University of Alberta students call for action to reduce fentanyl deaths

EDMONTON — A group of University of Alberta students is calling for action to reduce the growing number of people who are dying from fentanyl overdoses.

Student Advocates for Public Health is encouraging support for Health Canada’s proposal to allow people to obtain the drug naloxone — which can reverse the effects of an overdose — without a prescription.

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Related

  • Alleged Alberta fentanyl dealer linked to overdose death arrested, $36K seized

  • ‘It is a huge issue’: 145 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta so far in 2015

  • Fentanyl 101: The facts and dangers

    “We see that more than 270 Albertans have died needlessly in fentanyl-related deaths,” said Rhoda Lee, who is working on her masters degree in nursing.

    “As students, we have an interest in public health and healthy public policy and we decided that the fentanyl crisis is an issue that needs to be dealt with.”

    Fentanyl is an opiod that is many times more powerful than heroin.

    READ MORE: Fentanyl 101 – what you need to know about the drug

    The Alberta figure of 270 fentanyl-related deaths is for 2015 — more than double the previous year.

    The Canadian Centre For Substance Abuse estimates that at least 655 people have died across Canada from overdoses where fentanyl was the cause or a contributing cause between 2009 and 2014. A more up-to-date number was not available.

    Naloxone kits that include a syringe and vials of the drug are already being distributed in some provinces.

    The students want the pharmaceutical industry and Ottawa to allow the drug to be sold in forms that are easier to use, such as a nasal spray and an auto-injector device similar to an EpiPen.

    “We believe that this would help people find an easier way, rather than fumbling with needles and ampules, to be able to administer this drug quickly,” Lee said.

    READ MORE: Teen’s fentanyl overdose highlights troubling trend in Alberta

    The group also supports a federal private member’s bill that calls for protecting people who phone 911 to report drug overdoses from facing charges.

    Liberal MP Ron McKinnon introduced Bill C-224 in the Commons last month and hopes it will come up for debate this spring.

    The legislation aims to encourage a person who sees someone having an overdose to call for help immediately.

    McKinnon said he is grateful for the student endorsement and hopes other groups across Canada will support the proposed Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act.

    “I love to hear this,” McKinnon said from his constituency office in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

    “We are looking at organizations like cities to come on board. The more people who see this and recognize the value of it and speak up the better.”

    READ MORE: 29 Alberta clinics now offer naloxone kits for fentanyl overdose treatment

    McKinnon said in the United States, 34 states and the District of Columbia have some form of Good Samaritan overdose immunity law.

    Health Canada’s website says the department is seeking public comment on a proposal to allow the non-prescription use of naloxone.

    The deadline for making a submission is March 19.

Texas congressman wants to recognize magic as a ‘national treasure’

Things have been a little crazy in American politics lately, but Donald Trump isn’t the only Republican making headlines.

This week, Texas congressman Pete Sessions – along with six GOP co-sponsors – introduced a resolution to congress asking that magic be recognized as a “rare and valuable art form and national treasure.”

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The text of the resolution reads in part, “magic is an art form with the unique power and potential to impact the lives of all people” and is used to “bring wonder and happiness to others.” It also points out that “magic fulfills some of the highest ideals and aspirations” of the United States by “encouraging people to question what they believe and see.”

It also describes magic as “timeless in appeal” because it requires “only the capacity to dream.”

The resolution – which asks that magic be made a national treasure and have the government support efforts to make sure that magic is preserved – also includes a lot of information about American magician David Copperfield:

  • Whereas David Copperfield, through his magic, inspires great positive change in the lives of Americans;
  • Whereas people consistently leave David Copperfield’s live magic show with a different perspective than when they entered;
  • Whereas Rebecca Brown of Portland, Oregon, left a David Copperfield magic show with a newfound inspiration to pursue her lifelong, unfulfilled passion for dance;
  • Whereas three months after Rebecca Brown attended the David Copperfield magic show, she performed her first choreographed recital in Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Square;
  • Whereas programs such as Project Magic, created by David Copperfield, use magic as a form of therapy for children with physical, psychological, and social disabilities;

    It’s unclear if Sessions is a fan of Copperfield.

    However, as Quartz pointed out, this admiration for magic stands in stark contrast to how the Republican-dominated House of Representatives responds to scientific research.

    “The House Science Committee even subpoenaed scientists who published research debunking a popular climate change denier theory,” read the Quartz article, titled “Republican lawmakers may not trust science, but they do believe in magic.”

    “Among the co-sponsors of House Resolution 642, ‘Recognizing magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure’,” Idaho’s Mike Simpson claims that “there is widespread disagreement as to the magnitude of human influence on the climate and the degree to which any effort by humanity to reduce carbon output would slow or reverse the effects of climate change.’”

  • 10 years later, family of Canadian in Chinese prison still looking for answers

    It’s been 10 years since a Canadian citizen was arrested and eventually sentenced to life in prison in China on widely condemned terrorism charges, and his wife and four young boys are still searching for answers.

    During a trip to his wife’s native Uzbekistan in March 2006, Huseyin Celil – who fled to Canada as a political refugee from China in 2001 and became a Canadian citizen four years later – was arrested by Uzbek police and handed over to Chinese authorities.

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    Rights groups said he was not given access to Canadian consular officials, faced torture in custody, a forced confession and an unjust trial simply for being an outspoken critic of China’s treatment of the Uighur people – a Muslim minority group in the country’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang.

    A decade later, little has been done to secure Celil’s release, highlighting a gap in the federal government’s system for the protection of Canadians abroad.

    ‘They need him right now’

    Kamila Telendibaeva says the loss of her husband is still felt daily.

    “I am raising four boys and it’s – in 10 years it’s been a very, very difficult challenge,” she says from their Burlington, Ont. home.

    “We miss him a lot. I miss him a lot. And you know we are missing him every single day … I think they need him. They need him right now.”

    Kamila Telendibaeva is seen with three of her sons during a family vacation in 2015.

    Kamila Telendibaeva/Handout

    Celil has never met his youngest son, now almost 10 years old, born just months after his imprisonment.

    “My little one, most of time, he keeps [asking] and he says, ‘If he hasn’t done anything you know, why’s he in prison?’ I keep talking to him just to remind him he [has] done nothing wrong,” Telendibaeva says.

    “They need [their] father. I feel very sorry for them, ” she adds. “They’re not seeing their father’s love … and it is not fair – it is not fair for them.”

    Arrest and extradition to China

    Telendibaeva remembers the last time she saw Celil, the couple were visiting her family in Uzbekistan in March 2006 while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

    When Celil stepped out the door of their family home to run a quick errand, well-dressed in a black suit, Telendibaeva thought he would be back in a few hours – but she never saw him again.

    Celil was arrested by Uzbek police on March 26, 2006 and quietly handed over to Chinese authorities in June 2006 to face terrorism charges in a controversial extradition that was widely criticized by the Canadian government at the time.

    Huseyin Celil is seen in this still from a family video during his citizenship ceremony in 2005.

    Family/Handout

    With no other option, Telendibaeva returned to Canada not knowing if she would ever see her husband again and hoping the Canadian government would help secure his release.

    “When you are leaving some of your loved ones behind, and three kids, and I was pregnant at that time. It was really difficult,” she says.

    “It was a really bad day.”

    Efforts to secure his release

    It took months for the federal government to even find where Celil was being held and when questioned in the House of Commons on what they planned on doing for Celil the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deepak Obhrai, promised continued action.

    “As I have stated time after time, the Prime Minister is engaged and the foreign affairs minister is engaged. Not only that, but the Minister of Natural Resources, who was in China in November, talked with senior Chinese officials and he brought up this issue there,” he said.

    “We are fully engaged with the Chinese to ensure that Mr. Celil’s rights as a Canadian citizen are protected and brought to their attention.”

    In November 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper raised Celil’s case at the highest level with Chinese President Hu Jintao while in Hanoi, Vietnam for an economic summit.

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, China’s President Hu Jintao (front row right to left), US President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Thailand’s Prime Minister Durayud Chulanont (back row left to right) wave during the official photograph at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi Vietnam Sunday Nov. 19, 2006.

    /Tom Hanson

    But Secretary General for Amnesty International Canada Alex Neve says after the sentence was imposed in April, “there was almost a bit of giving up” on the part of the federal government.

    “I think the wind went out of Canada’s sails a number of years ago,” he says. “And there’s a sense of, ‘What more can we do?’”

    16×9 reached out to Global Affairs Canada to ask what more they plan on doing for Celil.

    They declined an interview and provided an email statement saying Celil’s “case remains important to the Government of Canada and continues to be raised at senior levels” and that they “continue to call upon the Chinese government to permit Canadian officials to conduct a consular visit to monitor Mr. Celil’s well-being.”

    “Our goal is to ensure that Mr. Celil is safe and treated fairly, in accordance with international norms,” the statement reads.

    China refuses to acknowledge Celil’s Canadian citizenship and reiterates that his case is an internal affair, despite his travelling on a Canadian passport at the time of his detainment in March 2006.

    “Huseyin Celil is a Chinese citizen who is serving his sentence in jail,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy told 16×9 in an emailed statement.

    “We will continue to handle relevant matter in accordance with the law.”

    Controversial trial and imprisonment

    Following his extradition to China, Celil’s trial was shrouded in secrecy and the then-38-year-old eventually sentenced to life in prison.

    After his sentencing in April 2007, Celil’s family and lawyer claimed the circumstances leading up to his conviction were in violation of his human rights.

    “They say there was a signed confession,” Celil’s lawyer in Canada Chris MacLeod tells 16×9. “But quite frankly I think it’s under clear examples of torture and abuse and maltreatment. I mean he’s been in solitary confinement for years.”

    Huseyin Celil is seen in this still from a family video during a citizenship ceremony in 2005.

    Family/Handout

    To this day, MacLeod says Celil has had no access to Canadian consular services and the family in China is only permitted to see him once every few months.

    MacLeod maintains his client’s innocence amid the harsh penalty he continues to face.

    “For a Canadian citizen to somehow be captured, detained, tortured, and have no access to the Canadian government, for that person to be facing those sorts of human rights abuses is a particular affront to Canadians and the government of Canada,” MacLeod says.

    “All he’s ever done is speak out in favour of his community, his language, his culture … things that we would consider very normal by any stretch in Canada.”

    Human rights activist or international terrorist?

    Celil is a native of China and a member of the Uighurs, a repressed Muslim minority struggling to promote its cultural and religious autonomy within the region.

    Those who speak out in favour of greater independence for the Uighur people are often classified as terrorists and face harsh consequences at the hands of the Chinese government, according to rights groups.

    For decades there have been violent clashes between Chinese authorities and Uighurs, with both sides blaming each other for the bloodshed.

    Chinese officials claim militant extremists are attempting to create an independent state, while Uighur rights groups accuse the government of using unfounded accusations of terrorism to target Uighurs and justify crackdowns on peaceful protests.

    A demonstrator holds an immigration document bearing the photograph Huseyin Celil of during a protest for his release in front of the Chinese Consulate in Toronto, Ont. on November 2006.

    /Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

    But MacLeod says the Chinese consider Celil much more than just an activist.

    “He came onto the radar of the Chinese government simply because he was quite outspoken about China’s mistreatment of the Uighur people,” he says.

    “Their worst crime that they say is that he sought a sovereign or separate state for the Uighur people.”

    Neve says Celil was a leader within the Uighur community, which may have led to China targeting him.

    “Individuals who seek to promote the rights of the Uighur people, who speak out about concerns about Chinese policies in that part of China, are regularly harassed and very frequently are tried on charges – usually trumped up charges,” he says.

    “There are thousands of Canadians detained in countries all over the world … but most of those involve valid criminal accusations … in Huseyin’s case, there are very serious human rights concerns here.”

    A sliver of hope for Celil’s future

    In a surprising move last month, China commuted the sentence of Celil and 10 other prisoners in the Xinjiang region down from life in prison to an additional 19.5 and 20-year sentences, according to Chinese news agencies.

    “It was amazing for us … we were surprised. We didn’t expect [it],” Telendibaeva says. “That’s why we don’t want to give hope and just keep pushing.”

    But the government could not confirm if the reports of Celil’s commutation are true and say they are still “seeking official confirmation.”

    READ MORE: China reduces sentences for 11 Uighurs, including Canadian

    “Celil’s case remains important to the Government of Canada and continues to be raised at senior levels,” Global Affairs Canada says in an emailed statement to 16×9.

    “We continue to call upon the Chinese government to permit Canadian officials to conduct a consular visit to monitor Mr. Celil’s well-being. Our goal is to ensure that Mr. Celil is safe and treated fairly, in accordance with international norms.”

    Telendibaeva says despite the reduction of his sentence, the family has concerns over his health – including digestive and vision issues she attributes to his extensive time in solitary confinement.

    Kamila Telendibaeva speaks in support of her husband’s release with journalist Mohamed Fahmy and Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada Alex Neve on Jan. 26, 2016.

    Global News

    “We don’t know anything. His family [in China], they are seeing him every six months. Which is – it’s very, very long. Not six days, not six weeks, six months,” she says.

    “I am saying as a Canadian, I am saying as a human, he is missing all his rights.”

    Celil has exhausted almost all of his legal options and at this point all indications show that he will not be released from prison until the age of 68, by which time his children could have families of their own.

    “At the end of the day it’s entirely up to Chinese officials to resolve this case,” says Neve.

    “But that doesn’t mean that in the face of Chinese intransigence to date that Canadian officials should give up.”

    16×9’s “The Last Moment I Saw Him” airs Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 7 p.m.

    With files from Claude Adams

    Trudeau at UN promotes parental leave for fathers, gender parity

    NEW YORK – Setting aside parental leave that can only be taken by fathers may be a way of improving the flexibility available to young families, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

    The prime minister was explaining his thoughts on gender equality before a clearly approving audience at the United Nations.

    He said it is important to encourage parental leave and even single out leave just for dads.

    ChangSha Night Net

    “Not just saying, ‘Oh that it’s parental leave that can be divided as you like’, but actually highlighting – in some cases there’s been successes on this – that, no, no, no, this is a number of weeks that can only be taken by the father of a young child.

    READ MORE: Canada will bid for 2021 seat on UN Security Council

    “That goes a long way towards changing the thing.”

    He said he and his government are trying to make Parliament more family friendly, saying it’s time to update an institution “designed for old, white guys.”

    Parliamentary travel requirements and sitting hours can be barriers to women with young children, but it is time to challenge institutions and find ways to make them work better, Trudeau said.

    Businesses and organizations can be encouraged to be more open to equality, he added.

    “One of the things that has shown effectiveness is just making people report explicitly on the gender balance within their organization, within their boards at the highest levels,” he said. “That incentivizes positive behaviour in meaningful ways.”

    READ MORE: UN launches program to end child marriage by 2030

    The Harper government’s last budget in 2015, included a proposal to change the business corporations act to require companies to either put a gender equality policy in place or explain publicly why they don’t have one.

    Pricey parking in Montreal hurting businesses, says Board of Trade

    MONTREAL – Finding a parking spot can be a pain in Montreal – and that includes to the pocketbook.

    So, how can we improve parking in the city?

    Montreal’s Board of Trade released a long list of recommendations that include reducing rates to make sure shoppers want to come downtown.

    Montreal is middle of the road in terms of parking rates compared to other Canadian cities.

    ChangSha Night Net

    Related

    • Montreal tests new digital parking signs in pilot project

    • Montreal promises to fix notoriously confusing parking signs

    • Need to find parking in Montreal? There’s an app for that

      READ MORE: Montreal tests new digital parking signs in pilot project

      Rates are $3/hour compared to $2.50/hour in Ottawa and up to $4/hour in Toronto.

      Alain Creton, President of the Peel Street Merchants Association, said this year is exceptionally bad because construction has already cut into their revenue.

      “The parking has been like that since forever, but lately, because of construction all the people from downtown are having a hard time,” he said.

      For months, the city has been looking at ways to improve parking.

      Montreal’s current policy was written in 1957.

      READ MORE: Montreal promises to fix notoriously confusing parking signs

      A series of public meetings have been held to open the floor to suggestions.

      “You have 19 different kinds of parking,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

      “You need to have one policy. We need to be open and listen to those in the field and the importance of parking, in the residents’ perspective and for the economic development perspective.”

      READ MORE: Need to find parking in Montreal? There’s an app for that

      The City of Montreal has taken steps to improve the efficiency of parking, like allowing people to pay from their phones using an app, but many insisted there’s still room for improvement.

      “Make it cheaper in the afternoon?” suggested Creton.

      “This is the way to attract people downtown, to be flexible at different hours. Why are you charging until 9 p.m.?”

      Last year, Montreal made $50 million from parking meters alone.

      Without change, the Board of Trade said motorists will stay away from the city and merchants will be the ones to pay the price.

    ‘Travis, I’m really appealing to you’: Bret McCann’s plea to murder suspect released in court

    Nearly three weeks after his parents went missing in 2010, Bret McCann made an emotional plea to the man accused in their death.

    During his testimony, court heard that on July 23, 2010, Bret McCann, son of St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann, reached out to Travis Vader in hopes of finding his parents safe and sound.

    ChangSha Night Net

    Related

    • Murder cases without bodies a rarity in Canadian courts

    • No human remains in burned-out motorhome: Forensic expert at Travis Vader trial

    • Day 4 of Travis Vader trial delayed because accused’s car broke down

    • Travis Vader will go to trial for murder of Lyle and Marie McCann

      “I understand that you may have some information as to their whereabouts,” McCann said in an audio plea, crafted with the help of the RCMP. “Travis, my parents have been missing now for two weeks. This is just agony for our family.”

      TIMELINE: The key events in the Travis Vader case

      McCann went into details about his family, explaining he and his siblings all have children. He said his father was a truck driver and worked very hard throughout his life while his mother stayed home and looked after him and his brother and sister.

      “I know that you ran into some troubles but I know that deep down you’re a decent man,” the audio recording states. “Travis, I know you’re younger than me but I know that you have children of your own and at one point you had a, you know, a really nice family life.

      “My brother, my sister, their kids, my aunts, my uncles, everybody is just frantic about this and I know that you can help us bring some closure to this.”

      READ MORE: Lyle and Marie McCann remembered by their son at suspect’s murder trial

      During cross examination, McCann was questioned if the statement was truthful. He told court it was made to appeal to Vader’s “better nature.” McCann told court “parts of it I know are true. Other parts I’m speculating about Vader.”

      McCann also told court he received a Facebook message from someone claiming to be Vader’s son.

      The audio recording was made 20 days after Lyle and Marie were last seen fuelling up their motorhome in their hometown of St. Albert. It’s not known if Vader ever heard it.

      When he finished his testimony Wednesday, McCann told court he would like to make a statement which the judge would not allow.

      Later Wednesday, Rolf Wenaas took the stand. The former Minnow Lake Campground worker testified he saw a green motorhome at campsite number eight in the early morning of July 5, 2010.

      Wenaas was making rounds and clearing garbage at around 6:30 a.m. when he said he noticed the motorhome had been backed in and a green SUV was parked beside the motorhome.

      Wenaas said the curtains were closed and the motorhome didn’t appear to be jacked up. He said he noticed there wasn’t a registration envelope in the money box for the unit. The cost to camp for one night was $22, he said.

      Wenaas testified he knocked on the motorhome door but nobody answered.

      Wenaas told court he left a money envelope under the SUV’s windshield and left. He returned a few hours later, at around 12:30 p.m., and said he banged on the motorhome door again but nobody answered. He said he waited for 20 minutes then left.

      Later that evening, the McCanns’ burning motorhome was discovered near the campground. Wenaas testified the burning motorhome was found about a kilometre from campsite number eight.

      READ MORE: Court hears burned McCann motorhome moved 3 times before investigator called in

      Earlier this week, McCann testified that he last saw his parents on the evening of July 2, 2010, the night before they were scheduled to leave for their camping trip to British Columbia.

      The couple’s RV was found on fire in the bush near Edson on July 5. An SUV they had been towing was found off a bush trail near Edson on July 16, the same day Vader was named a person of interest in the case.

      Vader has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the McCanns’ deaths.

      Watch below: Global News’ ongoing coverage of Travis Vader’s first-degree murder trial 

      Bret McCann testifies in Travis Vader murder trial

      01:45

      Bret McCann testifies in Travis Vader murder trial

    02:11

    Travis Vader’s first-degree murder trial begins

    02:23

    Travis Vader murder trial gets underway

    03:15

    Vader says he’s not guilty in McCann murders

    00:33

    Travis Vader heads into court for first-degree murder trial