NEWS
02/15/2018 15:43 EST | Updated 02/17/2018 08:22 EST

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

Highlights from the news file for Thursday, Feb. 15

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FORMER ONTARIO PC LEADER SAYS HE'S SUING CTV NEWS: Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown says he is suing CTV News over its reporting of what he alleges are false accusations of sexual misconduct. Brown said in a Facebook post Thursday that two unnamed women who made their allegations to CTV are lying, and that his lawyers have reached out to the network's legal team. It was not immediately clear if Brown has filed a statement of claim or other legal documents with a court. CTV's report in late January prompted Brown's resignation as Tory leader mere months before a spring election. The broadcaster said the accusations from two women, which have not been verified by The Canadian Press, dated back to Brown's time as a federal MP. In its original report, CTV said one woman, who is now 29, claimed she was still in high school and under the legal drinking age when Brown allegedly asked her to perform oral sex on him at his home on a night when she had been drinking. Another woman said she was a university student working in Brown's constituency office when he allegedly sexually assaulted her at his home, CTV reported. Late Tuesday, CTV reported that the first accuser now said she had not been in high school or under the legal drinking age during the alleged incident. The woman said the altered timeline did not change the core of her allegations. Brown's second accuser has also said she stands by her story.

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COMMENT ON SASKATCHEWAN FARM SHOOTING PROBED BY MOUNTIES: The RCMP says it will undertake a code-of-conduct investigation into a private Facebook group posting by a person believed to be an officer who reportedly said Colten Boushie deserved to die. A report on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network says an RCMP officer on the Prairies posted the message, which says the shooting of the 22-year-old Indigenous man on a Saskatchewan farm should never have been about race. Boushie died when he and four other people drove onto Gerald Stanley's farm near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016. Stanley was charged with second-degree murder and faced trial in Battleford, but was found not guilty by a jury last Friday. A statement from RCMP National Headquarters in Ottawa says the social media posting is antithetical to the force's standards and the Facebook group mentioned in the report is not managed by the RCMP. Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the remark is unacceptable and there will be consequences, depending on the outcome of the investigation.

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SUSPECT CONFESSES TO HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING, SHERIFF'S REPORT SAYS: The teenager accused of using a semi-automatic rifle to kill 17 people at a Florida high school confessed to carrying out one of the nation's deadliest school shootings and carried extra ammunition in his backpack, according to a sheriff's department report released Thursday. Nikolas Cruz told investigators that he shot students in the hallways and on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami, the report from the Broward County Sheriff's Office said. Cruz said he brought more loaded magazines to the school and kept them in the backpack until he got on campus. The shooting lasted for three minutes. When he was done firing, the assailant went to the third floor and dropped his AR-15 rifle and the backpack containing the ammunition. He then ran out of the building and attempted to blend in with fleeing students, Israel said. A day after the attack, a fuller portrait emerged of the shooter, a loner who had worked at a dollar store and posted photos of weapons on Instagram. At least one student said classmates joked that Cruz would "be the one to shoot up the school." The 19-year-old orphan whose mother died last year was charged with murder Thursday in the assault that devastated this sleepy community on the edge of the Everglades.

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SHAW PREPARES FOR DEPARTURE OF 3,300 EMPLOYEES: The departure of one-quarter of Shaw Communications Inc.'s workforce will be manageable — and mitigated by a technology-driven push toward customer self-service — even though the 3,300 who elected to take a voluntary severance package was five times more than its original estimate, its president said Thursday. The Calgary-based company, which owns Canada's second-largest cable TV operation and the country's fourth-largest mobile phone service, had initially aimed the package at 6,500 employees and estimated about 10 per cent would accept the deal offered about two weeks ago. It said Thursday that all eligible employees who volunteered to take the deal will be accepted. The departures will be spread over 18 months — with people in operational positions likely to stay longer than those in leadership positions, he said. The move is part of a multi-year initiative aimed at succeeding amid technological changes in a rapidly changing and intensely competitive marketplace. Shaw has said it plans to make more use of online and smartphone apps to provide customer service, and provide more self-installed service.

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TALKS START ON NEW INDIGENOUS RELATIONSHIP: First Nations leaders are welcoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's pledge to revamp the federal government's relationship with Indigenous Peoples, but some Quebec chiefs fear their province's obstructionist approach to self-determination could hinder the process. Self-governance requires access to lands and resources, which falls under provincial jurisdiction, and Indigenous leaders have serious concerns about the willingness of Quebec to go along with the federal government, said Ghislain Picard, regional head of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador. Picard's comments came following a meeting of Quebec and Labrador chiefs where several federal ministers shed more light on the Liberal government's proposal to create a new legislative framework aimed at recognizing and implementing Indigenous rights. Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, said consultations will include rethinking what constitutes a nation, a term whose current definition dates back to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in the mid-1990s.

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KHALISTAN CLOUD HANGS AS TRUDEAU LEAVES FOR INDIA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not meet with the Indian politician who has publicly accused members of Trudeau's cabinet of being connected to the Sikh separatist movement. Despite Indian media reports that Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is to be Trudeau's tour guide at the Golden Temple in Amritsar during a state visit to India that begins Sunday, officials in the Prime Minister's Office say no meeting is planned. The Hindustan Times, the largest English daily newspaper in India, reported Singh was to accompany Trudeau to the temple and a nearby museum. Last year, Singh refused to meet with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, accusing him of supporting the pro-Khalistani movement, which advocates for an independent Sikh state. Earlier this month, Singh told Outlook India magazine that "there seems to be evidence that there are Khalistani sympathizers in Trudeau's cabinet." Sajjan and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau's cabinet, pushed back hard against Singh's claim, denying that they were either part of the movement or that it was much of an issue at all in Canada's Indian communities.

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JURY FINISHED HEARING EVIDENCE IN WINNIPEG MURDER TRIAL: A jury has finished hearing evidence in the trial of a man accused in the death of an Indigenous teen whose body was found wrapped in a duvet filled with rocks in Winnipeg's Red River. The defence has closed its case without presenting any evidence in the second-degree murder trial of Raymond Cormier, who is 55. Cormier is accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose 2014 death sparked renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. The jury has heard that Tina was raised by her great-aunt on the Sagkeeng First Nation, but went to Winnipeg to visit her mother and became an exploited youth. Court was told there were no witnesses to Tina's death and no DNA linking her to the accused, while experts testified they don't know how she died. The jury is to hear closing arguments on Tuesday. Crown prosecutors closed their case on Wednesday.

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WESTON FAMILY'S CHOICE PROPERTIES BUYING CANADIAN REIT FOR $3.9B: The Weston family is poised to create Canada's largest real estate investment trust through a $3.9-billion deal for its publicly traded Choice Properties REIT to buy Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust. The combination of Choice Properties, which counts Loblaw as its principal tenant and largest unitholder, and CREIT will create a company with a diversified portfolio of 752 properties. The Weston family — one of Canada's wealthiest — controls the Loblaw food business and other retail operations, including Shoppers Drug Mart and the Joe Fresh fashion chain, through its holdings in George Weston Ltd. The REIT empire helps it diversify away from its focus on retail, which has been experiencing mass disruption amid the rise of e-commerce and an increasingly competitive environment. Under the arrangement announced Thursday, Choice Properties will pay about 42 per cent of the purchase price in cash — to a maximum of $1.65 billion — and the rest in Choice Properties units, to a maximum of 183 million units.

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HOME SALES HIT LOWEST LEVEL IN 3 YEARS, CREA SAYS: A flood of buyers and sellers looking to close deals late last year ahead of looming tighter mortgage rules resulted in a 14.5 per cent "payback" drop in home sales between December and January, market watchers said Thursday. Economists expected the drastic decline, which marked the lowest sales level in three years, and anticipate the market will continue to be dampened in the near future as Canadians negotiate the new rules and a January interest rates hike, the third in the past year. January activity was down in three-quarters of all local markets and virtually all major urban areas, especially in Ontario's hot spot in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, according to data released by CREA Thursday. The CREA's figures showed sales climbed to a record monthly high in December — just before the federal banking regulator's tougher rules for uninsured mortgages took effect. Starting Jan. 1, borrowers with a more than 20 per cent down payment must pass a stress test proving that they can service mortgage at a qualifying rate of the greater of the contractual mortgage rate plus two percentage points or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada.

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SUN LIFE TO ADD MEDICAL POT TO BENEFITS PLANS: Sun Life Financial Inc. is adding medical marijuana coverage as an option for its group benefits plans, signalling an insurance industry shift and growing acceptance of the drug that bodes well for Canada's burgeoning cannabis sector. The Toronto-based insurer's president and chief executive Dean Connor said the move was influenced by rising interest from Sun Life's employer clients. "Medical marijuana has become a very important part of their treatment program and pain management program," said Connor, referring to patients who have cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or those requiring palliative care. Currently, the vast majority of registered patients must pay for medical marijuana out of their own pockets. But the move by Sun Life, which provides health benefits coverage to more than three million Canadians and their families, or one in six Canadians, could set a precedent for other insurers.