Highlights from the news file for Friday, May 6:
ALBERTA GIVES AID TO FIRE EVACUEES
The Alberta government is putting up some emergency cash to the 80,000 evacuees from the Fort McMurray fire. Premier Rachel Notley says payments will be $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent to help with immediate needs. Evacuation efforts continued Friday to move thousands of people who took refuge in oilfield work camps north of the fire besieged city. It’s hoped to airlift 5,500 people out Friday and about 500 vehicles were moved in a convoy through the devastated city. Some 7,000 people were flown out of the camps on Thursday. Read more here.
MILLIONS DONATED TO WILDFIRE VICTIMS
The head of the Canadian Red Cross says Canadians from coast to coast have stepped up to help Alberta wildfire victims, donating $30 million by Friday morning. Conrad Sauve calls it an unprecedented “Canadian moment.” About 14,000 families in need from the Fort McMurray area have registered with the Red Cross and that number is expected to grow. The money is used to mobilize and provide support Red Cross volunteers who are helping evacuees. The cash is also used to provide basic goods to people fleeing the fire. Read more here.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS CALL FOR DONATIONS FOR FIRE VICTIMS
Two high profile environmental groups who vocally oppose oilsands development are urging their supporters to send aid to the people of fire stricken Fort McMurray. Greenpeace Canada and the Sierra Club have each issued appeals for donations to the Red Cross and other aid agencies in the face of the mass evacuation in the northern Alberta city. In pleading for donations, the Sierra Club cautiously broached the subject of global warming saying everyone can be part of ensuring another community isn’t ravaged by such a disaster.
WILDFIRE A SETBACK FOR OILSANDS PRODUCTION
The wildfire ripping through the Fort McMurray, Alta., area continued to set back Alberta’s crude industry Friday as concerns arose that the disaster may have taken out as much as half of Canada’s oilsands output. It is difficult to say with certainty how much oilsands bitumen is offline because production levels have fluctuated throughout the week and companies have not disclosed precise figures. But Nick Lupick, an oilsands analyst for AltaCorp Capital, said he figures based on his latest estimates that between 1.1 million and 1.25 million barrels of oil per day have been knocked out of the oilsands industry’s full capacity.
NORTHERN GATEWAY BACKERS ASK FOR EXTENSION
Proponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline are asking the National Energy Board for three more years to start building the controversial project. Northern Gateway and 31 aboriginal equity partners said Friday they need the time to secure legal and regulatory certainty and continue consultations with First Nations and Metis communities. Currently, Enbridge is required to start construction by the end of this year as one of the 209 conditions attached to the 2014 federal approval of the project. But the project’s backers say Northern Gateway has changed and they’re committed to getting it right. The pipeline has faced stiff opposition from other First Nations groups and others who have voiced environmental concerns, citing the potential for leaks and the likelihood of increased carbon emissions. Read more here.
AIR POWER CRUCIAL IN FIGHTING FIRES
Although officials in Alberta say air tankers won’t be enough to stop the Fort McMurray wildfire, experts say water bombers are crucial in containing raging fires. Roger Collet of New Brunswick’s Natural Resources department says although air tankers won’t have much effect on a huge wall of flame, they are important in protecting the infrastructure in the area. Collet says aircraft carrying water are usually used to douse buildings or land in the path of a fire. They also can snuff out flames from smaller fires that have jumped from the original blaze.
TRUDEAU GOVERNMENT REVIEWS WAR DODGERS
The governing Liberals are taking another look at Canada’s stance on American war dodgers who have crossed the border instead of fighting in Iraq. Prime Minister Trudeau is not making any promises on whether the government might ease the path to permanent residency for the conscientious objectors. Some of them have been forced to return to the U.S. to face prison terms. The issue came up after a handful of protesters from the War Resisters Support Campaign held up signs when Trudeau made an appearance in Toronto on Friday. Read more here.
WOMAN CONVICTED IN FAMILY’S DEATHS SERVES SENTENCE
A young Alberta woman who was convicted as a youth in the murder of her father, mother and eight-year-old brother has served her sentence. A judge told the woman’s final sentence review on Friday that she has become a person her family would be proud of. Justice Scott Brooker says the woman, who can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has accomplished all the goals set out for her when she was convicted. The woman was convicted along with her then boyfriend in her family’s deaths in 2006. Jeremy Steinke is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years. The Crown argued the girl and Steinke concocted a plan to kill her parents, because they disapproved of the 10-year age gap between the two.
SCIENTISTS INVENT PORTABLE ZIKA TEST
Scientists at Harvard University have created a portable test that can show if someone has been infected with the Zika virus. The scientists describe the test in a study published Friday in the journal Cell. Co-investigator Keith Pardee says the paper-based test, which can be freeze-dried and transported without refrigeration, would cost less than one dollar per patient and deliver results within a few hours.
LABOUR POLITICIAN ON TRACK TO BE LONDON’S FIRST MUSLIM MAYOR
Labour Party politician Sadiq Khan was leading London’s mayoral race Friday. Khan won 44 per cent of first-preference votes, compared to 35 per cent for Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith. Voters’ second preferences were being factored in to take one candidate over the 50 per cent mark, and Khan’s victory was a strong statistical probability. The race to replace Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson at the helm of Britain’s capital was marred by American-style negative campaigning and allegations of extremism and fear-mongering.