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New highly virulent strain of ransomware cripples networks

RAPHAEL SATTER AND FRANK BAJAK, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jun 28th, 2017

A laptop displays a message after being infected by a ransomware as part of a worldwide cyberattack on June 27, 2017. GETTY IMAGES/AFP/Rob Engelaar
A new, highly virulent strain of malicious software that is crippling computers globally appears to have been sown in Ukraine, where it badly hobbled much of the government and private sector on the eve of a holiday celebrating a post-Soviet constitution.

The fresh cyber-assault Tuesday leveraged the same intrusion tool as a similar attack in May and proved again just how disruptive to daily life sophisticated cyber-assaults can be in this age of heavy reliance on computers.

Hospitals, government offices and major multinationals were among the casualties of the ransomware payload, which locks up computer files with all-but-unbreakable encryption and then demands a ransom for its release.

Ukraine and Russia appeared hardest hit. In the United States, it affected companies such as the drugmaker Merck and Mondelez International, the conglomerate of food brands such as Oreo and Nabisco. Multinationals, including the global law firm DLA Piper and Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, were also affected.

The virus’ pace appeared to slow by Wednesday, in part because the malware appeared to require direct contact between computer networks, a factor that may have limited its spread in regions with fewer connections to Ukraine.

Its origins and the motive for its release remained unclear, and financial gain may not have been a big reason. The time and place of release could have been a clue.

It was loosed on the eve of a national holiday marking Ukraine’s 1996 constitution – its first after independence from Soviet rule.

Ukraine has been a persistent target of pro-Russia hackers in recent years. They have been blamed for twice shutting down large swaths of its power grid and sabotaging its elections network in a bid to disrupt a May 2014 national vote.

Researchers picking the program apart found evidence its creators had borrowed from leaked National Security Agency code, raising the possibility that the digital havoc had spread using U.S. taxpayer-funded tools.

“The virus is spreading all over Europe, and I’m afraid it can harm the whole world,” said Victor Zhora, the chief executive of Infosafe IT in Kyiv, where the first reports of it emerged early Tuesday afternoon.

Stricken in Ukraine were government offices, where officials posted photos of darkened computer screens, as well as energy companies, the country’s biggest airport, the post office, banks, cash machines, gas stations and supermarkets. Ukrainian Railways and the communications company Ukrtelecom were among major enterprises hit, Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said in a Facebook post . Omelyan also wrote: “It’s no coincidence that the word ‘virus’ ends in RUS.”

The virus hit the radiation monitoring at Ukraine’s shuttered Chornobyl power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, forcing it into manual operation.

The full scope of damage wouldn’t be known until Thursday when everyone gets back to work, Zhora said.

Ukraine suffered more than 60 per cent of the attacks, followed by Russia with more than 30 per cent, according to initial findings by researchers at the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. It listed Poland, Italy and Germany, in that order, as the next-worst affected.

In the U.S, two hospitals in western Pennsylvania were hit; patients reported on social media that some surgeries had to be rescheduled. A spokeswoman for Heritage Valley Health System would say only that operational changes had to be made. A Wellsville, Ohio, woman at one of its hospitals to have her gallbladder removed said she noticed computer monitors off and nurses scurrying around with stacks of paperwork.


Related stories:

New cyberattack causes mass disruption in Europe

Huge cyberattack forces Microsoft to offer free tech fix

Cyberattack wave ebbs, but experts see risk of more


Like last month’s outbreak of ransomware, dubbed WannaCry , the new attack spread by using digital lock picks originally created by the NSA and later published to the web by a still-mysterious group known as the Shadowbrokers.

Security vendors said the NSA exploit, known as EternalBlue, lets malware spread rapidly across internal networks at companies and other large organizations. Microsoft issued a security fix in March, but Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer at the security firm Veracode, said it would only be effective if every single computer on a network were patched – otherwise, a single infected machine could infect all others.

“Once activated, the virus can automatically and freely distribute itself on your network,” Ukraine’s cyberpolice tweeted.

Such self-spreading programs are known as “worms.”

The attacks appeared to slow down in part because the ransomware appears to spread only when a direct contact exists between two networks – such as when a global company’s Ukraine office interacts with headquarters, said Ryan Kalember, a security expert at Proofpoint.

“It’s not randomly spreading over the internet like WannaCry. It’s somewhat contained to the organizations that were connected to each other,” he said.

Bogdan Botezatu, an analyst with Bitdefender, compared the new program to a contagious disease. It appeared nearly identical to GoldenEye, a variant of a known family of hostage-taking programs known as “Petya,” he said.

It demanded $300 in Bitcoin. But unlike typical ransomware, which merely scrambles personal data files, this program does more. It overwrites a computer’s master boot record, making it tougher to restore even a machine that has been backed up, Kalember said.

It may have first spread through a rogue update to a piece of Ukrainian accounting software called MEDoc, according to tweets by the country’s cyberpolice unit. It said a rogue update seeded the infection across Ukraine. On Facebook, MEDoc acknowledged having been hacked.

Emails sent Tuesday to an address posted to the bottom of ransom demands went unreturned. That might be because the email provider hosting that address, Berlin-based Posteo, pulled the plug on the account before the infection became widely known.

In an email, a Posteo representative said it had blocked the email address immediately after learning that it was associated with ransomware. The company added that it was in contact with German authorities “to make sure that we react properly.”

The Associated Press’ Anick Jesdanun, Vladimir Isachenkov, Larry Rosenthal and Jan M. Olsen contributed to this story.

E. coli outbreak linked to flour appears over, but product recalls continue

JOHN COTTER, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jun 28th, 2017

AppleMark
Electron micrograph images of E.coli are shown in a handout photo. MCR-1, a gene that makes bacteria resistant to the killing effects of antibiotics, has been detected in stored samples of E. coli collected in 2010 in Canada. Now scientists are wondering if the superbug gene had made its way into Canada even earlier – and just what that could mean.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Brian Coombes Laboratory, McMaster University
The Public Health Agency of Canada has wound down its investigation into an outbreak of E. coli linked to flour produced by Ardent Mills after people across the country became ill.

But the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) continues to announce recalls of flour products tied to the outbreak as they hunt down more of the potentially dangerous bacteria.

Thirty people tested positive for E. coli O121 between November and April, including eight people who were hospitalized. No one died.

“Final Update,” the public health agency says on its website. “Given that no new cases have been reported since April 2017, the outbreak appears to be over, and the outbreak investigation appears to be closed.”

The 30 cases included people who became ill in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

On Monday, the CFIA announced another flour product recall — the 18th recall linked to E. coli concerns since March.

The list of the pie and tart shells can be seen below. Click here to view the pie and tart shells on the CFIA website.

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC Additional Info
None (no label) 3″ Tart Shells Unsweetened Variable Sold from January 19, 2017 to April 27, 2017 None Sold in Ontario from
Hillcrest Home Baking, 2192 Floradale Rd., Floradale, ON
Schnurr’s Frozen Sweet Tart Shells Variable Sold from December 22, 2016 to April 20, 2017 Starts with 200158 Sold in Ontario from
Schnurr’s Grocery, 5168 Ament Line, Linwood, ON
Schnurr’s Tart Shells Unsweetened 3″ Variable Sold from December 23-24, 2016 Variable Sold in Ontario from
Schnurr’s Grocery, 5168 Ament Line, Linwood, ON
HomeStyle Flavours “Pillsbury* 9″ Deep Pie Crust” Variable Sold from March 15, 2017 to April 27, 2017 None Sold in Ontario from HomeStyle Flavours: 6721 Wellington Rd 109, RR 1, Teviotdale, ON*Please note that these pie shells were repacked from Apple Valley brand products by Homestyle Flavours.
HomeStyle Flavours “Pillsbury* 9″ Pie Top” Variable Sold from March 15, 2017 to April 27, 2017 None Sold in Ontario from HomeStyle Flavours: 6721 Wellington Rd 109, RR 1, Teviotdale, ON*Please note that these pie shells were repacked from Apple Valley brand products by Homestyle Flavours.
HomeStyle Flavours “Pillsbury* Unsweetened 3″ Tart Shells” Variable Sold from March 8, 2017 to April 27, 2017 None Sold in Ontario from HomeStyle Flavours: 6721 Wellington Rd 109, RR 1, Teviotdale, ON*Please note that these pie shells were repacked from Apple Valley brand products by Homestyle Flavours.
HomeStyle Flavours ʺPillsbury* Unswetened 2″ Tart Shellsʺ Variable Sold from April 5-27, 2017 None Sold in Ontario from HomeStyle Flavours: 6721 Wellington Rd 109, RR 1, Teviotdale, ON*Please note that these pie shells were repacked from Apple Valley brand products by Homestyle Flavours.

 

Fred Jamieson, a CFIA recall specialist, said food safety investigators continue to trace products that may be linked to the flour in a process he likened to peeling an onion. The sheer volume of products that must be checked is taking time.

“It is one of the larger recalls that we have done,” he said from Ottawa. “Until we have recalled all the product and identified it, I guess that product on the market would still be perceived as a risk.”

No information was released on how much flour has been recalled.

Food contaminated with E. coli may not look or smell spoiled. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and dehydration.

The bacteria, which can be found in the lower intestines of animals and people, can lead to kidney failure and death.

Health Canada issued a release Tuesday warning Canadians that it is not safe to taste or eat raw dough, batter, or any other product containing uncooked flour.

It reminded consumers that flour comes from grain grown in fields which can come into contact with bacteria from soil, water or animal waste. Cooking flour kills bacteria but eating even a small amount of uncooked flour or dough could make you sick.

“While anyone can become infected with E. coli, young children aged five and under, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get sick and their symptoms may be more severe,” says Health Canada.

The public health agency says in one of the 30 E. coli cases, a person who became ill reported having contact with Robin Hood flour and a sample tested positive for the bacteria.

All 30 cases have a similar genetic fingerprint and some other people who got sick say they also used Robin Hood flour.

Recalled products produced by Ardent Mills were packaged under the Robin Hood and other brand names and include bags of flour, pie shells, pie lids, tart shells and cookie dough.

On May 31, Smucker Foods of Canada issued a recall for some packages of three brands of flour produced by Ardent Mills that it sells in the United States due to possible E. coli contamination.

EU hits Google with record fine over online shopping service

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 27th, 2017

ADDS MORE INFORMATION ON ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE THE PROPER FORMATTING - FILE - This Oct. 20, 2015, file photo, shows a sign outside Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.  Google will start offering “fact check” tags next to some news stories in search results in the tech industry’s latest effort to combat false and misleading news stories, on Friday, April 7, 2017. People who search for a topic in the regular search engine or the Google News section will see a conclusion such as “mostly true” or “false” next to news stories that had been fact checked by a participating organization, such as PolitiFact and Snopes.com. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
A sign outside Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The European Union’s competition watchdog slapped a record 2.42 billion euro ($3.6 billion Cdn.) fine on Internet giant Google on Tuesday for breaching antitrust rules with its online shopping service.

European regulators said “Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service.”

It gave the Mountain View, California, company 90 days to stop or face fines of up to five per cent of the average daily worldwide turnover of parent company Alphabet.

The European Commission, which polices EU competition rules, alleges Google elevates its shopping service even when other options might have better deals.

The Commission said Google “gave prominent placement in its search results only to its own comparison shopping service, whilst demoting rival services. It stifled competition on the merits in comparison shopping markets.”

Google maintains it’s just trying to package its search results in a way that makes it easier for consumers to find what they want.

“When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both,” Kent Walker, senior vice-president at Google, said in a statement.

“We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” he said.

The fine is the highest ever imposed in Europe for anti-competitive behaviour, exceeding a 1.06 billion euros ($1.58 billion Cdn.) penalty on Silicon Valley chip maker Intel in 2009.

But the penalty is likely to leave a bigger dent in Google’s pride and reputation than its finances. Alphabet has more than 82 billion euros ($122 billion Cdn.) in cash, including nearly 50 billion euros ($74 billion Cdn.) in accounts outside of Europe.

Wettlaufer sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 27th, 2017

wettlaughter

A former Ontario nurse who murdered eight seniors in her care was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer pleaded guilty last month to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

Her crimes, which occurred in three Ontario long-term care facilities and a private home, make her one of Canada’s worst serial killers.

Wettlaufer admitted to using insulin in all 14 cases that stretched from 2007 to 2016, and has said she believed she was an instrument of God.

“It is a complete betrayal of trust when a caregiver does not prolong life, but terminates it,” said the judge who issued Wettlaufer’s sentence. “She was the shadow of death that passed over them on the night shift where she supervised.”

In addition to Wettlaufer’s life sentence for murder, she was also sentenced to 10 years in prison for each of the four attempted murder counts and seven years on each of the aggravated assault counts. All the sentences are to be served concurrently.

The family and friends of Wettlaufer’s victims were in a Woodstock, Ont., court on Monday, describing the pain, guilt and anger they felt after learning their loved ones had been murdered by the nurse who was meant to care for the vulnerable seniors.

David AJ Silcox, whose father James Silcox was murdered by Wettlaufer in August 2007, said the former nurse’s actions had a serious effect on him.

“Psychologically I feel a great deal of pain and guilt,” he told the court. “I simply feel guilty for not being able to protect my father as he had protected me.”

Jane Silcox added that her grandfather’s murder has torn up her family.

“It terrifies me that I can’t trust an institution,” she said amid tears. “I’m terrified about the thought of putting my father in a home.”

Sandy Millard, whose 87-year-old mother died in October 2011, said she often hasn’t wanted to leave the house or reach out to family since learning of the nurse’s crimes.

“Finding out (my mother) was killed by a huge injection of medication she did not need broke my heart,” Millard said. “I think I am depressed and have to fight my way back to sanity.”

Colin Matheson, whose 95-year-old grandmother was also murdered by Wettlaufer in October 2011, said he felt angry.

“Why didn’t I see something was wrong?” he said. “I feel helpless and defeated.”

Wettlaufer told her sentencing hearing she was truly sorry for murdering and injuring vulnerable patients in her care.

She said she hoped the families of her victims can find peace and healing.


Related stories:

Ontario to call public inquiry into Elizabeth Wettlaufer nursing home murders

Ex-nurse Wettlaufer felt ‘urge to kill’ seniors in her care, pleads guilty

Who is alleged serial killer Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer?

If you ever do this again, we’ll turn you in, pastor told killer nurse

Court partly reinstates Trump travel ban, fall arguments set

MARK SHERMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 27th, 2017

AppleMark

The Supreme Court is letting a limited version of the Trump administration ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect, a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency.

The court said Monday the ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen could be enforced as long as they lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The justices will hear arguments in the case in October.

Trump said last week that the ban would take effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts.

The Trump administration said the 90-day ban was needed to allow an internal review of the screening procedures for visa applicants from those countries. That review should be complete before Oct. 2, the first day the justices could hear arguments in their new term.

A 120-ban on refugees also is being allowed to take effect on a limited basis.

Three of the court’s conservative justices said they would have let the complete bans take effect.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said the government has shown it is likely to succeed on the merits of the case, and that it will suffer irreparable harm with any interference. Thomas said the government’s interest in preserving national security outweighs any hardship to people denied entry into the country.

Two federal appeals courts had blocked the travel policy, which Trump announced a week after he took office in January and revised in March after setbacks in court.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said the ban was “rooted in religious animus” toward Muslims and pointed to Trump’s campaign promise to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country as well as tweets and remarks he has made since becoming president.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the travel policy does not comply with federal immigration law, including a prohibition on nationality-based discrimination. That court also put a hold on separate aspects of the policy that would keep all refugees out of the United States for 120 days and cut by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000, the cap on refugees in the current government spending year that ends September 30.

Trump’s first executive order on travel applied to travellers from the six countries as well as Iraq, and took effect immediately, causing chaos and panic at airports over the last weekend in January as the Homeland Security Department scrambled to figure out who the order covered and how it was to be implemented.

A federal judge blocked it eight days later, an order that was upheld by a 9th circuit panel. Rather than pursue an appeal, the administration said it would revise the policy.

In March, Trump issued the narrower order.


Related stories:

Trump asks Supreme Court to reinstate travel ban

Appeals court rules against Trump’s revised travel ban


25 places every Canadian kid should see

JODY ROBBINS | posted Tuesday, Jun 27th, 2017

wettlaughter

PHOTO: JODY ROBBINS

If ever there was a year to travel in Canada with your family, this is it. We’re blessed with jaw-dropping landscapes, thrilling outdoor adventures and a trove of diverse cultural experiences. I should know—I’ve spent the past year criss-crossing the country in search of the top destinations for families for my book 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit. So grab your suitcase, indulge your sense of adventure and start crushing on Canada.

Family climb at Via Ferrata at Sea to Sky Gondola

PHOTO: PAUL BRIDE

Squamish, British Columbia
Conveniently situated between Whistler and Vancouver, the outdoor recreation capital of Canada is the perfect spot for active families. Get your bearings on the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, where misty views of the Howe Sound and Coast Mountains will set your Instagram feed on fire. Amp up your adventure with a float down the river and count how many bald eagles you see. And don’t forget to put the Britannia Mine Museum on your trip to-do list. Here you can pan for real gold, make a blasting box go KABOOM! and rumble underground on a mine train. At the end of the day, disconnect at Sunwolf Resort, a rustic hideaway with cosy riverside cabins (and no TV).

Dad and daughter ride down the Mountain Coaster at Revelstoke in BC

PHOTO: IAN HOUGHTON

Revelstoke, British Columbia
Most people think of Revy as a serious ski destination along B.C.’s famed powder highway but, come summer, this mountain resort town morphs into one of Canada’s most invigorating family playgrounds. Fairytale figurines and B.C.’s tallest treehouse delight youngsters in the Enchanted Forest, while at SkyTrek Adventure Park a forest jungle gym lets children test their limits. And forget city rollercoasters! A new mountain coasterwhooshes down a steep slope, but at speeds you control. Nearby natural hot springs soothe sore muscles and are best visited right before afternoon nap time.

The Empress Hotel in Victoria BC

PHOTO: TOURISM BRITISH COLUMBIA

Victoria, British Columbia
You’d be hard pressed to find a city with more kid-pleasing attractions situated so closely together. The Inner Harbour is where it’s at with the Bug Zoo, Miniature World and the Royal B.C. Museum—all within walking distance. The Inner Harbour is also where complimentary Canada Day activities kick off June 21 through July 1. Mini marine biologists will relish hopping aboard a harbour ferry to spot wildlife such as orcas, sea lions and porpoises. Be sure to visit Oak Bay. At this seaside neighbourhood, you can wave at the friendly resident seals at the Marina (no feeding please!) before strolling over to a lovely independent book store and toy shop.

Father and daughter look out over Kalamaka Lake Provincial Park in Vernon BC

PHOTO: ROBB THOMPSON

Vernon, British Columbia
Less busy than the Okanagan region, Vernon also boasts a staggering number of orchards and is surrounded by three lakes, giving water-loving families plenty of recreational options. Like Canada, the O’Keefe Ranch turns 150 this year, and it’s worth a visit to see the rare Jacob Sheep, which can have six horns. You’ll find equally exotic animals at nearby Kangaroo Creek Farm. Go from farm to table with a stop at Davison Orchards, where little ones love riding the Johnny Popper train to pick their own fruits and veggies in the field.

Family rides their bikes along the Legacy Trail in Canmore, AB

PHOTO: JODY ROBBINS

Canmore, Alberta
Just minutes from the gates to Banff National Park, this mountain resort town sports all the wildlife and unspoiled wilderness you dream of, but with fewer crowds. Grassi Lakes is an easy day-hike that won’t tire out the tots. More ambitious families can rent bikes and cycle along the paved Legacy Trail all the way into Banff. Cool off with the locals by plunging into Quarry Lake, or opt for a condo with an outdoor pool. Canada Day is celebrated with a pancake breakfast and a sweet parade, where candy is tossed off floats into eager hands.

Child walks through the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta

PHOTO: JODY ROBBINS

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
Canada’s own Jurassic Park lies two hours outside of Calgary. Amidst the hoodoos of the Canadian Badlands, petite palaeontologists dig deep into the prehistoric past on fossil safari tours. You could haul the tent and trailer, or make it easier on yourself and bed down in the Park’s safari-like comfort camping suites. Make your visit truly memorable by saddling up to the salon at the Patricia Hotel, where families are welcome every Sunday. On Canada Day, everyone flocks to the nearby village of Rosemary for a small-town celebration like no other.

Kids help carry some wood at the Ukrainian Heritage Cultural Village near Edmonton, AB

PHOTO: UKRAINIAN HERITAGE CULTURAL VILLAGE

Edmonton, Alberta
You’ll find much more than “the Mall” in Alberta’s capital city. (Athough Galaxyland is one of the world’s largest indoor amusement parks, so you may want to add West Edmonton Mall to your to-do list.) Outside the city, kids get an immersive glimpse into the past at Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. Warning: kids love helping role-playing pioneers with their chores—behaviour not guaranteed to be replicated at home. Camp at nearby Elk Island National Park in a site already set up for you, just beware of the likelihood of encountering a bison traffic jam.

RCMP Sunset Retreat Ceremony in Regina, SK

PHOTO: GREG HUSZAR PHOTOGRAPHY VIA TOURISM SASKATCHEWAN

Regina, Saskatchewan
The Queen city is so quintessentially Canadian and crazy affordable, you’ll wonder why you didn’t visit sooner. Begin with a tour of the RCMP Heritage Centre to learn what it really takes to become a Mountie. After saluting the RCMP, go geocaching (catered by age group) in the Edwardian gardens at Government House. Then, take it indoors at the Saskatchewan Science Centre, a science museum loaded with awesome hands-on exhibits that costs a fraction of what they charge in larger cities. Got a sports fan in your brood? Introduce them to Rider Nation (and the fine art of watermelon hat carving) during a CFL game at Mosaic Stadium.

Family Camping in the Waskesiu Wilderness Region in SK

PHOTO: GREG HUSZAR PHOTOGRAPHY VIA TOURISM SASKATCHEWAN

Waskesiu Wilderness Region, Saskatchewan
You don’t need a time machine to imagine what Canada was like 150 years ago. Simply step into the boreal woodlands of the Waskesiu Wilderness Region in Northern Saskatchewan. Travel by horse-drawn wagon à la Little House on the Prairie to view Canada’s only free-ranging bison herd on their historic range, before settling into your tipi for the night. Or how about bedding down in a yurt, surrounded by forests, warm swimming lakes, hiking trails and organic gardens? Whatever you decide, you’ll find yourself immersed in a wilderness experience that harkens back to a bygone era.

Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, MB

PHOTO: CANADIAN MUSEUM OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Winnipeg, Manitoba
An under-the-radar family fun zone, Winnipeg is a city on the rise, especially with the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Set on The Forks, this museum is no snoozer, with scavenger hunts and kid-appropriate exhibits that foster discussion. Also at The Forks, you’ll find Variety Heritage Adventure Park, home to a fantastic playground, children’s museum and thriving food market. Jet to the other side of town to play at the Streuber Children’s Garden, inspired by the board game Snakes and Ladders and nestled within Assiniboine Park. At Assiniboine Park Zoo, make a beeline for the Journey to Churchill exhibit, where the world’s most comprehensive northern species are on display.

A polar bear says hi to people in the Tundra Buggy in Churchill, MB

PHOTO: TRAVEL MANITOBA

Churchill, Manitoba
What kid wouldn’t be on board with taking an arctic safari? This northern Manitoba town is the polar bear capital of the world, and one of the few human settlements where you can observe these bears in the wild. Take a Tundra Buggy out on the sub-Arctic terrain to view polar bears, arctic fox and other northern creatures during summer and fall. From June to August, over 3,000 beluga whales make their way from Hudson Bay to the warmer waters of the Churchill River. Families can kayak or snorkel with these naturally curious creatures and experience the rush of a lifetime.

View of Parliament Hill from the bike path along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, ON

PHOTO: JODY ROBBINS

Ottawa, Ontario
Forgot what you learned about Ottawa on your junior high field trip? There’s no better time for a refresher. Our nation’s capital is the epicentre of the Canada 150 celebrations, running all year long. Even if your kids say they hate museums, the ones in Ottawa will convince them otherwise. Best for youngsters are the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian Children’s Museum, which resides inside the Canadian Museum of History. Rent bikes and pedal along the Rideau Canal, or get really wet at Calypso, the country’s largest themed waterpark. And on the big day itself, the festivities run into the night on Parliament Hill.

The White Water Walk in the Niagara Region of Ontario

PHOTO: NIAGARA PARKS COMMISSION

Niagara Region, Ontario
You know about the falls and hotel waterslides, but did you know this lush pocket of Ontario is considered the daffodil capital of North America? Revive your senses with a visit to Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, where wee ones can burn off some energy in the 100-acre garden. Or, take a tranquil stroll in the rainforest environment of the Butterfly Conservatory. As spectacular as Niagara Falls is, the White Water Walk is better suited to families allergic to crowds. The 1,000-ft boardwalk that runs along the rapids is suitable for both toddlers and strollers, and is strewn with interesting factoids.

Camping Pods at Long Point Eco-Adventures in Norfolk County, ON

PHOTO: LONG POINT ECO-ADVENTURES

Long Point, Ontario
Craving the feeling of sand squishing beneath your toes? Instead of joining the hoards in cottage country to the north, head south to experience laid-back summer days punctuated by meandering bike rides and refreshing ice-cream breaks. Make your way to Long Point, a 40-kilometre sweep of golden sand anchoring the warm waters of Lake Erie. Rev up your holiday with a zip line or forest canopy tour. Best is staying overnight in one of Long Point Eco-Adventures‘s camping pods, which allow families to get comfortably close to nature without having to rough it.

Family encounters a deer at Parc Omega in Montebello, QC

PHOTO: PHIL TIFO

Montebello, Quebec
Looking for a restful rural retreat without sacrificing big-city pleasures? You’ll find a good mix in Montebello, a charming village chock-a-block full of gourmet shops and glamping options. Troop pleasers include tackling an aerial ropes course and trekking underground in the largest cave in the Canadian Shield. Animal lovers will want to cruise through Parc Oméga on an outdoor wildlife safari. At the Parc, you can feed deer directly from your vehicle and sleep overnight in a yurt or treehouse. Artisanal chocolatier ChocoMotiveoccupies Montebello’s historic train station and crafts high-quality treats that are worth bringing home as a souvenir (if they last that long).

Family looks out at the view in Saguenay, QC

PHOTO: CHARLES-DAVID ROBITAILLE

Saguenay, Quebec
Families looking for outdoor adventure should head straight to the dramatic Saguenay Fjord region. Village Vacances Petit-Saguenay is a Club Med-style family resort, where parents can participate in camp activities, too. Or perhaps you’d rather camp with caribou at Zoo Sauvage Saint Félicien? Kids over 14 can hang out with wolves at Aventuraid, while all ages can spend the night in a yurt next to the enclosure. Families won’t want to miss sea-kayaking along the fjord, where there’s a good chance you’ll come face-to-face with the resident beluga whales.

View of the Montreal skyline at sunset

PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Montreal, Quebec
This city of 1.7 million is also celebrating an important milestone—375 years to be exact. Montrealers love their entertainment, and families do well catching oodles of free shows (think tightrope walkers and aerialists) during July’s Cirque Festival. Kids enjoy the thrill of being grossed out by all the creepy crawlies inside the Montreal Insectarium, and the nearby Biodome replicates the four ecosystems found in the Americas. For a rip-roaring good time, hop on board Saute Mouton. You’ll get drenched on this jet boating experience that leapfrogs over whitecaps in the St. Lawrence, but the littles love it.

Beluga whale in the waters near Tadoussac, QC

PHOTO: JEAN-PIERRE SYLVESTRE

Tadoussac, Quebec
We all know about the trade between the First Nations and European explorers, but few realize that this is where it all began. Considered one of the prettiest villages in Quebec, Tadoussac is the oldest European settlement in the province, established eight years before Quebec City. Check out Tadoussac Trading Post, one of oldest First Nations’ trading and archeological sites in Canada, before taking advantage of all the children’s programming at Hotel Tadoussac. The town is a prime spot for whale watching, so hop aboard a Zodiak to view some of the 13 species that call the St. Lawrence home.

Family takes pictures with the guards in Fredericton, NB

PHOTO: FREDERICTON TOURISM

Fredericton, New Brunswick
With a good mix of city and country pleasures, Atlantic Canada’s riverfront capital is an affordable escape (especially for seafood lovers). Science East and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery are tops for city slickers, while the Mactaquac Beaver Ponds offer accessible hiking and nature viewing just outside the city. The bombastic beats belted out during summer’s daily Changing of the Guard Ceremony provide a historical touch without being boring. And you can keep the patriotism running high after Canada Day by watching the pageantry of the The RCMP Musical Ride.

Shop fronts along a street in St. Andrews, NB

PHOTO: TOURISM NEW BRUNSWICK

St. Andrews, New Brunswick
Your quintessential seaside resort town, St. Andrews also sports one of the most fantastic outdoor playgrounds in the country. Engage the senses with a refreshing stroll through Kingsbrae Garden, a lush 27-acre paradise where children can plant their own flowers and play inside fancy playhouses. It’s worth the splurge to stay at The Algonquin Resort. Despite the external grandeur, it’s remarkably family-friendly, with a three-storey indoor water slide, 24-hour sundry shop and coin-operated washing machines. Experience a maritime kitchen party by heading into the Red Herring Pub, where children are welcome until 9 p.m.

Waterfront view of Lunenburg Nova Scotia in the fall

PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
A contender for the prettiest town in the maritimes, Lunenburg is perhaps best known for building and launching Bluenose, Nova Scotia’s famous racing schooner. You can climb aboard Bluenose II in the harbour, or view it from The South Shore Fish Shack, while sampling fish and chips and (for the more adventurous) cod tongues. At the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, families can chat up a real seafaring ship captain and learn how to shuck a scallop. Those not squeamish should plunge their hands into the touch tank to get a closer feel for creatures of the sea.

Families march through Avonlea Village

PHOTO: JODY ROBBINS

Cavendish, PEI
The ultimate family playground, not only is Cavendish the home of Anne of Green Gables, but also four world-class golf courses. Both Avonlea Village and Green Gables Heritage Place (where the Haunted Woods and Lover’s Lane really exist!) are worthy stops for Anne fans. Kids won’t mind being stuck with dinner duty when they’re in charge of digging for it. Learn the finer points of clamming with Tranquility Cove Adventures, and you’ll be rewarded with a beach boil-up afterwards. Affordable lobster suppers can be found at community centers and churches throughout the region, but you can guarantee yours at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.

Petty Harbour in St. John's, NL

PHOTO: JODY ROBBINS

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
With their unique time zone set 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Daylight Time, your daybegins before the rest of North America. Setting time for centuries, the firing of the Noon Day Gun (a real cannon) at Signal Hill keeps busy families on schedule. Just outside the city, Cape Spear Lighthouse is a must-visit spot, as is the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium, one of the few catch-and-release aquariums in the country. In the capital, stroll along Jellybean Row, admiring the candy-coloured Victorian homes as you lick an ice cream from Moo Moo’s. Lovely green spaces with outdoor pools can be found at both Bowring and Bannerman Park.

External view of a replica Viking dwelling at L' anse aux Meadows, Norstead Village, in Newfoundland, Canada

PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Viking Trail, Newfoundland and Labrador
Way before John Cabot sailed in Canada, Vikings recorded landfalls in Western Newfoundland. Journey along the Viking Trail, where icebergs float off the coast and families step back in time, learning to live like these fierce Norse adventurers. You’ll want to spend significant time in Gros Morne National Park, especially hiking around the Tablelands Trail. The rust-coloured rocks make it seem as though you’re walking on Mars. The big draw is L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. At this Viking village, children gather round the fire listening to Viking sagas and play warrior inside reconstructed sod huts.

Yukon
If your family likes wide-open spaces and deep forests populated by wildlife, the Land of the Midnight Sun is definitely for you. Long hours of daylight make summer stretch that much further. Take advantage of longer days by starting hikes such as the Spruce Beetle Trail mid to late afternoon. Got a Frozen fan on your hands? Over half the landscape in Kluane National Park and Reserve is permanently draped in snow and ice. Warm up with a dip in the thermal, mineral-rich waters of Takhini Hot Pools, an odourless hot spring with pristine camping spots nearby that offer spectacular views of the Northern Lights.

Read more:
Road trip Canada: Best routes for families
Why travelling with your kids is worth it
First-aid kit essentials for family travel

Ontario to ban ‘scalper bots’ in proposed ticket sale reforms

JESSICA CROSS SMITH, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 27th, 2017

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Beyonce and Jay Z tickets are offered for sale through StubHub in Chicago, Ill., on July 23, 2014. GETTY IMAGES/Scott Olson
Ontario is promising to clamp down on online ticket scalping, a source of frustration and anger for fans who have often been unable to secure tickets to their favourite sport or music events.

The Liberal government said Monday it will introduce new legislation this fall that will make automated ticket-buying “bots” illegal. It would also cap markups on resold tickets at 50 per cent of their face value.

Under the proposed law, ticket resellers would have to disclose more information, including the face value of tickets and any surcharges.

The so-called “scalper bots” – software programs designed to purchase online a large number of tickets for a concert, show, or other event, enabling the person running the software to sell those tickets at a profit – made headlines last year when many Tragically Hip fans were unable to buy tickets to the band’s farewell tour.

“By the time any real fan is able to log on and search for tickets the best seats are gone,” said Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s attorney general, as he made the announcement.

“Many events sell out completely in minutes, even seconds, and many of these tickets end up on resale sites for huge mark ups, of course.”

Naqvi said the government would also make it illegal to sell tickets purchased with bots and to “facilitate” the resale of those tickets.

He has acknowledged; however, that enforcing a ban on scalper bots, which are not unique to Ontario, would be difficult.

Naqvi said major ticket sellers, including Ticketmaster, have told the government that they already employ technology to combat bots, which has been “fairly successful,” but they lack sufficient resources.

As a result, the government plans to give the industry and fans the right to sue those who use bots or facilitate the reselling of those tickets. Once it passed, the law would apply to tickets for events that take place in Ontario, regardless of where the ticket seller and buyer are based, Naqvi said.

The changes are based on public feedback gathered through a survey conducted earlier this year, he said.

“Between bots, lack of transparency and unfair prices on resale sites, there is a pervasive sentiment that the system is rigged.”


Related stories:

Ontario to announce ticket sale reforms; public wants ‘scalper bots’ banned

Ticketmaster Canada vows to fight bots so fans can snag hot tickets

Ontario wants public feedback on online ticket sales, ‘scalper bots’

Computer ‘scalper bots’ to be outlawed in Ontario

Ontario to call public inquiry into Elizabeth Wettlaufer nursing home murders

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 27th, 2017

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted by police from the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont, Monday, June 26, 2017. Wettlaufer, a former Ontario nurse who murdered eight seniors in her care, was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted by police from the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont, Monday, June 26, 2017. Wettlaufer, a former Ontario nurse who murdered eight seniors in her care, was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
The case of a nurse who murdered eight seniors in long-term care homes in Ontario will be examined in a public inquiry.

The Ontario government announced Monday it is moving to appoint a commissioner to lead a public inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer pleaded guilty last month to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. She was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi offered condolences on behalf of the provincial government to Wettlaufer’s victims.

The ministers say they want to assure the public that, despite Wettlaufer’s crimes, the 78,000 residents of Ontario’s publicly funded long-term care homes are safe.

At the same time, they said the inquiry process is meant to answer questions so the government can ensure a similar tragedy does not happen again.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario applauded the government’s announcement Monday, saying it had been demanding an inquiry into the case since Wettlaufer pleaded guilty earlier this month.

“During this immensely difficult time, I commend the government for having the courage to put these events under the microscope,” said association CEO Doris Grinspun. “The inquiry will help us learn how this tragedy happened, and see if there were any cracks in the system we can address to prevent this from happening ever again.”

Advocacy groups CARP and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly said the Wettlaufer case has “severely shaken” people’s confidence in long-term care homes in Ontario.

“We eagerly await the terms of the inquiry to ensure that its scope is sufficient to address the actions, responsibilities and duties of the many institutions and individuals who failed to prevent or put a timely stop to Wettlaufer’s crimes …” the two groups said in a statement.

“This is a critical first step to restoring trust in our long-term health-care system.”

The government is finalizing the details of the inquiry and will make them available to the public once they have been approved by cabinet.

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