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New Zealand mosque suspect to undergo mental health check

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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — A New Zealand judge on Friday ordered that the man accused of killing 50 people at two Christchurch mosques undergo two mental health assessments to determine if he’s fit to stand trial.

High Court judge Cameron Mander made the order during a hearing in which 28-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared via video link from a small room at the maximum security Paremoremo prison in Auckland.

Mander said nothing should be read into his order for the mental health assessments, as it was a normal step in such a case. Lawyers said it could take two or three months to complete.

The judge said Tarrant was charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder. Police initially filed a single, representative murder charge before filing the additional charges this week.

Tarrant was wearing handcuffs and a grey-colored sweater when he appeared on a large screen inside the Christchurch courtroom, which was packed with family members and victims of the shooting, some in wheelchairs and hospital gowns and still recovering from gunshot wounds.

Tarrant had stubble and close-cropped hair. He showed no emotion during the hearing. At times he looked around the room or cocked his head, seemingly to better hear what was being said. The judge explained that from his end, Tarrant could see the judge and lawyers but not those in the public gallery.

Tarrant spoke only once to confirm to the judge he was seated, although his voice didn’t come through because the sound was muted. It wasn’t immediately clear if his link had been deliberately or inadvertently muted.

The courtroom was filled with more than two dozen reporters and about 60 members of the public. A court registrar greeted people in Arabic and English as the hearing got underway. Some of those watching got emotional and wept.

In the March 15 attacks, 42 people were killed at the Al Noor mosque, seven were killed at the Linwood mosque and one more person died later.

The day after the attacks, Tarrant dismissed an appointed lawyer, saying he wanted to represent himself. But he has now hired two Auckland lawyers to represent him, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson. The next court hearing was scheduled for June 14, and the mental health findings would determine whether he is required to enter a plea then.

Outside the courtroom, Yama Nabi, whose father died in the attacks, said he felt helpless watching.

“We just have to sit in the court and listen,” Nabi said. “What can we do? We can’t do nothing. Just leave it to the justice of New Zealand and the prime minister.”

Tofazzal Alam, 25, said he was worshipping at the Linwood mosque when the gunman attacked. He felt it was important to attend the hearing because so many of his friends were killed.

Alam said he felt upset seeing Tarrant.

“It seems he don’t care what has been done. He has no emotion. He looks all right,” Alam said. “I feel sorry. Sorry for myself. Sorry for my friends who have been killed. And for him.”

Nick Perry, The Associated Press










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Ottawa raises $8.9 billion for 5G wireless licences in 3,500 MHz spectrum auction

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The federal government says it raised $8.9 billion in a licence auction for a key band of 5G wireless spectrum in results announced this afternoon.

Canada’s Big Three wireless companies led the pack, grabbing hundreds of licences for the 3,500 MHz band of airwaves.

As well as Rogers, Bell and Telus, carriers gaining licences include Videotron, Xplornet and SaskTel.

Freedom Mobile, the country’s fourth largest cell service provider, chose not to participate in the auction amid a takeover deal of its parent company Shaw Communications Inc. by Rogers that has yet to be approved by regulators.

The United States held a similar auction last year, raising US$4.5 billion ($5.6 billion) in net proceeds. Ottawa’s $8.9 billion far outstrips the $3.5 billion raised in a 2019 spectrum auction for a different, less desirable wireless band. 

In total, 1,495 out of 1,504 available licences were awarded to 15 Canadian companies, including 757 licences to small and regional providers across the country. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:RCI.B, TSX:BCE, TSX:T)

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Canada's Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens capture bronze in women's pair

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TOKYO — Canada has its first rowing medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Victoria’s Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens of Surrey, B.C., took bronze on Thursday in the women’s pair with a time of six minutes 52.10 seconds.

The 2018 world champions finished behind the gold-medal winning duo of Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler of New Zealand (6:50.19) and the Russian Olympic Committee’s Vasilisa Stepanova and Elena Oriabinskaia (6:51.45).

Conlin McCabe of Brockville, Ont., and Kai Langerfeld of North Vancouver, B.C., were the other Canadian rowers in a final Thursday, finishing fourth in the men’s pair on the 2,000-metre course at Sea Forest Waterway.

Canada’s women’s eight will race for a gold Friday.

The country’s rowers are looking to rebound after a disastrous showing at the 2016 Rio Games that saw the program secure just one medal.

The Canadians qualified 10 boats for Tokyo — the most since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta — and have a gender-neutral team for the first time in their history.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2021.

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