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Settling Afghan refugees, TDSB report on Lytton wildfire : In The News for Oct. 14

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Oct. 14 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Oct. 14 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Volunteers who helped Syrian refugees settle in Canada six years ago are coming together once more to help Afghans who've recently arrived in the country. 

Their efforts – which range from securing weather-appropriate clothing to helping the newcomers access medical services – are expected to ramp up as the federal government delivers on its commitment to settle 40,000 Afghan refugees. 

Wendy Cukier, who previously founded a group to support Syrian refugees, says she was inundated with inquiries as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan this summer.  

She says she reconnected with people she worked with when helping Syrian refugees and is now helping match Afghan refugees with resources they need. 

Cukier co-founded a group called Lifeline Afghanistan to organize the efforts of those who want to help Afghan refugees in the Greater Toronto Area. 

The group has been fundraising and collecting donations while preparing to expand its efforts in the future. 

Mona Elshayal, co-founder of a volunteer group called Canadian Connections, has also been helping Afghan newcomers after offering similar supports to Syrian refugees. 

She's says she's been helping refugees staying in hotels access medical services and navigate the requirements of settling in Canada. 


Also this ...

The Transportation Safety Board was scheduled to release the results of its investigation today into the "possible relation" between train activities and a wildfire this summer in Lytton, B.C.

The fire raced through the town on June 30, killing two people and leaving few buildings undamaged, after a heat wave pushed the temperature up to a Canadian record of 49.6 C in Lytton.

The safety board said in July that it sent investigators to the area to investigate any potential link to trains.

Canadian Pacific Railway said in a statement in July that it found nothing to indicate that any of its trains or equipment that passed through Lytton caused or contributed to the fire, while CN Rail said video footage posted on social media after the fire was not connected to Lytton.

A proposed class-action lawsuit filed in August on behalf of those who lost their homes or businesses in the village alleges CP Rail and CN Rail caused or contributed to the fire.

The allegations have not been proven in court and neither rail company has filed a statement of defence.

And this ...

A University of Saskatchewan professor who has worked in Iqaluit says any amount of fuel in drinking water is unsafe, but drinking it over the short term isn't necessarily dangerous. 

Iqaluit residents were told not to drink the city's tap water Tuesday after a fuel smell was detected at the water treatment plant, but it's still unknown whether there is fuel in the water. 

Steven Siciliano, a microbiologist and toxicologist who has done research in the north, says the city did the right thing by telling its residents as soon as it found the smell.

A local state of emergency for the city of about 8,000 people was declared after more than a week of residents complaining on social media about a fuel smell in their tap water. 

Siciliano says Iqaluit's regular water testing looks for bacteria, not hydrocarbons, and notes the city shouldn't be blamed for the situation.

Water samples from Iqaluit have been sent to a lab in Southern Canada for testing and are expected back in the coming days.

He says long-term exposure to compounds found in gasoline could be "very risky" but drinking it for a week or so probably isn't going to do much harm.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

SAN DIEGO — Beleaguered business owners and families separated by COVID-19 are celebrating after the Biden administration says it will reopen U.S. land borders to non-essential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze. 

Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to workers whose jobs are deemed essential. New rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason starting in early November. 

The ban has had enormous economic, social and cultural impact, preventing cross-border shopping and family gatherings when relatives live on different sides of the border.

In Del Rio, Texas, Mexican visitors account for about 65 per cent of retail sales, said Blanca Larson, executive director of the chamber of commerce and visitors bureau in the city of 35,000 people.

“Along the border, we’re like more of one community than two different communities,” she said.

Community events have also stalled even as cities away from U.S. borders have inched toward normalcy.

In Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the Soo Eagles Junior A hockey team hasn’t had a home game against a Canadian opponent in 20 months. The players have been travelling to Canada since border restrictions were lifted there two months ago. Now the U.S. team can play host.

“I almost fell over when I read it,” said Ron Lavin, co-owner of the Eagles. “It’s been a long frustrating journey for people on a lot of fronts far more serious than hockey, but we’re just really pleased. It’s great for the city.”


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

TAIPEI, Taiwan _ A fire in southern Taiwan has killed 25 and injured dozens of people, after it engulfed a residential building overnight on Thursday.

The 13-story building caught on fire around 3 a.m., fire department officials in the city of Kaohsiung said.

Officials said 55 people had been taken to the hospital, including 14 people who showed no signs of life. In Taiwan, official confirmation of a death can only be made in the hospital.

At least 11 people found on the scene were sent straight to the morgue, said the head of the fire department addressing journalists at the site of the fire.

Firefighters were conducting search and rescue efforts into the afternoon. 

The blaze was ``extremely fierce,'' and destroyed many floors of the approximately 40-year-old building, which had shops in the lower levels and apartments above. according to a statement from the fire department.

Firefighters are unsure of the source of the fire, but noted flames burned most intensely where a lot of clutter had been piled up.


On this day in 1957 ...

Lester B. Pearson, Canada's external affairs minister, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The award stemmed from his efforts during the 1956 Suez Crisis to create the United Nations Emergency Forces in Egypt as a means to halt the Israeli-British-French invasion. The recognition helped Pearson win the leadership of the Liberal party in 1958.


In entertainment ...

Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield figures he may be among the first authors of a space novel who can say he's actually been there.

Hadfield says he drew on his own time in orbit to lend verisimilitude to "The Apollo Murders," a Cold War-era cosmic thriller inspired by the real-life intrigue that propelled the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Ontario native has penned several non-fiction bestsellers based on his more than two-decade career as an astronaut, which saw him participate in three space missions, become the first Canadian to do a spacewalk and serve as the commander of the International Space Station.

Hadfield said in an interview "almost everything" in his alternate history of space exploration in 1973 is based in fact.

The story is set aboard the fictional flight of Apollo 18, which in reality, was cancelled by NASA because of budget cuts. But in "The Apollo Murders," the mission blasts off with orders from the U.S. military to scope out an armed Soviet spy space station.

Hadfield said the cloak-and-dagger suspense of the space race has provided such rich terrain for storytelling that he's already hard at work on a sequel.

"The Apollo Murders," published by Random House Canada, hit shelves this week.



VAN HORN, Texas — Canadian actor William Shatner has blasted into space and safely returned to Earth in a convergence of science fiction and science reality. 

Hollywood’s Captain Kirk set out Wednesday morning for the final frontier aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company. At the age of 90, the “Star Trek” hero becomes the oldest person to ride a rocket. 

The fully automatic spacecraft reached an altitude of about 107 kilometres over the West Texas desert. The up-and-down flight lasted about 10 minutes, with Shatner and his three fellow passengers parachuting back to Earth in the capsule.

“What you have given me is the most profound experience," an exhilarated Shatner told Bezos after climbing out the hatch, the words spilling from him in a soliloquy almost as long as the flight. “I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”

He said that going from the blue sky to the utter blackness of space was a moving experience: "In an instant you go, `Whoa, that’s death.' That’s what I saw.”

Sci-fi fans revelled in the opportunity to see the man best known as the brave and principled commander of the starship Enterprise boldly go where no star of American TV has gone before. The internet went wild, with Trekkies quoting favourite lines from Kirk, including, “Risk: Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about.”

“This is a pinch-me moment for all of us to see Capt. James Tiberius Kirk go to space,” Blue Origin launch commentator Jacki Cortese said before liftoff. She said she, like so many others, was drawn to space by shows like “Star Trek.”


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2021

The Canadian Press

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