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Feds probe data breach

OTTAWA -- The privacy watchdog will investigate a federal data breach in which the personal information of thousands of Canadians went astray.

The office of privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says it received formal complaints after a Human Resources and Skills Development Canada employee lost a USB key containing the personal information -- including social insurance numbers -- of about 5,000 Canadians.

Anne-Marie Hayden, a spokeswoman for Stoddart, says the privacy commissioner has also taken close to 200 calls from people expressing concern about the breach.

Human Resources says an extensive search for the key continues.

The department has no evidence that information on the missing key has been used for fraudulent purposes.

A spokeswoman for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley calls the loss of the key a serious and completely unacceptable incident.

Haiti aid funding frozen

MONTREAL -- Canada's international co-operation minister has told a Montreal newspaper the federal government will freeze funding for new aid projects in Haiti.

La Presse is reporting Julian Fantino says his department will not fund any new initiatives in Haiti until it finds a more effective approach to help the struggling Caribbean nation.

Fantino's announcement comes just days before the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed an estimated 300,000 people.

The former head of the Ontario Provincial Police says he was disappointed at the lack of progress he saw in Haiti during his visit to the country in November.

He says Canada will continue to fund programs in Haiti that are already underway.

Fantino said in the interview Canada has provided $1 billion in aid to Haiti since 2006 -- making it one of the largest foreign donors to the island nation.

On-ice striptease charge

PINCHER CREEK, Alta. -- A woman faces charges after a hockey game in southern Alberta was delayed by an on-ice striptease.

RCMP in Pincher Creek say the incidents began with them investigating a near head-on collision in which a vehicle had to swerve into the ditch to avoid being hit.

Police say the offending driver and passenger fled the scene, although the driver was found soon after and arrested.

Officers looking into a disturbance at the hockey arena discovered the passenger removing her clothes despite objections from staff.

Brittany Hourie is accused of indecent acts, causing a disturbance and obstruction of a police officer.

Tiffany Hourie is charged with impaired driving, leaving the scene of an accident and refusing to provide a breath sample.

Both women are expected to appear in court later this month.

Appeal on extracurriculars

TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he's asked union leaders to allow teachers to resume extracurricular activities in public schools across the province.

He says he received no assurances the voluntary activities would be restored, but he wanted to reach out personally to see if they could find a way to move ahead.

Two unions representing public elementary and high school teachers were outraged Thursday by his government's decision to use a controversial anti-strike law to impose new two-year contracts on their 126,000 members.

The law had prompted one-day strikes by elementary teachers, while their high school counterparts cut out extracurriculars, such as sports and clubs.

But McGuinty has promised to repeal the law before the end of the month, when he steps down as premier.

Slaying suspect fit for trial

DRUMMONDVILLE, Que. -- A Quebec woman charged with killing her three children has been declared fit to stand trial.

Sonia Blanchette appeared in court Friday after undergoing a lengthy psychiatric evaluation.

Details of the psychiatric assessment were not revealed in court.

The 33-year-old Blanchette was arrested after two-year-old Anais, four-year-old Loic and five-year-old Lorelie were found dead in her Drummondville residence in early December.

She faces three counts of first-degree murder and is due to return to court on March 28.

Drummondville is midway between Montreal and Quebec City.

GM salmon nears approval

GENETICALLY engineered salmon created in Canada are getting closer to becoming the first transgenic animal to be approved for human consumption after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the fish have no significant environmental impact.

The FDA published its draft environmental assessment last month -- one of the final steps in what has been a 17-year regulatory process.

The AquAdvantage salmon developed at Memorial University and the University of Toronto consists of an Atlantic salmon egg that includes genes from Chinook salmon and an eel-like fish called the ocean pout.

AquaBounty Technologies is the Massachussetts-based company that produces the GM salmon eggs at a farm in Prince Edward Island and rears the fish at a fish farm in Panama.

The company says the modification means the salmon grow twice as fast as conventional fish.

Critics fear the so-called Frankenfish could escape from their inland fish farms and affect wild populations, and they tried unsuccessfully to have Congress derail the FDA process.

The U.S. FDA has already found the AquAdvantage salmon are safe to eat.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 A16

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