Canada briefs – August 31

It doesn’t have quite the same shock value as a polar bear appearing on the tropical island in the TV show “Lost.”

Polar bear spotted in Manitoba forest

SHAMATTAWA, Man. — It doesn’t have quite the same shock value as a polar bear appearing on the tropical island in the TV show “Lost.”

But a sighting of one of the white creatures amidst the relative greenery of Shamattawa, Man., has caught everyone in the community off guard.

The bear appeared on the shore of God’s River Sunday evening on the edge of Shamattawa, a First Nations community 700 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg and accessible only by airplane or ice roads in the winter.

The area is well south of the tree line, and about 150 kilometres from the shore of Hudson Bay, where the bears normally live. The bear’s white coat stood in sharp contrast to the green brush around it.

“This is the first time anyone in the area remembers seeing a polar bear,” RCMP Sgt. Noel Allard said Monday.

“As I was taking photos … (residents) were all cheering on the shoreline and trying to keep in line with the polar bear as it was swimming across on the other side.”

A senior wildlife official was not shocked by the unusual sighting, and said the bear was probably a young male with a bit of teenage wanderlust.

“They do a lot of wandering, those type of bears at that type of age class, and sometimes they get themselves into trouble,” said Daryll Hedman, a regional wildlife manager with the Manitoba government based in Thompson, Man.

“I’m guessing that that fellow might have ventured right up the Hayes (River) and then the God’s River, right into the community.”

The bear wandered off by sundown and no one was injured. Hedman predicts the bear will eventually make its way back to Hudson Bay over the next month or so, and wait for the bay to freeze up so it can start hunting seals on the ice.

There are about 109 polar bears this year in the area between York Factory, Man., where this bear is believed to have started his journey, and the Ontario boundary, Hedman said. Many more are further north, near Churchill, Man., and into Nunavut.


Government should pay for smoking-cessation products: journal

TORONTO — The Canadian Medical Association Journal says provinces and territories should cover the cost of smoking-cessation programs and products to help tobacco users butt out.

An editorial in the journal says reducing smoking rates could save hundreds of thousands of lives while slashing tobacco-related health-care costs.

The authors say studies have shown that treatments plus counselling increase the likelihood of a person quitting and still abstaining one year later.

Yet only Quebec provides public funding for all smoking-cessation therapies, while the Yukon and Prince Edward Island reimburse for at least one product each.


Mayor promises truth will come out about reports of sex in RCMP cell

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — A report that two female prisoners had sex in an RCMP cell while jail staff watched via a video camera has people talking in this Interior B.C. city, including the mayor, who says the public will eventually be told what really happened.

Mayor Peter Milobar is asking people to be patient and not pass judgment on those involved until all the details are known.

Milobar said he’s unable to confirm reports that two women, one of whom might be HIV positive, were placed in the same cell Aug. 18 and began having sex.

It’s been reported that RCMP and civilian jail staff watched the encounter on a video monitor for several minutes and did nothing to stop it.

Milobar said it would be wrong to speculate on bits and pieces of information before everyone involved knows what happened. “I would prefer to make sure we have that complete package (of information) for the fairness of everybody involved and make sure the full investigation has run its course,” he said.


LaFortune leaves hospital

VICTORIA — A man who was allegedly beaten and starved for more than a year has been reunited with relatives in British Columbia.

Dustin LaFortune arrived at the Victoria airport Monday afternoon after being released from hospital in Regina.

He had been dropped off there several months ago, weighing only 87 pounds and beaten nearly beyond recognition.

It took more than a month of medical treatment before police investigators could even speak to him.

LaFortune’s former roommate, Dustin Paxton, 30, faces numerous charges including aggravated assault, forcible confinement and breach of probation.

He was arrested in Edmonton this month after a Canada-wide warrant was issued.

“I’m feeling good,” said LaFortune, 26, who was embraced by family members in the airport. “I’m so excited.”

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