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U.S. military to boost intelligence sharing with France

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration announced Monday a new intelligence-sharing arrangement with France designed to more readily and quickly allow joint military planning in the campaign against the Islamic State.

After President Barack Obama announced the arrangement to reporters in Turkey, the Pentagon issued a statement saying that Defence Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have authorized military personnel to share information quickly with their French counterparts.

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Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the action was taken in light of the terror attacks in Paris. French warplanes bombed Islamic State targets in Syria Sunday in close co-operation with the U.S. military.

READ MORE: French President calls for 3-month extension of state of emergency

Cook did not provide details about the kinds of intelligence that would be shared but said the new instructions build on efforts made over the past year to work more closely with French military, intelligence and security services to target the Islamic State.

Current and former American intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Washington already maintains extremely close counter terrorism co-operation with Paris. The new sharing mainly involves military intelligence in Syria and Iraq, they said. Bureaucratic hurdles slow the exchange of such information, even among allies.

The new arrangement would allow the U.S. to share intelligence with France that previously has been limited to what’s known as the “Five Eyes” of English-speaking countries – the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The intelligence would allow France to increase its ability to identify and propose targets to be hit by airstrikes, officials say.

France is not a member of the Five Eyes and will not become one, officials say. Those countries maintain near-universal sharing of electronic eavesdropping and other intelligence, and tend not to spy on one another.

READ MORE: Canada’s fight against ISIS —; Will it end, and what happens next?

Close allies though they may be, France and the U.S. have a history of spying on one another. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden disclosed American eavesdropping on French officials, and the French for years have carried out economic spying against the U.S., American officials have said.

Large segments of the French public also were disturbed by Snowden revelations of French co-operation with American mass surveillance, which complicated the intelligence relationship.

Just because information is shared does not mean it is always acted upon.

A senior Turkish official, for example, tells The Associated Press that his country shared information last year and in June about Omar Ismail Mostefai, who has been named as one of the Paris attackers. Mostefai entered Turkey in 2013, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Turkey never heard back from France, the official said.

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Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Lolita C. Baldor and Desmond Butler contributed to this story.

©2015

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Federal government formally drops niqab appeal

The Liberal government has officially dropped an appeal of a court’s decision allowing women to wear niqabs during citizenship ceremonies.

Immigration Minister John McCallum and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould formally noticed the Supreme Court of Canada of the decision to drop the appeal on Monday.

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“The Federal Court of Canada found that the policy requiring women who wear the niqab to unveil themselves to take the Oath of Citizenship is unlawful on administrative law grounds, and the Federal Court of Appeal upheld this ruling. The government respects the decision of both courts and will not seek further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” the ministers said in a joint statement.

“Canada’s diversity is among its greatest strengths, and today we have ensured that successful citizenship candidates continue to be included in the Canadian family. We are a strong and united country because of, not in spite of, our differences.”

The Conservative government expressed its intention to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision about a month before the election.

Justin Trudeau made it clear at the time that his government would not appeal to the ruling.

Stephen Harper’s government argued it was important for new citizens to show their face at the moment they become Canadian.

The Liberals accused the Conservatives of using the niqab, which is worn by only a small number of women, as a distraction and a wedge issue during the recent federal election campaign.

with a file from

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Alberta school boards will not debate LGBTQ policy

EDMONTON – A proposal for the Alberta School Boards Association to create a policy to protect all LGBTQ students and staff in Alberta was voted down Monday.

Alberta school boards are in Edmonton for their annual meeting and Edmonton Public was set to propose an “emergent resolution,” but the issue for debate was voted down.

The Edmonton Public School Board wanted to add the policy to the conference agenda. In order for that to appen, two thirds of the more than 60 boards had to vote in favour.

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  • Winnipeg School board meeting to vote on Transgender policy

READ MORE: Edmonton Public School Board calls on ASBA to support LGBTQ policy 

It was close, but in the end, the motion was defeated.

Thirty-nine boards – or 62 per cent – voted in favour, including Edmonton Public and Catholic boards. But, 66 per cent was needed.

Twenty-four boards – or 38 per cent – did not feel the LGBTQ debate was an emergent issue.

“We’re shocked,” said Edmonton Public School Board Chair Michael Janz. “The minister gave clear direction to school boards that he expected policy to be enacted in the next four months.”

“We can’t think of a possibly more emergent issue right now in the province in education. This has been an international news story.”

One board that voted against the motion told Global News it is not against the policy, but already has one that protects all students and staff.

LGBTQ advocates say it’s a major blow.

“I’m really concerned by the boards that voted against this motion,” said Dr. Kristopher Wells, with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services. “Why don’t they see this as an issue that should be part of public discussion for a public Alberta School Boards Association? What are they afraid of?

“The silence is speaking overwhelmingly from the Alberta School Boards Association.”

“They refuse to speak up on Bill 10, they refuse to speak up in support of gay-straight alliances, and today, they refuse to speak up in support of LGBTQ students,” added Wells.

Wells asked what will happen to school boards who do not meet the education minister’s policy deadline?

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The president of the ASBA said it has helped school boards navigate an inclusive policy. In a statement Monday, the association said:

“While a procedural debate to place a motion on the order paper was not successful at its Fall General Meeting today, immediately following the procedural debate a directive from the floor was introduced to specifically address LGBTQ+ issues. A directive for action is a formal process that asks the board to take action.”

“Today’s directive for action reaffirms and enhances ASBA’s policy statement that all students should be provided with welcoming, caring, respectful, safe and healthy learning environments,” said Helen Clease, ASBA president.

“ASBA’s current policy is over-arching and does not expressly name any specific group of vulnerable students. The directive for action makes specific reference to issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“Our mandate is to support school boards in the development of their own policy,” Clease added. “This directive highlights the importance of that work following a request from the minister of education that all school boards provide him with details on their policies, regulations and guidelines supporting LGBTQ+ students.”

ASBA Manager Scott McCormack clarified the association helps school boards develop the policy they chose, including whether or not they want LGBTQ students and staff specifically mentioned.

“School boards tell us what policy development support they need and we will absolutely include that language if that is what they ask. We have been doing this already. We have issued a policy advisory about safe, caring, healthy learning environments and updated recently to include amendments to the School Act from Bill 10.”

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READ MORE: Alberta tells all school boards to create LGBTQ-inclusive policies

Education Minister David Eggen has given a March deadline to boards to develop a LGBTQ policy. He is scheduled to speak at the conference Tuesday.

In 2012, the ASBA rejected a similar proposal from the EPBS on sexual orientation and gender identity. More than 60 per cent of school boards voted against the proposal.

In 2011, the EPSB became the first school board in Alberta to pass a sexual orientation and gender identity policy.

“Our policies need to be inclusive of all students,” said Ralph Wohlgemuth, a trustee with Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools.

“I’m a believer that by identifying certain groups you sometimes run the risk of alienating others. So, from that perspective, my preference is to have it all-inclusive.”

“My opposition to this as an emergent issue is not an opposition to boards putting whatever they want into those policies as long as all of those students are supported,” Wohlgemuth added.

The Edmonton Public School Board also wanted to debate a motion to be able to opt out of ASBA membership. That was also defeated.

With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News

©2015

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Loonie headed toward 71 cents US —; and could stay there till 2017

If you’ve been holding back buying some U.S. greenbacks for an upcoming trip or purchase hoping the loonie would recover some ground from its present lows, you’ve got a window of about four weeks to do so.

Starting in mid-December, the Canadian dollar is widely expected to face a substantial amount of downside pressure. On Dec. 16, the U.S. Federal Reserve, or central bank for the United States, will make its next decision on interest rates in that country.

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The overwhelming consensus is that the Fed will raise its key rate that day, inaugurating a long-awaited “rate lift off” for the world’s biggest economy from the ultra-low interest rate levels that have been in place since the financial crisis to help boost growth.

MORE: Latest coverage —; the plunging loonie

Ultra low borrowing rates are no longer needed for the U.S. economy to grow. But higher rates – or a rate “tightening cycle” – will have some consequences for the global economy, as well as here in Canada. And that includes knocking the loonie lower.

“We expect the Canadian dollar to hit a bottom of 71.4 cents U.S. in the first quarter of 2016,” TD Bank economists said in a new research note on Monday (the first quarter runs January through to the end of March). The loonie is currently trading at 75 cents U.S.

The Canadian dollar will likely stay around that low 70-cent level for some time, too, TD believes.

“The currency is likely to remain fairly soft until the latter half of 2017, when we expect the first hints of a Canadian [interest] rate hiking cycle,” TD said.

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WATCH: For Canadian travellers thinking of spending some time south of the border, the falling dollar has made it more difficult but not impossible to take a trip. Seán O’Shea reports.

©2015

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B.C. town installs turkey-crossing signs

CASTLEGAR, B.C. – Wild turkeys in Castlegar, B.C., now have a way to cross the road and get to the other side.

A flock of about 30 turkeys has been causing traffic troubles in the West Kootenay town for about a year and a half, said Coun. Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff.

“Basically, people were driving and slamming on their brakes because two, three, four times a day, they cross the road, I guess to go feed or to do whatever turkeys do,” she said.

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The poultry crossings caused some minor fender-benders, slowed traffic and even damaged vehicles.

“I had people contact me and say they had seen a turkey fly and crack somebody’s windshield. You know, they’re big birds, right? And if you just hit them a certain way, they could fly up and do that,” Heaton-Sherstobitoff said.

When the birds became a safety issue, city council came up with two bright yellow signs adorned with pictures of the fowl to warn drivers of the hazard.

“We think we’ve got a great turkey picture there. And if it makes people happy or makes them slow down there, then we did a good job for a couple of hundred bucks,” Heaton-Sherstobitoff said.

The signs were installed on Columbia Avenue about two weeks ago and so far, they seem to be working.

“People told me last week that the turkeys are actually crossing right below the signs,” Heaton-Sherstobitoff said. “So the big joke now is that turkeys in Castlegar know how to read, so that’s where they’re crossing.”

Credit: Jana Command Spender

Credit: Jana Command Spender

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Teen in custody after numerous break-ins in La Ronge, Sask.

One suspect is in custody and RCMP are on the lookout for others involved in numerous break-ins that happened this past weekend. The residential break and enters all took place in La Ronge, Sask.

Several items, including a vehicle, were stolen and some homes were considerably damaged inside.

READ MORE: 3 charged in Swift Current, Sask. drug bust

RCMP currently have a 13-year-old boy in custody. Due to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, his name cannot be released.

The teenager, from Hall Lake, Sask., was scheduled to appear Monday in La Ronge provincial court.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 306-425-6730 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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  • Man charged with committing multiple armed robberies in Saskatoon

  • Man with shotgun reported in Saskatoon but not found

©2015

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Autistic brothers set to take to Special Olympics ice rinks by storm

DIEPPE, N.B.  – The bond between these two autistic brothers is even stronger than the ice where they’re set to compete on next spring.

Brendon Vriesendorp and his brother Adam are both set to represent New Brunswick in on the ice at the 2016 Special Olympics next spring.

Adam says the brothers have been “Very close for a long time. Ever since a kid….so tight.”

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READ MORE: “Yellowcard” pledge aims to eliminate use of the ‘R-word’

Brendon, the oldest of the two, already won a gold medal in speed skating at the 2012 Special Olympics.

“I am really fast around the corners,” he said.

His younger brother Adam may not be on a pair of skates, but he shows off his skills on the curling rink. He’s excited to get to compete and represent New Brunswick alongside his brother and friend.

“Yes so happy about that,” Adam said.

“It’s a huge confidence builder.”

“Being part of something, them being autistic and everything, it’s really a great feeling,” said their father Dwayne Vriesendorp.

“They support each other all the way through, no matter what happens they are always there for each other.”

Brendon is now 20 and Adam is 18. Their father says growing up with autism was a struggle at times.

“It has been it’s been a rough go.”

He says they’ve been singled out and teased for being different, but that being involved in sports has changed them for the better. Before Adam starting curling around the age of 10, he was barely able to speak.

“He learned to talk through sign language in school and curling helped him socialize.”

Now Adam is throwing stones on the rink and representing his whole province.

“It’s a huge confidence builder being part of the special Olympics. They do an amazing job.” says Dwayne.

He says Adam found his voice on the curling sheet, where he’s becoming kind of a big shot, like his older brother on the skating rink.

“I am a pro at it,” Adam said.

Both brothers say there is no greater honour than to represent their province together.

“I will cheer him on and I am very excited for him and me,” Brendon said.

The national Special Olympics take place in Corner Brook, Newfoundland this coming March.

Dwayne says he won’t be there to cheer on his boys, he knows his two star athletes will shine no matter how they place, as long as they have each other.

©2015

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Bison killed near Edmonton, Parks Canada looking for poachers

EDMONTON – Parks Canada is searching for those responsible for shooting and killing two bison at Elk Island National Park.

The bison were killed near the north entrance of the park on either October 17th or 18th.

One of the animals was then dragged along the highway to a field about 800 metres north of the park, where some of the meat was removed.

Parks Canada said a white Dodge pickup truck with extra grill lights and a rooftop light bar was seen in the area and may have been involved the killings.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Parks Canada at 1-877-852-3100.

Elk Island National Park is 50 kilometres east of Edmonton.

READ MORE: Re-introduced purebred bison thriving on Sask. prairie

It’s estimated that there were once about 60 million bison in North America, but the animals were almost completely wiped out about a century ago when they were hunted for nothing more than their tongues or their horns.

A group of Plains Bison stand on the parkway in Elk Island National Park.

Credit: Parks Canada

At the turn of the last century, the last large herd of wild bison on the Montana plains was bought by the Canadian government and moved to what would become the Elk Island park.

In recent years, bison have been shipped from Elk Island around North America in an effort to restore the animals to the landscape.

With files from

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  • 6 Albertans fined more than $71k for multiple poaching offences over 7 years

  • 6 Lethbridge men plead guilty to charges of poaching threatened fish

©2015

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Trudeau condemns mosque fire in Peterborough, Ont.

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured Muslim Canadians on Monday that the federal government would work hard to find those responsible for setting fire to a central Ontario mosque in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

In a statement, Trudeau said he was “deeply disturbed” by the weekend incident that’s now being investigated as a hate crime by police in Peterborough, Ont.

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Last week’s attacks on Paris that left 129 people dead have shocked peace-loving people everywhere, Trudeau said, adding it’s important for Canadians to understand “that Muslims around the world are also being persecuted regularly by these violent extremists.”

READ MORE: Campaign raises more than $57,000 for mosque ravaged by fire in Peterborough

“We’re in this together,” he said.

“To the families who attend the mosque for prayer every week, the government of Canada and our law enforcement agencies will protect your rights and make every effort to apprehend the perpetrator.”

The Masjid Al-Salaam mosque, located in a quiet residential area of Peterborough, was torched on Saturday night. It’s the only mosque for about 1,000 Muslims who live in the area; about 50 families regularly attend services, as many as 300 on Fridays.

Murray Rodd, chief of police in Peterborough, Ont., told a news conference earlier Monday that any injury to one of the city’s ethnic communities is “an injury to us all.”

“We are treating this as a hate crime,” Rodd said. “The mosque in question is named – quite appropriately – the peace mosque, which fits into what is a very peaceful, very livable community.”

A small stream of passersby stopped at the mosque on Monday to express support or to donate cash for repairs.

READ MORE: Paris attacks prompt Canadian Muslim group to issue warnings of potential backlash

Larry Forsey, of nearby Coboconk, went out of his way to stop by the now-closed Masjid Al-Salaam, where he hugged Kenzu Abdella, the president of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association, and handed him some cash.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Forsey said afterward. “It’s sad. People are down and they need help, then let’s help them, that’s what Canada is supposed to be all about.”

Crimestoppers says an anonymous donor has put up $10,000 towards a reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the mosque fire.

A crowdfunding initiative has also raised more than $90,000 for repairs, outpacing its target. The blaze  caused about $80,000 in damage, mostly due to smoke.

In Peterborough, Christian and Jewish leaders – as well as community groups – immediately offered to open their facilities for prayers. Congregants will likely pray in a United Church on Friday, said Abdella.

Some faithful used the grass outside the mosque for noon prayers on Monday.

Shazim Khan, the mosque’s imam, expressed dismay at what had happened but called it a random act.

READ MORE: Arson behind blaze at Peterborough, Ont. mosque

“This is just an isolated incident,” said Khan, who has lived in the area for the past eight years. “I know this community – the people are loving, caring.”

Dave Garskey, who lives in a bungalow across the street, stopped by to offer the imam help if needed.

“Some idiot probably did it, I don’t know why,” Garskey said after chatting with Khan. “Any sane person wouldn’t do it.”

Abdella said people had been “really amazing” in the wake of the mosque fire but added that Muslims in Canada worry they could be painted with a violent, extremist brush.

“Some people may misunderstand what’s happening in other parts of the world and try to link that with Muslims here,” Abdella said. “That is really unfortunate because any time violence happens in any part of the world, Canadian Muslims like any other Canadians are offended by it and they condemn it.”

Trudeau was among several politicians who issued statements condemning the mosque fire and expressing support for the community.

Maryam Monsef, the minister of democratic institutions and the area’s MP, said the incident didn’t reflect the “warm and generous” community, while Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett called the assault on a place of worship a “despicable act.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called the arson “disturbing.”

“It is our responsibility in our own lives and communities to guard against and to resist the blame and generalizations that can lead to racism and hatred.”

Investigators in Kitchener, Ont., meanwhile, are also investigating weekend vandalism at a Hindu temple there.

Dilip Dav, president of the Ram Dham Hindu Temple, said several windows at the rear entrance of the temple were shattered late Sunday night. No one inside was hurt, but they were unable to see who did the damage.

©2015

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Donald Trump says he would ‘strongly consider’ closing certain mosques

NEWARK, N.J. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he would consider closing U.S. mosques with radical leadership because of the Paris attacks if he were elected president.

“I would hate to do it, but it’s something that you’re going to have to strongly consider,” Trump told MSNBC in a phone interview Monday.

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Trump and his rivals have been working to articulate how they would respond to last week’s attacks, which killed 129 people and left hundreds wounded.

READ MORE: Paris attacks deepen Republican opposition to Syrian refugee influx

Trump, who has been pushing for a more aggressive response, also said Americans must reassess some of their civil liberties in response to growing threats from the Islamic State group.

“We have to be much tougher,” he said in another interview on CNBC. “We are going to have to give up certain privileges that we’ve always had.”

“Surveillance took a big turn over the last 48 hours,” he added. “Forty-eight hours ago everybody was saying, ‘Well we want our freedoms, we don’t want this to happen.’ And now, all of sudden, people are saying, ‘Hey listen, you can listen to my phone conversations.’”

That surveillance, he argued, should include intelligence-gathering in and around mosques.

READ MORE: Trump says Paris massacre would have been different if ‘people had guns’

“Well you’re going to have to watch and study the mosques because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques,” said Trump, who complained that New York City, where he lives, has ramped down its efforts to infiltrate places of Muslim worship.

Trump appeared to be referring to the New York Police Department’s Demographics Unit, which The Associated Press reported in 2011 was spying on Muslims and mosques around the city with help from the CIA. The group assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed, infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques and monitored sermons.

The NYPD, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, announced it had abandoned the program in April of last year following lawsuits and complaints.

Trump connects Paris Syrian attacker with current refugee crisis

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Trump connects Paris Syrian attacker with current refugee crisis

03:46

President Obama: This is not just an attack on Paris, it’s an attack on humanity

02:36

Ben Carson expresses ‘heartfelt sympathy for the people in Paris’ following shootings, explosions

00:39

‘The U.S. stands with France’: John Kerry on Paris attacks




WATCH ABOVE: American politicians react to the attack in Paris

Trump told a weekend rally that things would have turned out differently in Paris had the victims of the attacks been armed with guns. He repeated that assertion in the CNBC phone interview.

“Had there been some guys with a gun, there would have been a shoot-out and probably the primary people that got whacked would have been the killers,” he said. “Had there been other people carrying weapons, you would have had a lot different story, believe me.”

Trump criticized President Barack Obama for not moving earlier to destroy the Islamic State sites that France bombed over the weekend. He said the U.S. should be going more aggressively after the group’s oil and financing and pressing other countries to intensify their fighting against the radicals.

WATCH: Donald Trump talks Obama, Hillary Clinton, Syrian refugees, during rally in Tennessee

©2015

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