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Assault trial begins for Joshua Boyle, former Afghanistan hostage

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  • OTTAWA — Lawyers for Joshua Boyle will vigorously challenge the credibility of one of his alleged victims — his wife Caitlan Coleman, a Crown attorney predicted Monday at the outset of the long-awaited criminal trial for the man whose family was taken hostage in Afghanistan seven years ago.  

    Coleman has had to endure some unusual and difficult experiences in her life, said Crown lawyer Meaghan Cunningham as she urged Justice Peter Doody to exercise caution in interpreting her behaviour, choices and reactions.

    In particular, Cunningham suggested, it would be a mistake to conclude Coleman willingly submitted to her husband’s physical and sexual abuse.

    Boyle and Coleman were taken hostage in 2012 by a Taliban-linked group while on a backpacking trip in Afghanistan.

    Pakistani forces freed the couple in October 2017 along with their three children, who were born during their captivity.

    Two months later, Boyle was arrested by Ottawa police and charged with offences including assault, sexual assault, unlawful confinement and causing someone to take a noxious substance.

    With Coleman’s consent, a publication ban was partially lifted Monday to reveal that she is the alleged victim in 17 of the 19 counts Boyle is facing. A ban remains in place on identifying the second alleged victim.

    Boyle has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which relate to incidents that allegedly occurred after he returned to Canada. Coleman plans to testify during the trial, which is being heard by Doody with no jury present.

    The Crown’s first witness, social worker Deborah Sinclair, spoke in general terms of how an abuser’s controlling behaviour can damage a woman spiritually and emotionally, affecting how she acts.

    “I think that’s very hard for the public to understand, why she does what she does,” said Sinclair, who has decades of experience with issues of trauma and intimate partner violence.

    Lawrence Greenspon, Boyle’s lawyer, took the court through various aspects of Sinclair’s work. He noted she did not profess to be an expert on whether certain effects resulted from domestic abuse or long-term captivity.

    Boyle was released from jail last June with strict bail conditions. He was ordered to live with his parents in Smiths Falls, Ont., and wear a GPS ankle bracelet that can track his movements.

    Boyle, who sat in the court’s public gallery Monday, attended high school in Kitchener, Ont., and earned a degree from the University of Waterloo in 2005.

    He married the Pennsylvania-raised Coleman in 2011 during a lengthy trip the pair took to South America.

    The following year, they set off for Russia and travelled through Central Asia for several months, winding up in Afghanistan.

    The family’s dramatic rescue in 2017 made global headlines, and even led to the family meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill about a week before Boyle’s arrest.

    As the trial unfolds, the court is expected to hear a 911 call to police in late December 2017, as well as testimony from a neighbour, Coleman’s mother, her sisters and a Global Affairs Canada employee.

    — Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

    Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press




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    Environment

    Eastern Canada braces for more flooding as forecast calls for rain

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  • MONTREAL — Communities across much of Eastern Canada are bracing for more flooding today, with rain in the forecast from central Ontario to northern New Brunswick.

    Officials in Quebec are keeping a close eye on a hydroelectric dam west that’s at risk of failing, while Ottawa’s mayor has declared an emergency and part of the Trans-Canada Highway has been closed in New Brunswick.

    The Chute-Bell dam west of Montreal has reached “millennial” water levels, meaning a flood that happens once every 1,000 years, but Hydro-Quebec says it’s confident the structure is solid.

    Simon Racicot, the utility’s director of production and maintenance, told reporters yesterday that “we are entering into an unknown zone right now — completely unknown.”

    Meantime, Ottawa has joined several smaller Ontario communities in declaring a state of emergency, with Mayor Jim Watson requesting help from the Canadian Forces.

    Farther east, New Brunswick’s Department of Transportation said the Trans-Canada Highway was fully closed from Oromocto to River Glade, and could remain closed for several days.

    And there’s not much relief in sight, with Environment Canada predicting rain for a large swath of Eastern Canada, from Georgian Bay to the Gaspe Peninsula.

    The Canadian Press


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    National

    Don’t make election about immigration, corporate Canada tells political leaders

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  • OTTAWA — Big business leaders worried about Canada’s aging demographics have been urging political parties to avoid inflaming the immigration debate ahead of this fall’s federal election.

    The head of the lobby group representing chief executives of Canada’s largest corporations said he’s already raised the issue with political leaders who are shifting into campaign mode for the October vote.

    With signs of public concern about immigration, Business Council of Canada president and CEO Goldy Hyder said he’s promoted the economic case in favour of opening the country’s doors to more people.

    “We are 10 years away from a true demographic pressure point,” Hyder said during a meeting with reporters Thursday in Ottawa. “What I’ve said to the leaders of the political parties on this issue is, ‘Please, please do all you can to resist making this election about immigration.’ That’s as bluntly as I can say it to them.”

    The message from corporate Canada comes at a time when public and political debate has focused on immigration, refugees and border security, to the point it could emerge as a key election issue, tempting parties fighting hard for votes.

    A poll released this month by Ekos Research Associates suggested that the share of people who think there are too many visible minorities in Canada is up “significantly,” even though overall opposition to immigration has been largely unchanged in recent years and remains lower than it was in the 1990s.

    Canada has been ratcheting up its immigration numbers and it plans to welcome more. The Immigration Department set targets of bringing in nearly 331,000 newcomers this year, 341,000 in 2020 and 350,000 in 2021, according to its 2018 report to Parliament.

    As the baby-boomer generation ages, experts say Canada — like other western countries — will need a steady influx of workers to fill jobs and to fund social programs, like public health care, through taxes.

    Thanks to the stronger economy, Canadian companies have already been dealing with labour shortages. Healthy employment growth has tightened job markets, making it more difficult for firms to find workers.

    “Every job that sits empty is a person not paying taxes … We have job shortages across the country and they’re just not at the high end,” said Hyder, who added his members are well aware that immigration has become a tricky political issue.

    “We’re worried about that in the sense that the public can very easily go to a xenophobic place.”

    Hyder also brought up Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s election promise last year to cut annual immigration levels in his province by 20 per cent. Legault won the election after making the vow, even though Quebec faces significant demographic challenges.

    Earlier this week, the Bank of Canada noted the economic importance of immigration in its monetary policy report. Carolyn Wilkins, the central bank’s senior deputy governor, said without immigration, Canada’s labour force would cease adding workers within five years.

    “The fact we’ve got people that are buying things, that are using services, that are going to stores, that need houses — well, that creates a little bit of a boost to the economy,” Wilkins told a news conference in Ottawa when asked about the subject. “Certainly, immigration is a big part of the story in terms of potential growth, which will feed itself into actual growth.”

    Hyder said he’s personally part of a group called the Century Initiative, which would like to see Canada, a country of about 37 million, grow to 100 million people by 2100.

    The group was co-founded by Hyder and several others, including two members of the Trudeau government’s influential economic advisory council — Dominic Barton, global managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., and Mark Wiseman, a senior managing director for investment management giant BlackRock Inc. Hyder was a business consultant before joining the business council and was once a top aide to federal Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark.

    The Century Initiative wants Canada to responsibly expand its population as a way to help drive its economic potential.

    “Demographics are not going to be relying on just making babies, we’re going to need immigration,” Hyder said. “We have to be able to communicate that from an economic perspective, but cognizant of the social concerns that people have.”

    —Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter

    Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press


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