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Legault to visit Quebec town reeling from vehicle attack : In The News for March 16

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 March 16 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
Women place plush toys on the steps of the church in Amqui, Que., Wednesday, March 15, 2023. Two people were killed and nine others were injured Monday afternoon when a pickup truck plowed into pedestrians who were walking beside a road in Amqui.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

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 March 16 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Quebec Premier François Legault will today visit the eastern Quebec town where a pickup truck plowed into groups of pedestrians, killing two.

Legault will be joined by opposition leaders and other politicians in Amqui, the small community in the lower St-Lawrence region, where he will meet with local residents and hold a news conference.

Two men were killed and nine people were injured Monday when a man drove a truck down one of the eastern Quebec town's main streets, allegedly hitting several different groups of pedestrians in what police have described as an intentional act.

Thirty-eight-year-old Steeve Gagnon is facing two counts of dangerous driving causing death, and prosecutors have said more charges will follow.

Legault said earlier this week that his visit to the shaken community is meant as a comforting gesture.

A candlelight vigil is also planned in front of the Saint-Benoît-Joseph-Labre church at 7 p.m.


Also this ...

Some federal government workers will be able to continue remote work for another year, as most face a March 31 deadline to return to the office at least two days a week. 

A spokesperson for Treasury Board President Mona Fortier says the government will take another year to "assess the benefits" of remote work for call centres at the Canada Revenue Agency and the departments of Immigration and Employment and Social Development.

The Procurement Department's pay centre will also work from home for another year, along with adjudicators for the Immigration and Refugee Board. 

In December, Fortier announced that all departments would be mandated back to the office at least two days a week to address inconsistencies across the public service. 

A union representing over 72,000 public servants says they have been told the extensions were needed because of retention and recruitment issues. 

The president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada says this is only leading to more chaos around the already contentious issue. 


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

The Biden administration's approval this week of the biggest oil drilling project in Alaska in decades promises to widen a rift among Alaska Natives, with some saying that oil money can't counter the damages caused by climate change and others defending the project as economically vital.

Two lawsuits filed almost immediately by environmentalists and one Alaska Native group are likely to exacerbate tensions that have built up over years of debate about ConocoPhillips Alaska's Willow project.

Many communities on Alaska's North Slope celebrated the project's approval, citing new jobs and the influx of money that will help support schools, other public services and infrastructure investments in their isolated villages. Just a few decades ago, many villages had no running water, said Doreen Leavitt, director of natural resources for the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope.  Housing shortages continues to be a problem, with multiple generations often living together, she said.

"We still have a long ways to go. We don't want to go backwards," Leavitt said.

She said 50 years of oil production on the petroleum-rich North Slope has shown that development can coexist with wildlife and the traditional, subsistence way of life.

But some Alaska Natives blasted the decision to greenlight the project, and they are supported by environmental groups challenging the approval in federal court.

The acrimony toward the project was underscored in a letter dated earlier this month written by three leaders in the Nuiqsut community, who described their remote village as ``ground zero for industrialization of the Arctic.'' They addressed the letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of New Mexico's Laguna Pueblo and the first Native American to lead a Cabinet department.

They cited the threat that climate change poses to caribou migrations and to their ability to travel across once-frozen areas.


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

Thousands of people in France angered over President Emmanuel Macron's plan to raise the retirement age joined a national strike on Wednesday as a committee of lawmakers advanced the proposal.

It remains to be seen whether Macron can command a parliamentary majority for his plan to raise the age from 62 to 64 so that workers can pay more money into the system. If not, he could risk imposing the unpopular changes unilaterally.

The plan also would deny a full pension to anyone who retires at 64 without having worked for 43 years _ short of that, they'd have to wait until 67.

Macron has promoted the changes as central to his vision for making the French economy more competitive. Unions remained combative late Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to vote against the plan and denouncing the government's legal shortcuts to move the bill forward as a dangerous ``denial of democracy.''

Economic challenges have prompted widespread unrest across Western Europe. In Britain on Wednesday, teachers, junior doctors and public transport staff were striking for higher wages to match rising prices. And Spain's left-wing government joined with labor unions to announce a "historic" deal to save its pension system by raising social security costs for higher wage earners.

Spain's solution is exactly what French unions would like, but Macron has refused to raise taxes, saying it would make the country's economy less competitive. Something must be done, the president has argued, to sustain France's current levels of pension payments with the retiree population expected to grow from 16 to 21 million by 2050.


On this day in 1649 ...

Jesuit martyrs Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalement were tortured and put to death by the Iroquois at the Huronia village of St-Ignace, in what is now Simcoe County in Ontario. Brebeuf had laboured for 15 years trying to make peace with the Iroquois, but they continued their war against the Hurons and destroyed their villages and Jesuit missions in 1648. Later, the Iroquois captured Brebeuf and Lalement and killed them. Brebeuf was canonized in 1930 and is now a patron saint of Canada.


In entertainment ...

Ling Ma's "Bliss Montage," a collection which blends the real and the surreal, has won the Story Prize for best short fiction. Ma will receive $20,000 for "Bliss Montage,"' her first book since her acclaimed debut novel "Severance." "Ma melds humour and the surreal beautifully, resulting in a project that is at once absurd and insightful," prize judges said in a statement Wednesday night. "This is an expansive, bold, and delightful book." The two other finalists, Andrea Barrett for "Natural History" and Morgan Talty for "Night of the Living Rez," each will get $5,000.


Did you see this?

Haiti's troubled government is accusing Canada of stalling in its promised delivery of armoured vehicles, and argues the delay is hindering a plan to clear violent gangs from Port-au-Prince.

Yet the Toronto company making the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles says it's working as fast it can in the face of supply-chain disruptions and mistakes by Haitian officials.

In a Monday interview with Haitian radio, the country's acting justice minister, Emmelie Prophete-Milce, said in French that the majority of the 18 armoured vehicles her country ordered had yet to arrive.

"The supplier did not keep its word," Prophete-Milce alleged.

Violent gangs have held control over most of Haiti's capital for months, leading to a shortage of essentials and medical care and a rise in sexual assaults.

As part of its response, Ottawa has said it is airlifting armoured vehicles to the country that were purchased by the Haitian government. Canada has so far opted to provide support to Haitian police rather than taking up the idea of an international military intervention.

Prophete-Milce said that "the police could implement their strategy if all the armoured vehicles were delivered on time."

The firm involved, INKAS, says it has moved as quickly as possible and has not breached the contract.

"There are statements being made by an individual who's new to this position that are not necessarily connected to reality," said Eugene Gerstein, a managing partner of the company who has visited Haiti numerous times.

Gerstein says between seven and 10 of the vehicles have made it to Haiti so far, with four "going out shortly" and roughly another four "slated for a few weeks afterwards."

The former military officer said his company has also donated $1 million worth of other vehicles to Haiti, such as armoured personnel carriers.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2023.

The Canadian Press