Fitr to allow for evacuations and safe corridors. But such proposed pauses in the fighting have repeatedly collapsed over the past week.

The two generals vying for control over the vast African nation are also vying for acceptance by foreign powers, which have tried to usher in Sudan's much-awaited transition to democracy. Even as the factions _ led by Burhan and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo _ engaged in international negotiations and sought to portray themselves as supporters of democracy on the world stage, they jointly seized power in a 2021 coup that effectively made them Sudan's most powerful leaders.

Both Burhan and Dagalo have repeatedly failed to implement agreements that would get them to hand over power, including a 2019 deal struck after the generals turned on long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir in the wake of a pro-democracy popular uprising against his rule.


On this day in 1918 ...

German air ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen -- better known as the "Red Baron'' -- was shot down and killed over the Western Front during a First World War dogfight with Capt. Roy Brown of Carleton Place, Ont., a flight leader in the 209th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps.


In entertainment ...

SANTA FE, N.M. _ Prosecutors will dismiss an involuntary manslaughter charge against Alec Baldwin in the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western film "Rust,'' alluding to new revelations in the investigation while cautioning that Baldwin has not been absolved.

A follow-up investigation will remain active and an involuntary manslaughter charge against Hannah Gutierrez Reed, weapons supervisor on the film, remains unchanged, special prosecutors Kari Morrisey and Jason Lewis said. An online status hearing was scheduled Friday in state District Court for both defendants.

"New facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis,'' the prosecutors said Thursday in a news release, without elaborating on those facts. "This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled. Our follow-up investigation will remain active and on-going.''

Lawyers for Baldwin were first to announce that prosecutors were changing course, in a sharp turnaround for the Hollywood luminary who just a few months ago was confronting the possibility of a yearslong prison sentence.

"We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,'' defence attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro said in a statement.

Baldwin was pointing a pistol at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal when it went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has said the gun fired accidentally and he did not pull the trigger. An FBI forensic report found the weapon could not have fired unless the trigger was pulled, however.

In March, "Rust'' safety coordinator and assistant director David Halls pleaded no contest to a conviction for unsafe handling of a firearm and a suspended sentence of six months of probation. He agreed to co-operate in further inquiries into the fatal shooting.


Did you see this?

Twitter has removed the "government-funded media'' tag on public broadcasters including the CBC Thursday without any explanation.

The move came after the Global Task Force for public media called on Twitter earlier in the day to correct its description of public broadcasters in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

The group chaired by CBC president Catherine Tait had said Twitter applied the label without warning to the accounts of CBC/Radio-Canada; the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, known as ABC; the Korean Broadcasting System, or KBS; and Radio New Zealand, or RNZ.

It noted that Twitter's own policy defines government-funded media as those that may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content.

The task force said that was not the case here, where editorial independence is protected in law and enshrined in editorial policies.

It said the most accurate label would be "publicly funded media.''

Twitter initially labelled several accounts with the British Broadcasting Corporation "government-funded media,'' but changed that to "publicly funded media'' after the BBC objected.

The call follows efforts by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting to change CBC's Twitter label. The group said Monday that it wrote to Twitter to say the designation is "incorrect and misleading.''


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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