Monthly Archives: December 2018

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Iraq, Syria plagued by landmines 20 years after Princess Diana’s iconic minefield visit

 LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Twenty years after Princess Diana‘s iconic visit to a minefield in Angola, the world faces a new landmine crisis in Syria and Iraq on a scale not seen for decades, campaigners said on Sunday.

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The Mines Advisory Group said it had cleared and destroyed more than 9,000 newly laid landmines in both countries in the past six months in areas formerly occupied by the Islamic State militant group.

Jane Cocking, the group’s chief executive, said at least $100 million of additional funding will be needed per year to tackle both newly laid land mines and those still in the soil from previous conflicts in more than 60 countries.

READ MORE: University of Waterloo student builds innovative robot to defuse landmines overseas

“The problem is that we’re seeing the emergence of a new crisis of a scale that we haven’t seen since the 1990s, and to deal with that as well requires substantially more money,” Cocking told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

It is hard to gauge the scale of the problem, she said, but judging by the number of mines already cleared, Islamic State has produced improvised landmines on an “industrial scale”.

Production and use of landmines has declined after the Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits their use, stockpiling and transfer, was adopted nearly two decades ago.

WATCH: Photographer Giles Duley connects with refugees after surviving landmine blast

Hard to detect, difficult to clear and often designed to maim rather than kill, landmines can linger in the soil for decades and kill or injure thousands of people every year.

Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Angola and Afghanistan are among the most mined countries in the world, according to the Landmine Monitor, the most authoritative source on the issue.

MORE WORK TO DO

Images of Princess Diana walking through a minefield in Angola 20 years ago this weekend helped raise global awareness of landmines and the plight of their victims.

About seven months later Princess Diana, who had divorced heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles in 1996, died from injuries sustained in a car crash in Paris.

READ MORE: New danger for refugees: leftover landmines in Croatia

More than 160 countries have signed the Mine Ban Treaty and 27 countries and one territory have declared themselves free of landmines, including Mozambique after a 20-year mine-clearing program, and Rwanda and Nicaragua.

The number of people reported killed or injured by landmines has risen sharply though, with 75 percent more casualties in 2015 compared to the previous year, according to the Landmine Monitor. Many of them were civilians.

 READ MORE: IS launches new assault on besieged eastern city in Syria

This was largely due to more victims in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, but also due to improved availability in casualty data, the Monitor said in its most recent report in November 2016.

“There has been a lot of progress but a lot of work still needs to be done, in particular because we now face a new toxic mix in countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya,” said James Cowan, chief executive of British charity The Halo Trust.Donors and affected states contributed some $471 million for landmine clearing in 2015, a 23 percent decrease from the previous year and the lowest level since 2005, according to the Landmine Monitor.

 READ MORE: Iraqi forces storm Mosul University complex

“There isn’t enough money available for landmine clearance in general, so it makes it very difficult to deal with new landmine emergencies like the ones in Iraq and Syria,” Cowan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Angola.

Campaigners say a lack of funding puts the Mine Ban Treaty’s proposed 2025 deadline for a mine-free world at risk.

“It requires political will and more money to finish the job,” said Cocking.

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Edmonton minor hockey player returns to the ice after cancer diagnosis

A 10-year-old Edmonton hockey player was back on the ice Saturday for Quikcard Minor Hockey Week, after a devastating cancer diagnosis in October.

Ethan Hughes was diagnosed with stage one kidney cancer after the Thanksgiving long weekend. Tests revealed the presence of a Wilms tumour.

The minor hockey player underwent surgery and had one of his kidneys removed.

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Recently, he marked his eleventh straight week of chemotherapy.

“The first thing I was thinking was ‘ask the doctor to play again.’ So I was happy when he said ‘you can play,’” Hughes said.

He admits he was nervous, but mostly excited for his first game back. The pint-sized hockey player is not alone in his love for the sport. His older brothers play as well.

The local minor hockey league has provided the family with support. Hughes’ Whitemud West Badgers teammates even paid him a visit at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

“I think he’d wear a suit of armour underneath his jersey if he had to, to get out there,” Matt Davidson, head coach of the Whitemud West Badgers, said.

“The general excitement of having him come back in this environment, in minor hockey where it’s such a community-based thing – you couldn’t script it better,” Davidson said.

Hughes’ grandparents are among the faithful that show up to cheer him on.

“Every one of my grandsons have different personalities, but this guy is a little different,” Eamon Boyle, Ethan’s grandfather, said “He’s probably the smallest one in the whole lot, but we always say he’s the toughest.”

Ultimately, Hughes’ determination and perseverance are among the things his family members hope others will take away from his story.

“You can get through whatever you get thrown at you if you strive to do your best,” Brian Hughes, Ethan’s father, said.

The Whitemud West Badgers won Saturday’s game 5-1.

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Sask. man petitions for a Ministry of Mental Health

Todd Rennebohm is in a better place now, but his battle with depression has been a long and tough one.

A few years ago, Rennebohm had a breakdown. He checked himself into Regina’s General Hospital searching for help.

“I was having a mental health crisis and I was actually sent home. The doctor said there was no room in the health ward at the time, and there was lack of staff, lack of beds,” he recalled.

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    Rennebohm’s first hand experience through the system is why he’s calling for a separate ministry – one to specifically deal with mental health.

    He says urban centres like Regina are already struggling with resources, and in rural towns like Indian Head, Sask., it’s even worse.

    “There’s no one that comes to Indian Head. I’m assuming that’s like that for many towns, no psychologist no psychiatrist, nothing like that,” he said.

    Rennebohm’s friend Barbara Holzapfel also struggles with her own mental health. She said the issue can be a matter of life and death.

    “We need the support of one another. If I’m unable to support my dear friend that is in a critical mental health state, they will definitely fall through the cracks,” she said.

    “I think having a mental health minister would alleviate a lot from all the other ministers.”

    READ MORE:
    Former Sask. mental health patient speaks out against RQHR layoffs

    Dr. Thomas Hadjistavropoulos, a psychologist with the University of Regina, said there are limited resources in the province when it comes to mental health.

    “The resources for people with mental health problems are quite limited. The result is that many people with serious mental health conditions seek help from their medical practitioner, which may not be sufficient,” he said.

    Hadjistavropolous said the province only has the capacity to train 12 clinical psychologists per year, and it’s simply not enough to handle all the cases.

    “Six here, and six at the [University of Saskatchewan] which I don’t believe is enough to cover the tremendous need for mental health services that exist in Saskatchewan,” he said.

    He said in addition to seeing a psychologist, he recommends anyone needing additional support for depression, anxiety or pain should check out 长沙夜生活onlinetherapyuser长沙夜网 —; a free online tool by the University of Regina that can provide support and therapy for Saskatchewan residents.

    Rennebohm’s online petition has gathered over 200 signatures as of Saturday afternoon. He said it’s enough to begin the conversation.

    The province has not yet responded to our request for comment on the matter.

    Follow @ChristaDao

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IN PHOTOS: Blue Jays’ Edmonton visit flies over well with fans

Several hundred fans of Canada’s only major league baseball team piled into Rogers Place for a meet-and-greet opportunity with several Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

A sea of blue greeted the Jays’ Kevin Pillar, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez and Devon Travis as they arrived at Edmonton’s downtown arena for an autograph session on their winter tour.

Fans obtained tickets to the event through a lottery system.

READ MORE: 4 Toronto Blue Jays players coming to Edmonton as part of winter tour

The players were met by boisterous chants of “let’s go Blue Jays” as they filed in to meet with fans.

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The players were thrilled to see how much their fanbase spreads beyond Canada’s largest city.

Estrada, a starting pitcher for the Jays, said no matter where the team goes across Canada “you’ll see Blue Jays fans.”

The players will meet with children and their families at the Stollery Children’s Hospital on Saturday before they head back to Rogers Place to take in a hockey game as the Edmonton Oilers host the Calgary Flames.

“It’s always something I make sure to sign up for,” Sanchez said of the upcoming visit to Edmonton’s children’s hospital.

“Sometimes for the parents it can be nice too… (to) see some joy on their kid’s face,” Pillar added.

Look at a photo gallery of the Blue Jays’ visit to Edmonton below:

Hundreds of Blue Jays fans fill Rogers Place in Edmonton on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

The Toronto Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar, Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez meet with fans in Edmonton on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

An empty podium at Rogers Place before several Toronto Blue Jays arrive to take a seat on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

Several Toronto Blue Jays speak with fans at Rogers Place on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

Kevin Pillar and Marco Estrada at Rogers Place on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

A young Blue Jays fan at Rogers Place on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

Blue Jays’ mascot Ace meets with fans at Rogers Place on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

Devon Travis (right) signs autographs at Rogers Place on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

A pair of Blue Jays fans pose for a photo at Rogers Place on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

Several Toronto Blue Jays visit Edmonton on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

Blue Jay Kevin Pillar signs an autograph at Roger Place on Jan. 13, 2017.

Emily Mertz/ Global News

The Blue Jays’ fanbase has become even more fanatical in recent years with several successful seasons. Last year, the team advanced to the American League Championship Series before losing to the Cleveland Indians.

While the players were optimistic about another successful season, they’re likely to feel the loss of power slugger Edwin Encarnacion to the very team that eliminated them, in the offseason.

“No one guy can fill Eddie’s shoes, we’re not asking them to,” Pillar said. “We’ve all got to step up.”

READ MORE: Cleveland Indians welcome former Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion

There is also rampant speculation about the future of fan favourite Jose Bautista who is a free agent this offseason.

The players also talked about how impressed they were with the Oilers’ new arena. They hope that some of the building’s bells and whistles make their way to their stadium in Toronto soon.

“This is sick,” Sanchez, one of the team’s starting pitchers, said. “I know our guys are going to be looking to renovate some of the things in Rogers Centre back in Toronto so there’s a lot of ideas (here) – it’s state-of-the-art for sure.”

“Hopefully we have one of these trophy rooms at our spot out east,” he said of the Oilers’ Stanley Cup display case.

-With files from Emily Mertz.

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Calgary crash survivor recovers with support from ringette teammates

This weekend’s Esso Golden Ring Ringette tournament in Calgary will be a very emotional one for the Calgary Under 19 NW Grit team.

In October, the team’s star scorer, Meghan Bomford, was killed in a tragic rollover on McKnight Boulevard.

Meghan’s best friend and teammate, Kelsey Nelson, was critically injured in the crash. Kelsey was in a coma for over a week and missed Meghan’s funeral, but has since made an amazing recovery that has shocked the medical world.

Kelsey Nelson (left) and Meghan Bomford.

Provided to Global News

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    Kelsey can’t play ringette anymore, but recovered quickly enough to make it home for Christmas. She will be cheering on her team this weekend despite an upcoming surgery to repair her skull.

    “I had pretty much everything in the hospital you can have,” she said.

    “I had to get my skull removed, knee repaired, broke all the bones in my face, my spine, my neck…I ruined my head.”

    Meghan was known as one of the top scorers in ringette and everyone knew her for the pink gloves she wore in competition. Meghan’s team is planning to play in her honour during the Esso Golden Ring Tournament.

    Kelsey said it was very special to hold Meghan’s pink gloves for the very first time, just before the ringette tournament began.

    “Having her gloves, I just feel close to her just having them. We were friends for 12 years, ever since I started playing ringette. We were like the dynamic duo: I played defence and she played forward. We were always on the ice together; we were glued hip to hip.

    “She was my best friend and I don’t know what I’ll do without her.”

    Kelsey Nelson (left) and Meghan Bomford

    Provided to Global News

    Trevor Hall coached Meghan for four years and Kelsey for one season. He and the Western Ringette organization have set up a scholarship in Meghan’s name. For more information on the scholarship, click here.

    He said he’s blown away by Kelsey’s recovery.

    “Wonder child, absolutely amazing…just an inspiration,” Hall said. “I’ve said it to her a million times: I’m inspired by this kid every single day. Most everything I’ve done this year around the ringette rink is to honour these two young ladies.”

    Kelsey said she can’t thank her family and the ringette community enough for their amazing support during her tough recovery.

    “The amount of support I’ve had from my ringette team, I can’t thank them enough. My parents…I don’t know if I made them bald, if I balded them I’m sorry. Their support is crazy.”

    Kelsey will be cheering on her team during the Esso Golden Ring wearing the “Yeahh Boii” cap with her and Meghan’s jersey numbers on it.

    “So the ‘yeahh boii’ is a thing that me and Meg did. So you’d go up to someone and ask, ‘can I get your longest yeahh boii?’ and they’d say, ‘yeahh boii.’ They’d say it for as long as they could. So my friend just made these hats for me and Meg and stuck our numbers on there. Everyone knew us for that.”

    READ MORE: High school football teams honour teen killed in McKnight rollover

    Meghan’s father, who was driving at the time of the rollover, is still recovering. At the time of the accident, police believed speed and alcohol were factors in the crash.

    Calgary police said Friday the investigation is ongoing. So far no charges have been laid.