Star witness takes the stand
BRAMPTON, Ont. — A police agent paid $4.1 million to infiltrate the so-called Toronto 18 terror group is portraying accused bomb plotter Shareef Abdelhaleem as an “aggressive” person.
Police agent Shaher Elsohemy told court Monday that the two were friends until Abdelhaleem, an alleged member of the so-called Toronto 18 terror group, went to police after he suspected Elsohemy’s brother of shattering the windshield of his BMW.
“He was pretty aggressive in describing what he would do,” Elsohemy testified.
“At that time I had to end the whole (friendship) because the threats were increasing and it made no sense to me whatsoever.”
Elsohemy is the Crown’s star witness, a paid police agent who posed as a co-conspirator. The RCMP paid him more than $4 million, an amount Abdelhaleem’s lawyer indicated he may raise in court.
“A $4.1-million payoff for this is pretty steep,” William Naylor said outside court.
“It’s unprecedented in Canada as far as I understand.”
Naylor suggested Elsohemy was more interested in the money than in seeking out the truth.
Abdelhaleem, 34, the first adult to stand trial charged with terrorism offences in the Toronto 18 case, pleaded not guilty to participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion.
He and 17 others were arrested in 2006 for allegedly plotting to detonate bombs at key targets around Ontario.
Of the 18 people who were charged four have pleaded guilty, a youth was found guilty, seven had their charges dropped or stayed and five others still face a trial in March.
Abdelhaleem has elected to be tried by a judge alone and not a jury.
He has been in custody since his June 2006 arrest.
Ignatieff says no to prorogation
HALIFAX — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he would never prorogue Parliament to avoid controversy if he became prime minister.
Ignatieff kicked off a cross-country speaking tour in Halifax on Monday by telling reporters that while prorogation is a legitimate constitutional power, using it to avoid “tight spots” is unacceptable.
“To use it every time you’re in a tight spot seems to me is a flagrant abuse of a constitutional power and that’s why Canadians are angry about it,” said Ignatieff. “So therefore, I take from this a commitment not to do the same thing, period.”
Meanwhile, Ignatieff said his party’s new television attack ads which began airing Monday were simply an attempt to ask the questions Canadians want answered.
He said the public wants to know why Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose to shut down Parliament rather than answer tough questions on issues such as Canada’s handling of Afghan detainees and the environment.
The ads feature dramatic music and a picture of a fenced off Parliament Hill with a sign reading, “Closed out of self-interest.”
When asked by reporters whether he was taking a page out of the Conservative playbook, Ignatieff said he wasn’t responsible for composing the music or doing the voiceovers.
“The issue here is fundamental to our democracy. Does the prime minister control Parliament or is the prime minister accountable to Parliament?” he asked. “Our view very strongly is that the prime minister is accountable to Parliament and for that to happen Parliament has to sit.”
Ignatieff said the Liberals intend to be back in Ottawa to go to work Jan. 25 despite the fact the prorogation by the Conservatives means the House of Commons won’t be recalled until March 3.
Moose cull planned in two parks
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — There are too many moose in Newfoundland’s two national parks and a cull is needed because the big animals are eating too many young trees, Parks Canada says.
The federal agency says plans for the province’s first cull of moose inside Gros Morne National Park and Terra Nova National Park will be drafted in the spring.
There are about 150,000 moose on the island of Newfoundland, where moose sightings are a common occurrence.
In Gros Morne, on the west side of the island, there are about 4,500 to 5,000 moose, said Peter Deering, the manager of resource management at the park.
A cull of about 3,500 to 4,000 would be needed in Gros Morne to keep the moose population under control, Deering said.
“High populations of moose are consuming the forest faster than it can grow,” Deering said.
A much smaller cull of about 20 to 30 would be needed in Terra Nova, where there are about 120 to 150 moose, he said.
Throughout the island, the animals are so plentiful they have been known to occasionally wander through the streets of downtown St. John’s.
The island’s moose are believed to be descended from only four animals that were introduced to the western side of island in 1904 to supplement the dwindling caribou herd.
Today, the density of the population in some areas is the highest in the world.
Lucy Stoyles, a city councillor in Mount Pearl, says she would like to see the cull extended, mainly because collisions with moose represent a hazard.
“I think that it’s great they’re doing that cull,” she said. “But they have to look at more than just the parks.”
There were 700 moose-vehicle collisions last year in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Gros Morne alone, there were 311 collisions between 199103.
On average, two people are killed every year in moose-vehicle crashes.