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


Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Dec. 5

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CANADIAN ANTI-DOPING ADVOCATE COMMENDS IOC'S RUSSIAN CRACKDOWN: Beckie Scott says she's encouraged by the International Olympic Committee's decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics and allow only clean athletes from that country to compete as neutrals. The former Canadian cross-country skier has been an anti-doping campaigner since her bronze medal in 2002 was upgraded from silver and then to gold because athletes who finished ahead of her were disqualified over failed doping tests. The IOC says Russian athletes have to prove they're clean in order to compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February. They can't wear the Russian flag or hear the Russian anthem played if they win gold. Scott, the chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency's athlete committee, says the IOC's announcement sends a strong message to clean athletes that they'll be protected.

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B.C. SETS MINIMUM AGE OF 19 TO CONSUME MARIJUANA: The British Columbia government has set 19 as the minimum age to legally possess, purchase and consume marijuana in the province. The age for consumption is consistent with alcohol and tobacco regulations, and with the age of majority, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in a news release Tuesday. Retail sales of recreational marijuana will be permitted through public and private stores with more details to be released next year. The wholesale distribution system will also be similar to alcohol as the government's liquor distribution branch will act as the supplier. Farnworth said the government wants to protect young people, make health and safety a priority, keep criminals out of the industry and maintain road safety. A report released along with the government announcement says many people expressed concern about the impact of cannabis on brain development for those under 25. 

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TRUDEAU SAYS TRADE WITH CHINA REBUTS POPULISM: Pursuing free trade with China and preserving the North American Free Trade Agreement are part of Canada's international mission to combat the rising tide of populism, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday. Trudeau capped the first leg of his China trip in Beijing on Tuesday meeting the country's powerful president as talks continued to formally kickstart free trade negotiations between the two countries. Xi Jinping welcomed Trudeau with a handshake at a red and gold glittering guesthouse nestled in a manicured compound with ponds and waterfalls. He noted the prime minister had been having busy and productive meetings in Beijing. The prime minister remained hopeful that Canada and China could forge ahead with a full-fledged trade deal that he said would benefit working people in both countries. Trudeau characterized his trade ambitions with China, NAFTA and pursuing other deals in Asia, including a new version of Trans-Pacific Partnership, as part of Canada's fight against the protectionist tide most closely associated with the Donald Trump administration in Washington.

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CHINA NOT JOINING CANADA'S COAL PHASE OUT: Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says getting China into Canada's international alliance to wean the world off coal power would be a huge win, but says the world's most populous country cannot make that kind of commitment right now. McKenna is in Beijing this week as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's China trade mission. She tells The Canadian Press she trusts China is committed to climate change, but its reliance on coal is too heavy for it to join the alliance Canada launched with the United Kingdom last month. Coal is considered to be one of the dirtiest sources of electricity and if it is not mostly eliminated over the next decade or so, the world will struggle to meet its goal of keeping global warming to within two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Eighteen other nations signed onto the coal phase-out alliance, but most barely use coal at all, with the biggest users such as China, India, Germany and the United States not part of it.

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BUSINESSMAN PLEADS GUILTY IN IMMIGRATION CASE: A Halifax businessman stood in court Tuesday to admit submitting false records to immigration authorities, a moment of vindication for the Filipino temporary workers whom he had allegedly underpaid. "We're very happy that after almost five years, he said it," Jason Sta. Juana, 38, said in an interview outside Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Sta. Juana is among the several dozen temporary workers — many of whom attended court Tuesday — who assisted investigators from the Canada Border Services Agency in probing the employment practices of 55-year-old Hector Mantolino. The businessman offered his guilty plea to misrepresentation under provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for "false information regarding the employment" of Sta. Juana and at least 25 other workers listed on the federal indictment. The operator of Mantolino Property Services Ltd. was originally charged in June 2013 with 56 counts of immigration fraud following a Canada Border Services Agency investigation. Those charges were rolled into a single indictment in Tuesday's hearing. Mantolino was accused by the federal Crown of advising foreign workers to provide misleading and untruthful statements on their work permit applications between July 2010 and April 2013.

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THALIDOMIDE GROUP ALLEGES INSULTS BY MINISTER: Members of a group of thalidomide survivors dropped a bombshell Tuesday as they accused Disabilities Minister Kent Hehr of belittling them with insulting and degrading remarks during a face-to-face meeting earlier this year. The comments from Hehr came during an Oct. 19 meeting, which the group had hoped would encourage the federal government to make good on its commitment to further compensate those impacted by the now-banned pregnancy drug, said Fiona Sampson, herself a survivor who was at the meeting. The minister said, "'You don't have it as bad today as adults as you did when you were kids,'" Sampson quoted the minister as saying, along with, "'everyone in Canada has a sob story. Lots of people have it bad in Canada — disabled people, poor people, not just you.'" And when Hehr was told about the impact their condition was expected to have on their life spans, Sampson alleges he responded: "'So, you probably have about 10 years left now. That's good news for the Canadian government.'" In a statement Tuesday, Hehr flatly denied ever making the latter remark, and described the first two comments as having been "misconstrued." He also apologized to the group last month after a letter of complaint was sent to the Prime Minister's Office.

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LAURA BABCOCK IS NOT DEAD, ACCUSED KILLER TELLS JURY: A man accused of killing a young woman who vanished more than five years ago told court Tuesday that he believes she's not dead. Dellen Millard, who is representing himself, told the jury in his closing address that several witnesses have seen or heard from Laura Babcock after July 4, 2012. "I don't think you'll come to that conclusion that Laura is dead. Then you have to get into how did she die? Where did she die? When did she die," he said. "These all have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt." The Crown alleges Millard and his co-accused, Mark Smich, killed Babcock on July 3 or 4, 2012, because she was the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend. Both Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Babcock, whose body has not been found. Prosecutors believe the pair burned the 23-year-old woman's remains in a large animal incinerator — named The Eliminator — that was later found on Millard's farm near Waterloo, Ont. Millard said he understands that members of the jury might not approve of the way he's lived his life, or treated certain people, but he's asking them to put all that aside.

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FEDS REJECT FRENCH-ITALIAN WARSHIP PROPOSAL: The federal government is trying to keep its multibillion-dollar plan to build new warships for the navy from capsizing by rejecting a French and Italian consortium's controversial proposal. Paris-based Naval Group and Italian firm Fincantieri say they can build 15 new ships to replace the Royal Canadian Navy's frigates and destroyers for much less than the $60 billion budgeted for those vessels. But the government says it will not consider the offer because the two companies did not follow the established process for submitting such proposals, the deadline for which fell last Thursday. In a strongly worded statement, officials say accepting such a proposal would be unfair, establish a harmful precedent and ultimately threaten the government's ability to acquire ships for the navy. The statement also attacks the companies' claims of being able to build ships at a discount, calling it "far from evident." The Naval Group-Fincantieri proposal is the latest wrinkle in the largest planned military purchase in Canadian history, which is not expected to result in any ships being in the water until the mid-2020s.

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WAR MUSEUM GETS HELP IN BUYING VICTORIA CROSS: A rare medal awarded to a Canadian soldier for extreme bravery at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 will be staying in Canada thanks to the Canadian War Museum — and the soldier's great-granddaughter. Cpl. Colin Barron's Victoria Cross was sold Tuesday by an auction house for $420,000, almost a century after Barron crept behind enemy lines at Passchendaele to take out several machine-gun nests. Some feared the medal — sold by Barron's grandson in Toronto about 30 years ago to support himself and his only daughter, Lesley Barron Kerr — would be bought by a foreign collector. But the Canadian War Museum has confirmed that it successfully purchased the medal with help from Kerr, who donated an undisclosed amount of money to make sure it stayed in Canada. Barron was one of nine Canadians to receive a Victoria Cross for actions at Passchendaele, which has gone down in history as one of the bloodiest and most controversial battles of the First World War.

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ATHLETES STAND TOGETHER WITH SEX ASSAULT SURVIVORS: Some female athletes at St. Francis Xavier University have come up with a remarkable response to sex-assault charges against two members of the varsity football team. Soccer players have launched a solidarity campaign with sexual assault survivors, quelling a potential backlash that experts say can arise in the wake of damning allegations against popular male athletes on university campuses. Sarah Bruce, a second-year student on the X-Women soccer team, launched the campaign called We Stand Together to channel her anger and spark social change on the Antigonish, N.S., campus, she said. Fellow teammate Emma Kuzmyk, a first-year student and goalkeeper on the soccer team, wrote a poem and created a video calling attention to sexual assaults on university campuses. The video has garnered thousands of views, while the campaign logo has been widely shared on social media and is now featured on stickers, pins and T-shirts. As accounts of sexual assaults by powerful men surface around the world, the small-town university in Atlantic Canada is facing its own reckoning with allegations of sexual violence. The solidarity campaign appears to have helped stamp out the once ubiquitous victim-blaming tropes that emerge when accusations are levelled against powerful male students on university campuses. 

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The Canadian Press

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