UPDATED: 1 dead, 4 injured in Simcoe County crash

ESSA TOWNSHIP, ONT. —; One woman is dead and four people are injured after two vehicles collided in what police are calling a “serious” crash in Essa Township.

Const. Sara Birrell from OPP Nottawasaga said it’s believed one car ran a stop sign while travelling south on 9th Line. A second car with six passengers was travelling east on 8th Sideroad.

The cars collided on 9th Line, just south of 10th Sideroad shortly after 4 p.m. on Sunday. When paramedics arrived, two people were trapped in a vehicle.

Ornge air ambulance had been called in to take one of the drivers —; who was in critical condition —; to hospital, but was called off before it arrived.

Essa Fire Department confirmed shortly after 5:30 p.m. that the female driver from the first car was pronounced dead on scene.

Const. Birrell said one person from the second car suffered serious injuries while three others suffered minor injuries.

Ontario Provincial Police are advising drivers to avoid the area as parts of 5th Sideroad and 9th Line are closed for the investigation.

Essa Township is part of Simcoe County, located northwest of Barrie.

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Pez Candy forced to cancel Easter egg hunt due to unruly parents

What’s supposed to be a cherished Easter tradition turned into a mess after pushy parents caused a scene at egg hunts over the weekend.

Saturday’s event at the visitor centre of candy company Pez in Orange, Connecticut, drew hundreds of people, some of whom ignored the rules.

“Everyone just rushed the field and took everything,” Pez General Manager Shawn Peterson told WFSB-TV.

Event organizers placed more than 9,000 eggs on three fields with the intention of having staggered start times for each age group. But Pez officials say parents didn’t wait.

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Peterson said the crowd was “kind of like locusts.”

Pez in a statement apologized for “an unfortunate situation,” adding that the actions of a few turned the event into “a mess.”

“We sincerely tried our best to create a fun, free activity for everyone to enjoy,” the statement said.

People who attended the hunt took to Facebook to comment, calling it “a joke” and blaming “greedy parents” for ruining the hunt. The event ended early. No injuries were reported.

READ MORE: How people are celebrating Easter around the world

In Proctor, Vermont, police were called to an overbooked Easter egg hunt Saturday at Wilson Castle after someone reported “multiple irate parents.” Organizers say more than 1,200 people turned out for the event.

Michael Cuthbertson, 34, of Newbury, Vermont, turned his anger toward police, allegedly threatening them before fleeing. A foot chase ensued, and police used pepper spray to subdue him. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Cuthbertson did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Organizers get ready to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility

CALGARY – Preparations are underway for an event celebrating Calgary’s transgender community and its supporters.

International Transgender Day of Visibility takes place on March 31 and is the first large-scale celebration of trans people in the city, other than the pride parade.

The annual holiday is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide.

The holiday was founded in 2009 because of a lack of LGBTQ holidays.

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Calgary Pride and the Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA) are hosting a free event at the Jack Singer Concert Hall Lobby of Arts Common.

Organizers said it was important to have a day of celebration for the trans community and its achievements.

“We’ve seen a lot of progress over the past year, which has been wonderful, certainly with Bill 7 passing – which was an amendment to the Alberta Human Rights Act – which included gender identity and expression,” said Amelia Marie Newbert, director of Community Development for Calgary Pride. “However the stigma and discrimination that exists in society towards trans people is still very prevalent.”

“There certainly is substantially more diversity in the community and that’s what we’re trying to highlight in the event,” Newbert said.

Statistics show that 83 per cent of trans individuals have or continue to avoid spaces due to the fear and threat of discrimination, violence and harassment.

The ‘Trans Pulse‘ project statistics also show that 77 per cent of trans people have seriously considered suicide, with over 40 per cent having attempted it.

Saint John restaurant owner opens market aimed at Syrian refugees

Many Syrian refugees living in the Maritimes are finding it difficult to access food deemed acceptable under Islamic law. A Saint John restaurateur is trying to tackle that problem with an initiative that helps his community and may, in turn, boost his business.

It’s a pop-up market at the Taste of Egypt restaurant designed to serve the newly landed Syrian refugees who now call Saint John home.

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    This market, which opens Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., specializes in Halal items. The word Halal means permissible in Arabic. Halal food has been found fit to serve, sell and eat by Islamic law.

    “No alcohol, no liquor in any products,” Taste of Egypt owner Ehab Radwan explained. “For the meat it’s the way you slaughter the animal to be Halal…It’s the same idea of Kosher for Jewish.”

    This is only the second Sunday Radwan has opened the market and on March 27 there was a steady stream of people through the door.

    Radwan came to Saint John from Alexandria Egypt six years ago. He can relate to the situation many Syrians are facing in Saint John, trying to adapt to a new culture.

    “I felt I have to do something for them so I’m trying to help them settle down here as much as I can.”

    The service he is now providing certainly seems to be appreciated by his customers.

    Michelle Mullett is a welcome team member to Rosem Abzid and says it’s important to give the Syrian refugees a sense of home.

    “This allows them to eat the food that they’re familiar with,” Mullett said.

    “They’ve had so much change and it’s difficult when the meal doesn’t feel like home.”

    Saint John is now home to about 400 Syrian refugees – that’s several dozen families.

    Some locals were also checking things out, which impressed Rosem.

    “I said to her, ‘In Canada we’re open to trying different cultures’ menus and this enables us to do it,’ but it also gives her the feeling of home,” Mullet added.

    Right now Radwan is bringing in products not readily available here with plans to up his inventory if necessary.

    “We keep adding more and yeah we’re able to bring in as much as I can.”

Lethbridge fitness community comes together to support Food Bank

LETHBRIDGE – The Lethbridge fitness community took part in a Burpee Challenge this weekend, all in the name of charity.

FitBody Bootcamp, Kinetic Indoor Cycle & Fitness, and CrossFit FrameWork hit the turf at the Civic Centre to make good on their promise to perform as many burpees as donations made by their clients to the Lethbridge Food Bank.

All food and cash donations made at all three locations were calculated, and totaled over $4000, and 1500 nonperishable food items.

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For every $20 donated to the cause, instructors were required to do 40 burpees. For every nonperishable food item donated from March 1 to March 26, they were required to do one burpee. The three groups completed over 8000 burpees.

Over the past year, all three fitness studios have donated to the Food Bank but this is the first time they have joined forces to help the community.

During these difficult economic times, donations are becoming more and more demanding in the area.

“We have increased about 100 families each month,” said Debbie Woelders, Executive Director of the Lethbridge Food Bank. “Unfortunately with the economy we have seen a lot more families who are in dire need for help.”

Many of the fitness studio clientele saw this event not only as a way to give back to the community, but a way to get back at their trainers for their hard workouts.

“We obviously make our members do a lot of burpees,” said Jarred Koktas, Director of Health and Fitness at FitBody Bootcamp. “They wanted to get back at us, and I can say they successfully did that.”

The group hopes that this will become an annual event and wants to encourage all fitness facilities in Lethbridge to take on the challenge for a worthy cause.

89 Elk Island bison heading ‘home’ to Montana Indian reservation

BILLINGS, Mont. – Descendants of a bison herd captured and sent to Canada more than 140 years ago will be relocated to a Montana American Indian reservation next month, in what tribal leaders bill as a homecoming for a species emblematic of their traditions.

The shipment of animals from Alberta’s Elk Island National Park to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation follows a 2014 treaty among tribes in the United States and Canada. That agreement aims to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions once roamed.

“For thousands of years the Blackfeet lived among the buffalo here. The buffalo sustained our way of life, provided our food, clothing, shelter,” Blackfeet Chairman Harry Barnes said. “It became part of our spiritual being. We want to return the buffalo.”

The 89 plains bison, also known as buffalo, will form the nucleus of a herd that tribal leaders envision will soon roam freely across a vast landscape: the Blackfeet reservation, nearby Glacier National Park and the Badger-Two Medicine wilderness – more than 4,000 square miles combined.

Bison were hunted to near-extinction in the late 1800s as European settlers advanced across the once-open American West.

In this undated photo provided by Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives from a stereograph shows Michel Pablo looks over some of his bison, which were rounded up, sold, and shipped to the Canadian government.

Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives via AP

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Most of the animals that survive today are in commercial herds, raised for their meat and typically interbred with cattle. The Blackfeet have a commercial bison herd established in 1972 that numbers more than 400 animals.

The lineage of Elk Island’s bison, which experts say are free of cattle genes, traces back to a small group of animals captured by several American Indians on Blackfeet land just south of Canada.

Those bison were later sold to two men, Charles Allard and Michel Pablo, who formed what became known as the Pablo-Allard herd. By the early 1900s, the Pablo-Allard herd was said to be the largest collection of the animals remaining in the U.S.

After U.S. officials rejected a sale offer from Pablo, the Canadian government purchased most of the bison. The animals were then shipped train from Ravalli, Montana, to Elk Island, according to park officials and Western historians.

“They’ve made a big circle, but now they’re coming home,” said Ervin Carlson, a Blackfeet member and president of the Intertribal Buffalo Council.

The relocation comes as the restoration of genetically-pure bison to the West’s grasslands and forests have gained traction. The efforts include the relocation of some genetically-pure bison from Yellowstone National Park to two Indian reservations in eastern and central Montana.

The tribes – the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservations – are signatories to the 2014 treaty. But ranchers and landowners near the reservations have strongly opposed the tribes’ plans, driven by concerns over disease and the prospect of bison competing with cattle for grass.

In this undated photo provided by Parks Canada, a bison and it’s calf roam in a section of the Elk Island National Park, Canada.

Parks Canada via AP

Brucellosis, the disease found in Yellowstone’s bison herds, is absent from Canada’s Elk Island, according to the park’s superintendent, Stephen Flemming.

“The difficulty (with Yellowstone bison) is the stigma attached to them. In this case, the animals (coming from Canada) have never been exposed to brucellosis,” said Keith Aune with the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has been working with the Blackfeet on their bison program.

Over the past five years, Flemming said, about 180 Elk Island bison were relocated to form a private herd maintained by the American Prairie Reserve, which controls a large area between the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations. Those animals, too, have met some resistance from ranchers, but the absence of brucellosis has largely neutralized that issue as a point of contention.

The Blackfeet will loan 20 of the Elk Island bison to the Oakland Zoo in California for a special exhibit slated to open this fall, according to tribal officials and the zoo’s president, Joel Parrott.

Offspring from the animals would be returned to Montana, and there are plans to promote eco-tours to the Blackfeet Reservation among zoo patrons.

“Bison historically are native California animals, too,” Parrott said. “We’re going to highlight the efforts of the Blackfeet. A big part of this which is so unique is the return of buffalo to tribal lands after all these years.”

McGee Lake dump fire extinguished, now under control: fire officials

More than a dozen fire stations have been working to tackle a blaze that started at a dump site in McGee Lake, N.S., on Tuesday.

Sunday afternoon, officials confirmed that fire is now under control.

“The majority of the fire has been extinguished,” said Scott Hamilton, Deputy Fire Chief, Kentville Fire Department.

“There are still a few hot spots, so we haven’t been able to deem the fire as out at this point,” said Hamilton. “We’re in a monitoring phase.”

READ: Construction site fire prompts air quality advisory

Over the last five days, 75 volunteer firefighters in and around the Kentville, N.S., area have given their time and resources to help fight the stubborn blaze.

“This has been one longest fires that I’ve been involved in,” said Hamilton.

“We’ve estimated we’ve probably flown close to a million gallons of water in a single day and we’ve been there for five days, so potentially up to five million gallons of water have been flown on that pile of debris.”

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The fire at McGee Lake is believed to have started through spontaneous combustion. It may seem unusual, but experts say it actually happens quite frequently.

“Large piles of municipal waste, irrespective of what it is, can lead to some problems and this is a perfect example,” said Richard Buggeln, retired.

Buggeln has done years of research about spontaneous combustion and written multiple reports on the topic through the University of Tennessee Centre for Industrial Services.

Since the fire started, many in the community of Lake Echo, N.S., have been concerned about whether or not something similar could happen at a proposed construction and demolition site in their area.

A site that the community has been vocal about not wanting in their backyard.

MORE: Hundreds show up to public meeting over proposed waste site in Lake Echo

Buggeln says any site where wood waste is processed has the potential to spontaneously combust. “They have to cut up wood waste to turn it into charcoal, or to turn it into compost,” he said. “It can lead to problems unless the material is stockpiled in a way that you increase your chances of not inviting spontaneous combustion to occur.”

Buggeln believes government should ensure there are proper regulations in place around these types of sites in the future.

“People have to be trained, people meaning operators of sites and currently there’s no requirement within the province and pretty much within Canada for training,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of the things that’s kept firefighters going this week has been the support of the community. People of all ages have stepped forward to help volunteers by donating food and supplies.

Police search for 2 female suspects after man found near Belvedere LRT Station dies

EDMONTON – The homicide section was called in after a middle-aged man was found “with signs of trauma” near 129 Avenue and 58 Street.

Police would not describe the nature of the man’s injuries.

Staff Sgt. Duane Hunter said a man was driving in the area when he saw someone on the ground on the east side of the Belvedere LRT Station parking lot.

“He knew he was in bad condition,” Hunter said of the witness.

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    When officers arrived around 2:23 a.m. Sunday, the man was unconscious and “in critical condition.” He later died in hospital.

    Based on the investigation so far, Hunter said police are looking for two female suspects.

    “From our investigations up until this point, we believe there are two female suspects,” Hunter said. “From speaking to people, from interviewing people from canvassing the area.”

    They have not provided a description of the suspects.

    Police are hoping to speak with anyone who was in the area early Sunday morning. Police are also in the process of obtaining video surveillance from the LRT station.

    They are describing the death as suspicious in nature.

    “To this point, the investigation would suggest it was targeted,” Hunter said.

    Hunter said people living in the area have no reason to be concerned for their safety.

    An autopsy has been scheduled for this week.

    More to come…

World Bank providing Jordan with $100 million loan to create 100,000 jobs

AMMAN, Jordan – Jordan will get a cheap $100 million loan to help create 100,000 jobs for Syrian refugees and its own citizens, the World Bank president said Sunday.

The long-term loan, almost interest free, is part of an attempt by the international community to improve conditions for refugees in overburdened regional host countries, including Jordan and Lebanon.

More than 4.8 million Syrians have fled their country since the start of the Syria conflict in 2011. Jordan hosts about 640,000 registered Syrian refugees and Lebanon more than 1 million.

Cheap loans by the World Bank and other donors are among the new tools meant to help finance education and job creation for refugees in the region. Such support is also meant to slow the migration of refugees to Europe.

WATCH: US President Barack Obama, King Abdullah of Jordan talk Islamic State, Syria, refugees

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World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have been visiting the region since last week, first stopping in Lebanon.

Kim announced the $100 million loan for job creation in Jordan on Sunday, after Lebanon was also awarded $100 million to ensure universal school enrolment for Lebanese and Syrian refugee children by 2017.

The bank president said the money for Jordan and Lebanon – both middle income countries – is from a special fund normally reserved for the poorest countries.

“We are taking money from that fund and giving it to a middle income country because Jordan has taken such extraordinary measures” in hosting refugees, he said.

Kim did not say how soon the 100,000 jobs could be created and how many of them would go to refugees.

Jordan has set aside special economic zones where it hopes improved trade arrangements with Europe will lead to greater investment and eventually more jobs. However, the trade arrangements have not yet been worked out, and the entire job creation scheme is expected to take several years.

The idea of concessional loans was part of a package of support for refugees and their hosts announced at a Syria aid conference last month.

Eventually, the World Bank and other donors hope to offer $3 billion to $4 billion in cheap loans to refugee host countries, with international donors buying down interest.

Earlier Sunday, Ban held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman. The meeting had not been announced previously.

Ban said he is concerned that “we cannot give any hope to these people, the Palestinian people” because of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and ongoing violence.

Last week, video footage released by an Israeli rights group showed an Israeli soldier lethally shooting a Palestinian attacker who had already been shot and subdued. The incident fueled long-running complaints that Israeli forces are at times using excessive force in responding to Palestinian attacks.

The shooting came amid six months of Palestinian stabbings and other attacks that killed 28 Israelis and two Americans. In this time, at least 188 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Israel says most were attackers, and the rest died in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have not held meaningful peace talks since Netanyahu took office in 2009. Gaps remain wide between them on the terms of Palestinian statehood.

Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said the Palestinian leader told Ban on Sunday that it’s important to convene an international conference to revive peace talks. It’s a French idea backed by the Palestinians.

Airport aims to use Uber drivers’ fingerprints to check criminal history

ATLANTA – A battle over background checks for Uber drivers at the world’s busiest airport comes as cities like Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, consider more thorough screenings to prevent criminals from getting behind the wheel.

Uber has objected to the Atlanta airport’s plan to use fingerprints to check criminal records of its drivers, saying its own record checks are sufficient.

But the district attorney in Uber’s hometown of San Francisco has called the ride-booking firm’s process “completely worthless” since drivers aren’t fingerprinted.

In Houston, city officials say they found that background checks without fingerprints allow criminals who have been charged with murder, sexual assault and other crimes to evade detection in a variety of ways.

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Atlanta’s city council on Wednesday is set to consider the airport’s plan for screening drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-booking firms when proposed new rules go before the council’s transportation committee.

Uber has agreements with more than 50 U.S. airports, none of which require the fingerprint-based background checks being proposed by Atlanta’ s airport, the company said in a statement. Those airports include major air hubs in Denver; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

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But New York City does fingerprint drivers, and the mayor of Los Angeles this month asked state regulators to allow his city to do so as well.

Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, was among the first in the nation to require drivers for Uber and other ride-booking firms to undergo fingerprint-based background checks using the FBI’s database. Houston’s program began in November 2014, and city officials there say they’re far more thorough than any other way of checking someone’s criminal past.

“Public safety is our No. 1 priority – that’s something the city of Houston does not compromise on,” said Lara Cottingham, Houston’s deputy assistant director of administration and regulatory affairs. “That’s the reason we license any vehicle for hire.”

Since Houston’s ordinance went into effect, the city’s fingerprint-based FBI background checks have found driver applicants who have been charged with murder, sexual assault, robbery and indecent exposure, among other crimes. Those drivers had already cleared the commercial background checks used by ride-for-hire companies, according to a city report released this month.

Potential drivers can pass background checks that don’t rely on fingerprints simply by using an alias, the report found. For instance, one driver cleared by a company that does background checks for Uber underwent Houston’s fingerprint check, which turned up 24 alias names, 10 listed social security numbers and an active arrest warrant, the report states.

READ MORE: Breakfast Buzz: Should taxi regulations be relaxed to match Uber?

Companies that perform background checks for ride-hailing firms typically seek to identify counties where they’ve lived in the past, then search public records from those places, the report states. But the checks don’t search every county, creating “a huge potential gap where crimes go undetected,” the report states.

“The FBI provides the only true nationwide check,” the report states.

Uber has now been operating in Houston for more than a year, “and everything we’ve seen is that the number of drivers getting licenses continues to grow and their business continues to thrive,” Cottingham said.

However, Uber maintains that Atlanta’s plan would add “substantial, additional bureaucratic barriers for drivers,” company spokesman Bill Gibbons said. Atlanta would use the Georgia Department of Driver Services to help check the backgrounds of potential drivers, though specific details of how drivers would be screened haven’t been released.

The ride-booking firm Lyft also says Atlanta’s proposal would prove difficult.

“While the Hartsfield-Jackson staff has recognized the benefits Lyft provides, the current plan as proposed will make it extremely difficult for Lyft to operate,” Lyft said in a statement to The Associated Press.

WATCH: Montreal cab driver appoints himself Uber sheriff

The conflict in Atlanta is the latest in a series of disputes Uber has had over its background checks of drivers.

In December 2014, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced a lawsuit against Uber, partly over its background checks.

In Los Angeles, “registered sex offenders, a kidnapper, identity thieves, burglars, and a convicted murderer had passed Uber’s ‘industry leading’ background check,” the lawsuit states.

“Uber’s process cannot ensure that the information in the background check report is actually associated with the applicant since it does not use a unique biometric identifier such as a fingerprint,” the lawsuit adds.