Drishti:  2018 Canada Year In Review: News Round Up

CalFire firefighter Bo Santiago lights a backfire as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
Across the globe, summer 2018 was the third warmest on record, and Canada was also affected. May brought an early summer that persisted carried on through August, and even longer in the East. For millions in the southern part of Canada, it was the third-warmest summer on record.

By Max Singh

Across the globe, summer 2018 was the third warmest on record, and Canada was also affected. May brought an early summer that persisted carried on through August, and even longer in the East. For millions in the southern part of Canada, it was the third-warmest summer on record. On some days, heat warnings prevailed, with Vancouver, sweltering and some regions hitting a humidex in the mid-40s. Add in the worst wildfire season in Canada for decades, and it was a hot, unpleasant summer for a lot of the country, as smoke impacted air quality. Top news stories for Canada ranged from freak tornados in Ottawa, to an ill-fated trip to India by Premier Justin Trudeau, a deadly van attack in Toronto and the historic legalization of cannabis across the country.

1)    Canada legalizes recreational marijuana

Canada became the first major Western nation to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis for recreational use in 2018. The world was watching when the country made history with the first legal sale of non-medicinal marijuana just after midnight on Oct. 17, marking the beginning of what the New York Times dubbed Canada’s “national experiment.” The move to legalize cannabis for recreational use, sparking an entirely new industry with wide-ranging implications.

2)    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India.

How did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s eight-day India trip in February expedition turn into a fiasco? The low point was the invitation of former Sikh extremist, Jaspal Atwal (who has been convicted of attempted murder) to a dinner to honor Trudeau in Delhi. Atwal was found guilty of trying to kill an Indian minister in 1986; by the time Atwal’s invitation was rescinded —   the damage had been done. It was a veritable shark feast for the Indian press and led to outrage from the Indian government over the guest vetting procedure. Other incidents such as Trudeau’s ridiculous parading in Indian outfits in an attempt to pander to the Sikh vote in Canada also drew ire.  The trip played severely both on the national and international stage, despite providing good visuals for the Liberals in the 2019 federal election campaign.

3)    Donald Trump Shenanigans on “new” NAFTA treaty with Canada

U.S President Donald Trump joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and now-former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to sign the “new NAFTA” deal, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 14 months of tortuous negotiations and posturing by the Trump administration preceded the official signing of the new tentative new trilateral trade deal with Mexico that includes some critical concessions on issues of import to both countries — and also a reworked name: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“USMCA will give our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses a high-standard trade agreement that will result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in our region,” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a joint statement

4)    Humboldt Hockey Team Bus Crash 

The Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team was on its way to a playoff game in Nipawin, Sask., when its bus and a semi-truck collided at a crossroads on April 6, killing 16 people and injuring 13. The crash made headlines around the world and struck a deep chord of sympathy with hockey-loving Canadians, uniting the country in grief. Ten Broncos players died. The six other deaths included the bus driver, an athletic therapist, the head coach, assistant coach and two employees of Humboldt’s FM radio station.

5)    Toronto van attack

Ten people were killed and more than a dozen injured after a van plowed into pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk in Toronto on April 23. Alek Minassian, 26, of Richmond Hill, Ontario, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder and is set to go on trial on Feb. 3, 2020.  Minister Justin Trudeau, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne were among the high-profile dignitaries who joined the crowd of mourners at a vigil in Toronto’s Mel Lastman Square to honor the victims of the attack.

6)    Toronto Danforth shooting

Toronto was struck by tragedy again after a shooting rampage on the city’s busy Danforth Avenue on July 22. Reese Fallon, 18, and Julianna Kozis, 10, were killed, while 13 others, ranging in age from 17 to 59, suffered gunshot wounds. The shooting occurred on Danforth Avenue in the Greektown neighborhood of Toronto, It is alleged Faisal Hussain killed the two people and wounded thirteen with a semiautomatic pistol. He committed suicide after a shootout with Toronto Police Service officers.

7)    Historic flooding in New Brunswick

Record-level flooding devastated parts of New Brunswick this summer, washing away roads and destroying homes in May. The federal government provided support to the province’s flood relief effort, including help from the military.

8)    British Columbia Wildfires: 566 Fires and 20,000 people impacted

British Columbia was under a state of emergency in the summer as nearly 13,000 square kilometers of the province burned, pushing past the record set in 2017, and burning through the provinces wildfire budget. A state of emergency was declared in parts of B.C. due to 566 wildfires burning in the region. Almost 20,000 people were impacted by the fires and evacuation orders.  The fire danger rating was listed as high or extreme for much of British Columbia. The federal government deployed help in the form of aircraft and hundreds of soldiers to aid British Columbia in its firefighting efforts. Support also came from other places outside of Canada, as Mexico, New Zealand and Australia sent firefighters to British Columbia. Smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia drifted as far south as Vancouver, Seattle, and parts of Oregon, impacting air quality for weeks.

CalFire firefighter Bo Santiago lights a backfire as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)

9)    Tornado rips through Ottawa, Gatineau, and Quebec.

A powerful freak tornado tore through the rural Ottawa community of Dunrobin on Sept. 21, destroying dozens of homes. The twister — one of two that touched down in the Ottawa-Gatineau region — had wind speeds reaching as high as 265 km/h.

10)    Court of appeal rules against Kinder Morgan and Trans Mountain pipeline

In September, The Federal Court of Appeal ruled against Kinder Morgan Canada and the federal government about the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline. The ruling found the federal government failed in its legal obligation to act in the best interests of the Coldwater Indian Band when it neglected to modernize the terms of a 1952 decision that allowed Kinder Morgan to use Coldwater’s reserve for the pipeline.  In May, the Trudeau government made its intention to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5-billion after the company lost interest in an expansion project beset by fierce opposition from environmentalists, Indigenous groups and the B.C. government.

11)    British Columbia Votes No to Proportional Representation

In December, the results of British Columbia referendum showed voters chose to stick with the current voting system of First Past the Post and rejected switching to proportional representation. The mail-in poll asked whether voters wanted to change from the first-past-the-post system, then allowed them to rank three possible equivalent systems to replace it: Dual Member Proportional, Mixed Member Proportional and Rural-Urban Proportional. Some 61.3 percent of voters opted for the status quo, while 38.7 percent voted to change the system, Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman said in late December. Out of 3.3 million eligible voters, some 1.44 million people returned their ballots, making the turnout near 42.6 percent.

12)    British Columbia shows increasing death rate due to fentanyl crisis  

Statistics from the B.C. coroner’s service show a growing number of deaths due to the fentanyl drug crisis. An average of four death a day were attributed to the drug in December. The service says the proportion of deaths where fentanyl was detected in toxicology tests jumped to about 80 percent and that the drug was either used alone or in combination with other medications. It says fentanyl-detected deaths are regularly occurring around the province, and in the southern Interior and on Vancouver Island. Fentanyl drug overdose hotspots were Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria. British Columbia declared a public health emergency in April when overdose deaths surged to an alarming rate in the first few months of this year. The statistics cover mortality from the age of 10 to 79, but the category with the most significant death toll includes the ages of 30 to 39 and men were the vast majority of those who died.

13)    China – Canada tension after the arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou

As the fallout continues following the arrest in December, of Chinese telecommunications executive in Vancouver, political observers are watching the situation closely, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is accused by the U.S. of fraud and violating international sanctions against Iran, has since been released on bail in Vancouver as she awaits an extradition hearing.   Canadians in industries across the country are wondering what the increased tensions could mean for their relationships with China, which had threatened “grave consequences” if Meng wasn’t released and has detained two Canadians in what is seen as direct retaliation.

14)     Teenage Whitecaps Star  joins Top European Soccer club for $22 million

In July, teenage soccer superstar Alphonso Davies was confirmed as transferred by the Vancouver Whitecaps to major German soccer team Bayern Munich. The 17-year-old Canadian international midfielder’s contract with Bayern runs until 2023. The move was part of $22 million US deal, the most ever received by an MLS club in the league’s 23-year history. The previous record was set in 2008 when Spanish club Villarreal spent US$10 million to acquire striker Jozy Altidore from the New York Red Bulls.