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Davies leads the way as Canada downs Panama in full-blooded World Cup qualifier

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TORONTO — On a big stage before a big crowd, Canada’s marquee man delivered. And how.

Alphonso Davies scored a remarkable goal to open the floodgates midway through the second half Wednesday as Canada roared to a 4-1 victory over Panama in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying play.

The goal epitomized the 20-year-old Bayern Munich star, showcasing his speed, acceleration and flair. Not many people on the planet could have scored it.

It got Drake’s attention. Canada coach John Herdman said the global hip-hop star texted Davies after the game, saying he wanted to get together.

The 51st-ranked Canadian men had No. 68 Panama under the cosh but didn’t pull ahead until the 66th minute when a sprinting Davies came out of nowhere down the right flank to pilfer the ball from under the feet of defender Harold Cummings, who thought the ball was about to go out.

Davies got to the ball before it did, acrobatically using his trailing foot to keep the ball in play and push it ahead of him, then danced around defender Fidel Escobar and — using Tajon Buchanan as a decoy — fired a low shot that left goalkeeper Luis Mejia rooted to the spot for a 2-1 lead. It was Davies’ 10th goal in his 28th match for Canada.

The Canadians, unbeaten at 2-0-4 in the final round of qualifying in the region, turned on the offence after the goal.

Buchanan made it 3-1 in the 71st, heading home a Richie Laryea cross for his third goal for Canada. Jonathan David then scored in the 78th minute, slotting the ball home on a counter-attack off a feed from Davies with the Panama defence in disarray. It was the 17th goal in 22 internationals for the Lille striker.

Davies left in the 81st minute to a standing ovation. Shirtless, he celebrated waving a Canadian flag to the fans after.

He shared the kudos in a post-game interview. “Everybody put a shift in tonight,” he said.

Davies’ influence on and off the field continues to grow.

“Phonzie’s a big infuencer in this group. He’s a humble guy but when he speaks, it reminds us of (Christine) Sinclair. When he speaks, people listen,” said Herdman. who coached Sinclair and the Canadian women before taking over the men’s program.

BMO Field was at full capacity, with announced attendance of 26,622 after local authorities eased pandemic-related restrictions. The south stand was a sea of red, filled with waving flags.

They got to see a full-blooded game played at breakneck pace. A rampant Canada dictated almost all of the tempo with Davies, starting up front with David, directing the attack. Davies was electric, tormenting defenders and became even more influential when Herdman shifted him to the wing from a more central position.

The Canadians have now taken seven of a possible nine points at home. And they’ve done the job on the road, picking up points through draws in the U.S., Mexico and Jamaica.

Herdman got what he wanted — a dominant home performance.

“That was as good or as strong a performance as I’ve experienced or been a part of,” he said.

Canada’s next two matches are also at home, against Costa Rica on Nov. 12 and Mexico on Nov. 16, both at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.

Wednesday’s game was the third of an international window that saw the Canadians draw 1-1 in Mexico and 0-0 in Jamaica.

While Panama (2-2-2) was hanging on by a thread through much of the match, the visitors opened the scoring.

Canada started brightly but found itself down 1-0 early after a counter-attack down the right side. Canada was caught short at the back with wingback Laryea up field and Kamal Miller struggling to get back in position. Michael Murillo’s low cross found Blackburn between the Canadian centre backs and Rolando Blackburn, who plays for a Bolivian club called The Strongest, tapped it in.

Canada regrouped and attacked with verve, tying the game in the 28th minute off a Davies corner — the latest in a string of them. Buchanan soared high but the ball was ruled an own goal, coming off Murillo’s upper body.

Panama began to establish a bit of possession in the second half, keeping the ball away from Canada. Then Davies worked his magic and the match turned.

The benches emptied near the stroke of halftime after a melee as Panama delayed taking a corner. The Canadian substitutes were warming up in the vicinity and took umbrage at Panama’s tactics, leading to a scrum that eventually dissipated after some shoving and yelling.

There was more bad blood after the final whistle with players having to be separated. Laryea, whose blood is no stranger to boiling, was irate at something.

“This is life or death for us,” said Herdman. “We will fight. We will fight right to the bitter end for this country … Our purpose is bigger and stronger than any other team in CONCACAF. We haven’t been to a World Cup since 1986. These teams have. So when you’re trying to take that away from us, we’re getting in there — everyone.”

“It’s not nice to see and I don’t condone what goes on,” he added. “But at the same time our country needs us to fight. We cannot back down at any moment now.”

Canada outshot Panama 9-3 (4-1 in shots on target) and had eight corners to Panama’s one in the first half alone. The final shots count was 16-7 (8-2 in shots on target) for the Canadians.

In other matches Wednesday, the 13th-ranked U.S. (3-1-2) rallied for a 2-1 win over No. 44 Costa Rica (1-2-3) in Columbus, Ohio, and No. 59 Jamaica (1-3-2) won 2-0 at No. 63 Honduras (0-3-3). No. 9 Mexico (4-0-2) won 2-0 at No. 65 El Salvador (1-3-2) in the late match.

The win moved Canada past Panama into third spot with 10 points in the standings. Mexico leads with 14 points, ahead of the U.S. on 11.

Come March, the top three teams in the eight-team CONCACAF round-robin book their tickets to Qatar 2022. The fourth-place team will take part in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.

Canada opened the final round of qualifying in September with a 1-1 home tie with Honduras before tying the U.S. 1-1 in Nashville and blanking El Salvador 3-0 at BMO Field.

Herdman made six changes to his starting 11, which came into the match with a combined 218 caps — with Jonathan Osorio accounting for 46 of those.

Laryea, Buchanan and Steven Vitoria returned after missing the Jamaica game through suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Stephen Eustaquio was also back, after an appearance off the bench Sunday.

Miller and David Wotherspoon also slotted in. Vitoria captained the side.

Canada was without the injured Atiba Hutchinson, forwards Cyle Larin, Lucas Cavallini and Junior Hoilett. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan is recovering from COVID-19.

Panama was coming off a 1-0 win over the U.S. on Sunday in Panama City, just its second victory over the Americans in 24 meetings (2-16-6) and first in World Cup qualifying play (1-6-2).

It has also registered home ties with Costa Rica (0-0) and Mexico (1-1). On the road, it won 3-0 at Jamaica and lost 1-0 at El Salvador.

Canada improved to 4-1-6 all-time against Panama.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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Crime

Victims’ families boycotting N.S. mass shooting inquiry over questioning of Mounties

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TRURO, N.S. — The relatives of victims of the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting have told their lawyers to boycott the public inquiry investigating the tragedy, after its commissioners decided to prevent cross-examination of key Mountie witnesses.
The law firm representing 14 of 22 families issued a statement saying it was instructed not to attend the hearings on Wednesday and the next three hearings on the schedule. Patterson Law said the families are “disheartened and further traumatized” by the commission’s decision Monday to prevent the law firm’s lawyers from directly questioning Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill and Sgt. Andy O’Brien.

Rehill was the RCMP’s risk manager at its Operational Communications Centre in Truro, N.S., when the rampage that claimed 22 lives over two days began in nearby in Portapique, N.S., on April 18, 2020. When the centre received reports of an active shooter, Rehill assumed command while O’Brien assisted in overseeing the early response.

The federal-provincial commission of inquiry agreed Monday to provide special accommodations for three senior Mounties when they testify about command decisions they made as the tragedy unfolded.

Rehill and O’Brien will face questions from commission lawyers via Zoom calls that will be recorded and broadcast at a later date. Participants and lawyers who wish to observe their testimony must remain off screen with their microphones muted while each Mountie is speaking.

No reasons were given for the special arrangements. The commission has said this information is considered private because it deals with physical or psychological health needs.

Participating lawyers were told to submit questions for Rehill and O’Brien to commission lawyers in advance of the officers’ testimony, which is expected to take place on Monday and Tuesday, beginning with Rehill.

Sandra McCulloch and Rob Pineo, the lawyers for the majority of the families, left their seats at the inquiry unoccupied on Wednesday and held a news conference outside the public library in Truro. Pineo said it’s now unclear whether the family’s representatives will return to the process, adding that he will keep consulting with them.

“This was supposed to be the process that would get the families information and get their questions answered and that is simply not happening,” he said, recalling that they had to hold a public march in Truro and Halifax to pressure the federal and provincial governments to launch a public inquiry instead of the limited review that was originally planned.

Nick Beaton, whose pregnant wife, Kristen Beaton, was killed, said he’s now referring to the mass casualty commission as “a review,” adding that he believes the public inquiry has evolved into a “love triangle” between the commission, the RCMP and the government.

Lawyer Tara Miller said her clients have given her instructions not to attend this week and next week.

“In addition to being fundamentally offside, what this decision does is further erode the confidence of family members who are the most affected,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

“These are individuals who put children to bed alone at night. These are the individuals who celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days with memories.”

Miller said it has been her clients’ position all along that participating lawyers should be allowed to engage in unfettered but appropriate cross-examination of witnesses.

“That is a fundamental tenet of any kind of a litigation proceeding, and that includes public inquiries,” Miller said.

Miller also said cross-examination of Rehill will be central to the inquiry’s purpose.

“This was the individual who had command of the entire first response,” she said. “The decisions that he made and why he made them, those are all questions that are highly relevant.”

Lawyers for the families of victims Gina Goulet, Lillian Campbell, Aaron Tuck, Jolene Oliver and Emily Tuck said in interviews that they will continue to participate next week despite the restrictions on questioning.

Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Al Carroll — former district commander for Colchester County — is expected to testify Thursday via a live Zoom call. He will be provided with breaks during his appearance, the commission said Tuesday. He could face direct cross-examination.

The National Police Federation and the federal Department of Justice had requested that O’Brien and Rehill be allowed to provide their information by sworn affidavit and that Carroll testify in person with questions asked only by commission counsel.

Commission chairman Michael MacDonald closed the hearing on Wednesday by describing the absence of the families’ lawyers as “unfortunate.” However, he said earlier in the day he didn’t expect that the accommodations would prevent the gathering of “necessary information” from the Mounties.

Staff Sgt. Bruce Briers took the witness stand Wednesday. He was the risk manager who oversaw the RCMP dispatch in Truro during the second day of the rampage on April 19, 2020. On cross-examination, Briers broke down in tears over not having heard, after he came on shift at 7 a.m., that the killer’s replica police car had a distinctive, black push bar on the front.

He said he now realizes that two officers had mentioned the bar at different points in the morning, adding “I didn’t hear either time. I wish I had; this is one of those regrets.” The bar was also visible in a photo of the replica vehicle that was distributed among some senior officers at about 7:27 a.m.

He said he could have issued a broadcast on police radio about the push bar and it might have “made a big difference.”

“I have to live with that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

— With files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Judge decides ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer Tamara Lich stays out on bail

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OTTAWA — Tamara Lich, a key organizer of the “Freedom Convoy” protest that gridlocked Ottawa for weeks, will remain released on bail while awaiting trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips said he made his decision because she has followed her bail conditions, her surety has supervised her well and she’s already had a “taste of jail,” which he said lowered her risk to reoffend.

The judge said he does not accept that Lich breached her release conditions by agreeing to receive an award, and added Lich can be trusted to respect the conditions of her release.

She was released in March with a long list of conditions, including a ban from all social media and an order not to “support anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”

The terms of Lich’s release were intended to prevent a similar protest from happening in the national capital, the judge said, adding the court does not seek to control people’s political views.

“The courts are not a thought police. We seek only to control conduct to the extent that certain behaviour will violate or likely lead to violation of the law,” he said.

The protest is over and has left Ottawa, he said, adding it would be “practically impossible” to mount a similar protest in the city again.

Lich’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said in an interview Wednesday that he was pleased with the decision.

“She’ll be able to conduct her life in a lot more normal fashion as a result of the judge’s ruling,” said Greenspon.

Moiz Karimjee, a Crown prosecutor, said last week that Lich violated one of her bail conditions by agreeing to accept an award for her leadership during the Ottawa protest, and should be sent back behind bars to wait for her trial.

Greenspon argued last week her bail conditions should be loosened to allow her to come to Ontario and use social media.

He told the court that the social media ban imposed on Lich was unnecessarily broad and has had a huge impact on her life while she’s been out of custody.

However, Phillips said Wednesday the ban on Lich’s access to social media is warranted.

“Social media can be a problematic feedback loop where people get egged on and caught up in group activity they would never perform on their own,” he said.

Social media “undoubtedly contributed to and even drove” Lich’s conduct related to the protest, and her separation from it is necessary to lower her risk of reoffending, said Phillips.

Noting that Lich is in her late 40s, Phillips said she should be able to remember “how to use the social skills she surely built up before the advent of the internet.”

Lich is able to communicate by many other means, including email, phone or meeting in person, he said.

Greenspon said while he would have liked to see the social media ban reversed, “the most important thing was the rejection of the Crown’s efforts to to put her back in jail for agreeing to accept an award.”

The judge did amend her release conditions to allow her to visit Ottawa.

Lich’s motivation for coming to the city cannot be disclosed because it is under a court-ordered publication ban.

Phillips reiterated the high unlikelihood that Lich could organize an event resembling the convoy protest.

While she’s permitted to come to Ottawa, Lich is not allowed to visit the downtown core so as not “to walk around the very neighbourhoods she is alleged to have traumatized,” he said, except to attend court or meet with legal counsel.

Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.

The “Freedom Convoy” protest evolved into a weeks-long demonstration that congested the streets of Ottawa in February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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