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Army purchase iffy

OTTAWA -- It's going to cost the Canadian army more than planned to house new armoured vehicles, and commanders fear they won't be able to afford basic upkeep of the fleet, internal government documents say.

Reports prepared for former associate defence minister Bernard Valcourt lay out the pitfalls of the purchase of 108 close-combat vehicles -- a program whose future is being debated by the Harper government.

Defence sources say cabinet may be called upon to ultimately decide the fate of the $2.1-billion program, which has already passed through Treasury Board.

The vehicles were conceived at the height of the Afghanistan war as the army looked for better protection from bombs and booby traps, but critics say the program's time has passed.

A report from the committee overseeing the program, dated Oct. 26, 2012, shows the contract was to be awarded to one of three bidders this month after extensive testing and a two-year delay. Bids were initially called in 2009 with great fanfare, but the competition was abruptly reset without explanation in late 2010.


Firestorm over firepit

MANOR, Sask. -- Danielle Duperre called 911 last week when she thought the blaze from her neighbour's firepit was getting out of control, but says she didn't expect to face a tirade about her "petty" French complaint as a result.

The Montreal native, who moved in 2011 to the tiny village of Manor in southern Saskatchewan, said Thursday the volunteer fire chief showed up at her house demanding she pay for making the emergency call because the fire didn't pose a hazard.

She said his hand was balled up in a fist and his mouth was clenched tight. She became afraid and quickly grabbed her cellphone to record the man's ensuing two-minute rant.

"Go back to (expletive) Montreal where you belong!" he shouts on the recording. "You got me out of (expletive) bed for this whole (expletive)!"

He identifies himself as the fire chief but refuses to give his name. At one point, Duperre asks him to put his hands down and stop yelling.

"You cannot talk to me that way," she says.

The man yells another obscenity before the exchange ends.

Duperre said she was shaken after the incident. The next day, she dropped off a complaint and a copy of the recording at the local village office.

Doug Lapchuk, president of the Saskatchewan Volunteer Firefighter's Association, said he has spoken with Chapman and he and his crew are not talking publicly.

"There's something more to this and we've all been asked to reiterate, 'no particular comment at this moment.' "


911 needs help

SEVERAL problems in Canada's patchwork system of 911 services need to be fixed -- such as accurately locating cellphone callers -- before text messages or social media can be used in an emergency, a report says.

The report by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) also noted it's "unacceptable" the number of 911 calls made in Canada each year are not tracked.

Authored by former CRTC commissioner Timothy Denton, the report noted a "large and widening gap" between what 911 services can do and what people expect they can do.

For example, some Canadians mistakenly believe emergency responders can monitor social media sites or are always provided a precise location of a mobile phone call. In many instances, when a location is provided, it can be an approximation to the closest cellphone tower.

Denton wrote that new technologies to contact 911 will not address these issues, because there is no single authority responsible for these emergency services.

Despite these issues, the regulator wants to hear from consumers about how they think text messages, picture messages, and social media can be incorporated into the 911 service.


Iranian-Canadian freed

TORONTO -- The Department of Foreign Affairs says an Iranian-Canadian man who was on death row in Tehran has returned to Canada.

Hamid Ghassemi-Shall had been in an Iranian prison since he was arrested in 2008 and charged with espionage until he was freed last month.

Ghassemi-Shall, who emigrated from Iran after that country's 1979 revolution, was sentenced to death in 2009 and an Iranian court later rejected an appeal.

The Toronto salesman had made several trips back to visit family without incident before his arrest in 2008.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich says the government is relieved by the positive outcome of Ghassemi-Shall's case.


-- The Canadian Press


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2013 A18

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