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


Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Nov. 28

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TRUDEAU APOLOGIZES TO LGBTQ COMMUNITY: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is apologizing on behalf of the federal government for perpetrating decades of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. Dozens of people — including two of Trudeau's own kids, Xavier and Ella-Grace — were crammed into the various House of Commons galleries, many of them sporting rainbow ribbons, to witness the historic occasion, which the prime minister says he hopes will finally allow the healing process to begin for those affected. Earlier Tuesday, the government introduced legislation which, if passed, will allow the expungement of criminal records belonging to people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners. It has also earmarked more than $100 million to compensate members of the military and other federal agencies whose careers were sidelined or ended due to their sexual orientation, part of a class-action settlement with employees who were investigated, sanctioned and sometimes fired as part of the so-called "gay purge."

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FINANCE MINISTER FIRES BACK AT TORIES: Finance Minister Bill Morneau is threatening to take the Conservatives to court after the official Opposition peppered him with questions about a stock sale that occurred before he introduced pension legislation in the House of Commons. Morneau calls the insinuations by Tory finance critic Pierre Poilievre "absurd" and says they have "no basis in any sort of fact." Poilievre says a motion introduced by Morneau in December 2015 to raise income taxes on the highest earners caused the entire stock market to drop — including the price of Morneau Shepell shares, 680,000 of which the minister sold off a week before the announcement. If Poilievre and others want to make such claims outside the Commons, where MPs enjoy the legal protection afforded by parliamentary privilege, they will be hearing from the minister's lawyers, Morneau suggested Tuesday in a hastily called news conference on Parliament Hill. Morneau has been at the centre of an ethics controversy for weeks. The ethics commissioner has launched a formal examination to determine if he was in a conflict of interest related to his work to introduce pension-reform legislation, which critics have insisted would benefit Morneau Shepell — a company in which, until recently, Morneau owned about $21 million worth of shares.

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GUN RALLY PLANNED AT POLYTECHNIQUE MEMORIAL: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Montreal's mayor and several Quebec cabinet ministers have denounced a plan by a pro-gun lobby group to hold a rally at a memorial site for the 14 women who were killed at Ecole polytechnique in 1989. The event at Place du 6 decembre this Saturday comes four days before the 28th anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history. Word of the weekend event sparked outrage from various people, including Trudeau, Mayor Valerie Plante and Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux. "A needless and cruel provocation," Trudeau tweeted Tuesday. "No matter the debate, no matter the argument, the families of Polytechnique victims should come first. May we always honour their memory."  But Guy Morin, vice-president of Tous contre un registre quebecois des armes a feu (All Against a Quebec Gun Registry), defended the event as a way of reaching out to the gun control lobby and groups like PolySeSouvient, an organization comprised of survivors of the Polytechnique massacre and members of victims' families. That group and its members have been targeted by gun lobby members online, but Morin said he wants dialogue.

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COMMUNITIES DECRY NEWSPAPER CLOSURES: The closure of more than 30 newspapers across Canada deprive members of a key source of information while threatening to hobble local businesses, residents said Tuesday. Small towns across Ontario were still reeling from word of a blockbuster deal between Torstar Corp. and Postmedia Network Inc., which would see the two media conglomerates swap a total of 41 papers and then immediately close all but five of them. The closures, which include such publications as the Barrie Examiner, the Orilia Packet and Times and the Thorold Niagara News, cost 291 people their jobs according to the companies. The deal is currently under review by the federal Competition Bureau and has renewed calls for the government to take action on saving the media industry, which has been decimated by dwindling advertising revenue in recent years. Tony Vandermaas, who's lived in the southwestern Ontario town of Thorold for 33 years and has written columns for previous iterations of the now-shuttered community's paper, said the business sense of the decision doesn't make the closure easier to stomach. "I'm afraid that we're going to get less coverage up here in Thorold than we ever had before, and we didn't have much to start with."

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EXPOSURE TO HIGH DEBT, HOUSING HAS EASED, CENTRAL BANK SAYS: The Bank of Canada is flagging the steady climb of household debt and still-hot housing markets as the financial system's top vulnerabilities — but it's also seeing some early signs of improvement. In a report Tuesday, the bank said there's some evidence Canada's exposure to these persistent trouble spots has begun to ease, thanks to healthy job creation, tightening housing policies and higher mortgages rates. The assessment is part of the bank's semi-annual review, which explores key vulnerabilities and risks surrounding the stability of the financial system. It describes vulnerabilities as pre-existing conditions that could amplify or propagate economic shocks. The report said indebtedness, especially the number of highly indebted households, remains high. Household debt relative to income has reached historically lofty levels and continues to grow, the bank said. But it noted there's already some green shoots that suggest stricter lending rules have started to reduce the country's exposure to hefty debtloads.

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GREENS' WIN IN P.E.I. 'ABSOLUTELY ASTOUNDING': The Green party has pulled off an unprecedented electoral victory in P.E.I., doubling its standings in the legislature and potentially signalling a surprising shift in the political landscape of Canada's smallest province. The upstart party increased the number of its MLAs on the Island to two from one in a byelection Monday following the resignation of a Liberal cabinet minister last month. Hannah Bell, the 48-year-old head of a businesswomen's association in Charlottetown, easily defeated the Liberal, NDP and Conservative candidates, suggesting a breakthrough for the party that elected its first MLA just two years ago. "Against the odds, we totally knocked it out of the park," Bell said in an interview the morning after a late night of celebrating her win. "It's absolutely astounding and shows the real appetite for change." Bell captured 35.3 per cent of the vote in the Charlottetown-Parkdale byelection, according to unofficial results from Elections PEI. Liberal Bob Doiron took second place with 28.5 per cent, Melissa Hilton of the PCs came in third with 26.9 per cent of the vote and New Democrat Mike Redmond captured 9.3 per cent.

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COPS WHO MOCKED WOMAN WITH DOWN SYNDROME PLEAD GUILTY: Two Toronto police constables who were recorded mocking a 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome last year have learned a "valuable yet shameful lesson," a police prosecutor told a disciplinary hearing Tuesday as the officers pleaded guilty to misconduct. Const. Sasa Sljivo and Const. Matthew Saris have taken responsibility for their actions and apologized in writing to Francie Munoz and her relatives, Insp. Domenic Sinopoli told a room packed with the family's supporters. And while the Munoz family had requested a public, in-person apology, "the act of contrition need not be a public spectacle of shame," Sinopoli said. The prosecution and defence jointly proposed that Sljivo, who was the senior officer and the one who made the comments, face five days of unpaid work, and Saris two. Both officers would have to volunteer at least 20 hours with the Special Olympics and undergo an extra hour of sensitivity training. The hearing officer reserved his decision and no date has been set for its release. Sljivo pleaded guilty to misconduct related to the use of profane, abusive or insulting language, while Saris pleaded guilty to misconduct related to the failure to report Sljivo's comments, which contravened the Ontario Human Rights Code.

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GRASSY NARROWS SEEKS MERCURY TREATMENT CENTRE: Leaders from a Northern Ontario First Nation urged the federal and Ontario governments to commit to building and funding a mercury treatment centre in their community ahead of a meeting with them Wednesday. Mercury contamination has plagued the English-Wabigoon River system in northwestern Ontario for half a century, since a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 9,000 kilograms of the substance into the river systems in the 1960s. Researchers have reported that more than 90 per cent of the people in the nearby Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nation show signs of mercury poisoning. Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister, who suffers from mercury poisoning himself, is frustrated that there hasn't been a firm commitment to the treatment centre itself, saying his years-long efforts to push for one feel like a dog chasing its tail. Grassy Narrows leaders are set to meet Wednesday with Ontario Indigenous Relations Minister David Zimmer and federal Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott, who has so far committed to a feasibility study for a mercury treatment centre. Zimmer said Tuesday that Ottawa would make a commitment to fund the centre at Wednesday's meeting, but his office later said he misspoke and had been referring to the feasibility study.

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ELEPHANT TROPHIES LEGAL TO IMPORT IN CANADA: In the last decade, Canadians have legally imported more than 2,600 trophy animals that are on an international list of endangered species. The imports also include thousands of animal skins, skulls, feet, ears, tusks, horns and tails of everything from antelope to zebras from all corners of the earth. Earlier this month, the United States made waves when the Fish and Wildlife Service suddenly reversed a 2014 ban on elephant imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia. U.S. President Donald Trump stepped in to halt that reversal, tweeting earlier this month that he considers elephant hunting a "horror show" and that it was unlikely anyone could convince him hunting the animals was good for conservation. Canada, on the other hand, never banned the imports in the first place. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, tracks animals on three lists based on the level of protection needed and requires permits to be issued before these animals or any parts of them can be traded across international borders. That database shows that between 2007 and 2016, Canada allowed the legal importation of 2,647 mammals as hunting trophies, including 83 elephants, 256 lions, 134 zebras, 76 hippos and 19 rhinoceroses.

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ARGOS CELEBRATE GREY CUP WIN AT RALLY: Cheering fans and jubilant members of the Argonauts packed Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday as the team celebrated its CFL-record 17th Grey Cup win. Veteran quarterback Ricky Ray carried the Cup through an excited crowd, with many fans clamouring to get photos of the iconic trophy. The 38-year-old Ray, who set his own CFL record by winning his fourth Grey Cup as a starting quarterback, is still determining his football future, but he was treated to chants of "one more year" by fans and teammates while addressing the rally. The Argos — who missed the playoffs in 2016 and finished the 2017 season 9-9 — pulled off a surprising 27-24 comeback victory over the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday's snowy championship game in Ottawa. Also taking the stage at the rally was Toronto Mayor John Tory — himself a former CFL commissioner — who couldn't resist taking a playful dig at Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The two mayors placed a Grey Cup wager on the game, and after losing the bet Nenshi had to wear an Argonauts jersey at a Calgary city council meeting Monday while reciting a poem extolling the virtues of the CFL champions.

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The Canadian Press

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