Canada briefs – September 7

Hurricane Earl was long gone, but a few hundred households in Nova Scotia were still waiting for their lights to come on as the long weekend came to an end.

Lights back on in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX — Hurricane Earl was long gone, but a few hundred households in Nova Scotia were still waiting for their lights to come on as the long weekend came to an end.

About 300 Nova Scotia Power customers remained without electricity Monday night after the hurricane knocked out service Saturday.

“We would expect to have most of those customers back on by the end of tonight,” David Rodenhiser, a spokesman for the utility, said.

At the height of Saturday’s storm, more than 220,000 customers were without power.

Boy dies in ATV accident

MARYSTOWN, N.L. — A 15-year-old boy is dead following a bizarre and tragic all-terrain vehicle accident in Newfoundland.

The RCMP said the boy was riding the machine Monday morning with a blanket tied around his neck like a cape when it became entangled in the rear axle.

The blanket tightened around the boy’s neck and he was pulled off the ATV.

The accident occurred near Golden Bay Sands Resort in Marystown.

An emergency room nurse who happened upon the scene performed CPR on the boy until paramedics arrived.

The boy was pronounced dead at the scene.

Man arrested in woman’s death

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A 39-year-old St. John’s man will appear in a Newfoundland court Tuesday on charges stemming from the death of Ann Marie Shirran.

A camper found human remains in the community of Cappahayden last week and the remains were confirmed Sunday to be those of Shirran, who went missing on July 18.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary didn’t release the accused’s name during a news conference Monday, or specify the charges he is facing.

Civilians caught in crossfire get cash

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The Department of National Defence paid just over $650,000 during the course of two years to compensate Afghans for damages and deaths resulting from Canadian operations.

In the 2009 fiscal year, the department paid out $205,828 in 102 ex-gratia payments for damages and losses suffered by Afghan civilians, according to reports by the Receiver General of Canada. The payments ranged from as low as $104 to as much as $14,424.

Ex-gratia payments are made when there is no legal liability but compensation is made “in the interest of peace, security and public policy,” said Capt. Yves Desbiens, spokesman for Canada’s Task Force Kandahar. Under international law, nations who have troops in Afghanistan are not liable for damage or injury that results from lawful operations.

The department also paid out $77,703 in the same year in 30 payments ranging from $1,044 to $9,684 for claims against the Crown in the central Asian nation.

The previous fiscal year, Defence made 36 payments totalling $217,462 for claims against the Crown and 57 ex-gratia payments totalling $152,683. The highest payment was for $55,117.

The names of the recipients and the circumstances that led to the compensation awards were not disclosed.

“We strive to follow cultural customs and traditions in the manner in which we express our condolences,” Desbiens said.

Although civilian compensation been National Defence policy since 2002, the public accounts documents for the years prior to fiscal 2008 do not specify payments made in Afghanistan.

Details of the payments are not publicly disclosed, Desbiens said, in part because “disclosure of recipients could put these individuals at risk of extortion or otherwise jeopardize their safety.”

Catch-and-release of pirates sparked policy change

OTTAWA — Ottawa was so embarrassed by the “catch-and-release conundrum” involving Somali pirates last year that it ordered the navy not to take any prisoners unless they had an iron-clad case that would stand up in court, say federal documents.

The policy change happened in the spring of last year and meant sailors would stand aside unless they actually saw the “commission of an act of piracy, or armed robbery generally defined as illegal use of violence” on the high seas.

At the time, the frigate HMCS Winnipeg was patrolling the northwest Indian Ocean as part of a NATO anti-piracy operation.

“Only in situations where HMCS Winnipeg apprehends persons during its current anti-piracy operations and where it believes that sufficient evidence exists that could lead to a prosecutable case” would prisoners be taken, said a May 29, 2009 letter asking Defence Minister Peter MacKay to approve the new policy.

“In cases where HMCS Winnipeg has reasonable grounds to suspect that persons encountered at sea are involved in piracy but where no evidence exists to prove an act of piracy was committed, the expectation is that no detainees would be taken.”

The documents were obtained by The Canadian Press under the access to information law.

The warship made headlines by foiling an attack on a Norwegian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden and hunting down the pirates in a dramatic night-time operation on April 18, 2009. But since Ottawa believed it didn’t have the jurisdiction to prosecute under international law, the suspects were released.

Autopsy to be done on remains today

CALEDON, Ont. — A post-mortem is scheduled for Tuesday morning after human remains were discovered over the weekend in a rural area east of Orangeville, Ont., where a nurse has been missing for more than a week.

Someone walking their dog discovered the remains Sunday morning in Caledon, about 12 kilometres from Orangeville, and contacted Ontario Provincial Police.

Sonia Varaschin, 42, was reported missing by her family last Monday when she didn’t show up for work.

Police have not confirmed if the remains found are those of man or woman.

“Police investigators do not believe a positive identification of the body will be made until after the post-mortem is completed,” the provincial police said in a statement.

Beech Grove sideroad, the rural, forested area close to where the remains were found, will remain closed until Wednesday, police said, so a forensic unit can examine the scene.

On Sunday, Ontario Provincial Police Const. Jonathan Beckett said police were in contact with the Varaschin family regarding the discovery.

Varaschin’s blood-stained white Toyota Corolla was found in an alley last Monday in Orangeville, some 80 kilometres northwest of Toronto. A trail of blood was also found inside and outside her home.

Last Friday, police asked the public for help in finding blood-soaked bedding missing from Varaschin’s townhouse.

While police said they have no suspect in the case, they told the family to brace for the worst.

Police said the culprit is likely someone Varaschin knew or was familiar with her.

According to police, the investigation suggests the culprit left Varaschin’s house in the woman’s Toyota and returned to downtown Orangeville with the car sometime later.

Days of ground, air and trail searches of the Orangeville area — which is predominantly rural — failed to find traces of Varaschin.