Firefighters’ helmets and water bottles rest against the windshield of a truck at a command centre within the evacuated zone of the wildfire burning in Tantallon, N.S., outside of Halifax on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. Scattered showers are moving across parts of Nova Scotia this morning, providing some relief to a province still struggling with its worst wildfire season on record. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
By Morgan Lowrie in Halifax
A Halifax-area wildfire that forced thousands of residents from their homes over the past week is 85 per cent contained and no longer spreading, officials said Saturday morning.
David Steeves, a technician of forest resources with Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, told reporters the fire was sitting at 9.5 square kilometres and is unlikely to grow due to a combination of firefighting efforts and long-awaited rain.
“We are moving from a state of out of control to a state of being held,” he said. “And basically what that means is that, with the current resources that we have on site and with the suppression efforts that have taken place, the fire is not likely to spread.”
Steeves said a number of areas of concern remain and crews continue to closely monitor hot spots around the fire’s perimeter. He warned the blaze was far from out and embers could still hide deep in places where the rain doesn’t penetrate, causing a risk of reignition.
“We could be here for weeks, we could be here for a couple of months before the incident commander is comfortable in saying this fire is out,” he said.
The wildfire that broke out Sunday in the Halifax area raced through a number of subdivisions, consuming about 200 structures — including 151 homes — and forcing the evacuation of more than 16,000 people.
Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Deputy Fire Chief Dave Meldrum says rain has brought relief, but also raises the risk that firefighters could be hurt from slips or falls and makes for difficult working conditions.
“They’re going to be very very dirty, they’re going to be wet, they’re going to be cold,” he said of the firefighters. “So we welcome this rain but it’s going to be a tough working day.”
He said there were two reported injuries related to heat stress so far, and one firefighter bumped their head while moving equipment, but nobody has been seriously hurt.
Despite the good news, he said it was unclear when the thousands of evacuated residents would be able to return home. The evacuation zone was lifted in some areas that were undamaged by fire late Friday, but Meldrum said there is still more work to do to ensure the remaining areas under evacuation will be safe for residents.
Nova Scotia is having one of its worst fire seasons on record, with 11 active wildfires in the province as of Friday evening, according to the province’s natural resources department.
In the southwestern corner of the province, a large wildfire continued to burn out of control in Shelburne County, where 6,700 people have been evacuated from their homes — about half of the municipality’s population.
The Barrington Lake wildfire, which started Saturday, continued to grow on Friday, reaching 230 square kilometres — the largest recorded wildfire in the province’s history. It has consumed at least 50 homes and cottages.
The province said two other smaller wildfires are also out of control: one in the District of Shelburne and another in Pubnico, Yarmouth County.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2023.
Saskatchewan premier defends plan to use notwithstanding clause for pronoun policy
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe holds a news conference during a tour at Lakewood Civic Centre in Saskatoon, Sask., on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Moe is defending his decision to recall the legislative assembly early and use the notwithstanding clause to ensure the province’s pronoun policy stays in place. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is defending his decision to recall the legislative assembly early and use the notwithstanding clause to ensure the province’s pronoun policy in schools stays in place.
Speaking to reporters in Saskatoon, he said he wants to make it clear the policy will go ahead.
“The policy is paused here today,” Moe said Friday.
“What we feel is of paramount importance is to provide clarity to parents, to families and ultimately to school divisions and educators that are in our classrooms across the province. This will provide that clarity.
“We’ve said for a number of weeks now that there are tools available for the government to ensure this policy is in place moving forward for the next number of months and years.”
Moe made the announcement Thursday that he plans to use the notwithstanding clause, shortly after a judge granted an injunction to pause the policy that requires parental consent when children under 16 want to go by different names and pronouns at school.
He had said in a statement that he was extremely dismayed by the injunction, calling it judicial overreach, and suggested the policy has strong support from the majority of Saskatchewan residents and parents.
On Friday, Moe added that he wants to provide clarity as soon as possible to families and school divisions.
“The school divisions, up until yesterday, have informed us they’ve been working on their implementation plans of this policy,” he said.
“What pausing the policy means is for a period of time it will not be mandatory to include the parents in some of these discussions.”
The legislative assembly is to be recalled on Oct. 10 to use the notwithstanding clause, a provision that allows governments to override certain Charter rights for up to five years.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2023.
Cyberattacks hit military, Parliament websites as India hacker group targets Canada
The federal government is coping with apparent cyber attacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa. Hands type on a keyboard in Vancouver on Wednesday, December, 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa
The federal government is coping with apparent cyberattacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa.
The Canadian Armed Forces said that its website became unavailable to mobile users midday Wednesday, but was fixed within a few hours.
The military said the site is separate from other government sites, such as the one used by the Department of Defence and internal military networks. The incident remains under investigation.
“We have no indication of broader impacts to our systems,” said a statement from spokeswoman Andrée-Anne Poulin.
Meanwhile, various pages on the House of Commons website continued to load slowly or incompletely on Thursday due to an ongoing attack that officials say started Monday morning.
The Commons administration said it was facing a distributed denial-of-service attack, which is when bots swarm a website with multiple visits and cause it to stop loading properly.
“House of Commons systems responded as planned to protect our network and IT infrastructure. However, some websites may be unresponsive for a short period,” spokeswoman Amélie Crosson said in a written statement Thursday morning.
“The House of Commons IT support team, in collaboration with our partners, have implemented mitigating measures and restored services to appropriate service levels. The IT team is still continuously monitoring for such activities.”
She added that the Commons administration is helping their Senate colleagues “to provide guidance and support them to restore services.”
Elections Canada also experienced roughly an hour-long denial-of-service attack starting around midnight early Wednesday, Ottawa time.
“This website does not host any sensitive data or information. It is separate from our main website, elections.ca, and is hosted by an external service provider. It is in no way connected to the network that supports elections.ca,” the agency wrote in a statement.
“Our systems are monitored in real time both internally, and by the Canadian Cyber Security Centre, enabling us to quickly detect any anomalies on our platforms and systems. They are aware of the incident.”
That centre is under the umbrella of the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s signals-intelligence agency.
A hacking group named Indian Cyber Force claimed responsibility for the incidents involving the military and Elections Canada, and it appeared to have managed to infiltrate a handful of websites owned by small businesses in Canada.
The group made reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling Parliament on Sept. 18 that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the killing of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had been wanted by India for years and was gunned down in June outside the temple he led.
The hacking group has posted multiple versions of a message riddled with spelling and grammatical errors onto websites of restaurants and medical clinics.
The affected sites show a message on a black background with green digits, similar to the film “The Matrix,” as warlike music plays.
The message described Canada as a haven for terrorists — a “heaven hub,” it said in butchered English — and similarly insulted Sikh separatists.
It also criticized Trudeau for “throwing something without any prove,” or proof.
The group claimed to have attacked Elections Canada and the Ottawa Hospital, though these sites appeared to be operating normally Thursday morning. The Canadian Press has asked those responsible for these web pages to confirm whether they have been affected.
The hacking group also claimed to have taken down the Global Affairs Canada website for travel advisories, but the department insists this hasn’t happened, and the group deleted that claim from its account on the social-media application Telegram.
News of the attacks came as questions abounded over Indian officials’ level of co-operation with Canadian officials over Trudeau’s allegations — and to what extent allies such as the United States were advocating on Canada’s behalf.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with India’s foreign-affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
Neither of them made mention of the controversy in Canada when they emerged briefly to pose for photos before their meeting began.
During a State Department briefing prior to that meeting, spokesman Matthew Miller refused to speculate on what the secretary would tell Jaishankar directly.
“What I will say, however, is we have consistently engaged with the Indian government on this question and have urged them to co-operate, and that engagement and urging them to co-operate will continue,” Miller said.
“We urge them to co-operate with the Canadian investigation.”
Miller flatly refused comment when asked about a television interview last week with U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen, who confirmed that Canada received intelligence from one of its Five Eyes security partners.
“I am not going to speak to intelligence matters from the podium.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.
— With files from James McCarten in Washington, D.C.
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