Russia withdraws its troops from key city as Ukrainian forces close in

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Russia said Saturday it has withdrawn its troops from the once-occupied city of Lyman, as Ukraine’s eastern counteroffensive recaptures more territory.

Russia’s Tass and RIA news agencies, citing the Russian defense ministry, made the announcement.

Lyman is 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Ukrainian forces had pushed across the Oskil River as part of a counteroffensive that saw Kyiv retake vast swathes of territory beginning in September.

Lyman, a key transportation hub, had been an important site in the Russian front line for both ground communications and logistics. Now with it gone, Ukraine can push further potentially into the occupied Luhansk region, which is one of four regions that Russia annexed Friday after an internationally criticized referendum vote at gunpoint.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Ukrainian forces encircled the strategic eastern city of Lyman on Saturday in a counteroffensive that has humiliated the Kremlin, while Russian bombardments intensified after Moscow illegally annexed a swath of Ukrainian territory in a sharp escalation of the war.

In the northeast, Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of attacking a civilian evacuation convoy, killing 20 people including children. In the south, Ukraine’s nuclear power provider said Saturday that Russian forces blindfolded and detained the head of Europe’s largest nuclear plant.

The fighting comes at a pivotal moment in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war. Facing Ukrainian gains on the battlefield — which he frames as a U.S.-orchestrated effort to destroy Russia — Putin this week heightened his threats of nuclear force and used his most aggressive, anti-Western rhetoric to date.

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Despite Purtin’s land-grab Friday of four regions in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his military have vowed to keep on fighting to liberate the annexed regions and other Russian-occupied areas.

Ukrainian officials said Saturday their forces had surrounded some 5,000 Russian forces who were trying to hold the eastern city of Lyman, which is located in Luhansk, one of the four annexed areas.

Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, posted video online Saturday purporting to show Ukrainian soldiers at a monument on the outskirts of Lyman, waving a signed Ukrainian flag. It remained unclear whether Ukrainian forces have entered the city itself. Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai claimed that all routes to resupply Russian forces in Lyman were blocked.

Russia has not confirmed that its forces were cut off, and Russian analysts had said Moscow was sending more troops to the area.

But the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Ukraine likely will retake Lyman in the coming days.

Citing Russian reports, the institute said it appeared Russian forces were retreating from Lyman, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. That corresponds to online videos purportedly showing some Russian forces falling back.

Meanwhile Ukrainian authorities accuse Russian forces of targeting two humanitarian convoys in recent days, killing dozens of civilians.

On Saturday the governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleh Syniehubov, said 20 civilians were killed in an attack on a convoy of people trying to flee the Kupiansky district, calling it “cruelty that can’t be justified.”

The Security Service of Ukraine, the secret police force known by the acronym SBU, posted photographs of the attacked convoy. At least one truck appeared to have been blown up, with burned corpses in what remained of its truck bed. Another vehicle at the front of the convoy also had been ablaze. Bodies lay on the side of the road or still inside their vehicles, which appeared pockmarked with bullet holes.

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The SBU said the convoy was attacked with “small arms fire,” while the governor said it was shelled. The discrepancy could not be immediately resolved. The exact date of the attack was not announced.

Russian forces have not acknowledged or commented on the attack. Russian troops have retreated from much of the Kharkiv region after a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive last month but have continued to shell the area.

In an apparent attempt to secure Moscow’s hold on the newly annexed territory, Russian forces seized the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Ihor Murashov, around 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom. That was just hours after Putin signed treaties to absorb Moscow-controlled Ukrainian territory into Russia, including the area around the nuclear plant.

Energoatom said Russian troops stopped Murashov’s car, blindfolded him and then took him to an undisclosed location.

Russia did not publicly comment on the report. The International Atomic Energy Agency said Saturday that Russia told it that “the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was temporarily detained to answer questions.” The Vienna-based agency did not immediately elaborate.

“His detention by (Russia) jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” said Energoatom President Petro Kotin, demanding the director’s immediate release.

The power plant repeatedly has been caught in the crossfire of the war. Ukrainian technicians continued running it after Russian troops seized the power station, and its last reactor was shut down in September as a precautionary measure amid ongoing shelling nearby.

In its heaviest barrage in weeks, Russia’s military on Friday pounded Ukrainian cities with missiles, rockets and suicide drones, with one strike in the Zaporizhzhia region’s capital killing 30 people and wounding 88.

In a daily briefing Saturday, the British Defense Ministry said the Russians “almost certainly” struck a humanitarian convoy there with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. Russia is increasingly using anti-aircraft missiles to conduct attacks on the ground likely due to a lack of munitions, the British military said.

The attack came while Putin was preparing to sign the annexation treaties, which included the Zaporizhzhia region. Russian-installed officials in Zaporizhzhia blamed Ukrainian forces, but gave no evidence.

In other fighting reported Saturday, four people were killed and six injured by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region on Friday, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported.

The Russian army also struck the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv twice overnight, once with drones and the second time with missiles, according to regional Gov. Vitaliy Kim. Five people were injured, including a 3-month-old baby, he said.

After Friday’s land grab, Russia now claims sovereignty over 15 per cent of Ukraine, in what NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called “the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since the Second World War.” He added that the war is at “a pivotal moment.”

Zelenskyy on Friday formally applied for NATO membership, upping the pressure on Western allies to defend Ukraine.

In Washington, President Joe Biden signed a bill Friday that provides another infusion of military and economic aid to Ukraine.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Waterloo police seek to identify suspicious person talking to children

Waterloo Regional Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a suspicious person in Waterloo.

Investigators say a man in his 50s was seen engaging in conversations with children in the Glenridge Dr. and University Ave. E Thursday at around 12:30 p.m.

There were no physical injuries reported.

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The man is described as white with a thin build and balding grey hair, wearing a green hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and eyeglasses.

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact Waterloo Regional Police at 519-570-9777 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-22-8477.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Federal whistleblowers fear reprisal for reporting public service wrongdoings: report

A group of Black civil servants says the federal government is resorting to stall tactics to deny them their day in court, nearly two years after they first sounded the alarm on anti-Black racism in the public service. ‘The West Block’ host Mercedes Stephenson speaks with Nicholas Marcus Thompson, executive director of the Black Class Action Secretariat.

Federal workers are increasingly cynical, skeptical and disillusioned about the idea of reporting wrongdoing in the public service, says a recent survey.

That pessimism is more “palpable and widespread” now than it was before the pandemic, and bureaucrats have become more likely to fear reprisals for whistleblowing.

Research firm Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc. delivered the report in March to the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, which investigates serious abuses within the federal government.

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Commissioner Joe Friday says there is a maze of oversight mechanisms available to public servants and it can be discouraging or exhausting to figure out where to lodge a complaint.

He says he thinks public servants are feeling more isolated and disconnected during the pandemic, making it more difficult to feel confident in coming forward _ let alone to gather the sort of documentation that whistleblowers require.

Chris Aylward, the president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says the protections in place for whistleblowers are inadequate and the regime must be strengthened.

“It’s discouraging to see that federal workers have grown more cynical about whistleblowing and reporting wrongdoing in the public service, but it is not surprising,” Aylward said in a statement.

“It can be intimidating to come forward as a whistleblower, and our members are right to fear retaliation. Strong measures are needed to protect workers that speak out. Instead, there are too many conditions on whistleblowers that unnecessarily restrict disclosure.”

The report, based on nine focus group sessions held in March, found that workers feared a wide variety of hypothetical repercussions, many of which are premised on the fear that confidentiality could be compromised.

These included a negative impact on the physical or psychological well-being of the whistleblower, a lack of support, the idea that they would acquire a reputation as a troublemaker, diminished trust and division among co-workers and “damage to the image or reputation of the public service.”

Some said they feared their careers would be derailed — that they’d be given poor evaluations, be taken off projects, be assigned less challenging work or have their workloads increased.

Compared to a similar report undertaken in 2015, public servants were more likely to say that their attitudes toward whistleblowing had changed over time. This time around, they described themselves as having become “less naive,” “more pessimistic,” “more cynical,” “more jaded,” “less bright-eyed” and “more disillusioned.”

Workers tended to see whistleblowing as a good thing and described whistleblowers as brave people who should be encouraged and supported. But they emphasized that prospective whistleblowers “need to understand what they are facing”: a process that is “long, arduous, stressful and uncertain as to the outcome.”

And while participants reported an increase in awareness and education about the process of reporting wrongdoing, they didn’t trust it.

“Many held the view that such changes amount to ‘virtue signalling’ or ‘window dressing’ as opposed to constituting real cultural change,” the report says.

A little over half of the focus group attendees were unaware of the existence of the office that commissioned the research in the first place.

That’s not necessarily such a bad thing, Friday says.

“I think if every public servant woke up every morning and first thing on their mind was, ‘How do I bring wrongdoing to light,’ that might suggest that there’s more wrongdoing than anybody thinks there is,” he says.

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Still, it’s apparent that many don’t know how the whistleblowing process works, or don’t have trust in it if they do. “Clearly, there’s more to do,” he says.

It can be frustrating to push for cultural change on the margins of a 300,000-person organization, Friday says _ and with no influence or authority over the internal, department-specific procedures that govern most of the whistleblowing system.

Still, his office of 35 people has reached thousands of public servants with events and presentations over the course of the pandemic, he says, in an attempt to demystify the process.

In the seven years he’s been commissioner _ and during his time as deputy commissioner and legal counsel before that _ Friday says he’s never given a presentation that didn’t result in a followup with someone in the audience who was considering reporting wrongdoing.

“We’re talking about something very personal, very often something that someone has not yet spoken to anybody about,” he says, lamenting that the pandemic has resulted in fewer opportunities to have face-to-face conversations.

“We’re trying our damnedest to continue with our outreach efforts.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

All abortions remain halted in Arizona as judge declines to suspend ruling

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An Arizona judge on Friday declined to put her order that allowed enforcement of a pre-statehood law making it a crime to provide an abortion on hold, saying abortion rights groups that asked her to block the order are not likely to prevail on appeal.

The ruling from Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson means the state’s abortion providers will not be able to restart procedures. Abortions were halted on Sept. 23 when Johnson ruled that a 1973 injunction must be lifted so that the Civil War-era law could be enforced.

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Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich sought the order lifting the injunction. Attorneys with his office told the judge that, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision said women do not have a constitutional right to obtain an abortion, there was no legal reason to block the old law.

Planned Parenthood and its Arizona affiliate had urged Johnson to keep the injunction issued shortly after Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. They argued that laws enacted by the state Legislature in the ensuing 50 years should take precedence.

Planned Parenthood’s lawyers on Monday asked Johnson to put her ruling on hold to allow an appeal.

Before last Friday’s ruling allowing enforcement of the old law, abortions were legal in Arizona until the fetus was viable, usually at about 24 weeks of pregnancy. But on Saturday, a law enacted by the state Legislature last spring banning abortion at 15 weeks took effect.

Gov. Doug Ducey has said that law takes precedence, but his lawyers did not seek to argue that position in court. Brnovich and some Republican lawmakers insist the old law is in force.

Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, said she was “outraged” by the ruling.

“It is impermissible that Arizonans are waking up each morning to their elected officials making conflicting statements about which laws are in effect or claiming that they do not know, and yet the court has refused to provide any clarity or relief,” Fonteno said.

Some clinics in Arizona have been referring patients to providers in California and New Mexico since Johnson lifted the injunction on the old law, and they were prepared to restart abortions. The pre-statehood law carries a sentence of two to five years in prison for doctors or anyone else who assists in an abortion. Last year, the Legislature repealed a law allowing charges against women who seek abortions

Ashleigh Feiring, a nurse at abortion provider Camelback Family Planning in Phoenix, said her office will keep looking for ways to serve patients.

“We’re trying to think of everything we can to get loopholes in the law,” Feiring said Friday, adding that the facility would be willing to once again provide the procedure.

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Feiring said her office continues to do post-miscarriage care and provide patients with ultrasounds so they know how many weeks pregnant they may be. That’s important, because abortion pills can only be used in the first 10-12 weeks of a pregnancy.

Feiring said some patients are able to get an abortion pill prescription from a provider in Sweden and get it filled through the mail by a pharmacy in India, but that takes about three weeks. Arizona law bans delivery of the abortion pill through the mail, and U.S. providers generally will not take that risk.

Since Roe was overturned, Arizona and 13 other states have banned abortions at any stage of pregnancy. About 13,000 people in Arizona get an abortion each year, according to Arizona Department of Health Services reports.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Police standoff at Mississauga hospital ends after over 12 hours with no injuries

WATCH ABOVE: Peel Regional Police say negotiations are ongoing with a person who is barricaded in a building near Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. Sean O’Shea reports.

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Peel Regional Police say a standoff that began after 7:30 a.m. Friday at a medical facility in Mississauga, Ont. has ended.

Authorities had been called to the facility next to Credit Valley Hospital for reports of a what they described as a “barricaded person.”

Crisis negotiators were dispatched to the scene to negotiate with the individual.

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Police closed the nearby roadways during the standoff, and advised residents to avoid the area.

However, Trillium Health confirmed the emergency department at Credit Valley Hospital remained open and ambulances were not rerouted.

Police tweeted at 2 a.m. Saturday that one person is in custody, and there are no injuries.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Woman dead, 3 others injured after head-on crash in Nova Scotia

Global News at 6 Halifax from Sept. 30, 2022.

A woman has died and three other people, including a child, were hospitalized after a head-on collision Thursday afternoon.

In a release, the Nova Scotia RCMP said officers from Lunenburg, as well as fire services and EHS, responded to a report of the collision between a sedan and SUV on Highway 10 in Pinehurst around 3:40 p.m.

“While on their way to the scene, officers learned the sedan was on fire in the roadway,” the release said.

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“Upon arrival, our members located a 56-year-old female passenger deceased inside the SUV. The driver of the SUV, a 67-year-old male, and a four-year-old female passenger were seriously injured and transported to hospital.”

It said the 77-year-old female driver of the sedan managed to escape the fire after the collision and was also hospitalized with moderate injuries.

The release said Highway 10 was closed for several hours but has since reopened. A collision reconstructionist attended the scene and the investigation is ongoing.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Canada's merger laws let companies 'extinguish competitive threats,' new report says

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Lax merger laws in Canada underestimate the harm to competition caused by mergers and overestimate their benefits, a new report says.

Gaps in Canada’s merger laws have failed to prevent the kind of acquisitions that allow big firms to “extinguish competitive threats and entrench their dominance,” according to the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Canada has fallen “way behind” other jurisdictions such as the United States, said Keldon Bester, a fellow with the centre and the author of the report.

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He compared Canada’s existing regime to a set of faulty brakes. “Our laws today are like brakes on a car going downhill. We know we’re going downhill, but we’d like to go there a little bit slower,” he said in an interview.

The “permissiveness” of merger laws is especially concerning in the context of a growing digital economy, which is fraught with unique challenges, his report adds.

Mergers, which are transactions that see two companies combined into one, can be subject to review by Canada’s competition watchdog to determine whether they would be harmful to competition.

However, since the introduction of the Competition Act in 1986, the Competition Bureau has only ever challenged 18 mergers. And what’s especially alarming, the report says, is that the bureau has never won a challenge on final judgement.

A recent poll suggests Canadians are concerned about the state of affairs.

According to an Ipsos survey conducted in January, 88 per cent of respondents agreed that more business competition is needed “because it’s too easy for big businesses to take advantage of Canadians.”

The same proportion agreed that more competition between businesses could lead to more choice and lower prices for consumers.

The survey of 1,001 Canadians aged 18 and older was conducted between Jan. 14 and 17. Ipsos says its online results are weighted and are comparable to a traditional poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

One of the issues with the Competition Bureau is the threshold at which it must be notified of a transaction, the CIGI report says.

Under the Competition Act, parties to a proposed merger must notify the Competition Bureau if a transaction meets certain financial thresholds. But those thresholds do not include the value of the transaction itself, the report says.

That’s in contrast to the U.S., where the Federal Trade Commission is already notified of mergers that exceed a certain transaction value.

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Early this year, the commission and the U.S. Justice Department announced a joint public inquiry to modernize merger guidelines so as to “better detect and prevent anti-competitive deals.”

By comparison, Canada is “way behind,” Bester said.

Another problem with the Competition Bureau is that “the bar to intervene in a merger is quite high,” added Bester, a researcher who studies competition and monopoly powers in Canada.

That’s because current laws take into consideration the increased efficiency that may come from a merger, he said. Harms from reduced competition are permitted if the proposed merger will lead to cost savings that are deemed to be greater.

There’s also a bias against blocking mergers outright, he said.

Instead, the laws favour negotiated agreements that include concessions or remedies that would address some of the competition concerns. These remedies don’t have to fully address the reduction in competition that would be caused by the merger, the report says.

The report suggests several changes to Canada’s merger laws.

The recommendations include expanding the range of transactions the Competition Bureau is notified of, extending the time window it has to block a harmful merger and changing the criteria used for assessing whether a transaction should be blocked.

The most high-profile proposed merger in Canada right now is arguably Rogers’s proposed takeover of Shaw, a prospective transaction valued at $26 billion.

Bester said that if Canada had stronger merger laws, the Rogers-Shaw deal would have automatically been “dead in the water” given the lack of competition in the telecommunications industry.

“If we had stronger merger laws, this merger wouldn’t be proposed in the first place.”

Nonetheless, Canada’s competition watchdog has been trying to block the deal, arguing that it will substantially lessen competition and lead to higher phone bills.

Rogers and Shaw are expected to appear before the Competition Tribunal in November, where they will argue in favour of the transaction.

Although the federal Liberals have made recent amendments to other parts of the Competition Act, Canada hasn’t touched merger laws — a problem that Bester blames on a “legal and financial apparatus” that benefits from their permissiveness.

Banks, law firms and private equity groups “are interested in very loose merger laws because that increases their bottom line,” said Bester.

“We really haven’t done anything today on the merger side, so Canada really is behind the ball.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

1 dead in collision involving 2 passenger vehicles and a motorcycle

GUELPH, Ont. — A motorcyclist is dead following a multi-vehicle crash in Guelph, Ont.

Wellington County Ontario Provincial Police were called to Highway 7, just west of Wellington Road 32, at about 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Police say two passenger vehicles and a motorcycle were involved in a collision.

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The driver of the motorcycle was taken to hospital where they were pronounced dead.

There were no other injuries

Police are asking anyone who may have witnesses the collision to contact them.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Ontario minimum wage hike kicks in; most workers now make at least $15.50 per hour

RELATED: The Ford government has announced the minimum wage will increase to $15.50 beginning in October. Brittany Rosen has the details.

TORONTO  — Ontarians who make minimum wage are waking up to a raise.

Starting today, the general minimum wage is up 50 cents to $15.50 per hour — a move announced by the Ford government in April.

Students under 18 are now earning $14.60 per hour, up from $14.10, while homeworkers — those who do paid work out of their own homes for employers — are seeing a 55-cent raise, to $17.05 per hour.

The Ford government previously cancelled a 2019 minimum wage increase to $15 from $14 per hour that had been planned by the former Wynne government.

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The Progressive Conservatives then raised the wage to $15 per hour in January of this year, with Ford saying that the boost was done to make life more affordable for people.

The 50-cent increase comes after Canada’s annual inflation rate reached a nearly 40-year high in June — and although it has slowed since, Statistics Canada reported in August that grocery prices rose at the fastest rate since 1981.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton has said the government recognizes that Ontario families are struggling with the rising cost of living but will continue to announce each year’s planned October wage increase every April, which it says is determined by looking at inflation from the previous two years.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Canada has dropped COVID-19 travel restrictions, mask mandates

The federal government has officially announced it will drop masking rules and COVID-19 vaccine requirements for travellers, including the mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app, starting October 1. David Akin explains what medical experts say about the risk of catching COVID-19 while on an airplane.

As of this morning, travellers to Canada do not need to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 — and wearing a mask on planes and trains is now optional, though it is still recommended.

People entering the country are no longer subject to random mandatory tests for the virus, and those who are unvaccinated will not need to isolate upon arrival.

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Anyone who entered Canada in the last two weeks and was subject to quarantine or testing is off the hook as of today.

And inbound travellers do not need to fill out the controversial ArriveCan app anymore, although they can still use it to fill out their customs declarations at certain airports.

Federal ministers announced the end of the COVID-19 public health restrictions earlier this week, saying the latest wave of the disease has largely passed and travel-related cases aren’t having a major impact.

But Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos warned restrictions could be brought back again if they are needed.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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