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Peacekeepers to Haiti?

OTTAWA -- The Harper government has quietly considered a proposal to contribute more peacekeepers to the UN stabilization mission in Haiti in a goodwill gesture aimed at Brazil.

The emerging economic power in South America is the biggest contributor to the international military force in the hard-pressed Caribbean nation.

Ottawa and Brasilia have discussed the idea of embedding a Canadian platoon of soldiers in an existing Brazilian unit, as well as deploying additional Canadian troops to help with headquarters and logistics, according a set of internal Defence Department briefings.

The initial contribution plan, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, calls for a force of 50 Canadian soldiers.

"The security situation has improved since 2010, but still remains fragile," said a Jan. 6, 2012, briefing for Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

The proposal has been floating around National Defence headquarters for almost two years, but has yet to receive the blessing of the federal cabinet despite -- according to the documents -- the backing MacKay and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

18 caught sticky-handed

MONTREAL -- Eighteen people have been arrested in a massive heist of maple syrup, Quebec police said Thursday.

The accused face a variety of charges including theft, conspiracy, fraud and receiving stolen goods.

Provincial police said in a statement they are looking for seven more people in the case.

The sweet stuff was stolen in the town of Saint-Louis-de-Blandford between August 2011 and this past July.

About 2.7 million kilograms of maple syrup, worth up to $18 million, was reported missing after a routine inventory check last summer.

Officers from the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement helped Quebec police in the investigation, which featured interviews with 300 people in the maple syrup industry in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and the northern U.S.

IKEA monkey going home?

OSHAWA, Ont. -- The owner of a monkey found wandering in an IKEA parking lot is set to learn today whether she will get to take him home, albeit temporarily, but she didn't leave an Ontario courthouse empty-handed Thursday.

Darwin the Japanese macaque has been residing at a primate sanctuary since he made international headlines with his romp among confused furniture shoppers in Toronto earlier this month. After a court hearing Thursday where Yasmin Nakhuda began legal efforts seeking Darwin's return, the sanctuary gave her back his tiny shearling coat that captured so much attention.

Nakhuda left the courthouse clutching the stylish little jacket and said little about the case.

"I just want him to be with us, where he belongs -- not for Christmas, forever," she said.

New twists were added Thursday to the unusual story as the lawyer for the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., hinted at allegations of abuse and revealed the sanctuary owner has been receiving death threats.

Passport hike confirmed

OTTAWA -- The cost of getting a Canadian passport is going up significantly in the new year.

Without the fee increases, Passport Canada would not be able to maintain current operations, let alone offer security-enhanced travel documents, the agency says.

New regulations posted this week confirm the cost of a five-year passport will increase to $120 from $87.

And starting in July 2013, a 10-year passport will also be offered at a cost of $160.

By March 2014, Passport Canada will also charge an additional $45 to replace a passport that's lost or stolen, something that's currently free. Approximately 55,000 Canadian passports are reported lost or stolen annually, the agency said.

As well, anyone ordering or wanting to receive their passport outside of Canada will see fees nearly double.

The agency said it's currently losing nearly $5 every time it issues a passport and has been financing its deficit by using previously accumulated surpluses that will run out next year. Passport fees in Canada have not increased for nearly a decade.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2012 A19

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