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37-year-old B.C. woman among six killed in Alaska floatplane crash

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KETCHIKAN, Alaska — A 37-year-old woman from Richmond, B.C., has been identified as the Canadian killed when two sightseeing floatplanes crashed midair in Alaska earlier this week.

Elsa Wilk is one of the six deceased victims named by Alaska State Troopers late Tuesday.

The floatplanes were carrying cruise ship tourists when they collided Monday near the southeast Alaska town of Ketchikan.

The death toll was initially reported as four, with two people missing. The U.S. Coast Guard said the bodies of the two missing people were recovered near the crash site Tuesday night.

Global Affairs Canada says Canadian consular officials in Seattle were in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and provide assistance as needed.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and loved ones of the Canadian citizen who died in Alaska,” the department said.

The American victims were identified as 46-year-old pilot Randy Sullivan from Ketchikan, 62-year-old Cassandra Webb, 39-year-old Ryan Wilk and 46-year-old Louis Botha.

State troopers said the Australian was 56-year-old Simon Bodie.

The Royal Princess cruise ship left Vancouver for Anchorage on Saturday and was to return on May 25.

Coast Guard Commander Michael Kahle said earlier Tuesday that crews were searching both the water and the shore of a remote area called George Inlet for the two missing — the Canadian and Australian.

He said the area is en route to the Misty Fjords National Monument, a popular and active spot for sightseeing flights.

One of the planes was a single-engine de Havilland Otter operated by Taquan Air and was returning from a wilderness tour sold through Princess Cruises of the Misty Fjords, the company said.

It was carrying 10 guests from the Royal Princess and a pilot, who were all Americans, the statement said. 

The other plane, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, was operating an independent flight tour carrying a pilot and four guests, of which two were American, one was Canadian and the other was Australian, the company added.

The pilot and nine passengers on the Otter were able to make their way to shore, where they were rescued and taken to hospital, Kahle said.

The survivors were in fair or good condition, said Marty West, a spokeswoman for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.

Local emergency responders worked with state and federal agencies and private vessels to help rescue and recover victims.

“It’s been a long day and the crews have been working really hard to rescue people and recover the deceased,” said Deanna Thomas, a spokeswoman for the local government, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

Jerry Kiffer of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad said several of the passengers had been removed from the beach by the time his crews arrived on Monday.

“Obviously, we had some injuries — broken bones, lacerations, back injuries, but everybody was reasonably calm,” he told the news conference Tuesday.

The debris field was about 300 metres wide and 800 metres long, with doors, seats and life-jackets strewn in a way that indicated an aircraft had come apart in the air, Kiffer said.

Taquan Air said the company has suspended operations while the crash is investigated.

“We are devastated … and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families,” it said in a statement.

It’s not known how the planes collided. U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrived from Washington, D.C., Tuesday afternoon.

— By Daniela Germano in Edmonton and Laura Kane in Vancouver

— With files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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Seamus O’Regan faces calls to visit Attawapiskat during state of emergency

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Dwelling in Attawapiskat

OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan is facing calls from the federal NDP to visit the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat First Nation.

Earlier this month, the community declared a state of emergency over concerns about chemical levels in tap water.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who represents the federal riding encompassing the reserve, is meeting with the community today and says O’Regan needs to see the impacts of the issue first-hand, including that community members are worried about being able to safety bathe their children.

Attawapiskat has drawn national attention for its 2012 housing crisis and it has also faced issues with youth suicide.

Former chief Theresa Spence, who launched a high-profile protest over the housing situation, has also started a hunger strike over water concerns.

O’Regan’s office says that addressing the water issue in full partnership with the First Nation is a top priority, adding it knows recent test results have raised concerns.

 

 

The Canadian Press

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Trudeau to push trade pact in EU leaders’ summit as France moves ahead on CETA

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Trudeau to push trade pact with EU

MONTREAL — Lawmakers in France have begun their ratification of the comprehensive trade agreement between the European Union and Canada as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes the leaders of the 28-country bloc to Montreal on Wednesday.

Trudeau has been pushing hard for a win on trade and foreign policy after two difficult years marked by a rough renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the Trump administration and the deterioration of political and trade relations with China.

Trudeau will talk up the merits of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a series of events in Montreal over the next two days.

The group is to visit a pier in the bustling Port of Montreal, the gateway for European sea shipments into Canada.

International trade lawyer Lawrence Herman said that’s a welcome break from the resort-style backdrops that Trudeau and other prime ministers have preferred when they host international visitors.

“Appearing at the Port of Montreal in this era is much better than appearing at Lake Louise or Banff. The message we want to give is Canada is a leading economic force in the world,” said Herman.

“Meeting in Montreal or in any major urban centre gives that message much better than the typical image of Canada being a wilderness country full of mountains and streams.”

Wednesday’s legal development, the French National Assembly’s consideration of France’s CETA ratification bill, is also a prime focus for Canada’s Liberal prime minister, who will be fighting a federal election this fall.

Sources in France and Canada, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, say Trudeau lobbied French President Emmanuel Macron for more than a year to introduce the bill, and that those efforts finally paid off last month in Paris during their most recent face-to-face meeting.

Almost all of CETA — in excess of 90 per cent — went into force in September 2017 under what is known as provisional application, but individual ratifications by EU member countries will bring it fully into effect.

That would mean a win for the international trading order that has been under assault by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“It’s an essential step. We’re very pleased with our co-operation with the French government,” International Trade Minister Jim Carr said in an interview.

Carr will be meeting his EU counterpart Cecilia Malmstrom in Montreal. He said the French move towards ratification is a significant step in Canada’s broader goal of diversifying Canada’s export markets.

Trudeau was in Paris in early June after attending the 75th anniversary commemorations of D-Day in France and Britain, and he and Macron emerged with news that France would move forward with CETA’s ratification. The introduction of the bill in the National Assembly is a first step in a process that the French government hopes will lead to full ratification by the end of 2019.

Macron and Trudeau have talked about the agreement repeatedly — in Paris in April 2018, in a telephone conversation a year later, and other face-to-face meetings. Macron is a staunch Europhile and open supporter of CETA, but he has had to tread cautiously because of populist opposition to trade deals in France and across Europe.

Canada has lobbied French lawmakers, businesspeople and farmers, an effort that included more than two dozen visits to various regions of France by Isabelle Hudon, the Canadian ambassador.

Trudeau also made a direct appeal to French lawmakers in an April 2018 speech to the National Assembly, the first time a Canadian prime minister addressed that body.

Earlier this week, Trump signed an executive order strengthening his protectionist Buy American Act, which requires federal agencies to increase their use of American-made products from 50 to 75 per cent.

Herman said Canadian companies need to be more aggressive in taking advantage of the new opportunities now open to them in Europe, especially its new “privileged” access to national and sub national government contracts in a sector valued at $3.3 trillion annually.

“As the U.S. turns inward and as protectionism raises its ugly face in the U.S. we have to look at other opportunities. And I think procurement is one of the areas where we have great possibility in Europe.”

CETA gives Canadian businesses preferred access to 500 million European consumers, and a $24-trillion market. In 2018, Canada’s exports to the EU increased by seven per cent to more than $44 billion.

But the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance offered mixed reviews on the deal, saying EU agri-food exports to Canada jumped 10 per cent in 2018, compared with the previous year, which increased Canada’s trade deficit with the EU to $3.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Canadian agri-food exports to the EU have dropped 10 per cent since CETA’s 2017 entry into force, the alliance said.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


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