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Parental action, water safety classes key at preventing drownings: expert

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jul 4th, 2018

A recent spate of drowning incidents in Ontario and Quebec has led to renewed calls for more vigilance around water and making swimming lessons part of the school curriculum.

The issue was top of mind Tuesday following the death of a six-year-old who was pulled from a Montreal pool. A lifeguard had been on duty and several other people were swimming nearby when the incident happened Monday, officials said.

Also Monday, a 13-year-old girl was pulled from a small lake at a campground in southwestern Ontario and later died in hospital. And last week, a five-year-old girl and her mother drowned in an unsupervised pool at a resort west of Collingwood, Ont.

Lifeguards are a great preventative measure, said Barbara Byers, of the Lifesaving Society, a charity devoted to preventing drownings and water-related injuries.

“If they’re guarding at a pool and they see a non-swimmer, they’ll make sure the non-swimmer stays in the shallow area, they’ll make sure they stay away from the drop-off, they’ll make sure they have a parent within arm’s reach.”

Less than one per cent of drownings in Ontario and Quebec occur in “lifeguard-supervised” environments, said Byers.

But parents and guardians should always keep a close eye on their children when they’re in the water, she suggested.

“We always tell parents that lifeguards aren’t babysitters.”

Teaching kids to swim is among the best ways to prevent drownings, Byers added.

“Swimming requires instruction,” she said. “We’re not fish. We don’t just have the ability to learn how to swim on our own.”

“If we can ensure that all kids learn these skills during school time, then we can provide them with that training, irrespective of whether the parents are aware of the need for the children to learn how to swim,” Byers said.

She noted that her organization helps run a grant program in Ontario that allows school boards to teach swimming as part of their curriculums, but it’s not mandatory for school boards across the province.

A compulsory water safety program for Grade 4 students was piloted in Winnipeg from January to June this year after two students drowned during summer break in 2016, a spokeswoman for the city’s school division said.

Radean Carter said the program – which teaches kids how to forward roll into the water, tread water for a minute and swim 50 metres without stopping – has since been made permanent.

Similar programs are in place in several other countries, including the U.K., where all students are taught to swim a distance of 25 metres “competently, confidently and proficiently” and “perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations.”

Students are also taught water safety in the Australian state of Victoria.

Home under construction burns to the ground in Mississauga

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Jul 3rd, 2018

A home in Mississauga has burnt to the ground after a massive fire broke out Tuesday morning.

Fire crews were called to Watersedge Road near Lakeshore Road West and Southdown Road around 4:15 a.m. where they found the house fully engulfed in flames.

Fire officials said the house was under construction and was not occupied.

The neighbouring homes on both sides received extensive damage.

Residents of those homes were already outside when fire officials arrived on scene. No injuries were reported.

It’s estimated that more than $500,000 in damage was done to the home under construction.

Officials said the home was being rebuilt after a previous fire just over two years ago.

The Ontario Fire Marshal will be notified.

Extreme heat to stick around GTA for most of the week

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Jul 3rd, 2018

The sizzling temperatures over the long weekend are expected to continue through much of the work week, as the humidex once again soars to the 40 mark.

Last week, Environment Canada issued a heat warning for the GTA, calling it the “most significant heat event in the past few years.”

Although the region will get some relief from the humidity on Tuesday, it will still be another hot day with a high of 30 C but feeling more like 35 C with the humidity.

The national weather agency says humidex values will climb back up to 40 C or higher on Wednesday and Thursday.

The overnight lows are expected to be in the low 20s but with the humidity sticking around, there won’t be much relief from the heat.

The sticky humid air mass is expected to leave the region by Friday, which will lead to more comfortable temperatures on that day and into the weekend.

Missing boys and their coach found alive in Thailand cave

TASSANEE VEJPONGSA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 3rd, 2018

MAE SAI, Thailand — Rescuers found all 12 boys and their soccer coach alive deep inside a partially flooded cave in northern Thailand late Monday, more than a week after they disappeared and touched off a desperate search that drew international help and captivated the nation.

Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said the 13 were in the process of being rescued, but he cautioned that they were not out of danger yet.

“We found them safe. But the operation isn’t over,” he said in comments broadcast nationwide, referring to the complicated process of extricating them.

Family members of the missing hugged each other as they cheered the news.

Aisha Wiboonrungrueng, a mother of one of the missing, 11-year-old Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, smiled and hugged her family. She said she would cook her son a Thai fried omelet, his favourite food, when he returns home.

Rescue divers had spent much of Monday making preparations for a final push to locate the lost soccer players, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach. They disappeared when flooding trapped them after entering the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 23.

Narongsak said the divers located the missing about 300-400 metres (yards) past a section of the cave that was on higher ground and was thought to be where the team members and their coach may have taken shelter.

“When the medics have evaluated the kids to see if their health is in good condition, we will care for them until they have enough strength to move by themselves, and then we will evaluate the situation on bringing them out again later,” Narongsak said.

Anmar Mirza, a leading American cave rescue expert, said many challenges remain for the rescuers. He said the primary decision is whether to try to evacuate the boys and their coach or to supply them in place.

“Supplying them on site may face challenges depending on how difficult the dives are,” Mirza, co-ordinator of the U.S. National Cave Rescue Commission, said in an email. “Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy. That also begets the question: If the dives are difficult then supply will be difficult, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater.”

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked the international experts and rescuers who helped locate the missing for their “tremendous efforts.”

“The Royal Thai Government and the Thai people are grateful for this support and co-operation, and we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery,” Prayuth’s office said in a statement.

Thai navy SEAL divers and rescue workers from other countries had made initial progress through a narrow passageway early Monday after passing through a key chamber on Sunday whose high, murky waters had previously blocked their progress.

Gov. Narongsak had said earlier that the passageway goes upward in some places and downward in others and is extremely narrow, making it difficult for divers and their gear to fit through.

Divers have been stymied repeatedly by rising water that forced them to withdraw for safety reasons. When water levels fell Sunday, the divers went forward with a more methodical approach, deploying a rope line and extra oxygen supplies along the way.

The SEALs’ Facebook page said that since Sunday night, the divers had reached a bend where the kilometre-long (half-mile-long) passage splits in two directions. The divers were aiming for a sandy chamber on higher ground in the cave.

Narongsak explained early Monday that fixing rope lines and deploying oxygen tanks along their route will allow the divers to operate.

In addition to the divers, teams have been working to pump out water as well as divert groundwater. Other efforts have focused on finding shafts on the mountainside that might serve as a back door to the blocked-off areas.

Teams have been combing the mountainside looking for fissure that might lead to such shafts. Several have been found and explorers have been able to descend into some.

Experts in cave rescues from around the world had gathered at the site. An official Australian group has followed a U.S. military team, British cave experts, Chinese lifesaving responders and several other volunteer groups from various countries.

“These are challenging conditions and there’s a lot of consideration for safety as well as, the environment outside is contributing to the environment inside,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jessica Tait, part of a 30-member U.S. military team assisting in the search operation, referring to the rain that has been flooding the cave. “So I’d say, yeah, it’s an accurate statement that it’s challenging.”

Facebook to fact-check Canadian news stories and reduce spread of false articles

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jun 28th, 2018

Facebook Canada will launch a third-party, fact-checking program to root out fake news and provide users with more context on articles they read on the platform.

The program is a collaboration with newswire service Agence France-Presse, who will have fact-checkers in Canada to review stories from local news outlets and rate their accuracy.

Content the fact-checkers deem to be false or a mixture of accurate and inaccurate will appear lower in news feeds and be accompanied with related, true articles from fact-checkers.

Pages that repeatedly share fake news will see their ability to monetize and advertise removed after several offences.

Publishers responsible for false stories will have the chance to dispute any inaccurate ratings they receive and will be able to issue corrections.

Facebook has long been the subject of complaints around fake news, which some say the platform has allowed to spread.

EXCLUSIVE: Many Canadians not ready for legalized pot, poll finds

News Staff | posted Thursday, Jun 28th, 2018

Although Ottawa has delayed legalizing recreational marijuana by a month, more than half of Canadians still think it’s all happening too fast, according to an exclusive poll for CityNews by Dart Insight.

Last week, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Cannabis Act would go into effect on Oct. 17, a full 55 per cent of Canadians polled said they wanted the date pushed back by up to a year.

In fact, three provinces — including Quebec, where the desire for a delay is highest — asked for more time to figure out how to regulate the production, distribution and consumption of pot.

Members of the Senate’s Aboriginal people’s committee had also proposed a delay as they were particularly concerned about the risks to Indigenous communities already struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, mental health issues and a suicide epidemic.

But, the government promised the committee more funding for services, help with the licensing process and full reports to Parliament in the fall and within 12 months.

Still, 53 per cent of those polled are worried marijuana will have a negative effect on their community. Six in 10 don’t believe their municipal police force is ready for the change, and 55 per cent don’t believe their province has plans to deal with impaired driving.

Manitoba’s justice minister Heather Stefanson has said she’s concerned reliable roadside testing devices won’t be available by Oct. 17.

The survey found only one in five (21 per cent) Canadians are likely to use marijuana when it’s legal — nine per cent are more likely to do so — and many are concerned about the health effects.

Half are concerned about addiction for underage kids, and seven in 10 believe adults with children should be banned from smoking pot in their home.

Most — 73 per cent — want pot regulated the same as cigarettes.

Although provinces are creating their own distribution channels, seven in 10 Canadians are concerned a black market will continue for lower-priced pot.

And while six in 10 Canadians are cynical about the Liberal government’s motives for legalizing pot, two-thirds won’t vote them out in the next federal election because of it.

However, for at least one-third (35 per cent), marijuana legalization could affect how they vote.

“It may well be that for many who were going to vote against the Liberals already it just adds one more log on the fire,” Dart Insight said.

The survey was conducted between June 8 and 13 among 2,666 randomly-selected Canadian adults who are members of an online panel. It’s accurate to within +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Last day of school comes as GTA gets ready for intense heat

News Staff | posted Thursday, Jun 28th, 2018

Thousands of excited elementary school children are counting down the hours Thursday, on the last day of school.

There will be many happy faces as students burst through the school doors later this afternoon and begin their summer vacation.

And the last day of school comes as the GTA gets ready for the intense heat, which is expected to roll into the region by Friday.

Toronto and the GTA remain under a special weather statement, calling for daytime highs in the mid-30s. On Friday, the humidex will be in the high 30s, but it will feel like the mid-40s with the humidity starting Saturday.

Environment Canada said heat warnings are likely to be issued on Thursday afternoon.

The high humidity is expected to stretch past the Canada Day long weekend.

As the school bell rings for the last time of the year, city council is thinking of new ways to make school zones safer.

More speed bumps, speed signs, and additional safety indicators are on their way to a school zone near you. Council has approved a $13-million additional investment into its Vision Zero Plan, which aims to reduce the number of fatalities on our streets to zero.

Tiny tabby thrown out of vehicle, OPP investigating

Dilshad Burman | posted Thursday, Jun 28th, 2018

The OPP is investigating after a kitten was allegedly thrown out of the window of a vehicle in Simcoe, Ont.

Police say they received a call about the incident from a concerned driver around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

They say an investigation revealed that a small orange kitten was thrown from a vehicle while it was travelling westbound on Queensway West between Elizabeth Road and North Main Street. The vehicle then continued south on Queen Street.

A concerned driver saw the feline being flung and stopped her vehicle. She found the kitten and took it to a local veterinarian.

The kitten was determined to be about six to eight weeks old and was injured in the incident. The driver has since taken the kitten home and police say it is likely she will adopt the tiny tabby.

Police say the vehicle involved was an older model green coloured vehicle. They have the license plate number and police will be following up with the owner.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact police

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