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Garneau orders grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 8s over safety concerns

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OTTAWA — Transport Minister Marc Garneau is closing Canadian skies to the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, effectively grounding the planes over safety concerns arising from the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed everyone on board, i…


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  • OTTAWA — Transport Minister Marc Garneau is closing Canadian skies to the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, effectively grounding the planes over safety concerns arising from the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed everyone on board, including 18 Canadians.

    The decision to ground the planes is a precautionary move that was made after a review of all the available evidence, Garneau told a news conference Wednesday in Ottawa that was twice delayed by what he called new incoming information.

    “There are — and I hasten to say not conclusive — but there are similarities” between the Ethiopian Airlines flight profile and that of a Lion Air flight involving the same aircraft that crashed off the Indonesian coast in October, the minister said.

    Those similarities, he said, “exceed a certain threshold in our minds with respect to the possible cause of what happened in Ethiopia. This is not conclusive, but it is something that points possibly in that direction, and at this point we feel that threshold has been crossed.”

    The “safety notice” means none of the aircraft — or a new version, the Max 9, which isn’t as widely used — can fly into, out of, or over Canada, he added: “I will not hesitate to take swift action should we discover any additional safety issues.”

    Garneau tipped off his American counterparts just before the announcement about the Canadians’ change of heart on the aircraft. Hours later, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would follow suit.

    Trump said he had told American airlines about the decision as well as Boeing and all agreed with his administration’s decision. Any planes in the air will be grounded upon landing, and remain on the ground until further notice, Trump said, while Boeing works on a fix to the aircraft’s software.

    “The safety of the American people and all people is our paramount concern,” Trump said in announcing his decision.

    While aviation experts warn against drawing conclusions until more information emerges from the crash investigation, numerous jurisdictions, including China, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union, had grounded the Max 8 or banned it from their airspace before Canada and the U.S. did.

    Garneau said evidence about multiple Boeing 737 Max 8 flights suggests a worrying correlation between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the tragedy in Indonesia less than five months ago. In certain circumstances, the planes’ systems try to tilt their noses down, contrary to the efforts of pilots — a pattern that was seen in both flights before they crashed, he said.

    “I would repeat once again that this is not the proof that this is the same root problem,” he emphasized. “It could be something else.”

    Passenger-rights advocate Gabor Lukacs said Wednesday that it would be prudent for Garneau to suspend use of the aircraft until questions are answered about what caused the Ethiopian crash.

    “Generally, one should always be erring on the side of caution when it comes to safety questions,” he said from Halifax. “If there is enough evidence of a potential harm, and in this case I think there is evidence of potential harm, then the prudent thing is to ground those aircraft.”

    He said airlines should allow passengers to rebook on other planes or cancel their tickets without penalty if they have apprehensions about flying on a Max 8.

    Garneau said affected travellers should contact their airlines to find out what to do, he added.

    “There will be some disruption, there’s no question about that,” he said, but safety is more important. He said he hopes the planes will be flying safely within weeks.

    In a statement Wednesday, before the order from Transport Canada, Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said the airline has a “flexible rebooking policy” that includes options to change flights to another aircraft if space permits, but wouldn’t indicate if that comes with a fee.

    “Based on real information and data, and ongoing consultations with government safety regulators including Transport Canada and the FAA, we have full confidence in the safety of our fleet and operations and we continue to operate the 737,” she said in an email.

    Air Canada, along with Southwest and American Airlines, had been the major outliers in resisting a grounding of the planes. Air Canada has 24 Max 8 aircraft (out of 184 in its main fleet), which it uses mainly for domestic and U.S. routes, while Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. has 13 Max 8s (out of about 150 planes).

    Air Canada cancelled London-bound flights from Halifax and St. John’s, N.L., after the United Kingdom banned all Boeing Max 8 jets from its airspace.

    The U.S.-based Boeing had said it had no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies and did not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers.

    The Federal Aviation Administration had backed the jet’s airworthiness before reversing course early Wednesday afternoon.

    Garneau said the American authority is “an extremely professional organization” and Canada is “very comfortable” with it as a certifying agency for American makers’ airplanes.

    Companies in this story: (TSX:AC, TSX:WJA)

    — with files from Alison Auld in Halifax and the Associated Press

    Jordan Press, The Canadian Press



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    Environment

    Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

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    HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — A northern Alberta town and a nearby First Nation are being evacuated due to the threat of an encroaching wildfire.
    Thousands of people are being told to leave High Level, as well as the Bushe River Reserve, via Highway 58…


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  • HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — A northern Alberta town and a nearby First Nation are being evacuated due to the threat of an encroaching wildfire.

    Thousands of people are being told to leave High Level, as well as the Bushe River Reserve, via Highway 58 east of the communities since highways south and west have already been closed due to the blaze.

    The Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several days, but grew substantially from Sunday, when it covered about 25,000 hectares, to an estimated 69,000 hectares on Monday.

    At the time the evacuations were ordered, the flames were only about three kilometres from High Level.

    “The winds are pushing the smoke away from the Town of High Level. It looks very scary on the horizon, but in the Town of High Level the skies are blue and sunny and windy,” Mayor Crystal McAteer told a telephone news conference on Monday afternoon.

    Reception centres for evacuees have been set up in High Prairie and Slave Lake, and officials are arranging transportation for residents who can’t get out on their own.

    McAteer said the evacuation is being co-ordinated in zones. People should expect to be away for 72 hours.

    She said about 4,000 people from High Level were affected by the order, and another 750 from Bushe River.

    Earlier in the day, the town warned on its website that people should fill up their vehicles and collect important documents in case they were ordered to leave at short notice. Power has also been knocked out because of the fire, but was expected to be restored Monday evening.

    Mandetory evacuation orders for residents south and southeast of the town, and south of Bushe River, were issued early Monday.

    Provincial officials said the evacuation of High Level would take a maximum of eight hours, but since some people had already left, they said it could be completed sooner.

    Alberta Health Services said it had evacuated 20 patients from the Northwest Health Centre in High Level and relocated them to other communities.

    Scott Elliot, an incident commander with Alberta Wildfire, told the news conference that the wildfire was mostly headed away from High Level, but that city officials decided it was best for everyone to leave since the flames were so close.

    “If there was a subtle shift in the wind direction, that would increase the likelihood of rapid fire spread towards the community,” Elliot said.

    Crews are using sprinklers on structures on the edge of the town closest to the fire.

    McAteer said people were complying with the evacuation order.

    “People are of course afraid because they remember the wildfires of Fort McMurray, but we talked to a lot of the residents and reaffirmed that we were being proactive,” she said.

    A 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., destroyed one-tenth of the city and some 88,000 people were forced from their homes.

    Slave Lake, where a reception centre has been set up for residents of High Level, was also evacuated because of a wildfire in 2011 that destroyed parts of the community.

    The Alberta government issued a fire ban and restricted off-highway vehicle use for numerous parts of the province late last week due to forecasts that called for little precipitation and strong winds.

    Highway 16, a major thoroughfare between Edmonton and Prince George B.C., was forced to close in both direction Sunday when a wildfire crossed the roadway west of Edson, Alta., but was reopened early Monday.

    —By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

    The Canadian Press


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    Health

    Focus on traumatized boys critical to gender equality, new research shows

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    TORONTO — Boys in poor urban areas around the world are suffering even more than girls from violence, abuse and neglect, groundbreaking international research published on Monday suggests.
    The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, along with …


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  • TORONTO — Boys in poor urban areas around the world are suffering even more than girls from violence, abuse and neglect, groundbreaking international research published on Monday suggests.

    The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, along with similar new research, suggests an adequate focus on helping boys is critical to achieving gender equality in the longer term.

    “This is the first global study to investigate how a cluster of traumatic childhood experiences known as ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences, work together to cause specific health issues in early adolescence, with terrible life-long consequences,” Dr. Robert Blum, the lead researcher for the global early adolescent study, said in a statement. “While we found young girls often suffer significantly, contrary to common belief, boys reported even greater exposure to violence and neglect, which makes them more likely to be violent in return.”

    The study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at childhood traumas suffered by 1,284 adolescents aged 10 to 14 in more than a dozen low-income urban settings around the world such as the United States, China, the U.K., Egypt and Bolivia.

    Overall, 46 per cent of young adolescents reported experiencing violence, 38 per cent said they suffered emotional neglect and 29 per cent experienced physical neglect. Boys, however, were more likely to report being victims of physical neglect, sexual abuse and violence.

    While higher levels of trauma lead both boys and girls to engage in more violent behaviours, boys are more likely to become violent. Girls tend to show higher levels of depression.

    Separately, a new report to be released next month at an international conference in Vancouver concludes that focusing on boys is critical to achieving gender parity. The report from the Bellagio Working Group on Gender Equality — a global coalition of adolescent health experts — finds boys and men are frequently overlooked in the equality equation.

    “We cannot achieve a gender-equitable world by ignoring half of its occupants,” the report states. “It is crucial that boys and men be included in efforts to promote gender equality and empowerment.”

    For the past six years, a consortium of 15 countries led by the Bloomberg School of Public Health and World Health Organization has been working on the global early adolescent study. The aim is to understand how gender norms are formed in early adolescence and how they predispose young people to sexual and other health risks.

    Evidence gathered by the study indicates boys experience as much disadvantage as girls but are more likely to smoke, drink and suffer injury and death in the second decade of life than their female counterparts.

    The key to achieving gender equality over the next decade or so — as the United Nations aims to do — involves addressing conditions and stereotypes that are harmful to both girls and boys, the researchers say. They also say it’s crucial to intervene as early as age 10. The norm is now age 15.

    “Gender norms, attitudes and beliefs appear to solidify by age 15 or 16,” the working group says. “We must actively engage girls and boys at the onset of adolescence to increase total social inclusion and produce generational change.”

    Leena Augimeri, a child mental-health expert with the Child Development Institute in Toronto, agreed with the need to focus on boys as well as girls. At the same time, she said, the genders do require different approaches.

    “Boys are equally at risk,” said Augimeri, who was not involved in the studies. “When we look at the various issues that impact our children, we have to look at it from different perspectives and lenses and you can’t think there’s a one fit for all.”

     

    Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


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