National Post

Parents billed $24 for a ‘no-show fee’ after 5-year-old son misses birthday party

LONDON — It was not what Derek Nash expected to find in his 5-year-old’s school bag: A bill demanding a “no-show fee” for another child’s birthday party.

Nash said the bill from another parent sought 15.95 pounds ($24.00) because his son Alex had not attended the party at a ski centre in Plymouth, southwest England.

Five-year-old boy gets a bill for missing school friend’s birthday party owl.li/HxxgR http://t.co/kBcK8w7iWo
Plymouth Herald (@PlymouthHerald) January 19, 2015

Nash told the BBC on Monday he had initially accepted the party invitation, but later realized Alex was supposed to visit his grandparents that day. He said he did not have contact details to let the other family know.

The birthday boy’s mother, Julie Lawrence, told the BBC that her contact details were on the party invitation.

Nash says Lawrence has threatened him with small claims court but he has no plans so far to pay.

Man trapped under subway train at Toronto’s Broadview station, paramedics say

A man was trapped beneath a subway train Monday morning after he was struck on the tracks at Toronto’s Broadview station, paramedics said.

ALL CLEAR: The delay at Broadview station has cleared. Service has resumed on Line 2 with residual delay.#TTC


Official TTC Tweets (@TTCnotices) January 19, 2015

Around 10:15 a.m., Toronto Paramedics were called to the station after the man was struck by the train. By 11 a.m., he was still trapped under the train and crews were working to free him, EMS spokesperson Kim McKinnon said.

She could not comment on the victim’s condition. Officers on scene reported that the man was “still conscious and breathing and talking to them,” Toronto Police spokesman Const. David Hopkinson said.

The victim was freed and taken to hospital, Const. Hopkinson said.

Service on the Bloor-Danforth line was suspended between Woodbine Station and St. George Station. But service was restored around 11:15 a.m., the TTC tweeted.

Infected and undocumented: Thousands of Canadians dying from hospital-acquired bugs

Handout

Kim Smith was no stranger to stress — her job in community corrections often brought her face to face with members of Winnipeg’s violent street gangs.

But as she lay in a local hospital’s gynecology ward more than a year ago, nurses called her brother with an unusual question: Did Kim suffer from any kind of emotional troubles?

The woman, her caregivers said, had been telling them she wanted to kill herself.

It was a shocking turn of events, coming a week after Ms. Smith entered St. Boniface Hospital for a routine hysterectomy and ovary removal. In the days since the operation, however, she had been complaining of escalating pain in her gut, so intense she began to fear for her life — and then apparently wanted to end it.

By the time medical staff took the woman’s complaints seriously, an infection inside her belly had developed into necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and devoured large chunks of her abdomen.

Within hours of emergency surgery to drain “brown, foul-smelling liquid” and excise dead tissue, and four days after her 45th birthday, Ms. Smith was dead.

“She kept yelling at me, ‘I know my body, I know there’s something wrong in my stomach and nobody wants to listen to me. And I’m going to end up dying here,’ ” said Kym Dyck, her sister-in-law. “She died the most horrible, painful death anybody could suffer, and nobody would listen to her and reach out to her.”

Ms. Smith’s tragic demise was more dramatic than many cases of hospital-acquired infection (HAI). Necrotizing fasciitis is a frightening, but rare, complication. Still, about 8,000 Canadians a year die from bugs they contract in facilities meant to make them better, while many more see their hospital stay prolonged by such illness.

Yet after years of well-intentioned work and millions of dollars spent on combatting the scourge, the details and extent of the problem remain murky.

No national statistics, for instance, document the number of surgical-wound infections like Ms. Smith’s, one of the most common types of hospital-acquired pathogens.

A federal agency now publishes rates of sepsis, or blood infection, at individual hospitals, but their methodological value is a matter of debate. Government tracking of worrisome, drug-resistant bacteria is patchy and of questionable practical use, say infectious-disease physicians.

“There is no question that at a national level, both our surveillance for hospital-acquired infection and our surveillance for anti-microbial resistance is not serving our needs,” said Allison McGeer, an infectious-disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “[And] we know, very substantially, that you can’t fix what you’re not measuring.”

Meanwhile, important lessons about how diseases spread inadvertently within health facilities often come to light in fits and start.

Two hospitals in Toronto and one in Quebec, for instance, announced independently in the late 2000s that they had discovered contaminated sinks were the source of separate, deadly outbreaks of infection.

Some word of the episodes got out through specialized medical journal articles, academic conferences and sporadic news stories. But there is no systematic way of disseminating such information across the system, said Darrell Horn, a former patient-safety investigator for the Winnipeg Region Health Authority.

“It’s just totally loosey-goosey,” he said.

You could sit and call every hospital in the country, and ask them when was the last time they cleaned the sink in the [neonatal intensive care unit] and how they cleaned it, and you’d get nothing but blank stares

“You could sit and call every hospital in the country, and ask them when was the last time they cleaned the sink in the [neonatal intensive care unit] and how they cleaned it, and you’d get nothing but blank stares.”

Health care is paying much more attention, at least, to the HAI problem than it did a decade ago, said Dr. Michael Gardam, infection-control director at Toronto’s University Health Network.

HandoutDarrell Horn, a Winnipeg-based medical error investigator, says the few reports done on incidents often end up in “black holes” with no one seeing them.

After heavy media coverage of the mostly hospital-based severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak and deadly hospital infestations of Clostridium difficile, said Dr. Michael Gardam, infection-control director at Toronto’s University Health Network.

As health-care-related infection became a very public affair, hospitals started hiring more experts, encouraging hand-washing and generally striving to prevent infection, rather than just treating it after the fact as an unavoidable cost of doing medical business.

Dr. Gardam’s hospitals have even begun characterizing hospital-acquired infections as adverse events, akin to more traditional medical error.

Whether because of such measures or not, Ms. Smith had few fears when she entered St. Boniface on Sept. 30, 2013, for an operation for uterine fibroids, her family says.

She likely did not know that most surgical-wound infections arise from bacteria patients carry into hospital on their skin, which can then sneak inside through incisions, especially when infection-control safeguards are not optimum.

As early as the day after her operation, the Métis woman began to complain of pain in her abdomen, only to be told by nurses that she simply needed to walk about, Ms. Dyck recalls.

Some of that suffering is reflected in her patient charts, obtained by the family and provided to the National Post.

On Oct. 1, she complained of gastrointestinal bloating and discomfort; the following day, heartburn, bloating and slight nausea, the records note.

On Oct. 3, the chart refers to her feeling unwell and weak, then projectile vomiting. The next day, she had “lots of gas pains,” and the day after that abdominal pain “controlled with PO” (prescription opioids).

Finally, early on Oct. 6, came the call about her self-destructive thoughts.

“Nurse found her confused, half-naked, pulled her IV out anxious. Saying she is at her end and is suicidal,” the chart said. A later notation suggested anxiety was prolonging her recovery and the sedative Ativan was administered.

Then, sitting at her side 12 hours later, her brother Trevor Smith noticed a strange purple discolouring of his sister’s feet, the kind of “mottling” that can be a sign of imminent death, and raised the alarm.

Lyle Stafford for National Post

Lyle Stafford for National PostTrevor Smith, the brother of Kim Smith holds her portrait in her Winnipeg, Manitoba home.

Ms. Smith was soon being wheeled into the operating room, where the surgeons who opened her up first observed “a large effluent of brown, foul-smelling liquid from the abdominal cavity.” They removed several abscesses, drained the liquid, then discovered the worst — necrotizing fasciitis expanding through the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen) and abdominal muscles.

St. Boniface declined to comment on the case, saying it was prevented from doing so by provincial legislation. But Ms. Dyck said one doctor told her staff had likely not adequately disinfected her sister-in-law’s stomach before the hysterectomy, ensuring any bacteria that came with her into the operating room stayed on the outside.

medical-errors-

While not every surgical infection is preventable, “they can be dramatically minimized” with well-documented precautions, Dr. Gardam says.

If hospital infections are at least sometimes preventable, to what extent is the problem being monitored and how much of that information becomes public?

Some provinces, such as Ontario and British Columbia, require hospitals to report to the government on a few common infections, such as C. difficile, blood infections transmitted by the “central lines” used to access major blood vessels, and pneumonia from ventilator use. Ontario hospitals must report their compliance with tactics designed to prevent surgical infections, though not the infections themselves.

Experts debate whether publicly reporting data actually benefits health care, but a 2012 study found that C. difficile rates in Ontario hospitals dropped by 25% after the province started divulging statistics on the disease.

Many provinces, though, have no such requirements, and the national picture is hazy. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reports rates of sepsis, and stats that indirectly address infection, such as the rate of death and re-admission to hospital following some procedures.

Some infectious-disease specialists, though, are unimpressed by its infection numbers, obtained by analyzing hospital records after the fact.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” Dr. McGeer said of the figures. “You cannot count infections using CIHI data, and CIHI knows that.”

What is needed to paint an accurate picture is experts at each hospital reporting “true cases,” she says.

That is the goal of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Nosocomial Infection Surveillance Program, arguably the country’s premiere example of transparency on the diseases that health care gives its patients.

The program’s focus is drug-resistant bacteria, the increasingly familiar methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) and C. difficile. It is based, though, on a sampling of just 57 teaching hospitals, a fraction of the country’s 250 or so acute-care hospitals. The SARS outbreak, for instance, erupted at a community hospital that is not part of that network.

Infectious-disease doctors have long complained that it takes too long for the data those hospitals submit to the Agency to be posted.

Lyle Stafford for National Post

Lyle Stafford for National PostBy the time medical staff took Kim Smith’s complaints seriously, an infection had developed into flesh-eating disease and devoured large chunks of her abdomen.

“If I want to know what’s happening with MRSA, I call my friends,” said Dr. McGeer.

More complete, and easier to access, is the system developed by the European Centre for Disease Control, says Lynora Saxinger, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Alberta. It not only tracks drug-resistant bugs, but matches those stats with the use — or possible over-use — of antibiotics, considered the main cause of the problem.

The latest concern of infectious-disease specialists is a class of antibiotic-defeating organisms known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriacaeae (CRE), a “game changer,” said Dr. Saxinger. The death rate is as high as 50%.

CRE is part of the public health agency’s surveillance system, meaning those 57 hospitals submit their numbers, but Dr. McGeer said all acute-care hospitals in Canada should have to report them.

Meanwhile, “the last CRE outbreak … I heard about it on the news,” said Dr. Saxinger.

There is no evidence Ms. Smith was infected with a drug-resistant organism, but by the time she went in for emergency surgery, it appears little could have saved her. Indeed, once begun, necrotizing fasciitis has a 70% death rate.

Early the next morning, her blood pressure had sunk, the tell-tale black of more dead tissue had spread around her side to her back and she went into cardiac arrest, dying minutes later.

The hospital investigated the incident and assured the family that lessons learned from it would be passed on to staff — and help future patients, says Ms. Dyck. Mr. Horn says his experience across Canada suggests it is unlikely those lessons will be shared with anyone else in the health-care system, or the public.

Meanwhile, Ms. Dyck says the sight of doctors and nurses fruitlessly attempting to revive her sister-in-law — her abdomen left open as part of the flesh-eating treatment — remains etched in her mind, as is the thought it might all have been prevented.

“What I witnessed, I was traumatized by for months and months,” she said.

“It was just a terrible, terrible, painful death. And she knew she was going to die, that’s the worst thing.”

National Post

• Email: tblackwell@nationalpost.com | Twitter: tomblackwellNP

Sex-assault conviction erased, new trial ordered because Alberta judge too sensitive to rape culture

A sexual-assault conviction in Alberta has been erased and a new trial ordered because the trial judge was too sensitive to rape culture in his courtroom.

In the 2013 trial of Joshua Michael Schmaltz, Judge Darwin Greaves wrongly “entered the fray,” according to the Alberta Court of Appeal, meaning he advocated for the prosecution, guided the complainant to favourable interpretations of her testimony and stymied the defence lawyer’s efforts to probe inconsistencies.

The cumulative effect of this conduct, which was motivated by a desire to protect the complainant from being unfairly questioned on “rape myths,” was an unfair trial ending with the judge’s unfair conviction, the appeal court ruled.

Elizabeth Sheehy, vice-dean of research at the University of Ottawa and an expert on women and the law, said the case should be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to “clarify both the judicial responsibility and the boundaries of appropriate judicial intervention for the benefit of women who experience sexual assault so that they know what they can realistically expect if they are to take on the courageous role of complainant.”

The case is a discouragement to judges and a warning to women that their credibility will always be a key target of the defence, Prof. Sheehy said.

The ruling also makes the case for providing sex-assault complainants with their own legal counsel, said Elaine Craig of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.

In last week’s ruling, one appeal judge dissented, and would have upheld Mr. Schmaltz’s conviction, which means an appeal is possible. The other two judges said it cannot stand, citing the famous precedent, from a 1924 British case, that “justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

The Crown alleged that, after the complainant fell asleep at her daughter’s home, she woke to find Mr. Schmaltz, a friend of her daughter’s boyfriend, in bed with her. She testified he digitally penetrated her without her consent.

He also demonstrated that he was not listening to or understanding some of the inconsistencies presented by defence counsel

It is well established in law, as the appeal court described, that sexual-assault complainants are rightly protected from “random shots at the complainant’s reputation or groundless questions directed to discredited ‘rape myths’ to the effect that the complainant’s unchaste or aroused state made it more likely that she would have consented to the sexual activity in question.”

But on three main issues — the complainant’s marijuana use, alcohol use, and whether there had been “flirting” before the alleged offence — the judge “appeared to enter the fray,” and even at times misunderstood what was going on.

“In more than one instance, he interjected to ask leading questions or to suggest the most favourable interpretation to the complainant before she had a chance to answer the question,” the court found. “He also demonstrated that he was not listening to or understanding some of the inconsistencies presented by defence counsel.”

Mr. Schmaltz’s lawyer “couldn’t even get to the point she was trying to get to,” said Karen Molle, a lawyer who argued the appeal for Mr. Schmaltz, but not the trial, held in 2013.

As the appeal court described it, Judge Greaves appreciated that he had to strike a balance between, on the one hand, allowing Mr. Schmaltz to test and challenge the evidence of the Crown, and on the other, protecting the complainant from “being subjected to illegitimate and irrelevant questions based upon discredited ‘rape myths.’”

Judge Greaves was “well-motivated,” the ruling states, but “his interjections throughout the trial would lead a reasonable, well-informed and right-minded observer to conclude that [Mr. Schmaltz] was unable to make full answer and defence to the charges.”

For example, when defence counsel was cross-examining the complainant about marijuana, intending to highlight a contradiction between her own testimony and the positive results of a blood test, Judge Greaves apparently thought this line of questioning was to determine whether marijuana had caused the complainant to pass out.

He intervened, telling the defence he would require expert evidence to prove she had used marijuana on the specific night of the alleged offence. “I mean, they can find alcohol and THC in your blood for weeks after you have had it, and now this is a common issue with job employment,” the judge said.

With this comment, Judge Greaves engaged in “advocacy on behalf of the Crown” and “inappropriately signalled an answer to the complainant that explained away any potential contradiction,” the appeal court found.

On the issue of flirting, the complainant testified there was none, despite having told police: “Yeah. Yeah, he’s a young guy.”

When defence counsel tried to explore this possible contradiction, Judge Greaves shut it down, saying the police statement “clearly” means that only Mr. Schmaltz was flirting. By doing so, Judge Greaves “not only effectively shut down cross-examination by defence counsel on a potentially critical ambiguity in the complainant’s statement to police, it suggested a resolution to that ambiguity that Crown counsel was able to exploit.”

A similar thing happened with inquiries about the complainant’s testimony about her own alcohol consumption.

In her dissent, Justice Marina Paperny said the issue of flirting was “collateral at best and irrelevant on the ultimate issue of consent.” She found the defence strategy on the alcohol issue was not “sabotaged” because the contradictions were made clear, as they were on the marijuana issue.

David Tanovich, a law professor at the University of Windsor whose research has shown sex-assault convictions in Ontario have been more likely than other offences to be overturned on appeal, called it a “troubling decision,” which illustrates the “heightened scrutiny” appeal courts bring to sex-assault cases. This alone is evidence of “systemic bias,” he said.

The flirting issue was especially problematic, he said, because it was irrelevant to the issue of consent, as the dissenting judge points out.

“Suggesting that the complainant asked for it by flirting, or drinking or not wearing a bra [which was also an issue at trial] — or is somehow not credible because of inconsistent or unclear recollection about those irrelevant considerations — is exactly what the rape myths try to address and what the law prevents defence counsel from exploiting,” he said.

National Post

• Email: jbrean@nationalpost.com | Twitter: JosephBrean

Shawn Maxwell Rehn identified as man suspected of shooting two Mounties at St. Albert casino

The man suspected of shooting two Mounties in St. Albert Saturday morning has been identified by RCMP.

Shawn Maxwell Rehn, 34, was found dead in a private home hours after Const. David Matthew Wynn and auxiliary Const. Derek Bond were shot inside the Apex Casino in St Albert.

Wynn, 42, was last reported to be in grave condition, while Bond, 49, was released from hospital Saturday evening.

Police spent hours hunting for Rehn and cornered him in a home in Sturgeon County before finding him dead inside. Rehn had broken into the unoccupied house after fleeing the nearby casino.

An autopsy to determine how he died will be performed on Monday. Rehn’s family has been notified.

Rehn, who was from the greater Edmonton area, according to RCMP, was known to police.

In January 2005, Edmonton police issued an arrest warrant for Rehn after a man armed with a pistol allegedly forced his way into a home, saying he was owed money and forcing a 22-year-old man to drive to a bank to withdraw cash. The suspect allegedly left personal identification in the victim’s car.

In March 2003, a man described in the Journal as Shawn Rehn, then 22, was charged in connection with the theft of $150,000 worth of hockey memorabilia from a home in north Edmonton.

Wynn, 42, continues to fight for his life in hospital. He was a former paramedic in Nova Scotia and is a “treasured” St. Albert elementary school resource officer.

Counsellors will be at Keenooshayo Elementary School on Monday to offer support to students who know him.

Mountie fighting for his life after shooting at St. Albert casino is also ‘treasured’ school resource officer

Bruce Edwards / Postmedia News

An RCMP officer fighting for his life in hospital after being shot inside a casino Saturday is a “treasured” St. Albert elementary school resource officer.

Counsellors will be at Keenooshayo Elementary School on Monday to offer support to students who know Const. David Matthew Wynn, 42.

Wynn has been working at the school for more than five years. He also assists with the DARE program, a prevention and education campaign about drug abuse.

“I spoke to the principal yesterday and he said that [Wynn] is a really treasured part of the Keenooshayo family,” Paula Power, spokeswoman for St. Albert Public Schools, said Sunday.

“He’s got a great rapport with the kids. He’s just part of the family there.”

Wynn was hit by one bullet early Saturday morning while he and his partner, auxiliary Const. Derek Walter Bond, 49, were investigating a stolen vehicle at the Apex Casino on 24 Boudreau Rd. The suspect in the shootings was later found dead inside a rural home about five kilometres north of the casino.

Bond, a volunteer with the force since 2008, was released from hospital Saturday evening.

Wynn, who joined the RCMP in 2009, remains in grave condition.

“This is a huge blow to the community. Const. David Wynn has a special relationship to the children of this community. He’s a DARE officer and has a place in a lot of hearts,” Tara McWheeldon wrote on The Community of St. Albert Facebook page.

RCMP said in a news release Sunday morning that they had no updates but would followup later this morning.

Bruce Edwards / Postmedia NewsRCMP investigate an acreage home in Sturgeon Heights where the suspect fled to after two uniformed RCMP officers were shot inside Apex casino in St. Albert.

The suspect in the shootings, known to police from previous run-ins, was found dead inside an unoccupied private home in a rural area east of St. Albert, RCMP said at a Saturday afternoon news conference. They have tentatively identified the man but have not released his name.

Police said the suspect had forced his way into the Sturgeon County home after fleeing the scene of the shooting at the

Wynn and Bond were shot inside the casino around 3 a.m., its closing time.

RCMP had been called to investigate a stolen vehicle in the parking lot, Marlin Degrand, criminal operations officer for the RCMP in Alberta, told a news conference Saturday.

The casino was still open, so the officers went inside to look and encountered the shooter. Degrand said the officers were shot without having a chance to return fire.

Wynn was carrying a 9-mm sidearm. As an auxiliary constable, Bond did not have a gun, Degrand said. Auxiliary officers carry pepper spray and batons. They are paired with full officers on their jobs.

After the shooting, RCMP tracked the suspect to the home in Sturgeon County, east of St. Albert.

Neighbour Ted Elkins said he wife woke him at 5 a.m. when she heard a chopper overhead.

“It’s very sad. It’s terrible, you know. They are investigating a stolen vehicle and next thing you know they are fighting for their lives,” Elkins said. “It’s very hard on families so you grieve with them too.”

He said the home was owned by a quiet couple in their 70s.

Police found the suspect dead when they entered the home, Degrand said. Officers didn’t fire their weapons or speak with the suspect before they entered the home.

Because the man died while the residence was under the custody and control of police, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) Is investigating the man’s death. The investigation will focus on the circumstances surrounding the death of the man in the residence. A news release from ASIRT issued Saturday evening said initial evidence suggests no shots were fired at any time by RCMP.

The cause of death and identity of the man have not yet been released. Police had earlier described the suspect as a white man between 25 and 35 wearing blue jeans and a two-toned striped blue jacket. They said he was considered armed and dangerous. Some Sturgeon County residents were told by police not to leave their homes.

The RCMP continues to be in charge of the investigation into the officer shootings.

Bruce Edwards / Postmedia News

Bruce Edwards / Postmedia NewsRCMP look for a suspect who shot two uniformed RCMP officers inside Apex casino in St. Albert.

“Despite the suspect having been found deceased, this remains a continuing investigation, a very complex, intensive [one] and it will be a lengthy one,” Degrand said.

Degrand would not say how many people witnessed the shooting in the casino. Investigators are looking through video surveillance and the business remains closed.

Deanna Blaquiere, whose band Chronic Rock performed at the casino’s Vee Lounge Friday night, said when she and her fellow musicians left the lounge at 1 a.m. there weren’t many patrons left.

A group of about nine men had just arrived at the bar, but otherwise, there were only about half a dozen other customers, Blaquiere said. The lounge is separate from the casino, which has VLT machines but no poker table.

It’s terrible, you know. They are investigating a stolen vehicle and next thing you know they are fighting for their lives

The RCMP has informed the Alberta Director of Law Enforcement of the suspect’s death. The director has told the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team to start an independent review of the circumstances.

The suspect’s death is considered an “in-custody death because police had established containment of the scene.

Degrand spoke about Saturday’s shooting “with deep regret.”

“This incident serves to remind us of the dangers that our front-line responders everywhere face in the performance of their duties,” he said at the first of two Saturday news conferences.

“Our thoughts of course are with our injured officers, their loved ones and their colleagues who are courageously pursuing this investigation as we speak.”

Bruce Edwards / Postmedia News

Bruce Edwards / Postmedia NewsRCMP are looking for a suspect after two uniformed RCMP officers were shot inside Apex casino, 24 Boudreau Rd., St. Albert.

Roads around the casino were blocked off early Saturday. Police tape could be seen near the door and surrounding the entire property.

A dark-coloured pickup truck had been abandoned in a ditch near where the suspect was found.

Debbie and Larry Martin live on an acreage that backs onto a rail line in the area of the police search. They woke up around 7 a.m. and saw officers and canine units searching the railway behind their community, Manor Estates in Sturgeon County.

Police told them if they left their house, they wouldn’t be allowed back.

“[The officers] kept circling around the crescent but at no point did anyone knock on our door and say don’t come out,” Debbie said.

Around 10:30 a.m. Larry went outside to get an update from an officer.

“He kind of indicated the guy was ‘no longer functioning,’” he said.

I extend our deepest sympathies to family and friends of both officers caught in the line of fire

Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said in a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured officers and their families as they cope with this tragic event. This incident stands as yet another reminder to us all of the real and present dangers our police officers and peace officers face every single day as they work to keep our communities safe.”

Premier Jim Prentice issued a statement: “It is with shock and sadness that we learn of the serious injuries sustained by two officers in the line of duty as they served their home community of St. Albert early this morning.

“My thoughts are with their families as they pray for their husband, father and son. I know all Albertans stand in unity and gratitude alongside those impacted by the events earlier today as together we hope for the recovery of both officers.”

Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis added: “I extend our deepest sympathies to family and friends of both officers caught in the line of fire at the St. Albert Casino. I commend the RCMP and all law enforcement agencies for their commitment to keeping our communities safe around the clock. Each and every day courageous men and women put themselves at risk to protect our communities, our province, and our country, and I stand with them.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted: “Canada’s thoughts & prayers are with @RCMPAlberta officers today as they deal with an ongoing shooting investigation in the #StAlbert area.”

Saturday’s shootings occurred only one day after the release of a report into the deaths of three RCMP officers and the wounding of two others in Moncton, N.B. last June at the hands of camouflaged gunman Justin Bourque.

With files from The Canadian Press

‘Baird you are not welcome in Palestine’: Protesters hurl eggs and shoes at Canada’s foreign minister

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territory — Dozens of Palestinian protesters in Ramallah hurled eggs and shoes at the convoy of Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Baird travelled to the West Bank city today to meet with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki.

The protesters held signs reading: “Baird you are not welcome in Palestine.”

Activists from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party had earlier called for a boycott of the minister because of the Canadian government’s perceived pro-Israel stance.

AP Photo/Nasser NasserA Palestinian protester holds a poster with a photo of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird that reads in Arabic, “You should be ashamed of your biased position towards Israel,” during Baird’s meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, in front of the Palestinian foreign ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday.

Baird is in the region for four days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

In a statement this morning, he described his meeting with Malki was “cordial and constructive,” and said it included “candid and frank exchanges on areas where we differ in opinion.”

Canada is opposed to the recent Palestinian bid to pursue war crime charges against Israel.

Baird’s statement says he asked Malki to “strongly reconsider the consequences of moving forward with any action that may be counterproductive to a negotiated solution with the State of Israel.”

It was also his first meeting with the Palestinian Authority since the United Nations Security Council blocked a Palestinian motion to set a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel.

Baird has spoken out against the move, as he has with similar Palestinian statehood initiatives at the U.N..

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

AP Photo/Nasser NasserPalestinian protesters hurl eggs at the vehicle of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird as he leaves following his meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, in front of the Palestinian foreign ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday.

The minister later met in Jerusalem with Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and is scheduled to meet with other Israeli politicians.

In a statement, Baird noted his meetings come a year after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel, and the two signed a declaration outlining co-operation in the diplomatic, trade and development areas.

“Canada and Israel share similar views on the world stage,” said Baird.

“Canada strongly supports Israel’s right to defend itself by itself and its right to live in peace with its neighbours. Canada will fight any efforts internationally to delegitimize the State of Israel, including the disturbing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.”

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

AP Photo/Nasser NasserA Palestinian protester carries a banner that reads in Arabic “we refuse to receive this criminal, get out you child killer,” while another protester chants slogans and holds a photo of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird during Baird’s meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, in front of the Palestinian foreign ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday.
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty ImagesPolicemen stand guard in front of Palestinian protesters holding placards outside the Foreign Affairs ministry before the meeting between Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki and his Canadian counterpart John Baird on Sunday in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

With files from The Canadian Press

Oscars 2015 boss says she would ‘love’ to see more diversity after firestorm over white nominees

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Responding for the first time to the firestorm of criticism over the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations, film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs says the all-white acting slate inspires her to accelerate the academy’s push to be more inclusive. She also hopes the film industry as a whole will continue to strive for greater diversity.

The first black president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spoke out Friday night in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press about the Oscar nominations and the widespread criticism that followed.

All 20 of this year’s acting contenders are white and there are no women in the directing or writing categories. After the nominations were announced Thursday morning, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite started trending on Twitter.

The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition issued a statement Friday saying the nominations balloting “obviously reflects a lack of diversity in Oscar voters as well as in films generally.”

Yet Boone Isaacs insisted the academy is “committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion” and that outreach to women and artists of colour is a major focus.

“In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members,” Boone Isaacs said. “And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.”

A 2012 survey by the Los Angeles Times found the academy was 94 per cent white, overwhelmingly male and with a median age of 62. A more recent survey determined the percentage of older white males had dropped by one point, the Times said. But with nearly 7,000 members and no requirement to retire, diversity is going to take some time.

Boone Isaacs declined to address whether she and the academy were embarrassed by the slate of white Oscar nominees, instead insisting that she’s proud of the nominees, all of whom deserved recognition.

She explained that while each branch comes up with its own criteria for excellence and each nominates its colleagues, all voting is individual and confidential.

For instance, only directors can suggest best director nominees and only actors can nominate actors. But the entire academy membership can submit suggestions for best picture.

“There is not one central body or group of people that sit around the table and come up with nominations,” she said. “It really is a peer-to-peer process.”

With all the accolades the civil rights drama “Selma” has received since its Christmas opening, some felt its failure to garner nominations for director Ava DuVernay or star David Oyelowo reflected a racial bias.

“What is important not to lose sight of is that ‘Selma,’ which is a fantastic motion picture, was nominated for best picture this year, and the best picture category is voted on by the entire membership of around 7,000 people,” Boone Isaacs said.

Kevin Winter / Getty ImagesAcademy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs walks to the podium to announce the nominees for the 87th Academy Awards Nominations Announcement on Thursday in Beverly Hills, California.

Besides best picture, the film received just one additional nod — for original song — in what was widely viewed as a significant snub. But fans shouldn’t feel that way, she said: “It’s nominated for the Oscar for best picture. It’s an award that showcases the talent of everyone involved in the production of the movie ‘Selma.”’

Boone Isaacs says the five best actor nominees — Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”), Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) and Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) — “are all at the top of their game.”

“There are quite a few actors this year at the top of their game,” she said. “There are five nominees and this year, these were the five.”

Diversity outreach is spread among the academy’s 17 branches, she said, since existing members recruit new ones.

“This is a membership organization, so we are all involved in this discussion and moving the subject of diversity forward,” she said. “It’s very important for us to continue to make strides to increase our membership and the recognition of talent.”

In its Friday statement, the Asian Pacific coalition said the responsibility for diversity in film should be industry-wide.

“It behooves Hollywood — as an economic imperative, if not a moral one — to begin more closely reflecting the changing face of America,” the statement said.

Boone Isaacs agrees, saying that as the academy “continues to make strides toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization, we hope the film industry will also make strides toward becoming more diverse and inclusive.”

Though she repeatedly stressed the Oscars are a competitive process and that she’s proud of the year’s nominees, Boone Isaacs acknowledged that diversity needs to be mandatory in both story and storyteller.

“It matters that we pay attention to, again, the diversity of voice and opinion and experience, and that it doesn’t slide, it doesn’t slide anywhere except for forward,” she said. “And maybe this year is more just about let’s kick it in even more.”

Melbourne Square Mall shooting leaves at least one dead after gunman opens fire in Florida

MELBOURNE, Fla. — A shooting Saturday morning at a mall in central Florida left one person dead and two others injured, police said.

Melbourne Police tweeted that the “shooter is contained” and that officers were clearing the Melbourne Square Mall store by store.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the suspect was dead or one of the injured people taken to a hospital, Cmdr. Vince Pryce said.

The shooting occurred before the mall opened at 10 a.m. Mall officials posted a statement to Facebook saying the mall was closed until further notice as police investigate.

Local television news broadcasts showed yellow police tape stretched across a mall entrance and the parking lot.

Donna Evans of Melbourne said she was in the food court when she heard gunfire about 6 to 7.5 metres away.

“We had just gotten our food to sit down by Starbucks and Chik-fil-A, and you just hear the ‘pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,’ and you just drop everything and your body just makes you run,” Evans told Florida Today.

St. Albert RCMP searching golf course for armed suspect after two officers shot north of Edmonton

EDMONTON – Two RCMP members were shot early Saturday morning in St. Albert and a search is underway for the suspect in the area of the Sturgeon Valley Golf Course.

1/2 RCMP is searching for unknown white male, 25-35, wearing two-toned blue jacket and jeans in relation to shooting of 2 RCMP officers.


RCMP Alberta (@RCMPAlberta) January 17, 2015

Insp. Gibson Glavin confirmed the officers were shot between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. in the town of St. Albert. They are being treated in hospital, but Glavin could not provide an update on their condition.

RCMP is telling the public to stay away from the area around the golf course as the investigation continues. The suspect is described as armed and dangerous.

A press conference is expected to be held later this morning.

RCMP in active investigation of a serious local incident; will provide updates as available from RCMP. Thoughts are with members’ safety

— Nolan Crouse (@stalbertmayor) January 17, 2015

With files from the Canadian Press