Dr. Phil sues National Enquirer for $250M over spousal abuse articles

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – “Dr. Phil” McGraw and The National Enquirer are lining up for a courtroom brawl after the television talk-show host and his wife filed a $250 million lawsuit against the supermarket tabloid and its sister publications, charging that they falsely accused him of being an abusive husband and a hypocrite who doesn’t practice what he preaches.

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The lawsuit was filed last week in Palm Beach County, Florida, against the Enquirer, its owner American Media Inc. and sister publications, Star Magazine and the website Radar Online. According to the suit, the publications damaged McGraw’s reputation by falsely accusing the TV psychologist of physically and verbally abusing his wife, Robin.

The articles also said that Robin McGraw tolerated the abuse and that the couple are getting divorced. The suit also says the Enquirer falsely accused McGraw of busting a man’s head with a beer mug during a drunken melee while in college in the early 1970s.

READ MORE: Mother of Rehtaeh Parsons shares daughter’s story on Dr. Phil

The suit says such allegations unjustly harm the McGraws’ reputation as outspoken opponents of spousal abuse. It adds that Robin McGraw started a foundation aimed at helping battered spouses and that the couple’s marriage is solid.

McGraw, 65, hosts the popular Dr. Phil talk show, where the booming-voiced Texan is known for passing out folksy advice to guests with various problems. He also produces “The Doctors” and other TV shows and publishes bestselling diet and self-help books. Forbes Magazine ranks him as the world’s fourth-highest-paid celebrity, with annual earnings of $88 million.

“Dr. and Mrs. McGraw, after enduring years of the National Enquirer, Star and other American Media Inc. publications knowingly and recklessly printing outrageous lies about them, their marriage, their integrity and their character,have finally concluded that enough is enough and too much is too much,” their attorney, Lin Wood, said in a statement.

American Media said in a statement that it will defend itself and will expose Phil McGraw’s “stale and fraudulent claims for what they really are.”

READ MORE: Global TV 2016-2017: New TV shows include Bull, MacGyver, The Blacklist: Redemption

“It’s a delicious irony that Dr. Phil, whom a California judge has called a ‘charlatan’ and the Daily Beast has called a ‘quack’ whose ‘unseemly melange of exploitation, celebrity parasitism and credential mining goes back years’ has filed a lawsuit against AMI and accused it of being a ‘trashy tabloid,’” the statement said. “This from the man who visited Britney Spears in the hospital in 2008, then issued a public statement about the visit in violation of her family’s trust.”

The judge’s comments came in 2010 after McGraw featured on his show a couple who had shoplifted more than a million dollars of goods.

According to the lawsuit, since 2003 the Enquirer and its sister publications have published more than 85 articles about the McGraws, an average of one every two months, accusing them of felonies, hypocrisy and professional misconduct. The lawsuit says the stories are false or exaggerated and aimed at increasing what it said are American Media’s shaky finances.

“Those articles were manufactured and published to increase corporate revenues and profits at the unlawful financial, reputational, and emotional expense of its targets, while simultaneously using their names, likenesses, and fame as a buzz-creating and revenue-generating catalyst,” the lawsuit says.

READ MORE: Mr. Robot Season 2: A darker, deeper trip into Elliot’s psyche

The lawsuit says that the McGraws and American Media reached a two-year agreement in 2013 stipulating that the couple would not sue the company if it stopped running articles about them. The lawsuit says that shortly after the agreement expired late last year, the Enquirer and Star again ran a story that the McGraws contend is false.

The lawsuit says the story accuses Phil McGraw of smashing a man’s head with a beer mug during a drunken brawl while he was a student at Texas Tech University in the 1970s. The lawsuit says the nightclub where the brawl allegedly took place didn’t open until six years after McGraw graduated and didn’t get a liquor license until 2009.

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6 activities to help you cope during Montreal’s summer heat wave

The sun is shining, and temperatures soaring – that means summer is really upon us.

Experts are warning Montrealers to take care of themselves during the current heat wave, as well as stay hydrated and safe in the sun.

“It’s very important to do daily sun protection. Not even on sunny days, but every day,” said Dr. Beatrice Wang, director of the melanoma clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital of the MUHC.

READ MORE: Sun safety: reducing your risk of health issues from heat stroke to melanoma

But once you slap on the sunscreen and grab that hat and bottle of water, it doesn’t have to be all serious business.

Here are six things you can do to cope during this heat wave:

Christine Latreille’s young son at the Aquaciel park in Lasalle.

Christine Latreille/Strollerparking长沙夜网

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Go to a park/splash pad

It seems like a simple tip, but parks are perhaps the easiest place to cool down as a family.

Just in case you can’t decide which park you want to go to, stay-at-home mother Christine Latreille has tested — and blogged about — almost every park on the island of Montreal.

“You want to keep the young families interested in coming to your city,” she told Global News.

“Pack a picnic and spend the whole day there.”

READ MORE: 5 amazing parks to take your kids to this summer

A cyclist ride his bike along the Lachine Canal in Montreal.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Have a picnic

The Lachine canal is a perfect picnic spot — but surprisingly, not a lot of people take advantage of it.

It’s right by the water, so it’s cooler than being in the heart of downtown.

Not only can you walk or bike to Atwater market for a snack, but there are enough trees to sit under and read a book and plenty of sun to play soccer or toss a football around.

Cinéma sous les étoiles.

Cinéma sous les étoiles/Facebook

Go to an outdoor cinema

This one is more for an evening outing — but when the heat sticks around past the sunset, grab a drink and head to an outdoor cinema.

There are screenings at many green spaces across city, so check your neighbourhood websites — best of all, they’re free.

It’s all about Bubble Madness for these soccer players.

Caroline Demers

Try an unusual sport

Have you ever gone swimming with a mermaid tail or played soccer while wrapped in a plastic bubble?

Montrealers are getting creative when it comes to finding new ways to play traditional sports.

READ MORE: 5 unusual sports to try this summer

A horse-drawn carriage in front of Place Jacques Cartier in Old Montreal.

CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson

Join a free walking tour

What better way to discover the city than to take part in a free walking tour of Montreal?

Not only will you get to meet tourists from all over the world, but you might learn a thing or two — tour guides can answer any and all questions about the city’s history, architecture and more.

Many of the tours start in the Old Port and will take you on a whirlwind tour of the city’s biggest monuments and most interesting corners.

Bathers bob in the wave pool to beat the heat.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Go for a swim

It’s summer, it’s hot — go for a swim.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a pool in your backyard, check your neighbourhood websites for swim times and schedules.

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Chilling Facebook Live video captures shooting of three men in Virginia

A Virginia man appears to have captured his own shooting on a Facebook Live stream Tuesday night, authorities said.

Norfolk police are continuing to investigate the shooting that sent three men – two age 27 and the other age 29- to hospital with life threatening injuries. Police said in a statement Wednesday morning the two of the men were “doing better, but one is still listed in critical condition.”

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“During the shooting incident, one of the men inside the car was broadcasting a live video to Facebook,” police said. “This video has been confirmed to be of the actual shooting incident.”

In the video posted to Facebook by user T.J. Williams, three men can be seen smoking in a car while listening to rap music.

READ MORE: Philando Castile’s girlfriend speaks out after fatal shooting, says police ‘took his life for no reason’

The music is interrupted after roughly five minutes as a series of gunshots ring out and the camera falls to the ground.

“Call an ambulance, please,” a man can be heard saying, following the gunshots.

A person is then heard again calling for an ambulance and informing the dispatcher that three people have been shot.

“Stay calm, stay relaxed,” a male voice is heard telling one of the injured victims. “Stay relaxed, don’t go to sleep.

“Give me your hand. Stay relaxed, I got you. You stay with me, stay with me. It’s going to be alright. They coming, they coming to get you,” the man says. “Everyone keep their eyes open, keep listening to my voice.

READ MORE: Philando Castile’s girlfriend livestreams moments after fatal Minnesota police shooting

After roughly 12 minutes, first responders can be heard in the background. The video continues for more than an hour as the screen goes black and a beeping sound can be heard before the battery presumably dies.

“At approximately 6:10 p.m., Norfolk dispatchers received a call for gunshots heard in the 900 block of Bainbridge Boulevard,” police said in a statement. “As police responded to the scene, the call was quickly updated to possibly three gunshot victims. Upon arrival, officers located three men inside a vehicle suffering from apparent gunshot wounds.”

Police are asking are asking anyone who may have information about this shooting incident to contact the Norfolk Crime Line.

The chilling video follows the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota last week, the aftermath of which was broadcast on Facebook Live by his girlfriend Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds.

The video was viewed millions of times and renewed debate about police use of force, particularly against minorities.

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87 drug and weapons charges laid against 10 people in downtown Edmonton

After seizing meth, marijuana, contraband tobacco, weapons, ammunition, drug-trafficking paraphernalia and swords during traffic stops and search warrants, Edmonton police have charged 10 people with 87 offences.

Between mid-June and early July, downtown division officers conducted several investigations “to deter the trafficking of controlled substances in Edmonton’s downtown core,” police said.

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  • Theft from vehicles in downtown Edmonton spikes 111% over last year

    During a traffic stop on June 28 near 116 Street and 104 Avenue, officers found 67 grams of meth, bags of marijuana and drug-trafficking paraphernalia. They also found a sword, a loaded gun and ammunition as well as several other weapons. A number of cell phones were also found.

    During that traffic stop, 38-year-old Nancy Chouinard and 29-year-old Brandon Cardinal were arrested. Both are facing a number of charges, including possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of a restricted firearm that police said was loaded at the time.

    On July 1, police executed a search warrant at an apartment in the area of 106 Street and 107 Avenue. They seized 1.4 kilograms of marijuana, nearly $20,000 in cash and contraband tobacco.

    David Petric, 60, was arrested near the apartment and charged with two counts of trafficking a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

    On July 7, a search warrant was executed near 109 Avenue and 82 Street, where officers found meth, marijuana, scales, drug bags and a sword.

    Hans Behrens, 52, was arrested and charged with two counts of trafficking a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of an offensive weapon dangerous to the public.

    Six other people were arrested and charged over the course of the investigations for offences related to trafficking meth, GHB and cocaine.

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University of Calgary basketball coach charged with sexual exploitation

A 25-year-old assistant coach with the University of Calgary’s Junior Dinos basketball program has been charged with sexual exploitation.

Airdrie RCMP said they charged Kristie Sheils with one count of sexual exploitation of a young person. The name of the victim, who police say is a youth, cannot be released.

Airdrie RCMP said they received a complaint on July 1. Sheils was charged on July 11.

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The University of Calgary lists Kristie Sheils as a women’s basketball summer camp coach.

The University of Calgary’s website says any youth between the ages of seven and 17 can become a member of the Junior Dinos.

The university issued a statement in response to the charge laid against Sheils on Wednesday afternoon.

“The university takes the safety of everyone on campus very seriously and follows strict hiring procedures for coaching staff, including mandatory vulnerable sector checks when working with youth,” the statement read in part.

Sheils appeared in court in Calgary Tuesday morning where she was released on several conditions, which include:

Not to have contact with the victimNot to have contact with any children under 18 unless the youth is in the presence of an adult who is at least 21Not to be employed or engaged in volunteer service which would put her in a position of trust or authority to children under 18

Sheils is scheduled to appear in court in Calgary on Thursday.

You can read the entire statement from the University of Calgary below:

The University of Calgary is cooperating with RCMP on an investigation related to an assistant basketball coach with the Junior Dinos program. The accused was a member of the Dinos women’s basketball team for four years (2012 – 2016), was a coach with the Junior Dinos basketball program for three years, and recently completed a bachelor of arts degree. She has been relieved of her coaching duties. The university takes the safety of everyone on campus very seriously and follows strict hiring procedures for coaching staff, including mandatory vulnerable sector checks when working with youth. As the matter is now before the courts, the university will have no further comment.

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Price of Winnipeg condos takes downward dip

WINNIPEG —; Condo hunters in Winnipeg are in for a deal right now.

Royal LePage Prime Real Estate’s survey released Wednesday showed a nearly four per cent drop in condominium prices from the same time last year. Royal LePage said the median price is just over $206,000.

Peter Squire with the Winnipeg Realtors Association said the price drop is thanks to a few key reasons.

“There is an oversupply presently in our market. As a result there is some downward pressure on prices,” said Squire.

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He explains an over-supply means a competition vying for the buyers’ attention.

RELATED: The Toronto condo bust that wasn’t

“It’s really a competition between single family homes and condos. So, again it makes the value proposition for condos a little more challenging. Not only competing against other condos because there are so many, but they’re also competing against some affordable family homes in the city.”

Royal LePage and the Winnipeg Realtors Association both explain an easy way to understand Winnipeg’s condo prices is to remember the rules of supply and demand.

“Rise in inventory gives buyers more selection. They can go in to a lot of different buildings right now. Generally speaking then that means prices tend to go down when the demand isn’t there,” said Michael Froese with Royal LePage.

RELATED: Condo and townhome prices continue to rise in Metro Vancouver

Squire says condos and homes competing for the same buyers is a situation almost unique to Winnipeg. Especially when you look at the drastic climb in cost in cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

Both experts agree while the competition continues, they can expect in the next one to five years, condos will increase in cost once again.

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Popularity of Pokémon Go spurs Richmond RCMP to issue safety tips

Even though the ridiculously popular mobile game Pokémon Go is not ‘officially’ offered in Canada yet, many tech-savvy Canadians have managed to download the app.

And due to the nature of the augmented reality game, which has users leave their homes and use their phone cameras to view digital creatures in real space, Richmond RCMP are offering a few tips to enjoy the game and reduce risks to players.

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READ MORE: Pokémon Go unofficially hits the streets of Vancouver

While there’s no word on when the app will be available in Canada, stories from around the world are popping up about weird or dangerous encounters while playing the game.

“We are most concerned with the safety of potential players. This type of gaming is novel and its early adoption is rather unprecedented. It can be very easy to get so caught up in something and ignore safety entirely,” RCMP Richmond Cpl Dennis Hwang said in a statement.

The sudden popularity of Pokémon GO has raised concerns about possible privacy breaches, potential injuries (caused by people looking at their smartphone screens and not where they’re walking) and even being lured into robberies, according to some reports.

READ MORE: Pokémon GO: What parents should know about playing safely

Some of the Mounties tips include being aware of your surroundings while playing the game; being respectful of the property of others and mindful of the volume of your group interactions (especially at night).

The Richmond RCMP also have concerns over the game when it comes to distracted driving or walking, damage to property; going out alone and searching for Pokémon, PokéStops or Pokémon Gyms and playing in areas at night with poor lighting.

In response to Pokemon Go’s popularity, Richmond RCMP sent this tweet out on July 12, 2016.

Richmond RCMP

In addition to player safety, Richmond RCMP are concerned about using police resources to investigate Pokémon gatherings or incidents.

“When we are dispatched to calls involving groups of individuals, officer safety is paramount. Typically we would deploy multiple officers to investigate,” Hwang said.

“We do not wish to be spoilsports, as many of our officers enjoy gaming too, but we want to make sure that our resources are not tied up investigating Pokémon players or gatherings, especially when our assistance can be wisely allocated elsewhere. Hopefully, our tips will help. Pika Pika!“

What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go combines geocaching and virtual reality to allow users to hunt for Pokémon in real-life environments like your bedroom, or the park down the street.

First, users are instructed to head to local landmarks – known as “Pokestops” – where they collect “Pokeballs” that help capture the Pokémon creatures. After that, you follow your virtual map hunting for Pokémon. Once you find them, you throw Pokeballs at them to capture them.

WATCH: The Baltimore Police Department released video of a car crash that was the result of the driver being distracted while playing Pokemon Go.

Once users train their Pokémon, they head to locations known as “gyms” to pit them against each other.

Of course, none of this will make sense unless you are already familiar with Pokémon – a popular Japanese anime and videogame series where trainers capture “pocket creatures” known as Pokémon and train them to fight each other.

WATCH: Tuesday night at the University of Maryland, three armed robberies by a masked gunman were pulled off in quick succession. Four people were victimized and University Police on Wednesday said three of them were distracted at the time by Pokemon Go. Scott Broom reports.

~ with files from Nick Logan and Nicole Bogart

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Captive British journalist John Cantlie appears in new ISIS propaganda

British journalist John Cantlie, who has been held hostage by the so-called Islamic State since 2012, has appeared in a new propaganda video for the terror group.

Cantlie was last seen in a video released in March and now looks noticeably thinner in the latest recording, released Tuesday by the ISIS-affiliated media outlet Amaq.

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Related

  • U.S. rescue mission in Syria tried to rescue James Foley, others held hostage

  • What has happened to ISIS captive John Cantlie?

  • James Foley: Risking life to make sure conflicts don’t go unreported

    The video purports to show Cantlie, 45, criticizing the U.S.-led coalition for bombing Mosul University in the ISIS-held city in Iraq.

    READ MORE: New Islamic State video released shows captured British journalist

    “If you look behind me you’ll see it’s been pretty much smashed to pieces. You have to ask yourself: ‘’Why did the coalition decide to destroy the university?’” Cantlie says, dressed in a long grey button-down shirt and black pants.

    “The level of destruction is absolutely massive. Mosul University was the biggest and finest in all of Iraq.”

    “If it was a military point or a weapons cache or a training ground for the mujahedeen perhaps you could understand — but it was simply Mosul’s and Iraq’s finest university, now reduced to a huge pile of rubble.”

    READ MORE: British hostage John Cantlie reappears in ISIS propaganda magazine

    Global News cannot independently confirm whether the new video is authentic.

    Cantlie was kidnapped in Syria in November 2012 along with U.S. journalist James Foley, who was beheaded on camera by ISIS militants in 2014.

    Cantlie’s father, Paul, died in 2014, recorded a video from his hospital bed pleading for his son’s freedom.

    Accounts from former ISIS hostages of other nationalities, whose releases came after hefty ransoms were paid, detailed how Cantlie, Foley and others were physically and psychologically tortured at the hands of ISIS.

    Cantlie’s supporters, including his sister Jessica, have criticized the British government for failing to broker his release, according to the Guardian.

    *With files from Nick Logan

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Pokémon hunting hits downtown Halifax

The next time you’re walking through downtown Halifax keep your eyes peeled for Pokémon hunters.

“We are on a serious mission right now,” Nikki Sullivan, a Pokémon Go player, said.

Sullivan and her friends have been steadily playing the virtual game ever since they downloaded the app.

“We’ve been hooked ever since… completely addicted.”

Although the app hasn’t officially been released in Canada yet, people are finding ways to download it.

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READ MORE: Here’s how Canadians are playing ‘Pokémon Go’

Sullivan isn’t alone in her obsession. Even tourists visiting Halifax from Australia can’t get enough of the game.

“Actually it only came out while we were in Canada and all the people back home we’re playing it,” Ashwin Chandekar, who’s visiting with his family, said.

“We decided to download it and play here. It’s crazy, I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

When playing Pokémon Go, players track Pokémon through GPS maps on their phones. The maps simulate the exact locations the players are in.

READ MORE: Pokemon Go users find everything from dates to dead bodies

Some hot spots for players include tourist attractions like the Public Gardens and Halifax’s waterfront, but Pokémon have been known to show up in businesses as well, including the Stubborn Goat Beer Garden.

“I was enjoying a beverage and basically the creature just kind of appeared and apparently it’s a pretty rare one,” bartender Chloe Zinck said.

Zinck caught the Rhyhorn, one of several virtual monsters that people throughout the city are steadily hunting.

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Why children as young as 12 are joining the Surrey drug trade

If you want proof that Surrey gangsters are getting younger and younger, you only have to look at their marksmanship, says one drug dealer.

“These kids are trigger happy. They shoot over anything, but they don’t know how to shoot,” says Robbie, who has lived in both Abbotsford and Surrey.

“They shoot like they’re in Compton or something, like sideways. You gotta shoot straight!”

Robbie is just 18, but these days that makes him a veteran in Surrey’s drug scene.

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There have been 47shootings already this year in Surrey, compared to 47 shootings for all of 2015, which was considered a watershed year for gun violence.

READ MORE: Surrey RCMP track progress on drug trade and violence

Of those 47, just 16 have involved someone being hit, say Surrey RCMP. But what’s most concerning to people who have studied the Surrey drug trade for years are the ages of the people involved.

It was once rare to see anyone younger than 17 deeply involved in Surrey’s gang culture. Now, it can start in middle school.

“Men as young as 12 and 13 are now involved in this kind of criminal activity,” says RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bill Fordy.

Fordy, who has been Surrey’s top cop since 2012, says technology has been one of the biggest drivers of young teenagers getting involved in the drug trade, creating new complications for police investigations.

“Fifteen years ago, before cellphones, the way drugs were trafficked was very different. It used to be that somebody would go to a house and do the exchange. Now with social media and with the other vehicles used to assist in trafficking, we now have young men driving around doing quick hand-to-hand meets, or going into public places where it’s pre-arranged,” he says.

“It makes it very easy for them to engage in that criminal transaction.”

Technology plays a part. But so are the traditional teenage pressures of money and status – and how to quickly acquire them.

“It’s through the school system. Simple as that,” says Kash Heed, British Columbia’s former solicitor general.

“A friend of a friend introduces them. They hang around the schools. They associate with the kids before and after school and they encourage the kids to get involved as an easy way to make money and kids are not realizing the consequences of their behaviour.”

For many teenagers, the entry point is on the front lines of the dial-a-dope operation that propels many of Surrey’s shootings.

“You gotta couple of drug lines that are being disputed right now. One comes out of south Vancouver. One comes out of the Surrey, North Delta area. They’re using these young kids to traffic in the drugs, they’re fighting with one another, and they’re providing firearms to these kids to settle some disputes,” says Heed.

Mani Amar, a Surrey resident and filmmaker who has researched the drug trade for years, says the aspiring gangster gets money and respect, while established dealers avoid risk.

“Why would a 22-year-old want to do the dial-a-dope street operations and put a target on his back if he has 13, 14-year-old cousins that are willing to make a couple of thousand dollars a week? Why would he take that risk?” he asks.

“I’ve heard of kids making anywhere from five to ten thousand dollars a week if they got a good dial-a-dope operation or Snapchat operation going on.”

Add it up, and it’s an enticing proposition for many young teenagers in Surrey. And it makes Amar concerned about what these teenagers will do when they get older.

“There’s only three ways kids end up going once they get involved. They’re going to end up in jail, they’re going to end up shot and killed, or they’re gonna be permanently disabled and have a bullseye [on] their back for the rest of their lives. There’s really no way out,” he says.

It makes Robbie, all of 18, sound like he’s 65.

“They think they’re living in a movie or something,” he says.

“This newer generation is just too crazy.”

Part 2: When it comes to Surrey gang life, family looms large

– With files from Sonia Deol

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‘It’s an 1,100% increase’: Lethbridge brewery owner braces for beer tax hike

Alberta’s smaller brewers say a dramatic increase in the province’s beer tax will leave a bad taste in consumers’ mouths.

“It’s a little scary. It’s an 1,100 per cent increase in our taxes,” said Kelti Boissonneault, co-owner of Theoretical Brewing Company Ltd. in Lethbridge.

READ MORE: Liquor taxes go up, but Alberta ‘shifts the beer playing field’

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On Tuesday, the NDP government announced it would be setting a $1.25 per-litre markup for beer sold in Alberta regardless of the producer’s size or location, effective August 5, 2016.

“Whatever is produced and consumed in Alberta will be subject to mark up,” Alberta’s Minister of Finance Joe Ceci explained.

Boissonneault said the tax hike could translate into a $2 hike in the cost of a six-pack of beer produced by smaller breweries, such as Theoretical Brewing.

“The tax hike will need to be passed along to consumer,” Boissonneault said. “There is no way a small business like ours can absorb an 1,100 per cent increase.”

READ MORE: Alberta backtracks on graduated beer tax for craft brewers

The government did consult with industry stakeholders before announcing the change, including the Alberta Small Brewers Association. There is also a yet-to-be announced grant in the works for Alberta’s smaller brewers meant to offset the markup.

“We are hoping to… [keep] our prices as close as possible, but we don’t have enough information,” Boissonneault said.

Details of that grant will be rolled out in the coming weeks in the meantime Boissonneault will be meeting with members of the NDP government is hoping to get answers to a lot of questions.

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EU stalls decision on requiring visas for Canadians

OTTAWA – The European Commission has again pushed off a decision on whether to require Canadians to have a visa to enter the EU.

The commission says it’s now looking ahead to the Canada-EU summit this fall to see more progress on the issue of Canada removing visa restrictions on citizens of Romania and Bulgaria.

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The EU insists that since Canadians don’t require visas to go to Europe, EU citizens should not need them to come to Canada.

In April, the Commission urged the European Parliament and council to “take a position” on the issue by July 12 — but neither did.

READ MORE: Travelling to Europe? Canadians and Americans may require visas soon

The commission notes that high-level political talks — including a visit last week by Canadian Immigration Minister John McCallum — have demonstrated progress, but they still want the issue resolved.

Top EU interior affairs official Dimitris Avramopoulos says the commission will continue to apply pressure.

“Achieving full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all member states is the objective for the European Commission and a fundamental principle of our common visa policy,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

To decide whether to lift visa requirements, the Canadian government looks at several factors including how many visa applications are refused as well as immigration violation rates.

WATCH: Canada to lift travel visa requirement for Mexican visitors 

Officials from McCallum’s department travelled to Romania last month to examine progress by that country and are making a similar trip to Bulgaria this month.

Pressure to lift visas on those citizens is twofold.

First, the Liberals recently announced they will lift visa requirements on Mexican nationals. And EU officials say if it can be done for Mexicans, it should be done for Europeans.

READ MORE: How easy is it to travel with a Canadian passport?

Second, full ratification of the Canada-EU free trade agreement is at stake, with the possibility that Romania and Bulgaria will refuse to sign the deal if the visas remain.

McCallum travelled to Brussels last week to smooth some ruffled diplomatic feathers on both counts.

“Our dialogues underline the importance of the strong bonds between Canada and the European Union,” McCallum and Avramopoulos said in a joint statement after the meeting.

Officials from the immigration department have already travelled to Romania to assess issues on the ground there. They will be making a similar trip to Bulgaria this month.

Canada and the EU are to hold a summit in Brussels this October.

“The Commission looks forward to the EU-Canada Summit, which will take place on 27-28 October 2016, as the occasion to confirm tangible progress on the lifting of the visa requirement for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens,” Wednesday’s statement said.

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Number of B.C. fentanyl-related deaths spikes in first half of 2016

Fentanyl has been linked to 60 per cent of drug-related deaths during the first five months of 2016, according to new statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service.

Illicit drug overdoses have killed a total of 371 people in the first half of 2016, with 60 per cent of those showing fentanyl or a combination of fentanyl and other illicit drugs in toxicology reports.

The number of deaths is a 74.2 per cent increase from the same period in 2015, while the proportion of fentanyl-linked deaths have doubled.

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It’s the biggest jump in fentanyl deaths since the drug started growing in popularity in 2012.

The updated report on fentanyl-linked overdoses shows people aged 20 to 39 accounted for 57 per cent of all deaths.

Twenty-nine per cent of deaths occurred in the Fraser region, followed by 25.5 per cent on Vancouver Island, and 20.7 per cent in Metro Vancouver.

Numbers also show it’s not just a problem in Metro Vancouver.

“For both Vancouver Island and the southern Interior, the number of deaths in which fentanyl was detected in five months in 2016 has exceeded the number for all 12 months of 2015,” a release from the Ministry of Public Safety states.

READ MORE: Fentanyl in Canada

While it’s effects are spreading wider, it’s still a drug that is abused largely by men, with the gender accounting for 78.7 per cent of deaths.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says it is extremely important to call 9-1-1 immediately if someone appears to be overdosing. The use of naxolone, a lifesaving antidote, should also be used if available.

Health Canada has approved naloxone in the form of a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

“The number of opioid overdoses in Canada is nothing short of a public health crisis,” Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said in a statement last week.

“First responders, police and family members need immediate access to formats of naloxone that are easy to use so that needless deaths can be prevented.”

The B.C. Ministry of Public Health is calling the number of fentanyl deaths this year unacceptable.

With files from Andrew Russell

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