Next 48 hours crucial in Quebec wildfire fight as rain expected Tuesday: Bonnardel

Air quality has improved on the U.S. east coast, where wildfire smoke from Ontario and Quebec choked several cities like New York and Washington, D.C. this week. In Quebec, the wildfire situation still isn’t great but it has stabilized. What’s really needed there is rain. As Mike Armstrong reports, that could still be days away.

The next 48 hours will be crucial in Quebec’s wildfire fight in northern and western parts of the province, with rain forecast for Tuesday but warmer, less humid temperatures expected until then.

Public Security Minister François Bonnardel says authorities are concerned for Normetal, located 720 kilometres northwest of Montreal in the Abitibi region, where fires are burning nearby.

Another major fight is taking place in Lebel-sur-Quevillon, a northern municipality where the province’s largest fire is about five kilometres southeast of the community but also within a few kilometres of the Nordic Kraft pulp mill.

The situation remains stable in Chibougaumau, Mistissini, Chapais and Ouje-Bougoumou, where numerous teams are deployed.

READ MORE: Quebec announces financial aid for wildfire evacuees as international reinforcements arrive 

Bonnardel says there are more than 130 fires burning in the province and teams have prioritized 37 of them, with 861 firefighters on the ground and 20 water bombers part of the fight.

Provincial authorities say 13,810 Quebecers have been evacuated due to the wildfire situation in the province.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Southern Interior

A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for parts of B.C.’s Southern Interior.

According to Environment Canada, conditions are favourable on Saturday for the development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing strong wind gusts and heavy rain.

Areas under the severe thunderstorm watch include the South Thompson, Nicola, Okanagan and Boundary regions. The weather warning was issued at 9:45 a.m.

Saturday’s forecast for the Okanagan is calling for mainly cloudy skies with a 40 per cent chance of showers in morning, followed by showers and then a risk of thunderstorms.

The mercury is projected to reach 23 C before falling to 15 C overnight.

Sunday’s forecast is projected to be mostly the same.

The national weather agency says it issues severe thunderstorm watches are issued when atmospheric conditions are favourable for the development of thunderstorms that could produce one or more of the following: large hail, damaging winds, or torrential rainfall.



© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Hundreds of Maple Ridge residents displaced by massive fire

Hundreds of Maple Ridge residents have been displaced after a massive fire at an apartment building that was under construction.

Hundreds of Maple Ridge residents have been displaced after a massive fire at a construction site jumped to a neighbouring apartment building.

Maple Ridge firefighters were called to a large structure fire around midnight near Brown Ave. and Edge Street.

“This was a very, very large fire. We had around 60 firefighters working the incident,” said Michael van Dob, Maple Ridge’s fire chief.

“The thermal energy of this fire transferred across the lane, quite handily, and ignited a significant portion of the neighbouring building.”

When they arrived, they found a large apartment building, which was under construction, fully engulfed in flames.

The flames tore through the structure, completely burning it to the ground, after spreading to the adjacent occupied apartment building.

Dozens of firefighters were at the scene battling the blaze, some from other nearby communities.

A police officer was taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation.

The area remains closed off Saturday and people are being advised to stay away, while an investigation looks into the fire.

Emergency Support Services are looking after the displaced residents.


© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

What's next for the foreign interference probe? LeBlanc says all options on the table

David Johnston, the former governor general and special rapporteur on foreign interference has resigned. For weeks now he’s faced numerous calls from opposition parties to step down over his recommendation not to hold a public inquiry into Chinese efforts to influence Canadian elections. Mercedes Stephenson has more.

All options are on the table for determining “next steps” following the news that former governor general David Johnston is resigning as special rapporteur, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in a press conference Saturday.

The government will be consulting judicial experts and opposition leaders to decide what to do next, including who could be best to lead the rest of Johnston’s work or even who might lead a public inquiry, what the terms of reference would be and how one would respect classified information.

“We’re confident we can find the right eminent person to lead this next public phase of engagement,” LeBlanc said. “We are not looking for delays.”

LeBlanc said he hopes the government can receive specific suggestions from opposition parties in the coming days including names of individuals who could lead the process.

“It’s our government’s hope that the opposition parties will treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves and that we will be able to chart a path forward,” LeBlanc said.

Dominic Leblanc

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities Dominic LeBlanc speaks during a news conference following the resignation of David Johnston, Independent Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Saturday, June 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Canadian Press

Johnston was appointed by Trudeau in March to look into how the government has handled allegations of interference by China into Canada’s elections, which were first brought to light in a series of reports by Global News and the Globe and Mail that cited national security sources and classified documents.

Johnston announced his resignation from the position on Friday following weeks of scrutiny over what the opposition parties called a conflict of interest due to his ties to Trudeau’s family and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

Last week, the House of Commons passed a non-binding resolution calling for Johnston to step down over the “appearance of bias.”

The resignation marks a sudden turn from Johnston’s commitment to stay on as special rapporteur in the wake of the House motion, which was brought by the NDP. At that time, Johnston said he would only take instructions on his work and his future from the Trudeau government, not Parliament.

In his resignation letter, Johnston reiterated his conclusion that public hearings should be held “both to educate the public and to consider necessary reforms to various aspects of the government’s systems and policies dealing with foreign interference,” rather than a public inquiry.

“A deep and comprehensive review of foreign interference, its effects, and how to prevent it, should be an urgent priority for your Government and our Parliament,” he wrote.

With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Toronto police still searching for suspects in mosque parking lot assault

WATCH: Security footage captured Wednesday shows two men approaching and attacking a victim in the parking lot of a mosque in Toronto.

Police have released suspect descriptions and the image of a vehicle as part of a continuing investigation into a Toronto mosque parking lot attack.

The attack was reported on May 10 before 8 p.m., when a man was assaulted while walking to his vehicle after grocery shopping, police said. The attack allegedly happened around Danforth Avenue and Victoria Park Avenue.

Video obtained by Global News appears to show the violent attack.

The surveillance video shows the victim, a 67-year-old man, walking through the parking lot of Baitul Aman Masjid when he is approached by two masked men all dressed in dark clothing.

One man appears to be holding a bat and begins striking the man while the other man can be seen kicking and punching.

The two are then seen getting into a light-coloured sedan and driving off. At the time, police said the attack did not appear to be hate-motivated.

On June 10, a month after the attack was reported, Toronto police released descriptions of two of three suspects they are looking for. They also released an image of the car the suspects appeared to leave the scene in.

The first suspect is described as a thin-built male with a black hat. Police said he wore dark clothing, a black mask and red gloves. The second was described as male, medium build and wearing dark clothing.

There is no description for the third suspect.

— With files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues

Police have released an image of the vehicle they believe suspects fled the scene of the mosque attack in on May 10, 2023.

Police have released an image of the vehicle they believe suspects fled the scene of the mosque attack in on May 10, 2023.

TPS / Handout

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Man walks into Toronto hospital after overnight shooting

Police are investigating after a man walked into a Toronto hospital with a gunshot wound on Saturday morning.

In a tweet, Toronto police said they received a shooting call just before 3 a.m. on Saturday around Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue.

A male victim walked into a hospital with a gunshot wound, police said. His injuries are considered serious but non-life-threatening.

Police said no suspect information was available.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ashley Furniture sofas, recliners recalled due to fire risk

An Alberta man is demanding a refund from popular furniture retailer Ashley Furniture after he said he was sold a defective and unsafe couch. Tomasia DaSilva has some advice on how consumers can protect themselves.

A range of products by Canadian company, Ashley Furniture Industries LLC, are being recalled due to potential fire hazards.

Ashley power loveseats, sofas, and recliners with LED cup holders are at risk of failing after prolonged use, the Government of Canada said in a safety alert Friday, which could lead to overheating and fire.

The government is advising consumers to immediately unplug recalled products and contact Ashley Furniture for free repairs.

The alert says the company has received no reports of consumer incidents or injuries in Canada as of May 31, 2023. However, the company received six reports in the United States of fire, smoke damage and damaged furniture in products with LED cup holders, but no injuries.

This recall involves Signature Design by Ashley Furniture Industries, LLC Party Time Loveseats, Sofas and Recliners.


White recliner

The Government of Canada released a recall/safety alert Friday, June 9 2023 for a number of Ashley Furniture products. The recall involves Signature Design by Ashley Furniture Industries, LLC Party Time Loveseats, Sofas and Recliners.

Credit: Health Canada/Ashley Furniture Industries LLC

The following products were affected:

  • Loveseats sold under the model 3700318, 3700418, 3700318C, 3700418
  • Recliners sold under the model 3700313, 3700413, 3700313C, 3700413C
  • Sofas sold under the model 3700315, 3700415, 3700315C, 3700415C

The alert notes that the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act prohibits recalled products from being redistributed, sold or even given away in Canada.

For more information, consumers can contact Ashley Furniture Industries, LLC by telephone at 866-482-2893 from 7 am to 5pm CT, Monday through Friday, or visit the company recall website.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

N.S. woman fined nearly $29,000 for outdoor fire as massive Shelburne wildfire burns

Police say a woman in central Nova Scotia has been fined nearly $29,000 for having an unsupervised outdoor fire in the midst of a provincewide fire ban.

RCMP Cpl. Chris Marshall says officers responded to reports of an open fire on private property on Friday afternoon in the community of Lantz, about 50 kilometres north of Halifax.

Marshall says they found an unsupervised fire burning in a firepit and used a hose to douse the flames.

He says they gave a woman in the home on the property a ticket for igniting a blaze within 1,000 feet of the woods during a fire ban, which carries a fine of $28,872.50.

Meanwhile, officials say the largest wildfire in Nova Scotia’s history continues to burn out of control today but is no longer spreading.

The provincial Department of Natural Resources and Renewables says about 130 firefighters are working to knock down the 234-square-kilometre blaze, which began on May 27 near Barrington Lake in Shelburne County.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2023.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

How the city and province are attempting to address 'root causes' of crime, disorder in Edmonton

This is the second article in a three-part series examining Edmonton’s core one year after the city introduced a “safety plan” after two men were killed in Chinatown. The first article on addressing crime can be read here and the next article on revitalizing the neighbourhood can be read Sunday.

While a multitude of resources have gone towards “boots on the ground” in an effort to address crime and homelessness in Edmonton’s core, many resources are also going to prevention, in the form of addiction and mental health treatment, affordable housing and other social supports.

Though homelessness is often seen as going hand in hand with crime and disorder, advocates and city representatives have been careful to underline that there is not a link between the two phenomena.

However, University of Alberta criminologist Temitope Oriola said poverty, homelessness, adverse childhood experiences, drug addiction and mental health problems are the root causes of many crimes.

“None of those social issues can be separated from issues in relation to this organized crime downtown and elsewhere around Edmonton, or any city for that matter,” he said.

Reports from city staff acknowledge that “some disorder observed is rooted in core social issues such as lack of housing, mental health and substance use.”

Regardless of whether homelessness, crime and disorder are linked, police are on the front lines responding, and Oriola suggested a more multi-pronged approach could be more effective.

“The solution to open drug use and homelessness is not more police, it is providing shelters, it is providing safe injection sites and all of that,” he said, adding he thinks more police is an interim solution.

“We’ve got to do more in terms of the social issues at the root of those problems — mental health support for our citizens, shelter for the homeless, supports for those who are drug addicted.”

In the second of a three-part series, Global News is looking at what has been done to address what some call the root causes of crime and disorder and talking to community members to see if they think the situation is improving.

Addiction, mental health support

Shortly after the killings in Chinatown, the city, Downtown Business Association and Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS)  announced they would pilot a new program called Overdose Prevention and Response Teams (OPRTs) to help prevent and respond to drug poisonings in Edmonton, funded with a $195,000 Downtown Vibrancy grant.

On Dec. 13, 2022, the provincial government announced the launch of the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force to address addiction and homelessness in the city. The government said more than $60 million went to increasing access to addiction services.

“Alberta spends more than $1 billion annually on addiction and mental health care and supports, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery,” the province said in a news release.

Since being elected in 2019, the UCP government says it has added 147 annual treatment beds in Edmonton, eliminated daily user fees at treatment spaces, introduced a digital overdose prevention tool, and is expanding access to addiction treatment medication.

A new addiction recovery centre will be built in Enoch Cree Nation, just outside Edmonton, that will provide “holistic addiction treatment services” for up to 300 people a year, the province announced in April.

The province said partnering with Indigenous communities is important because they are some of the most affected by the addiction crisis. The provincial government is chipping in $30 million to fund the project.

Some harm-reduction advocates have criticized the province’s recovery-oriented system of care, particularly a bill promised by Premier Danielle Smith during her election campaign that would “allow a family member, doctor or police officer to make a petition to family court for a treatment order when someone is a danger to themselves or others.”

When people spend time in involuntary treatment, it reduces their tolerance, and if they relapse, they’re far more likely to have an overdose, according to Elaine Hyshka, an associate professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health.

Smith’s chief of staff said the treatment would be voluntary and there would be no penalties for refusing drug treatment.

Opioid overdose deaths in Edmonton are down, according to Alberta Health Services.

In January 2023 – the most recent month for which data is available – 29 people died of an overdose in the city.

That’s down from a peak of 70 people in the month of December 2021 and almost as low as the number of deaths in April 2020 before fatalities started to skyrocket during the pandemic.

AHS said hospitalizations and emergency department visits related to opioids are also down when comparing 2022 to 2021.

Chinatown business owner Will Chen said he sees a lot of people struggling with mental health issues in the neighbourhood and he believes that should be addressed first.

“While, yes, housing would help, I think primarily mental health support is what these people seek the most,” he said.


As part of the safety task force, the province also introduced $19 million in funding to combat homelessness.

Global News asked the province for more details on what that money is going towards but did not receive an answer in time for publication.

The province also introduced a 10-year strategy in 2021 that it hopes will improve and expand affordable housing into the future.

The strategy says the province aims to add 13,000 new units and support 25,000 more households in the plan. It also aims to provide rent assistance to 12,000 more households.

The province allocated almost $1 million for renovations to a handful of affordable housing providers in Edmonton in its latest budget, as well as about $14 million to build new units over the last two budgets.

The City of Edmonton has numerous ongoing programs and partnerships that aim to address and prevent homelessness.

In the 2023-26 budget, city council approved nearly $50 million that will go to the affordable housing and homelessness department. That money will be used as grants for housing providers.

On top of that, the city hopes to squeeze out even more money in the budget for affordable housing through the city’s OP12 process.

The city provided $7.5 million in emergency funding for a shelter in the west end in November after multiple people died in homeless encampments.

City council is also looking to change the way the city responds to homeless encampments, changing the focus from removing the camps to keeping them as safe as possible while connecting the residents with housing support.

Christel Kjenner, the city’s director of affordable housing and homelessness, said increasing the supply of affordable housing is one of the most important ways to keep people from falling into homelessness.

“It helps people who have low incomes — and very low incomes — access housing that’s affordable to their income so that they can stay housed,” she said.

Edmonton has 14,000 units of affordable housing but needs 60,000 more, Kjenner said.

She added it’s not just about affordability — supportive housing is important to keep people housed.

“If there’s health issues or mental health issues involved too, then having access to those supports is really critical for well-being,” Kjenner said.

But despite all these efforts, more people are becoming homeless than are getting into a stable place to live. In 2022, an average of 462 people became homeless every month, and more than half were becoming homeless for the first time, according to Homeward Trust.

In fact, there are now more homeless people in Edmonton than ever before. As of June 5, there were 3,112 homeless people in Edmonton, higher than the previous peak of 3,079 in 2008 and double the amount in 2019, according to Homeward Trust’s by name list.

Kjenner said it’s hoped by the end of 2023 the city’s new Community Plan to End Homelessness will be put together, along with a plan for homelessness prevention.

BSCS provides support for vulnerable people from a location near Rogers Place, and plans to open another location nearby as well as one in south Edmonton.


Spokesperson Elliot Tanti said he believes there just isn’t enough space for vulnerable people to go.

“The enforcement approach around encampments is really just moving people around,” he said.

“We need to be thinking about well-rounded approaches, increased social services, increased housing.”

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the city lacks the capacity to address root causes.

“The fundamental issue of not having access to housing, not having access to treatment for mental health and addictions that are causing a lot of these issues, and that’s where the role of the provincial government comes,” he said.

However, Sohi also acknowledged the province has supported the city in building more affordable housing units.

“I hope that the new government under Premier Danielle Smith will hopefully reset their approach to how they look at these very complex and complicated issues that people are facing.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Can chatbots be ministers? Hundreds attend ChatGPT-led church service

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, was among three others who testified at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday intended "to write the rules" of artificial intelligence in the era of rapid-evolving technology like ChatGPT.

The artificial intelligence chatbot asked the believers in the fully packed St. Paul’s church in the Bavarian town of Fuerth to rise from the pews and praise the Lord.

The ChatGPT chatbot, personified by an avatar of a bearded Black man on a huge screen above the altar, then began preaching to the more than 300 people who had shown up on Friday morning for an experimental Lutheran church service almost entirely generated by AI.

“Dear friends, it is an honor for me to stand here and preach to you as the first artificial intelligence at this year’s convention of Protestants in Germany,” the avatar said with an expressionless face and monotonous voice.

The 40-minute service – including the sermon, prayers and music – was created by ChatGPT and Jonas Simmerlein, a theologian and philosopher from the University of Vienna.

“I conceived this service – but actually I rather accompanied it, because I would say about 98 per cent comes from the machine,” the 29-year-old scholar told The Associated Press.

Jonas Simmerlein

Jonas Simmerlein, theologian and philosopher from the University of Vienna in Austria, gestures during an interview with The Associated Press in Nuremberg, Germany, Friday, June 9, 2023.

Matthias Schrader / The Associated Press

The AI church service was one of hundreds of events at the convention of Protestants in the Bavarian towns of Nuremberg and the neighboring Fuerth, and it drew such immense interest that people formed a long queue outside the 19th-century, neo-Gothic building an hour before it began.

The convention itself – Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag in German – takes place every two years in the summer at a different place in Germany and draws tens of thousands of believers to pray, sing and discuss their faith. They also talk about current world affairs and look for solutions to key issues, which this year included global warming, the war in Ukraine – and artificial intelligence.

This year’s gathering is taking place from Wednesday to Sunday under the motto “Now is the time.” That slogan was one of the sentences Simmerlein fed ChatGPT when he asked the chatbot to develop the sermon.

“I told the artificial intelligence `We are at the church congress, you are a preacher, what would a church service look like?”’ Simmerlein said. He also asked for psalms to be included, as well as prayers and a blessing at the end.

“You end up with a pretty solid church service,” Simmerlein said, sounding almost surprised by the success of his experiment.

Indeed, the believers in the church listened attentively as the artificial intelligence preached about leaving the past behind, focusing on the challenges of the present, overcoming fear of death, and never losing trust in Jesus Christ.

The entire service was “led” by four different avatars on the screen, two young women, and two young men.

Hundreds line up for church in Germany

People queue for a church service in Nuremberg, Germany, Friday, June 9, 2023.

Matthias Schrader / The Associated Press

At times, the AI-generated avatar inadvertently drew laughter as when it used platitudes and told the churchgoers with a deadpan expression that in order “to keep our faith, we must pray and go to church regularly.”

Some people enthusiastically videotaped the event with their cell phones, while others looked on more critically and refused to speak along loudly during The Lord’s Prayer.

Heiderose Schmidt, a 54-year-old who works in IT, said she was excited and curious when the service started but found it increasingly off-putting as it went along.

“There was no heart and no soul,” she said. “The avatars showed no emotions at all, had no body language and were talking so fast and monotonously that it was very hard for me to concentrate on what they said.”

“But maybe it is different for the younger generation who grew up with all of this,” Schmidt added.

Marc Jansen, a 31-year-old Lutheran pastor from Troisdorf near the western German city of Cologne, brought a group of teenagers from his congregation to St. Paul. He was more impressed by the experiment.

“I had actually imagined it to be worse. But I was positively surprised how well it worked. Also the language of the AI worked well, even though it was still a bit bumpy at times,” Jansen said.

What the young pastor missed, however, was any kind of emotion or spirituality, which he says is essential when he writes his own sermons.

Anna Puzio, 28, a researcher on the ethics of technology from the University of Twente in The Netherlands, also attended the service. She said she sees a lot of opportunities in the use of AI in religion — such as making religious services more easily available and inclusive for believers who for various reasons may not be able experience their faith in person with others in houses of worship.

However, she noted there are also dangers when it comes to the use of AI in religion.

“The challenge that I see is that AI is very human-like and that it’s easy to be deceived by it,” she said.

“Also, we don’t have only one Christian opinion, and that’s what AI has to represent as well,” she said. “We have to be careful that it’s not misused for such purposes as to spread only one opinion.”

Simmerlein said it is not his intention to replace religious leaders with artificial intelligence. Rather, he sees the use of AI as a way to help them with their everyday work in their congregations.

Some pastors seek inspiration in literature, he says, so why not also ask AI for ideas regarding an upcoming sermon. Others would like to have more time for individual spiritual guidance of their parishioners, so why not speed up the process of writing the sermon with the help of a chatbot to make time for other important duties.

“Artificial intelligence will increasingly take over our lives, in all its facets,” Simmerlein said. “And that’s why it’s useful to learn to deal with it.”

However, the experimental church service also showed the limits to implementing artificial AI in church, or in religion. There was no real interaction between the believers and the chatbot, which wasn’t able to respond to the laughter or any other reactions by the churchgoers as a human pastor would have been able to do.

“The pastor is in the congregation, she lives with them, she buries the people, she knows them from the beginning,” Simmerlein said. “Artificial intelligence cannot do that. It does not know the congregation.”

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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