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In The News for March 29: Will the Nova Scotia shooting inquiry find the answers?

Nick Beaton, husband of Kristen Beaton, stands outside the room as Lisa Banfield, the common-law wife of Gabriel Wortman, is set to testify at the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry into the mass murders in rural Nova Scotia on April 18/19, 2020, in Halifax on Friday, July 15, 2022. Wortman, dressed as an RCMP officer and driving a replica police cruiser, murdered 22 people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kick-start your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of March 29 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

On July 22, 2020, about three months after a gunman murdered 22 people in Nova Scotia, a procession of grieving relatives marched to the local RCMP detachment, demanding an independent and open inquiry into the rampage.

On Thursday, Nick Beaton, who lost his pregnant wife in the April killings, and others, will see the result of their demands as a federal-provincial inquiry — which was announced a week after the 2020 demonstration in Bible Hill, N.S. — delivers its final report.

The mass shooting began in the tranquil community of Portapique when a 51-year-old Halifax denturist assaulted his spouse, loaded his illegal firearms into in a replica RCMP vehicle and began shooting his neighbours. Thirteen people died that night, as houses set on fire by the killer created a nightmarish glow over the wooded area.

The killer managed to escape, and on April 19, nine more people were gunned down, including RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson — whose car was struck by the mass killer's vehicle as she responded to a call for help from a fellow officer.

The gunman was killed by two members of the Mounties' emergency response team at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 13 hours after the first deaths.

The public inquiry had a broad mandate, but some observers say the issues of policing and gender-based violence are at the heart of the probe.

Wayne MacKay, professor emeritus of law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said it's important to note that while the commission of inquiry is focused on finding facts and making recommendations, it cannot lay blame or determine criminal or civil liability. Still, he said the final report could prompt big changes, particularly for the RCMP.


Also this...

Parliament Hill is expected to be abuzz Wednesday with reaction to the federal government’s 2023 budget. 

The Liberal budget tabled yesterday promises major spending on Canada’s green economy and expanded dental care. The plan also promises to find savings in the public service — in part by scaling back on travel and consultants — and increase tax revenues. 

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland used the budget to provide another top-up of the GST rebate — styled this time as a "grocery rebate" to low-income Canadians who are feeling the pinch of inflation — and to keep making good on pledges in the confidence-and-supply agreement with the New Democrats.

Dental care was one of the NDP's key asks from the Liberals when the opposition party entered into an agreement in March 2022 to back the minority government on key confidence votes, such as budgets, through to 2025.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said his party would vote against the budget, dismissing it as a high-spending plan that would drive up the deficit, make inflation worse and subsidize major multinational companies. 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that while he is disappointed the budget lacks new measures to help make housing more affordable, his party will still vote for it. That will give the Liberals enough votes to pass the budget and continue governing.


And also this ...

Experts say the Canadian presence of American retail giants such as Walmart and Costco isn't likely to blame for rising grocery prices.

That's despite Canadian grocery chain executives having pushed for MPs to question those retailers as part of their study on food inflation.

University of Toronto economist Ambarish Chandra called ongoing hearings before a parliamentary committee studying the issue, "performative," saying all retailers seek to maximize profits despite their stated efforts to minimize price hikes.

"It's easy to call on the foreign companies and make them explain why they're fleecing hardworking Canadians," said Chandra.

"It's not as though American grocers are taking advantage of Canadians and Canadian grocers aren't. The grocers are going to charge what they can get away with, what the market will bear."

His remarks come as Canadian grocers and consumers are under pressure as food prices continue to skyrocket despite overall inflation easing in recent months.

Grocery prices were up 10.6 per cent in February compared with a year ago, while overall inflation was 5.2 per cent. The grocery inflation rate was down from an 11.4 per cent year-over-year increase in January.


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

China has threatened “resolute countermeasures” over a planned meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Speaker of the United States House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during an upcoming visit in Los Angeles by the head of the self-governing island democracy.

Diplomatic pressure against Taiwan has ramped up recently, with Beijing poaching its dwindling number of diplomatic allies while also sending military fighter jets flying toward the island on a near daily basis. Earlier this month, Honduras established diplomatic relations with China, leaving Taiwan with only 13 countries that recognize it as a sovereign state.

Tsai is scheduled to transit through New York on March 30 before heading to Guatemala and Belize. On April 5, she’s expected to stop in Los Angeles on her way back to Taiwan, at which time the meeting with McCarthy is tentatively scheduled.

Spokesperson for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhu Fenglian, at a news conference Wednesday denounced Tsai’s stopover on her way to diplomatic allies in Central America and demanded that no U.S. officials meet with her.


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

In schools across the world, children are halfway into their second semester. But in a Palestinian refugee camp south of Jerusalem, kids wake up at 1 p.m. They kick soccer balls, hang out in barbershops and aimlessly scroll through TikTok. They watch television until dawn, just to wake up late and laze around all over again.

Palestinian public schools in the West Bank have been closed since Feb. 5 in one of the longest teachers’ strikes in recent memory against the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority. Teachers’ demands for a pay raise have escalated into a protest movement that has vexed the increasingly autocratic Palestinian self-rule government as it plunges deeper into an economic crisis.

But the strike isn’t just about money. As the largest group of government employees in the West Bank after security forces, teachers are also calling for a democratically elected union. The authority hasn't budged, fearing its rivals, like the Islamic militant group Hamas, could use their movement against the ruling Fatah party.

"Everything is chaos," said Sherin al-Azza, a social worker and mother of five in a refugee camp called al-Azza, which has become a neighbourhood of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Determined that her children have an education, she cobbled together $200 in savings to hire private tutors and send her eldest son to after-school classes during the strike — an impossibility for most of the refugee camp, she said.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank not controlled by Israel, accuses striking teachers of holding around a million schoolchildren hostage to their demands for better pay.


On this day in 1461 ...

The bloodiest battle of England's "Wars of the Roses" was fought in Yorkshire. It ended with 28,000 dead and a victory for the House of York over the House of Lancaster.


In entertainment ...

Britain's new king will make his debut on the world stage today, three days later and 885 kilometres northeast of where he had intended. 

Although King Charles III will be greeted with a hearty "willkommen" in Berlin rather than "bienvenue" in Paris, his goals remain the same: to cement Britain's improving relations with Europe and show that he can help the U.K. win hearts and minds abroad just as his mother did so successfully for seven decades. 

But the decision to cancel the first leg of his trip due to protests over planned pension changes in France may make it harder for Charles to make his mark during this his first big international mission as monarch. 

And first impressions matter as Charles, 74, prepares for his coronation on May 6.


Did you see this?

A woman who lives across the street from a house that exploded yesterday in Calgary says she initially thought it was her furnace. 

Ten people were sent to hospital following the blast -- six were listed in life-threatening condition. 

Rima Rifai (REE'-ma RIFF'-eye) says when she opened the door of her home, she saw the roof of her neighbour's house was gone and people struggling to get away from the destruction.

She says some of the victims appeared to be in shock as neighbours helped, wrapping them in blankets as they waited for first responders to arrive.

Rifai says some of their burns appeared to be severe.

A spokesman for the Calgary South Sudanese community says a crowdfunding page will be set up to help the victims.

The cause of the blast is under investigation.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2023

The Canadian Press

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