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Man accused of using fake ID to get Fort McMurray wildfire funds

CALGARY – Two people are facing charges after using fake identification to get emergency money meant for Fort McMurray fire evacuees.

Calgary police Const. Melissa van Waes says a 29-year-old man went to a centre set up by the Alberta government to give debit cards to people who had to flee their homes in northeastern Alberta due to a massive forest fire earlier this month.

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    READ MORE: Phased re-entry into Fort McMurray after wildfire to begin June 1

    The officer says a Service Alberta worker noticed something when the man produced identification and it turned out it was fake. It was also discovered that the man had two other debit cards from another centre.

    Watch below: Between the province and the Red Cross, Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees have received more than $116 million in financial aid along with donated food and clothing. Those services are available to all evacuees in need but as Sarah Kraus reports, not everyone is playing by the rules.

    Edmonton police have also charged a woman with two counts of fraud for using fake documents to obtain relief funds.

    The Red Cross is seeing isolated incidents in relation to the money it is handing out to evacuees, too.

    Red Cross Alberta’s vice president, Jen McManus, said that is typical of humanitarian responses.

    “Very few, between one to two per cent of individuals, will ask for assistance who aren’t actually directly impacted by an event such as this.”

    READ MORE: Man in Claresholm allegedly pretends to be Fort McMurray evacuee 

    “There have been reports of people attempting to acquire a second set of debit cards or additional funding from the Red Cross,” Shane Schreiber, managing director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said Friday. “The RCMP and city police are actively investigating those cases.

    “We’ve got additional security around those debit card sites to deter that kind of behaviour.”

    Schreiber said these types of incidents are rare.

    “In general, it’s an extremely small number. We’ve had a handful of reports of this activity going on and, where we get the reports, I know the police are extremely proactive in following up.”

    Watch Below: Latest B.C. and Fort McMurray wildfire updates

    Debit cards for evacuees are loaded with $1,250 for an adult and $500 per child.

    Van Waes says police are working with Service Alberta to determine whether the funds have been accessed.

    Charges of fraud under $5,000 and uttering a forged document are pending against the man.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray residents forced out by wildfire long for the comforts of home

    The officer says the man has no fixed address.

    The Alberta government said as of Thursday, more than 35,000 debit cards totalling $75 million had been distributed.

    More than 80,000 residents fled Fort McMurray on May 3 when the fire started burning homes on the edges of the city. Officials have said more than 2,400 buildings were lost but that firefighters managed to save almost 90 per cent of the oilsands capital.

    With files from Global News, CFFR

Justice delayed: 3 Alberta sex assault cases rescheduled for 2017 due to judge shortage

Three sexual assault cases have been delayed 10 months because there aren’t enough judges on Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

“There was no judge available to hear them,” Court of Queen’s Bench spokesperson Michelle Somers said Monday. The three cases, set to be heard this week, have been rescheduled–two in February 2017 and one in March 2017.

“We have done all we could” to coordinate cases, Somers said in a Tuesday email.

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  • Court doc says shortage leaves Alberta judges ‘without requisite time’ for cases

    “The rest is up to the federal government.”

    READ MORE: Court doc says shortage leaves Alberta judges ‘without requisite time’ for cases

    This isn’t a new problem: Alberta’s politicians, lawyers and justices have been calling on the federal government to remedy a years-long judge shortage that’s only worsened.

    There are 59 justices sitting on the Court of Queen’s Bench, but there should be 65: six positions are vacant.

    The Court of Appeal is missing almost 30 per cent of its judges – there are only 10 sitting; there should be 14. Alberta has fewer judges per capita than any other province.

    “It’s very concerning when any case is delayed, particularly serious criminal matters,” reads a Thursday statement from Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley.

    “The urgency of this situation is clear, we want to see these vacancies filled as soon as possible.”

    Somers doesn’t have statistics on how many cases have had to be rescheduled because of a provincial judge shortage.

    She said the Court of Queen’s Bench has never had to adjourn a sexual assault trial before.

    “It is an accelerating situation,” she wrote in an email to Global News. “Our lead times keep getting longer, which means because the cases keep coming in at the same rate and we don’t have enough judges to hear them, we have to schedule further and further out in time.”

    She said court has been working with the federal government, and submitted “business cases with statistics like population increases and increases in number and complexity of cases.”

    Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench has only gained two judicial positions in the past 20 years, even as the province’s population doubled.

    The province’s business case for more judges, submitted in January, says the Court of Queen’s bench is “facing a crisis,” getting new judges added decades too late. The court has cut its dispute resolution services but that isn’t helping the backlog.

    The federal government acknowledges the concerns and said this week it is “moving forward on measures that will facilitate appointments to fill these highly pressing vacancies as soon as possible.”

    “We have also committed to a review of the entire judicial appointments process, based on the principles of openness, transparency, merit, and diversity,” a spokesperson for federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in an emailed statement Monday.

    “This review will achieve a greater degree of diversity within the Canadian judiciary, so that it will truly reflect the face of Canada.”

    Global News asked the federal government why this review is taking place and how long it will take. We were sent an identical statement from a different spokesperson.

    Ganley said she’s spoken with federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and expects the feds to appoint new judges while it conducts its review.

    The Court of Queen’s Bench doesn’t know much about the review, either, Somers said.

    “We are told they wish to increase the diversity of appointments to the courts, and to make the process more open,” she wrote.

    “In the meantime, we have been waiting for appointments to fill our six vacancies, some for as long as two years.”

Vancouver’s outdoor pools and beaches open for the summer this weekend

Vancouver’s outdoor pools and beaches will officially make their debut for the summer season this Victoria Day long weekend.

Lifeguards and Park Rangers will be on deck beginning Saturday, May 21 at the heated outdoor pools at Kits Beach, Second Beach in Stanley Park, New Brighton Park in East Vancouver, as well as Hillcrest Centre’s outdoor pool.

Kerrisdale’s Maple Grove Pool will open Saturday, June 18.

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Eleven beaches around Vancouver will also be patrolled by rangers and lifeguards beginning this weekend, daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. until Labour Day (closing at 9 p.m. from mid-June to mid-August).

“Outdoor pools are cherished by residents. The Park Board is soon beginning the most ambitious review of aquatic services in the last 15 years,” said Vancouver Park Board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung. “This is a reflection of the priority this Board places on expanding pool facilities for our residents.”

Energy conservation projects are still underway at Kitsilano Beach pool and Second Beach pool. This is the second year windbreaks are being installed at the seaside facilities to help reduce heat-loss and greenhouse gas emissions. The Park Board reports last year’s windbreaks lowered greenhouse gas emissions by 220 metric tonnes, equal to removing 46 cars from the road.

Kids can also make use of the city’s supply of water parks, which will be fully operational beginning this weekend, except for the Lumberman’s Arch park opening in June due to repairs.

But with the expected rise in park use, the City wants to remind visitors that all beaches and parks are smoke-free and fire-free. Dogs are also not permitted on beaches and must be leashed in all parks, except designated off-leash areas.

Mother worries about how Preeceville, Sask. ER shutdown may affect her son

REGINA – A Preeceville, Sask. family was at the legislature on Thursday to help raise concerns about the upcoming suspension of emergency room and acute services at the local hospital.

On Wednesday, the Sun Rise Health Region announced the temporary shutdown, which starts on June 1, citing “lack of physician coverage.”

READ MORE: ER services to be suspended in Preeceville, Sask.

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Stacey Strykowski said her six year-old son Jackson has a severe peanut allergy. He has two EpiPens on him at all times but needs emergency treatment within 20 minutes of using the EpiPen to receive additional steroid treatments.

Rural and Remote Health Minister Greg Ottenbreit says while the shutdown is unfortunate, Preeceville still has a number of nurse practitioners, two advanced care paramedics, and access to STARS Air Ambulance.

“I was really disappointed because we only have one advanced care paramedic. The other one right now is on maternity leave,” Strykowski said in regard to Ottenbreit’s comments.

“So just like they say a doctor can’t work 24/7, he can’t work 24/7, and we only have two ambulances, so if one’s out on a transfer to another emergency, how are we going to get our child the care he needs, and all the other kids.”

STARS estimates the average flight to Preeceville is 80 minutes from Regina or Saskatoon, since it intersects their coverage zones.

Ottenbreit says staffing challenges at rural hospitals are not just an issue in Preeceville, but across the province. All they can do is keep recruiting.

“We continue to recruit, we have another new doctor coming in October,” he explained.

“We can’t just pull them off shelves. It takes a while to get them trained, to match them to the proper community.

Ottenbreit went on to say they can’t force physicians to stay in a community.

“We have communities offering housing, and these types of things, and we still face these challenges,” he said.

The Rural Health Minister added that in the past “five or six years” Preeceville has received 5 new doctors, but four have left.

Strykowski says she and her family are tired of being told to wait for the emergency room to reopen.

“We need to be somewhere where there’s a hospital. So that means leaving our school, our jobs, and our family,” she said with tears running down her cheeks.

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Atomic bomb survivors want Obama to apologize during visit to Hiroshima

TOKYO – A group representing Japanese survivors of U.S. atomic bombings urged President Barack Obama to hear their stories and apologize when he visits Hiroshima.

Two leaders of the Tokyo-based nationwide group told a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday that many survivors still want an apology though they have long avoided an outright demand for one out of fear that it would be counterproductive.

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    Toshiki Fujimori, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, said he found it awkward to hear local and central government officials going over their heads to say they were not asking for an apology.

    “I suspect there was a pressure (not to seek an apology) to create an atmosphere that would make it easier for Obama to visit Hiroshima,” Fujimori said. “But many of the survivors don’t think they can do without an apology at all.”

    He said the survivors want Obama to know that their suffering is not limited to immediate damage and visible, physical scars. They also suffered discrimination at work, in marriage and in other parts of their lives, by their own people in Japan, he said.

    READ MORE: Japanese don’t expect apology from Obama during visit to Hiroshima

    U.S. atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the World War II left killed more than 200,000 people and nearly destroyed the cities.

    Obama will visit Hiroshima on May 27 after the Group of Seven summit in central Japan, becoming the first serving American president to do so.

    Washington said he won’t apologize and a meeting with survivors is unlikely. Japan’s government had also told U.S. officials that it is not expecting an apology, according to Japanese and American officials.

    That apparently prompted the survivors to remind him of their true feelings and expectations for his commitment to a nuclear-free world.

    Terumi Tanaka, a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing who serves Secretary-General of Japan Confederation of A and H Bomb Sufferers Organizations, said he only wished Obama to offer an apology for the survivors for what his wartime government had done to them.

    “Families of the victims, those who lost their children. They deserve an apology and I really hope Mr. Obama will at least apologize to them,” he said.