News Talk 650 CKOM

Subscribe to News Talk 650 CKOM feed
Saskatoon's Number One News and Information Station - News, Talk, Sports, Traffic, and Weather
Updated: 26 min 13 sec ago

Manitoba man who shot at Mounties, wounding one, sentenced to 18 years

8 hours 37 min ago
MINNEDOSA, Man. - A Manitoba man who shot at two RCMP officers and left one with severe injuries has been given an 18-year prison sentence. Therae Racette-Beaulieu pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of attempted murder, break and enter, and robbery in connection with a string of crimes in western Manitoba last summer. Court heard Racette-Beaulieu was 18 when he and some other men broke into residences and garages and stole items including a truck and a semi-automatic shotgun. When police responded and forced the stolen truck off the road near Onanole, Man., the men inside fled and Racette-Beaulieu started firing. Cpl. Graeme Kingdon was hit with pellets in the back of his head and Const. Mitch Thompson was pinned down and continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Provincial court Judge John Combs said in his sentencing decision that the shooter’s actions deserve strong condemnation. “To state the obvious, the conduct of Mr. Racette-Beaulieu was disturbing and abhorrent,” Combs said Tuesday. “These officers, and their families, are scarred for life.” The shooting led to a manhunt that ended several hours later in Neepawa, Man. Four suspects were arrested. The other three accused are still before the courts. Combs acknowledged that Racette-Beaulieu had a traumatic childhood, was abused by his father and suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a low intellectual capacity. But, the judge added, Racette-Beaulieu has also not expressed remorse for his crimes. “He has a lack of empathy and has reluctance to accept responsibility,” Combs said. “He remains, in his present state, a very dangerous individual.” During his victim impact statement last month, Kingdon said his life was changed by the shooting. He has been unable to return to work and is not able to do many of his favourite activities with his wife and two daughters. “The only reason my family is not describing my murder right now is that I fought to live, and brave police officers and paramedics saved my life,” Kingdon said at the time. The Crown was seeking 20 years in prison while the defence asked for 16 1/2 years. Combs ruled Racette-Beaulieu should serve 18 years, less nine months credit for the time he has spent in custody. - by Steve Lambert in Winnipeg The Canadian Press

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

8 hours 44 min ago
OTTAWA - Canada’s no-fly list faces constitutional challenges from two B.C. men who argue in a pair of court cases that the secret roster violates the Charter of Rights guarantee of fundamental justice. The no-fly regime allows the federal government to bar someone from boarding an airplane because there are grounds to believe they would threaten the flight or travel to commit a terrorist act. One of the men, Parvkar Singh Dulai, says he was stopped from getting on a plane last May 17 at the Vancouver International Airport. Dulai followed an appeal process, but received a letter in late January saying his name would remain on the no-fly list. He is asking the Federal Court of Canada for an order striking him from the roster or, at the very least, a re-examination of his case. Dulai also seeks a declaration that the no-fly provisions violate constitutional rights to freedom of movement and to know the details of the case against him. The Canadian Press

Bomb threat at polling location prompts pause in voting: Elections P.E.I.

8 hours 57 min ago
CHARLOTTETOWN - Voting at polling station in central Prince Edward Island was temporarily suspended Tuesday as police investigated a bomb threat as the provincial election drew to a close. RCMP Sgt. Leanne Butler confirmed there was bomb threat, saying someone found a note inside the polling station at the Assumption Parish Centre in Stratford. Police surrounded the large church on the outskirts of Charlottetown. Elections PEI decided there was a risk to staff and the building was evacuated around 1 p.m. as would-be voters were trying to cast their ballots. One of the candidates running in the riding, incumbent Progressive Conservative James Aylward, said he learned of the situation while driving by the station, where his wife was waiting to cast her vote. “I drove into the parking lot of the church hall … and all of a sudden six marked RCMP vehicles screamed in and blocked off the entrances,” he said. Around 3:30 p.m., Elections PEI issued a statement saying voting would resume at the centre. The agency also confirmed the polls there would remain open 7:30 local time - 30 minutes later than usual. Elections P.E.I. had originally said the polling station would remain open until 9 p.m., but they agency later changed the timing. Voter turnout was expected to be strong in Tuesday’s election, with more than 36 per cent of eligible voters having already cast their ballots in advance polls. Voter turnout on the island has traditionally been as high as 80 per cent. Under rainy, grey skies, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and his wife voted this morning at the Bonshaw community centre in his riding in central P.E.I. The Greens are hoping to turn strong support in opinion polls into victories and build on the two seats they held prior to the campaign. The Liberals have governed the Island since 2007, including the last four years under Premier Wade MacLauchlan, who is hoping to continue efforts to bolster the province’s economy. Dennis King has only been leader of the Progressive Conservatives since February, but says he is focused on adding to the eight seats his party held. Joe Byrne, who has led the New Democrats for the past year, is looking for his party’s first win in more than 20 years. The polls close at 7 p.m. local time. The Canadian Press

Labour uncertainty boosting rookie camp costs for CFL general managers

9 hours 3 min ago
TORONTO - Contract talks between the CFL Players’ Association and CFL are costing players plenty of money. But it could also increase the cost of doing business for the league’s nine teams. The CFL and its players will return to the bargaining table Monday and Tuesday in Toronto. It will be their first face-to-face meeting since April 9. The delay has drawn the ire of many CFL players, mostly because the league has instructed teams not to pay off-season bonuses until after a new collective bargaining agreement has been ratified. The current deal is scheduled to expire May 18. Training camps are slated to open the following day but the CFLPA has instructed its players to not report if a new CBA hasn’t been reached by then. The union has also said it doesn’t intend to work past May 18 unless the sides agree to a new deal. But the status of rookie camps, scheduled to begin May 15, is bothering some CFL general managers. The CFLPA hasn’t told its players not to report, which isn’t surprising given the camps open within the timeframe of the existing CBA. That also suggests the union is adhering to the various provincial labour laws. However, given the state of contract talks between the league and union - the two sides are still negotiating non-monetary matters - and the annual Canadian college draft being held May 2, some GMs are finding it much more costly arranging airfares now for prospects to attend scheduled rookie camps instead of having had the luxury of doing so months ago when rates were a lot cheaper. A CFL spokesman said Tuesday the plan is for rookie camps to ahead as scheduled. However, the uncertainty of the league’s labour situation has caused some teams to play a waiting game when it comes to purchasing airplane tickets. “The price of airline tickets is higher with shorter notice and you can’t go get players airline tickets at this point,” said a CFL GM. However, another CFL general manager said this circumstance is really nothing new given teams faced a similar situation in 2014 when the league and union were last involved in CBA talks. “Every day that goes by isn’t necessarily a good thing,” the GM said. “But in the CFL you’ve got to be able to adjust and make things happen on the fly. “We try to (book travel arrangements) sooner than later to try to get the best fares. It doesn’t always play out that way but that’s the risk you take, right? For now, we’re going to be patient and see how things play out. It could impact the bottom line but it’s not something you can worry about. That’s just what we’re dealing with.” Another concern, too, is just how many players will actually attend. That’s because once a player signs a CFL contract he automatically becomes a member of the CFLPA. The dilemma facing a rookie is trying to do right by the union while being able to take full advantage of an opportunity to play pro football. Also, traditionally a CFL team’s starting and backup quarterbacks report to rookie camp to get a head start on their season preparation. The expectation is attendance this year for the veterans will be voluntary. Still, the second general manager downplayed the impact contract talks are having on his day-to-day responsibilities. “The timing might be off a little bit and dollars may go up a bit,” he said. “Other than that, it might change the order of what things you do and you might be doing more preparation now for the season than stuff that deals with rookie camp. “Let’s just hope there’s an agreement (before May 15) and we don’t have to worry about all of this.” Both CFL officials were granted anonymity due to a league directive. Personnel commenting publicly about anything to do with CBA talks will face repercussions under the rules. Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

B.C. doles out millions in federal government cash for anti-gang programs

9 hours 22 min ago
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The British Columbia government has announced where it’s directing federal government funds in the fight against gun and gang violence in the province. The first of $5.3 million in funding over two years will go towards six prevention and intervention programs based in Abbotsford, the Cariboo-Chilcotin and the Capital Regional District. More than $1.2 million will go into youth involved and gang intervention programs in Abbotsford, while two Cariboo-Chilcotin youth programs will receive over $380,000. The B.C. School Superintendents Association’s support for its high-risk vulnerable youth program will receive $580,000 and the Pacific Centre Family Services Association’s exploitation diversion program gets $450,000. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the programs helps to strike at the root of the problem in neighbourhoods to ensure youth are resilient to the lure of gangs. The funding comes from the B.C. government’s $30 million allotment of a $214-million fund made available to the provinces and territories through the federal government’s Guns and Gang Violence Action Fund. The Canadian Press

Bomb threat at polling location prompts pause in voting: Elections P.E.I.

9 hours 28 min ago
CHARLOTTETOWN - Voting at polling station in central Prince Edward Island was temporarily suspended Tuesday as police investigated a bomb threat as the provincial election drew to a close. RCMP Sgt. Leanne Butler confirmed there was bomb threat, saying someone found a note inside the polling station at the Assumption Parish Centre in Stratford. Police surrounded the large church on the outskirts of Charlottetown. Elections PEI decided there was a risk to staff and the building was evacuated around 1 p.m. as would-be voters were trying to cast their ballots. One of the candidates running in the riding, incumbent Progressive Conservative James Aylward, said he learned of the situation while driving by the station, where his wife was waiting to cast her vote. “I drove into the parking lot of the church hall … and all of a sudden six marked RCMP vehicles screamed in and blocked off the entrances,” he said. Around 3:30 p.m., Elections PEI issued a statement saying voting would resume at the centre. The agency also confirmed the polls there would remain open until 9 p.m. local time. Voter turnout was expected to be strong in Tuesday’s election, with more than 36 per cent of eligible voters having already cast their ballots in advance polls. Voter turnout on the island has traditionally been as high as 80 per cent. Under rainy, grey skies, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and his wife voted this morning at the Bonshaw community centre in his riding in central P.E.I. The Greens are hoping to turn strong support in opinion polls into victories and build on the two seats they held prior to the campaign. The Liberals have governed the Island since 2007, including the last four years under Premier Wade MacLauchlan, who is hoping to continue efforts to bolster the province’s economy. Dennis King has only been leader of the Progressive Conservatives since February, but says he is focused on adding to the eight seats his party held. Joe Byrne, who has led the New Democrats for the past year, is looking for his party’s first win in more than 20 years. The polls close at 7 p.m. local time. The Canadian Press

Egypt voters approve referendum extending president’s rule

9 hours 39 min ago
CAIRO - Voters in Egypt approved constitutional amendments allowing President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to remain in power until 2030, election officials said Tuesday, a move that critics fear will cement his authoritarian rule eight years after a pro-democracy uprising. El-Sissi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president amid mass protests against his rule in 2013 and has since presided over an unprecedented crackdown on dissent. Thousands of people, including many pro-democracy activists, have been arrested by authorities. Freedoms won in 2011, when mass protests ended President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly three-decade rule, have been rolled back. Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of Egypt’s National Election Authority, told a news conference the amendments to the 2014 constitution were approved with 88.83% voting in favour, with a turnout of 44.33%. The nationwide referendum took place over three days, from Saturday through Monday to maximize turnout. Egypt has some 61 million eligible voters. In his first public comments on the amendments, el-Sissi thanked the Egyptian people for voting “yes.” “Wonderful scene done by Egyptians who took part in the referendum… will be written down in our nation’s historical record,” he tweeted minutes after Ibrahim announced the results. Pro-government media, business people and lawmakers had pushed for a “Yes” vote and a high turnout, with many offering free rides and food handouts to voters, while authorities threatened to fine anyone boycotting the three-day referendum. Opposition parties had urged a “no” vote, but they have little power in parliament, which is packed with el-Sissi supporters and overwhelmingly approved the amendments earlier this month. The local media is also dominated by pro-government commentators, and the authorities have blocked hundreds of websites, including many operated by independent media and rights groups. Two international advocacy groups - Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists - had urged the Egyptian government to withdraw the amendments, saying they placed the country on a path to more autocratic rule. Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University, said the results were expected. “There will be dangerous repercussion from the ruling regime as we will see more repression and restrictive policies,” he said. Generally, the amendments extend a president’s term in office from four to six years and allow for a maximum of two terms. But they also include a special article specific to el-Sissi that extends his current second four-year term to six years and allows him to run for another six-year term in 2024 - potentially extending his rule until 2030. El-Sissi was elected president in 2014 and re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were jailed or pressured to exit the race. Parliament overwhelmingly approved the amendments last week, with only 22 no votes and one abstention from 554 lawmakers in attendance. The national electoral commission announced the following day that voting would begin Saturday. Since early April, the Egyptian capital had been awash with large posters and banners encouraging people to vote in favour of the changes. Most of the posters were apparently funded by pro-government parties, businessmen and lawmakers. In Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, where mass protests became the symbol of the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising and of hopes for democratic change in Egypt, the posters urged people to vote in the referendum. “Take part, say … ‘yes’ for the constitutional amendments,” said one banner near the offices of the pro-government Nation’s Future Party. Most of the posters were apparently funded by pro-government parties, businessmen and lawmakers. During the referendum, business people and lawmakers loyal to el-Sissi offered incentives to voters. They provided buses to transport people free of charge to a polling centre. Also some voters were being handed bags of food staples - like oil, rice and sugar - after they cast their ballots. Trucks with loudspeakers drove around central Cairo through the three-day referendum, playing patriotic songs and urging people to vote. Samy Magdy, The Associated Press

Michelle Obama headlines college signing day event at UCLA

9 hours 43 min ago
LOS ANGELES - Former first lady Michelle Obama and a host of celebrities will join thousands of students to celebrate college signing day. Obama, Conan O’Brien, Kelly Rowland, Bebe Rexha, Jesse Williams, Usher, Pentatonix, La La Anthony, Don Cheadle, and other entertainers and athletes are slated to gather on the UCLA campus on May 1 to commemorate the day that high school students choose to pursue higher education. Events also are planned throughout the U.S. This will mark Obama’s sixth college signing day that she has celebrated with Reach Higher. As first lady, Obama used the Reach Higher initiative to inspire high school students to continue their education by attending college, a training program, or joining the military. The Associated Press

Saudi Arabia beheads 37 for terrorism crimes; most Shiites

9 hours 48 min ago
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a mass execution across the country for alleged terrorism-related crimes. It also publicly pinned the executed body and severed head of a convicted Sunni extremist to a pole as a warning to others. The executions were likely to stoke further regional and sectarian tensions between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed, who runs the Gulf Institute in Washington, identified 34 of those executed as Shiites based on the names announced by the Interior Ministry. “This is the largest mass execution of Shiites in the kingdom’s history,” he said. Amnesty International also confirmed the majority of those executed were Shiite men. The rights group said they were convicted “after sham trials” that relied on confessions extracted through torture. It marked the largest number of executions in a single day in Saudi Arabia since Jan. 2, 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people for terrorism-related crimes in what was the largest mass execution carried out by Saudi authorities since 1980. Among those executed three years ago were four Shiites, including prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose death sparked protests from Pakistan to Iran and the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Saudi-Iran ties have not recovered and the embassy remains shuttered. King Salman ratified by royal decree Tuesday’s mass execution and that of 2016. The king, who has empowered his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has asserted a bolder and more decisive leadership style than previous monarchs since ascending to the throne in 2015. The kingdom and its Sunni-led Arab allies have also been emboldened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s unwavering dedication to pressuring Iran’s Shiite clerical leadership, which includes his decision to pull out of a nuclear agreement with Iran and re-impose punishing sanctions to cripple its economy. Al-Ahmed described Tuesday’s executions as a politically motivated message to Iran. “This is political,” he said. “They didn’t have to execute these people, but it’s important for them to ride the American anti-Iranian wave.” The Interior Ministry’s statement said those executed had adopted extremist ideologies and formed terrorist cells with the aim of spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife. It said the individuals had been found guilty according to the law and ordered executed by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which specializes in terrorism trials, and the country’s high court. The individuals were found guilty of attacking security installations with explosives, killing a number of security officers and co-operating with enemy organizations against the interests of the country, the Interior Ministry said. The statement was carried across state-run media, including the Saudi news channel al-Ekhbariya. The statement read on the state-run news channel opened with a verse from the Qur'an that condemns attacks that aim to create strife and disharmony and warns of great punishment for those who carry out such attacks. Al-Ahmed said among those executed was Shiite religious leader Sheikh Mohammed al-Attiyah, whose charges included seeking to form a sectarian group in the western city of Jiddah. Al-Ahmed said the sheikh publicly spoke of the need to work closely with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni majority and would lead small prayer groups among Shiites. In a speech he gave in 2011 under then King Abdullah, the sheikh was quoted as saying that frank and open dialogue between Sunnis and Shiites could help strengthen Saudi unity. He urged patience and expressed hope in a national dialogue that had taken place among Shiite dissidents and Sunni leaders. “As long as we live in the same country, we have no choice but to accept one another and live with one another, no matter the degree of difference between us,” he said. Amnesty International said 11 of the men were convicted of spying for Iran and sentenced to death after a “grossly unfair trial.” At least 14 others executed were convicted of violent offences related to their participation in anti-government demonstrations in Shiite-populated areas of Saudi Arabia between 2011 and 2012. Among those put to death was a young man convicted of a crime that took place when he was 16 years-old, said Amnesty. Saudi Arabia’s supreme council of clerics, who are all ultraconservative Sunnis, said the executions were carried out in accordance with Islamic law. The Interior Ministry said the body of one of the executed men - Khaled bin Abdel Karim al-Tuwaijri - was publicly pinned to a pole. The statement did not say in which city of Saudi Arabia the public display took place. He appears to have been convicted as a Sunni militant, though the government did not give a detailed explanation of the charges against each individual executed. The government defends such executions as a powerful tool for deterrence. Saudi analysts and pro-government writers brought in to discuss the executions on al-Ekhbariya said they are a powerful sign that the country’s leadership will not hesitate to use the full might of the judicial system to punish Saudis who seek to disrupt the kingdom’s security. Those executed hailed from Riyadh, Mecca, Medina and Asir, as well as Shiite Muslim populated areas of the Eastern Province and Qassim. The executions also took place in those various regions. It brings the number of people executed since the start of the year to around 100, according to official announcements. Last year, the kingdom executed 149 people, most of them drug smugglers convicted of non-violent crimes, according to Amnesty’s most recent figures. Executions are traditionally carried out after midday prayers. Public displays of the bodies of executed men last for around three hours until late afternoon prayers, with the severed head and body hoisted to the top of a pole overlooking a main square. This latest mass execution comes days after four Islamic State gunmen were killed by Saudi security forces while trying to attack a security building north of the capital, Riyadh. It also comes on the heels of Sri Lanka’s Easter Day attacks that killed over 300 people, including two Saudi nationals. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group. Local affiliates of the Islamic State group and Saudis inspired by its ideology launched several attacks in Saudi Arabia between 2014 and 2016, killing dozens of people, including security officers and Shiite worshippers. The last major attempted attack is believed to have been two years ago. The group, like al-Qaida in the past, has sought to undermine the Al Saud royal family’s legitimacy, which is rooted in part in its claim to implement Islamic Shariah law and to be the protectors of Islam’s most sacred sites in Mecca and Medina that are at the centre of hajj. ___ Associated Press writer Sam Magdy contributed from Cairo. ___ Story has been corrected to say that one, not two, bodies were publicly displayed Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press

Youth accused in Kingston, Ont., terrorism case rearrested on new charges

9 hours 48 min ago
KINGSTON, Ont. - A 16-year-old boy previously arrested in eastern Ontario over an alleged terrorism plot is now facing new charges. Police in Kingston, Ont., say the boy, whose name is protected by a publication ban, was rearrested on Sunday. They declined to say what led to his arrest, but confirmed he’s now charged with one count each of mischief and breach of bail conditions. The teen, who was first arrested in January, was released from custody earlier this month under a number of strict bail conditions. These included promises to be in the company of one of two family members at all times, stay off the internet other than for pre-approved educational purposes, and wear an electronic monitoring device issued by the RCMP. The teen was previously facing five charges related to allegations that he had hatched a terrorist plot, but had yet to choose a target.    The Canadian Press

UN adopts weak resolution on sexual violence in conflict

10 hours 7 min ago
The U.N. Security Council has approved a watered-down resolution on combatting sexual violence in conflicts after eliminating language on providing “sexual and reproductive health care” to survivors of rape and abuse to get U.S. support. Tuesday’s vote on the German-drafted resolution was 13-0, with Russia and China, which had submitted a rival draft, abstaining. The resolution expresses the council’s deep concern at “the slow progress” in addressing and eliminating sexual violence in conflicts around the world. It says such acts often occur with impunity “and in some situations have become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality.” It urges strengthened access to justice for victims, but eliminated a positive reference to the International Criminal Court’s work in prosecuting alleged perpetrators. The Associated Press

In camp of diehard IS supporters, some women express regrets

10 hours 14 min ago
AL-HOL CAMP, Syria - The women say it was misguided religious faith, naivete, a search for something to believe in or youthful rebellion. Whatever it was, it led them to travel across the world to join the Islamic State group. Now after the fall of the last stronghold of the group’s “caliphate,” they say they regret it and want to come home. The Associated Press interviewed four foreign women who joined the caliphate and are now among tens of thousands of IS family members, mostly women and children, crammed into squalid camps in northern Syria overseen by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces who spearheaded the fight against the extremist group. Many in the camps remain die-hard supporters of IS. Women in general were often active participants in IS’s rule. Some joined women’s branches of the “Hisba,” the religious police who brutally enforced the group’s laws. Others helped recruit more foreigners. Freed Yazidi women have spoken of cruelties inflicted by female members of the group. Within the fences of al-Hol camp, IS supporters have tried to recreate the caliphate as much as possible. Some women have re-formed the Hisba to keep camp residents in line, according to officers from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces guarding the camp. While the AP was there, women in all-covering black robes and veils known as niqab tried to intimidate anyone speaking to journalists; children threw stones at visitors, calling them “dogs” and “infidels.” The four women interviewed by the AP said joining IS was a disastrous mistake. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces gave the AP access to speak to the women at two camps under their administration. “How could I have been so stupid, and so blind?” said Kimberly Polman, a 46-year-old Canadian woman who surrendered herself to the SDF earlier this year. The women insisted they had not been active IS members and had no role in its atrocities, and they all said their husbands were not fighters for IS. Those denials and much in their accounts could not be independently confirmed. The interviews took place with Kurdish security guards in the room. To many, their expressions of regret likely ring hollow, self-serving or irrelevant. Travelling to the caliphate, the women joined a group whose horrific atrocities were well known, including sex enslavement of Yazidi women, mass killings of civilians and grotesque punishments of rule-breakers, ranging from lashings, public shootings and crucifixions, to beheadings and hurling from rooftops. Their pleas to return home point to the thorny question of what to do with the men and women who joined the caliphate and their children. Governments around the world are reluctant to take back their nationals. The SDF complains it is being forced to shoulder the burden of dealing with them. Al-Hol is home to 73,000 people who streamed out of the Islamic State group’s last pockets, including the village of Baghouz, the final site to fall to the SDF in March. Nearly the entire population of the camp is women or children, since most men were taken for screening by the SDF to determine if they were fighters. At the section of the camp for foreign families - kept separate from Syrians and Iraqis - women and children pressed themselves, four deep, against the chain link fencing, pleading with guards and aid workers for aid, favours and to be sent home. Many shared the same cough, and some wore surgical masks. Behind them, children played in puddles of mud, as women washed clothes in plastic tubs. Girls as young as three wore veils, while men and boys wore dishdashas, often associated with Central Asia. Around 11,000 people are held in the foreign section of al-Hol; The Associated Press met some from South Africa, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Russia, India, Tunisia, and Trinidad and Tobago. The women interviewed by the AP there and in Roj Camp, another site for foreign women and children, said they were deceived by IS’s promises of an ideal state ruled by Islamic law promoting justice and righteous living. Instead, they said their lives became a hell, with restrictions, punishments and imprisonment. But in a measure of the West’s broad skepticism about these narratives, governments say they are focusing on repatriating children and not the parents, who took them to Syria. Belgium’s current policy is to bring back child nationals under 10 years old. “Up to today our priority remains to return these kids because they are the victims, so to speak, of the radical choices made by their parents,” said Karl Lagatie, deputy spokesman of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Aliya, a 24-year-old Indonesian, said that back home she grew up in a conservative Muslim family but was not herself practicing. Then her boyfriend broke up with her and, brokenhearted, she threw herself into religion. To “make up for” her past, she said she went far to a hard-line direction, watching videos of IS sermons. “I believed they were the real Islamic state … They said when you make hijra (migration to the caliphate), all your sins are cleared,” she said. She spoke on condition her full name not be used for fear of drawing harassment to her family back home. In 2015, she flew to Turkey, planning to go on to Syria. In Turkey, she married an Algerian man she met there who was also considering joining IS. But he had doubts, and suggested they move to Malaysia. She was the one who insisted they go to the “caliphate,” she said. They settled in IS’s de facto capital, Raqqa, and soon after their son Yahya was born in February 2017. She said it was not what they’d been promised. Their passports were confiscated, their communications monitored. She said her husband was imprisoned for a month by IS for refusing to become a fighter, then worked in the IS administration’s welfare office. She said she was unable to escape IS territory until late 2017, when the militants gave her and her son permission to leave. Her husband had to stay behind. She has been unable to contact him for nearly a year and believes he is now in SDF hands. Her parents are trying to convince Indonesian officials to allow her home. “I want to tell my government I regret, and I hope for a second chance. I was young,” Aliya said. “Some people still love ISIS. Me, because I’ve lived there, I see how they are, so I’m done with them.” Gailon Lawson, of Trinidad and Tobago, said she began to regret her decision even before she reached the “caliphate.” The night she crossed with her then 12-year-old son and her new husband into Syria in 2014, people had to dash across in the darkness to evade Turkish border guards. “I saw people running, and that’s when I realized it was a mistake,” the 45-year-old Lawson said. She had converted recently to Islam and married a man in Trinidad who apparently had been radicalized - becoming his second wife. Only days after they married, they travelled to Syria. “I just followed my husband,” she said. They divorced not long after arriving. Lawson’s biggest concern over the next years was keeping her son from being enlisted as a fighter. He was arrested three times by IS for refusing conscription, she said. During the siege at Baghouz, she dressed her son as a woman in robes and a veil, and they slipped out. Kurdish security forces detained the son, and Lawson has not heard from him in a month. Samira, a 31-year-old Belgian woman, said that back home when she was young, she drank alcohol and went dancing at clubs. Then “I wanted to change my life. I found Islam.” She said she came to believe IS propaganda that Europe would never accept Muslims and only in the caliphate could one be a proper member of the faith. “It was very stupid, I know,” she said. When she reached Syria, IS militants put her in a house for women and brought suitors for marriage. Samira chose a French citizen, Karam El-Harchaoui. She said IS imprisoned her husband for a year for refusing to become a fighter. After his release, he sold eggs and chickens. In 2016, they tried to pay a Syrian smuggler to escape, but the smuggler pocketed the money and ratted them out to IS. Finally in January 2018, she and her husband fled with their 2-year-old child and surrendered to Kurdish-led forces. Her husband was imprisoned and has since been sent to Iraq to stand trial there. “I know he will not have a fair trial,” Samira said. Iraqi courts are notorious for cursory trials of suspected IS members in which almost no evidence is presented. Meanwhile, she is trying to get home to Belgium. “What we saw with Daesh was a lesson to us and allowed us to gain perspective on the extremists. All we want is to reintegrate in our society,” she said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. “I hate them,” she said of the group. “They sold us a dream, but it was an open prison. They kill innocent people. All that they do, these things, it’s not from Islam.” Lagatie, the Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said his government would not comment on individual cases, but said Samira was “well known to Belgian authorities.” Polman, the Canadian woman, came to the caliphate to join her new husband, a man she knew only from online. One of her siblings in Canada, contacted by the AP, confirmed this part of her story. Soon after they were united in Syria, the husband became abusive and they divorced. She married again and worked in a hospital, treating children wounded in the fighting. “I saw an incredible number of children die,” she said. She recounted mopping up blood on the hospital floor and breaking down after failing to revive a dying 4-month-old. Polman said she came to blame the militants for the horrors she saw. “Why would the rest of the world be responding to this if you were any kind of normal human being? Why? …You can say this is about religion but I don’t buy it,” she said, referring to other IS supporters who often accuse the world of ganging up against the group because it is Muslim. In early 2019, she and her husband surrendered to the SDF. She wants to return to Canada, saying she is not safe in the camp because she has spoken out against IS. “I feel so badly that I think I don’t deserve a future. I shouldn’t have trusted.” ___ Associated Press writers Michael C. Corder in Brussels, Sarah El Deeb in Beirut, Soyini Grey in Trinidad and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this story. Maya Alleruzzo, Philip Issa And Andrea Rosa, The Associated Press

Saskatchewan again asking Ottawa to help canola farmers after China ban

10 hours 28 min ago
REGINA - Saskatchewan’s premier is again asking Ottawa to increase its cash advances to canola farmers. Scott Moe says in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, posted on Twitter, that he’s been waiting nearly a month for a response since he first asked for help. Saskatchewan wants the amount of money available to canola farmers through a federal advance payment program to increase to $1 million from $400,000. The province also wants the program’s end-of-March deadline extended by one month and that no interest be charged on the maximum payment amount until the issue with China is resolved. The province has been looking to the federal government for aid since China decided to block imports of the oilseed from Canada. The ban on $2 billion worth of canola imports has caused trade uncertainty in the industry. China’s move is perceived to be part of a growing rift between the two nations since Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, daughter of the founder of telecom giant Huawei, at the behest of the United States. The Canadian Press

Calgary Flames, James Neal start relationship repair after playoff-game benching

10 hours 30 min ago
CALGARY - Amid the fallout from the Calgary Flames’ early playoff ejection is a frayed relationship with James Neal. The veteran winger was a healthy scratch for the first time in his 11-year career when the Colorado Avalanche eliminated the Flames in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series last Friday. Calgary signed the 31-year-old to a five-year contract worth US$28.75 million last year because he was a consistent 20-goal man and also brought playoff experience after two long runs with Nashville and Las Vegas. But after seven shots on net, zero points and a minus-3 in the first four games of the Avalanche series, Neal was benched in favour of Austin Czarnik. Calgary lost 5-1. “That was hard,” Neal said. “I’ve never had to go through that in my career.” Flames head coach Bill Peters and Neal began working on reconciliation in their exit-meeting discussions this week. “They were real,” Peters said. “We don’t want to go down that path again.” While the Flames climbed to the top rung of the NHL’s Western Conference ladder, James didn’t blossom with his third new team in three years. Thought to be a candidate to play on the top line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, Neal’s tenure there didn’t last long as Elias Lindholm claimed that job. Neal toiled on Calgary’s third line down the stretch, producing a career-low seven goals and 12 assists in 63 games. Being sidelined 17 games with a lower-body injury in February and March contributed to diminished production. “It was a tough year for sure,” Neal said. “It’s tough when you’re not producing like you should be. That being said, our team was winning. “For me, I was just trying to get healthy and get ready and being an impact player in the playoffs. Obviously that didn’t happen. I need to get back to where I need to be.” Given Calgary’s investment in Neal, both parties are motivated for him to be a happier and more productive player. “I want to be a top-six guy who is counted on to score big goals and be an impact player,” Neal said. “I’ve been like that my whole career. “I scored 20-plus goals in every one of my years except for this year so I know I can (get) back to being that type of player and help this team out.” Said Peters: “We’ve got to give him more ice time - and when I say give, on an earned basis.” Neal reached the Stanley Cup final with both Nashville in 2017 and Las Vegas in 2018. The six-foot-three, 212-pound forward recorded a combined 12 goals and eight assists in 42 post-season games. His silver lining in Calgary’s suddenly long summer is extra time to top up his gas tank for 2019-20. “The last three years, they’ve been good years, but that being said, you don’t have time to take care of your body and train in the summer,” Neal said. “This is a chance for me to get back to where I know I can be and where I feel like I should be.” With the alternative sour and potentially costly, general manager Brad Treliving says the Flames remain committed to making it work with Neal. “James is very accountable,” the GM said. “James didn’t sign here to be a scratch in Game 5 of the first round. “I think he’s going to pull up his boot strings and be better, but how do we help him too? There’s two parties involved, the player and the team. We both want him to be successful.” Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Brothers sue Jussie Smollett’s lawyers, claiming defamation

10 hours 31 min ago
CHICAGO - Two brothers who say they helped Jussie Smollett stage a racist and homophobic attack against himself filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the “Empire” actor’s attorneys, alleging that they repeatedly asserted publicly that the brothers carried out a real, bigoted attack on Smollett despite knowing that wasn’t true. A lawyer for Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of the brothers. It names Mark Geragos and his law firm as defendants. The suit contends that even after police and prosecutors alleged that the Jan. 29 attack was staged and after all charges were dropped against Smollett, Geragos and his firm continued to say publicly in widely reported statements that the brothers “led a criminally homophobic, racist and violent attack against Mr. Smollett,” even though they knew that wasn’t the case. The lawsuit says that the lawyers’ repeated statements that Smollett told the truth all along and that the brothers were lying caused them “significant emotional distress,” and made them feel unsafe and alienated them from the local community. The brothers didn’t appear at a news conference their attorneys held Tuesday, but they issued a statement, saying “We have sat back and watched lie after lie being fabricated about us in the media only so one big lie can continue to have life. These lies are destroying our character and reputation in our personal and professional lives.” The lawsuit doesn’t specify an exact amount of money the brothers are seeking, only that would it be more than $75,000 for “appropriate compensatory damages, punitive damages and costs” stemming from the alleged defamation. Geragos didn’t immediately reply to messages seeking comment about the lawsuit. “Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria, which can result in 14 years of imprisonment,” the lawsuit says. “If the accused is married, the punishment is death by stoning.” It also accuses Smollett of taking advantage of the brothers’ own aspirations to establish TV and movie careers by manipulating them into taking part in the alleged hoax. “In short, Mr. Smollett used his clout as a wealthy actor to influence Plaintiffs, who were in a subordinate relationship to him and were aspiring to ‘make it’ in Hollywood,” the lawsuit contends. Police allege that Smollett paid the brothers to help him stage an attack in which he said two masked men beat him, hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him, doused him with a chemical substance and looped a rope around his neck. Smollett, who is black and gay, maintains that the attack wasn’t staged. In the weeks after the alleged attack police arrested the Osundairo brothers on suspicion of assaulting Smollett but released them without charges. A police spokesman said the two were no longer considered suspects and that investigators had new evidence after questioning them. About a week after police questioned the brothers Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct and accused of making a false police report about the attack. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office abruptly dropped charges against Smollett in March. The city of Chicago has since sued Smollett seeking repayment for costs of investigating his case. ___ Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case. Michael Tarm And Caryn Rousseau, The Associated Press

Saudi Arabia beheads 37 prisoners for terrorism crimes

10 hours 40 min ago
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a mass execution across the country for alleged terrorism-related crimes. It publicly pinned one of the convicted Sunni extremists’ bodies and its severed head to a pole as a warning to others. The executions were likely to stoke further regional and sectarian tensions between rivals Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-led Iran. Dissident Ali Al-Ahmed, who runs the Gulf Institute in Washington, identified 34 of those executed as Shiites based on the names announced by the Interior Ministry. “This is the largest mass execution of Shiites in the kingdom’s history,” he said. Amnesty International also confirmed the majority of those executed were Shiite men. The rights group said they were convicted “after sham trials” that relied on confessions extracted through torture. It marked the largest number of executions in a single day in Saudi Arabia since Jan. 2, 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people for terrorism-related crimes in what was the largest mass execution carried out by Saudi Arabia since 1980. Among those executed three years ago were four Shiites, including prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose death sparked protests from Pakistan to Iran and the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Saudi-Iran ties have not recovered and the embassy remains shuttered. King Salman ratified by royal decree Tuesday’s mass execution and that of 2016. The king, who has empowered his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has asserted a bolder and more decisive leadership style than previous monarchs since ascending to the throne in 2015. The kingdom and its allies have also been emboldened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s unwavering dedication to pressuring Iran’s leadership, which includes his decision to pull out of a nuclear agreement with Iran and re-impose punishing sanctions to cripple its economy. Al-Ahmed described Tuesday’s executions as a politically motivated message to Iran. “This is political,” he said. “They didn’t have to execute these people, but it’s important for them to ride the American anti-Iranian wave.” Al-Ahmed said among those executed was Shiite religious leader Sheikh Mohammed al-Attiyah. Among his charges was that he tried to form a sectarian group in the western city of Jiddah, al-Ahmed said. Al-Ahmed said the sheikh publicly spoke of the need to work closely with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni majority and would lead small prayer groups among Shiites. Saudi Arabia’s supreme council of Muslim scholars said the executions were carried out in accordance with Islamic law. The Interior Ministry used language that indicated they were all beheadings. The ministry’s statement said those executed had adopted extremist ideologies and formed terrorist cells with the aim of spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife. It said the individuals had been found guilty according to the law and ordered executed by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which specializes in terrorism trials, and the country’s high court. The individuals were found guilty of attacking security installations with explosives, killing a number of security officers and co-operating with enemy organizations against the interests of the country, the Interior Ministry said. The statement was carried across state-run media, including the Saudi news channel al-Ekhbariya. The statement read on the state-run news channel opened with a verse from the Qur'an that condemns attacks that aim to create strife and disharmony and warns of great punishment for those who carry out such attacks. The Interior Ministry said the body of one of the men - Khaled bin Abdel Karim al-Tuwaijri - was publicly pinned to a pole for several hours in a process that is not frequently used by the kingdom and has sparked controversy for its grisly display. The statement did not say in which city of Saudi Arabia the public display took place. The government defends such executions as a powerful tool for deterrence. Amnesty International said 11 of the men were convicted of spying for Iran and sentenced to death after a “grossly unfair trial.” At least 14 others executed were convicted of violent offences related to their participation in anti-government demonstrations in Shiite-populated areas of Saudi Arabia between 2011 and 2012. Among those put to death was a young man convicted of a crime that took place when he was 16 years-old, said Amnesty. Saudi analysts and pro-government writers brought in to discuss the executions on al-Ekhbariya said they are a powerful sign that the country’s leadership will not hesitate to use the full might of the judicial system to punish Saudis who seek to disrupt the kingdom’s security. Those executed hailed from Riyadh, Mecca, Medina and Asir, as well as Shiite Muslim populated areas of the Eastern Province and Qassim. The executions also took place in those various regions. The executions bring the number of people executed since the start of the year to around 100, according to official announcements. Last year, the kingdom executed 149 people, most of them drug smugglers convicted of non-violent crimes, according to Amnesty’s most recent figures. Executions are traditionally carried out after midday prayers. Public displays of the bodies of executed men last for around three hours until late afternoon prayers, with the severed head and body hoisted to the top of a pole overlooking a main square. This latest mass execution comes on the heels of Sri Lanka’s Easter Day attacks that killed over 300 people, including two Saudi nationals. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group. Also, on Sunday four Islamic State gunmen were killed by Saudi security forces while trying to attack a security building north of the capital, Riyadh. Local affiliates of the Islamic State group and Saudis inspired by its ideology launched a series of attacks in Saudi Arabia between 2014 and 2016, killing dozens of people, including security officers and Shiite worshippers. The last major attempted attack is believed to have been two years ago. The group, like al-Qaida in the past, has sought to undermine the Al Saud royal family’s legitimacy, which is rooted in part in its claim to implement Islamic Shariah law and to be the protectors of Islam’s most sacred sites in Mecca and Medina that are at the centre of hajj. ___ Associated Press writer Sam Magdy contributed from Cairo. ___ Story has been corrected to say that one, not two, bodies were publicly displayed Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press

Unspecified threat at polling location prompts pause in voting, Elections PEI says

10 hours 48 min ago
CHARLOTTETOWN - An unspecified threat targeting a polling station in Prince Edward Island forced the agency overseeing Tuesday’s provincial election to temporarily suspend voting in that location.  Elections PEI provided no details about the threat other than to say it posed a safety risk to staff working at the District 6 polling station at Assumption Parish Centre and would-be voters trying to cast their ballots. RCMP officers on the scene also declined to offer details on the nature of their investigation, but one of the candidates running in the Stratford, P.E.I. riding said police had indicated they were looking into a bomb threat against the polling station. James Aylward, the Progressive Conservative running for re-election in the riding, said he learned of the situation by accident while driving by the station where his wife was waiting in line to cast her vote. “I drove into the parking lot of the church hall where the polling station is located and all of a sudden six marked RCMP vehicles screamed in and blocked off the entrances,” he said. His wife and other voters were all evacuated before they could vote, Aylward said, adding officers escorting his wife from the premises had told her they were looking into a bomb threat. Police surrounding the large church on the outskirts of Charlottetown said the threat was reported at 12:55 p.m., but did not share how it was communicated or what it contained. Elections PEI said the polling station has been evacuated and will reopen once the RCMP have determined it’s safe. Voter turnout was expected to be strong in Tuesday’s election, with more than 36 per cent of eligible voters having already cast their ballots in advance polls. Voter turnout on the island has traditionally been as high as 80 per cent. Under rainy, grey skies, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and his wife voted this morning at the Bonshaw community centre in his riding in central P.E.I. The Greens are hoping to turn strong support in opinion polls into victories and build on the two seats they held prior to the campaign. The Liberals have governed the Island since 2007, including the last four years under Premier Wade MacLauchlan, who is hoping to continue efforts to bolster the province’s economy. Dennis King has only been leader of the Progressive Conservatives since February, but says he is focused on adding to the eight seats his party held. Joe Byrne, who has led the New Democrats for the past year, is looking for his party’s first win in more than 20 years. The polls close at 7 p.m. local time.     The Canadian Press

Leafs centre John Tavares ahead of Game 7: ‘We don’t want this thing to end’

10 hours 50 min ago
BOSTON - When the Maple Leafs signed John Tavares last summer, they had moments like these in mind. Toronto will take on the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal tonight, and one of the team’s star centres knows how he performs will likely go a long way in determining if the franchise moves beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004. “To get to where we ultimately want to get to and achieve the ultimate goal and play for a Stanley Cup, you’re going to have opportunities like this,” Tavares said after the Leafs’ morning skate at TD Garden. “These are the things you’ve got to go through - games you’ve got to find ways to win. “It’s playoff hockey. This is what it’s all about. You just go out there and leave it all on the line.” The Leafs missed a chance to advance to the conference semifinals when they fell 4-2 at home in Game 6 on Sunday. Toronto also could have gone up 3-1 at Scotiabank Arena in Game 4, but lost 5-4 midway through a back-and-forth series where neither teams has managed consecutive victories and the visitors hold a 4-2 record. The Leafs lost to the Bruins in seven games at this stage of the playoffs last spring after falling to Boston in a crushing Game 7 loss in 2013, although defenceman Jake Gardiner and suspended centre Nazem Kadri are the only players that remain on the roster from that miserable night. “It’s two really good teams that are playing,” Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said. “As you look at the National Hockey League you see lots, you see how tight it is. The biggest thing for me is we’re going in the right direction. We’re building a program that I think is giving us a real opportunity. We’ve been here before. “We feel like we’re set up better to do it. You’ve got to keep pushing till you get through these opportunities and you keep advancing. That’s a challenge for us.” Asked how it felt to wake up the morning of a Game 7, Leafs centre Auston Matthews, who has five goals in his last four games, kept his cards close to the vest. “Like any other game day, I guess,” the 21-year old said. “It’s obviously a big game for us, but I don’t think the mentality or anything changes. “You want to go in and play your best game. It’s win or go home.” For the Leafs to keep playing, they’ll have to solve a Bruins’ power play that’s an eye-popping 7-for-16 in the series. Toronto has struggled in the faceoff circle while killing penalties, and could deploy Tavares on draws in an effort to gain more possession. Tavares is also looking to contribute on the offensive side. Despite playing well against the Bruins’ top line at 5-on-5, he has just one empty-net goal, while linemate Mitch Marner has a solitary point at even strength. Babcock said his message to the team before puck drop is simple - embrace the moment. “If you’re Mitch Marner when you’re seven or eight and you’re playing road hockey, which guy were you? You were whoever scored the overtime winner the night before,” said the coach. “Be that guy again. But enjoy what you’re doing. The feeling of anxiety, and the feeling of a little tightness, that’s what you’re supposed to feel. “It helps you react better. It helps you be quicker. It means you’re alive. Don’t we all want to be alive?” That’s what the Leafs hope to be when they wake up tomorrow morning. “We want to keep playing,” Tavares said. “We don’t want this thing to end.” ___ Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Michelle Obama headlines college signing day event at UCLA

10 hours 55 min ago
LOS ANGELES - Former first lady Michelle Obama and a host of celebrities will join thousands of students to celebrate college signing day. Obama, Conan O’Brien, Kelly Rowland, Bebe Rexha, Jesse Williams, Usher, Pentatonix, La La Anthony, Don Cheadle, and other entertainers and athletes are slated to gather on the UCLA campus on May 1 to commemorate the day that high school students choose to pursue higher education. Events also are planned throughout the U.S. This will mark Obama’s sixth college signing day that she has celebrated with Reach Higher. As first lady, Obama used the Reach Higher initiative to inspire high school students to continue their education by attending college, a training program, or joining the military. The Associated Press

Feds to offer provinces fast-track reviews for flood projects, Champagne says

11 hours 3 min ago
OTTAWA - Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says he is willing to fast-track reviews of projects that could help communities deal with floods as part of an offer to provinces and cities today. Champagne says he first needs the provincial government in Quebec and municipalities to send in proposals for an infrastructure program that he worries few know about. The program set up two years ago will dole out about $2 billion over a decade, hoping to help communities like those now facing flooding in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick mitigate, prevent or adapt to the risks of high water. So far, the government has committed almost $792.7 million for 18 projects, all aimed at dealing with flooding, although none is in Quebec or New Brunswick. In a telephone interview, Champagne says there is a sense of urgency to approve more projects that can be done this construction season. Champagne isn’t speculating about why some provinces or cities haven’t applied for funding, saying instead that he wants to make sure everyone who could use the funding is aware it exists. The Canadian Press

Pages