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Multiple fatalities in New Zealand mosque shootings; 4 held

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” as authorities detained four people and defused…

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  • CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” as authorities detained four people and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees.

    Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people.

    Authorities have not elaborated on who they detained. But a man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for his actions.

    Ardern at a news conference alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”

    Police Commissioner Mike Bush stopped short of calling the shootings a terrorist attack, although said “it doesn’t get any more serious in this country.” He said police were not aware of other suspects beyond the four who were detained but they couldn’t be certain.

    “The attackers were apprehended by local police staff. There have been some absolute acts of bravery,” Bush said. “I’m hugely proud of our police staff, the way they responded to this. But let’s not presume the danger is gone.”

    Bush said the defence force had defused a number of improvised explosive devices that were attached to vehicles stopped after the attacks.

    He said anybody who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand on Friday should stay put.

    Authorities have not yet said how many people were killed and wounded in the shootings. “It’s a very serious and grave situation,” Bush said.

    The deadliest occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m.

    Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

    Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled.

    Peneha said he then went into the mosque to try and help.

    “I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

    He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.

    “I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”

    He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.

    Police said there was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid Mosque.

    Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.

    Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.

    The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he was 28-year-old white Australian who came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack. He said he was not a member of any organization, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.

    He said the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there.

    He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of “mass immigration.”

    New Zealand is generally considered to be a welcoming country for immigrants and refugees. Last year, the prime minister announced the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 starting in 2020. Ardern, whose party campaigned on the promise of raising the intake of refugees, dubbed the planned increase “the right thing to do.”

    A cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh scheduled to start Saturday was cancelled after the Bangladesh cricket team had a narrow escape.

    Players and members of the team’s coaching staff were reportedly on their bus, approaching the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park when the shooting broke out.

    Batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”

    Mass shootings in New Zealand are exceedingly rare. The deadliest in modern history occurred in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when gunman David Gray shot and killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbour.

    ___

    Perry reported from Wellington.

    Mark Baker And Nick Perry, The Associated Press






























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    National

    Parties shop for housing ideas for platforms with issue high on voters’ lists

    OTTAWA — Federal parties are preparing to chase voters with ideas for dealing with what a new survey suggests is a major concern across the country: Housing affordability.
    The ideas being shopped around to stakeholders in the housing sector i…

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  • OTTAWA — Federal parties are preparing to chase voters with ideas for dealing with what a new survey suggests is a major concern across the country: Housing affordability.

    The ideas being shopped around to stakeholders in the housing sector include targeted spending towards certain groups, such as veterans, and more spending to increase the supply of lower-cost housing units to further cool housing prices.

    Last week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he would ease the mortgage stress-test the Liberals brought in and make it easier for homebuyers to borrow money, while eliminating red tape to help provinces and municipalities build more low-cost housing.

    Sources who have heard the detailed pitch, and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said they are still waiting on the details of Conservative plan.

    Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has repeatedly pushed the Liberals to immediately help build some 500,000 affordable housing units, but sources said the New Democrats are still working on how to pay for such a thing if they get elected and have to do it themselves.

    The struggle with affordability and the price of housing in some markets is shaping up to be a key campaign issue.

    A survey being released today, conducted for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, suggests the cost of housing is seen as having the largest effect on quality of life in Canadian cities.

    The polling from Abacus Data suggests that making housing more affordable is second only to improving roads and sewers as a priority voters have for all levels of government.

    Abacus chief executive David Coletto said worries about housing costs extend beyond big-city markets to rural communities as well.

    “There’s a sense that housing has become unaffordable and therefore that’s having an impact on the quality of life people have come to expect and seek,” he said.

    The survey of 5,106 Canadians aged 18 and over was conducted between March 14 and 28 using a random sample of members of online panels invited to complete the survey. Polling industry experts say online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not generate a random sample of the population.

    The municipal federation is hoping the results of the survey boost its bid in this election to secure a promise to revamp the financial relationship between Parliament and Canadian cities.

    Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2019 budget, the last before the fall vote, had a one-time doubling of federal transfers to municipalities from gas-tax revenues, to do an end-run around provincial governments that have been slow to apply for other infrastructure money. Municipalities have lobbied for that type of spending — cash transfers with few strings attached — to become the only way they receive funding, rather than requiring application-based programs.

    The survey results suggest that giving cities more direct money, rather than submitting specific projects for provincial and federal approval, has equal support from Liberal, Conservative and New Democrat voters and from respondents in urban, suburban and rural communities.

    “That doesn’t happen all that often. There are a handful of issues that I’ve been tracking over the last few years that show that kind of cross-party, cross-community-type consistency. It is really rare these days to find it,” Coletto said.

    “What this reflects is the quality of your roads, the quality of infrastructure, the quality of parks and communities you live in is not a Liberal, Conservative or New Democrat idea.”

    Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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    National

    Ottawa will implement Senate proposals to strengthen accessibility law: minister

    Canada’s accessibility minister says the government will be acting on the Senate’s proposed recommendations to strengthen the country’s first piece of accessibility legislation for people with disabilities.
    Carla Qualtrough sent a letter to disabl…

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  • Canada’s accessibility minister says the government will be acting on the Senate’s proposed recommendations to strengthen the country’s first piece of accessibility legislation for people with disabilities.

    Carla Qualtrough sent a letter to disabled advocates saying the government planned to accept all the amendments senators had proposed for Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act.

    Earlier this month, the Senate committee on social affairs, science and technology adopted several amendments that nearly a hundred disability organizations said were necessary to make the law effective.

    Chief among them was a call to set a timeline requiring the act to be fully implemented in all areas under federal jurisdiction by 2040, as well as recognition of sign language as an official language among deaf Canadians.

    The federal government had resisted some of those measures as the bill worked its way through the House of Commons, but Qualtrough says all proposed Senate amendments will now be included.

    The amended bill is expected to come back before Parliament for final consideration next week.

     

       

     

    The Canadian Press

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