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


Highlights from the news file for Monday, Dec. 4

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CANADA, CHINA DELAY LAUNCH OF TRADE TALKS: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau concluded talks with the Chinese premier in Beijing, but they were not able to announce the start of formal free trade talks. Trudeau said there wasn't one particular issue that held up the talks, but he wants a progressive trade deal that includes addressing issues such as gender, the environment and labour. Premier Li Keqiang lauded the "golden age" of relations with Canada and said China was amenable to continuing exploratory trade talks. The two countries have spent months in exploratory talks that have taxed China's patience with Canada seeking to add provisions regarding the environment, human rights, labour and gender issues. Despite the fact the much anticipated next step in Canada-China trade relations failed to materialize, Li had kind words for Trudeau and Canada. Li said it was rare for him to have yearly leader's meetings. "This is also a testament to the golden era of our bilateral relations. This also shows the importance you attach to the relationship between our two countries," Li told Trudeau through a translator after their meeting.

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FIRED BROADCASTER GREGG ZAUN ISSUES APOLOGY: Fired Sportsnet baseball analyst Gregg Zaun was "blindsided and emotionally gutted" by recent allegations of inappropriate comments toward female colleagues, saying in a statement Monday that he "naively" believed his language was not offensive. In an "absolute apology" issued through his Toronto-based lawyer Stuart Ducoffe, the former Blue Jays catcher said he was sorry "for any harm or distress which may have been caused by my comments with any female colleagues over the recent past." Zaun was fired as an MLB studio analyst on Thursday after multiple female Sportsnet employees complained about his inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. "After investigating the matter, we decided to terminate his contract, effective immediately," said Rick Brace, president of Rogers Media, in a statement. "This type of behaviour completely contradicts our standards and our core values." Monday's statement was Zaun's first public response to the allegations.

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LIBERAL MP ACCUSES BEZAN OF SEXUAL COMMENTS: A Liberal member of Parliament from Quebec has accused a Conservative MP of making comments towards her that were "humiliating" and "sexual in nature." Sherry Romanado forced the House of Commons into silence Monday when she rose shortly after question period to make the allegations against Manitoba MP James Bezan. "In May, the member from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman publicly made inappropriate, humiliating and unwanted comments to me that were sexual in nature," Romanado said, as her fellow MPs shushed those around her. "These comments have caused me great stress and have negatively affected my work environment." With that, Romanado sat back down, offering no further detail. Earlier Monday, however, Bezan himself rose in the House to offer an apology. "Earlier this year I made an inappropriate and insensitive comment in the presence of the member for Longueuil—Charles—LeMoyne," Bezan said. He, too, did not elaborate, but Speaker Geoff Regan thanked him for his "gracious apology."

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FEDS WILLING TO REDUCE SHARE OF POT REVENUE: The Trudeau government is willing to give provinces and territories a bigger share of the revenue from a federal excise tax on cannabis, provided that the extra money is devoted to helping municipalities cope with the impact of legalizing recreational pot. The feds have proposed giving provincial and territorial governments half of the estimated $1-billion annual excise tax take once weed becomes legal next July. But The Canadian Press has learned that Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his officials have signalled a willingness to increase that share when they sit down next week with their provincial and territorial counterparts. The discussions have been taking place in preparation for a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers Dec. 10-11, where the issue of cannabis taxation is expected to be front and centre. A government official close to the discussions, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said it's too early to discuss the percentage Ottawa will receive. The final decision will rest on an assessment of the needs of the municipalities — and a willingness by provinces and territories to agree to devote the extra revenue to those needs, the official said.

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MAN ARRESTED IN DEATH OF GOOD SAMARITAN IN HAMILTON: Police arrested one man and were looking for another Monday in the fatal shooting of a Good Samaritan in Hamilton, a case that also prompted the city's paramedic service to investigate its response to the incident.  Yosif Al-Hasnawi — described by police as a brave young man who was trying to do the right thing — was shot when he tried to intervene as two men were accosting an older man in downtown Hamilton on Saturday night. Police say they arrested a 20-year-old man in connection with the shooting at about 3:30 a.m. Monday and charged him with accessory after the fact to murder. A second suspect, who police said was the alleged shooter, was still being sought and police said they were in the process of applying for a warrant for second-degree murder. The two suspects turned on Al-Hasnawi when the 19-year-old tried to help an older stranger, police said. Police said paramedics took Al-Hasnawi to hospital on Saturday night, where he died of his injuries. Some witnesses, however, criticized paramedics who responded to the shooting, saying Al-Hasnawi was clearly in distress but wasn't taken seriously.

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B.C. COURT RULES AGAIN INJURED VETERANS: The B.C. Court of Appeal has dealt a devastating blow to a group of injured veterans engaged in a landmark legal battle with the federal government. The six veterans involved in the so-called Equitas lawsuit had alleged that they were unfairly treated because of a major overhaul in 2006 to the way the government compensates those injured in the line of service. Chief among the changes was replacing lifelong disability pensions with a lump-sum payment, career training and targeted income support — a regime known as the New Veterans Charter, which veterans rejected as being worth less than the previous pension system, which they want reinstated or replaced with a true equivalent. The case, first launched in 2012 under the previous Conservative government but continued with the Liberals, is seen as having major implications for all recently injured veterans. The Equitas veterans scored a victory in 2014 when a B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled that there was enough merit to the case — which the group planned to turn into a class-action lawsuit — to proceed to trial. But after the federal government appealed the decision, the three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel struck down the claim in its entirety Monday, saying the case had no chance of success.

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GRIEVING MOTHER TESTIFIES AT INQUIRY IN NORTHERN ONTARIO: A grieving mother wiped back tears as she told a public inquiry about the torment of losing her daughter. Anita Ross was the first witness Monday to testify at the start of three days of hearings in Thunder Bay, Ont., of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Ross spoke of her mounting despair the evening her 16-year-old daughter, Delaine Copenace, disappeared in February of last year. The Kenora, Ont., woman says her daughter went for a walk with other teens and never returned and police were initially dismissive of her concerns, suggesting the girl was probably just drunk somewhere. Ross says she felt she couldn't trust most of the officers she had to deal with and that they seemed indifferent to her anguish. Police called off their search after 14 days and Delaine's body was found in Lake of the Woods several weeks after she went missing. The coroner decided the teen had drowned with no evidence of foul play and there would be no inquest. Ross says her daughter showed signs of bruising and no bloating. About 50 family members and survivors are due to tell their stories during two days of public hearings and a third day of private submissions in Thunder Bay.

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TRUDEAU APPOINTS SENATORS FOR NOVA SCOTIA, MANITOBA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed new senators for Nova Scotia and Manitoba. Mary Coyle, a champion of women's leadership, gender equality and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, is the new senator for Nova Scotia. Mary Jane McCallum, a First Nations woman who provided vital dental and health services to northern, First Nations, and Indigenous communities during her career, will represent Manitoba. Coyle worked in international development in Indonesia, pioneered the development of a micro-finance bank in Bolivia and helped establish the First Peoples Fund to provide micro loans to First Nations and Metis communities in Canada. McCallum practised as a dentist, was a community leader in several areas across her province and led the University of Manitoba's Aboriginal dental health programs. These Senate appointments are the 29th and 30th Trudeau has made since taking office.

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HIV-POSITIVE PEOPLE SAY RULING ONLY FIRST STEP: A move by the Ontario government to limit the prosecution of HIV-positive people who don't disclose their status to sexual partners is being called a step in the right direction by those affected, but they say there's much more progress to be made. The government announced Friday that people with low viral loads who don't have a realistic chance of transmitting the disease can't be charged with a crime if they don't disclose their medical status to a sexual partner. Previously, non-disclosure could lead to an aggravated sexual assault charge that landed convicted people on a sex offender list. Ontario made the changes after studies showed that the risk of transmission is negligible if people are being treated for the disease or if appropriate precautions are taken. However, advocates in the community say there are downsides to the ruling as well. Jeff Potts, managing director of the support and advocacy group Canadian Positive People Network, said that decriminalizing only people with low viral loads means the community will be divided between people who are fortunate enough to get the medical treatment they need, and marginalized people who are not. "At the end of the day, laws that criminalize people living with HIV for any reason, unless it can be proven there was intentional harm, are unjust," said Potts, who has been HIV-positive for three decades.

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PRICEY TAMPONS THE NORM IN THE NORTH: A $15 box of tampons sold at the Calgary International Airport may have elicited shock online, but it's common for feminine hygiene products to cost that much — or more — in many remote northern communities. Carlee Field was waiting for a flight from Calgary to Vancouver last month when she stopped to use the ladies' room in the terminal. Inside the bathroom, she saw a box of tampons with a note that said all of the machines were empty and that it had been necessary to buy a $15 box from the Relay shop. The unsigned note's author said the price mark-up was unacceptable and invited others to take a tampon if they needed one. Shortly after Field posted a photo on the social media site Reddit, the airport authority wrote that the machines had been refilled and the price at Relay had been lowered to $6.25. Moon Time Sisters, a group that collects feminine hygiene products to donate to communities in northern Ontario and Saskatchewan, says a box of tampons can cost $19 in areas where Indigenous women are often struggling with unemployment and low incomes.

The Canadian Press

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