Toronto, Aug 15 (AP/UNB) — Canada's ethics commissioner said Wednesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau improperly pressured a former attorney general to halt the criminal prosecution of a company, a development that could imperil his re-election chances.
The report comes just before the official start of campaigning for the Oct. 21 general election and it threatens to re-inflame a scandal that rocked the government earlier this year, causing a drop in poll ratings that had since abated.
Ethics commissioner Mario Dion said Trudeau's attempts to influence the then attorney general and justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, were contrary to the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence.
"The prime minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson-Raybould," Dion wrote.
"The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould."
Trudeau said at a news conference that he takes responsibility "for everything," but said he "can't apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs."
Wilson-Raybould believes she was demoted from her role as attorney general and justice minister to veterans' affairs minister in January because she didn't give in to pressure to enter into a remediation agreement with a Canadian company accused of bribing officials in Libya.
That potential solution would avoid a potential criminal conviction that would bar Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin from receiving any federal government business for a decade. The company is a major employer with 9,000 employees in Canada and about 50,000 worldwide.
The report said Trudeau "directed his staff to find a solution that would safeguard SNC-Lavalin's business interest in Canada."
"What happened over the past year shouldn't have happened," Trudeau said. "I take responsibility for the mistakes that I made. At the same time, we learned many lessons."
But Trudeau said he didn't agree that any contact with the attorney general on the issue was inappropriate. He said his job is to consider the impact decisions have on Canadians.
He noted that deferred prosecution agreements are frequently used in many countries and it would be up to his new justice minister on whether the company gets one.
The scandal led to multiple resignations, including that of Gerry Butts, Trudeau's top aide and best friend. And it damaged the party for weeks. Butts has since rejoined Trudeau's re-election campaign team.
Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from Cabinet before she was later ousted form the Liberal party caucus, said the report "represents a vindication of the independent role of the Attorney General."
Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer renewed calls for police to investigate and called SNC-Lavalin a "Liberal" linked corporation that defrauded some of the poorest people on earth.
Scheer said Trudeau hasn't lived up to promises to be open and honest when he was elected.
"Trudeau may not face a court of law for his role in this scandal, but he will have to face the Canadian people over the next few weeks," Scheer said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it is "examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required" and declined further comment.
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said the report is very damaging and said the scandal could topple Trudeau's Liberal government.
"The SNC-Lavalin controversy is certainly reignited and fits with the Conservative narrative that the Trudeau is no angel," Wiseman said. "I expect the Liberals to drop in the polls by 5 percent or so. Whether they can recover by election day is an open question. I wouldn't bet on it."
Toronto, Aug 5 (AP/UNB) — Police in Canada say five people have been wounded during a shooting inside a Toronto nightclub.
Police spokeswoman Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said one man is in hospital with life-threatening injuries after the incident early Monday morning. Four other victims are in non-life threatening condition.
No information on the suspect was immediately released.
Officer Stacey Davis of the Toronto Police Service told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation there was an altercation near the back of the club's interior when shots were first fired.
Markham, Jul 30 (AP/UNB) — Canadian police have charged a 23-year-old man with first-degree murder after four bodies were found in a home north of Toronto.
York Regional Police Constable Andy Pattenden said Monday that Menhaz Zaman faces four counts of first-degree murder after the bodies of three adult women and one man were found in the home. He did not say whether there was any relationship between the accused and the victims or what a possible motive might have been.
Zaman was taken into custody Sunday afternoon after police were called to the home in response to reports of multiple injuries inside.
Pattenden said Zaman answered the door when officers arrived but police did not say who phoned in the tip.
Honolulu, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) — Intense turbulence struck an Air Canada flight to Australia on Thursday and sent unbuckled passengers flying into the ceiling, forcing the plane to land in Hawaii.
The flight from Vancouver to Sydney encountered "un-forecasted and sudden turbulence," about two hours past Hawaii when the plane diverted to Honolulu, Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said in a statement.
"The plane just dropped," passenger Stephanie Beam told The Associated Press. "When we hit turbulence, I woke up and looked over to make sure my kids were buckled. The next thing I knew there's just literally bodies on the ceiling of the plane."
A woman behind her hit the ceiling so hard that she broke the casing of an oxygen mask, said Beam, of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Of the 37 passengers and flight crew members injured, nine had serious injuries, emergency responders said. Thirty people were taken to hospitals.
Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Chief Dean Nakano said the injured ranged in age from children to the elderly. Customs agents and emergency responders met passengers at the gate at the Honolulu airport to ensure they could get medical attention quickly.
Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright said injuries included cuts, bumps, bruises, neck pain and back pain. More than two dozen people were taken to hospitals, she said.
Llyn Williams was traveling with his wife Erica Daly back to their home in Sydney, Australia. His wife was injured and taken to the hospital.
He said when they hit the violent turbulence, "Everybody who was not seated and belted in hit the roof, almost everybody in our cabin."
Williams described the cabin afterward as frightening, with plastic lying around and oxygen masks dangling. "A lot of blood everywhere," he said. "It was really quite scary."
Andrew Szucs, originally from Ontario but now living in Sydney, was not injured.
There had been turbulence before the abrupt drop and he was awake, bracing himself.
"Then all of a sudden the plane dropped and went sideways," Szucs said. "And that's when the people who were strapped in flew, hit the ceiling."
He said the pilot came on the radio and said they didn't see the turbulence on radar and had "no warning this kind of air drop was going to happen."
Babies and children were crying as crew members went through the cabin assessing injuries. About 15 minutes later, there was an announcement asking for passengers who are medical professionals to help, Beam said.
Sandy Marshall of Sydney was injured, with her two children unhurt.
"I didn't have my seat belt on at the time. My child was sleeping on me, and I went straight up into the ceiling," she said.
Most of the impact was to her head, but she also suffered a laceration under her right eye, bruising and muscular pain in her neck.
The turbulence happened at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters) about 600 miles (966 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu, said U.S. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.
The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 269 passengers and 15 crew members, according to Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.
Air Canada was arranging hotel accommodations and meals in Honolulu and options for resuming the flight.
"If we're going to be stuck somewhere, I can think of worse places," said Beam, traveling with her 10- and 11-year-old children.
Dubai, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Another Saudi woman has turned to social media for protection from her father, just days after Canada granted refuge to Rahaf al-Qunun, the 18-year-old Saudi who fled her family.
Identified only as Nojoud al-Mandeel on Twitter, her case differs from that of al-Qunun. She has not fled the kingdom, has not revealed her face and has only made her pleas for help on Twitter in Arabic.
While their circumstances are different, the claims of abuse by the two women mirror those of other female Saudi runaways who have used social media to publicize their escapes.
There has been speculation that al-Qunun's successful getaway will inspire others to copy her. However, powerful deterrents remain in place. If caught, runaways face possible death at the hands of relatives for purportedly shaming the family.
Saudi women fleeing their families challenge a system that grants men guardianship over women's lives. This guardianship system starts in the home, where women must obey fathers, husbands and brothers. Outside the home, it is applied to citizens, often referred to as sons and daughters by Saudi rulers who demand obedience.
Hala Aldosari, a Saudi scholar and activist, said the male guardianship system replicates the ruling family's model of governance, which demands full obedience to the king, who holds absolute power in decision-making.
"This is why the state is keen to maintain the authority of male citizens over women to ensure their allegiance," she said, adding that this "hierarchical system of domination" necessitates "keeping women in line."
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who's introduced social reforms loosening restrictions on women, told The Atlantic that doing away with guardianship laws has to be done in a way that does not harm families and the culture. He said abolishing these laws would create problems for families that don't want to give freedom to their daughters.
The issue of guardianship is extremely sensitive in the kingdom, where conservative families view what they consider the protection of women as a man's duty.
More than a dozen women's rights activists have been detained, many since May, after they campaigned against the guardianship system. Some had also wanted to create alternative shelters for women runaways.
Regardless of their age, women in Saudi Arabia must have the consent of a male relative to obtain a passport, travel or marry. In the past, a travel permit was a paper document issued by the Interior Ministry and signed by a male relative.
Today, Saudi men download a government mobile app that notifies them of a woman's travel. Through the app, men can grant or deny a woman permission to travel. Some young women who have fled the country had managed to access their father's phone, change the setting and disable its notifications.
In a statement read to reporters in Canada on Tuesday, al-Qunun said she wants to be independent, travel and make her own decisions.
"I am one of the lucky ones," she said. "I know there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not change their reality."
That's especially true for women from conservative tribal families, like al-Qunun's.
Al-Qunun, one of 10 children, posted online that her father, Mohammed Mutliq al-Qunun, is the governor of the city of al-Sulaimi in the hilly hinterland of Ha'il — a province where nearly all women cover their face in black veils and wear loose black robes, or abayas, in public. The family belongs to the influential Shammar tribe, which extends to Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Her father has considerable clout as a prominent town official and member of a powerful tribe.
Al-Qunun, who barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Thailand last week to avoid deportation, said she was abused by a brother and locked in her room for months for cutting her hair short. She said she would have been killed if sent back to her family.
According to government statistics, at least 577 Saudi women tried to flee their homes inside the country in 2015, though the actual number is likely higher. There are no statistics on attempted or successful escapes abroad.
Shahad al-Mohaimeed, 19, who fled abuse and an ultraconservative family in Saudi Arabia two years ago, said fear is a powerful deterrent.
"When a Saudi girl decides to flee, it means she's decided to put her life on the line and take a very, very risky step," said al-Mohaimeed, who now lives in Sweden.
Al-Qunun's plight on social media drew international attention, helping her short-circuit the typically complex path to asylum. A little more than a week after fleeing Saudi Arabia, she was in Canada, building a new life, posting pictures of wine, bacon and donning a dress above the knees.
Back in Saudi Arabia, the woman identified as Nojoud al-Mandeel posted audio on Twitter on Monday alleging her father had beaten and burnt her "over something trivial". She posted a video looking onto a neighbor's gated pool, where she says she jumped from her bedroom window before a friend picked her up and they escaped.
"Don't tell me to report to police," she said, explaining that in a previous attempt, police just had her father sign a pledge saying he would not beat her again.
After her story gained some traction online, she was promised attention by a protection hotline in Saudi Arabia for domestic abuse victims. Prosecutors also reportedly began looking into her allegations of abuse, according to Saudi news sites.
She was placed in a domestic abuse shelter, but on Tuesday complained on Twitter about the shelter's restrictions over her movements.
Al-Mohaimeed said Twitter is where Saudi women can share stories and be heard. She and two other Saudi women took over al-Qunun's Twitter account, writing messages on her behalf during the height of her pleas last week to avoid deportation.
"I was not born in this world to serve a man," al-Mohaimeed said. "I was born in this world to fulfill my dreams, achieve my dreams, grow, learn and be independent — to taste life as I hold it in my hands."