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The Monday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories

The Monday briefing: Top news at-a-glance

Highlights from the news file for Monday, Feb. 6

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FED ADVISERS PROPOSE HIGHER RETIREMENT AGE: The Trudeau government’s economic advisory council is recommending Ottawa raise the age of retirement eligibility and explore a national child-care program as ways to deliver a much-needed participation boost for the country’s workforce. The proposals were among a collection of new suggestions released Monday by the government’s hand-picked growth council. To encourage older Canadians to work longer, the council recommends raising the age of eligibility for old age security and the Canada Pension Plan. The report also proposes boosting the economy by raising labour-force participation for women with children, through the possible creation of a subsidized national child-care program similar to the Quebec model.

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MILITARY TO GET GUIDELINES ON CHILD SOLDIERS: The Canadian military is poised to become the first in the world to issue guidelines for dealing with child soldiers, which could be put to the test immediately in Africa. The guidelines are intended to ensure Canadian troops are properly trained â€” and emotionally prepared — for situations involving child soldiers, no matter the mission or location. Defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance ordered the rules drafted last March after a discussion with retired senator Romeo Dallaire, who has championed the fight against using children in conflict. Cmdr. Rory McLay, who is overseeing the initiative, said the guidelines should be approved in the coming days, at which point they will be sent to commanders across the Canadian Armed Forces. Such direction is timely, given the Liberal government is expected to green-light the deployment of hundreds of Canadian soldiers to Mali in the coming weeks.

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JUDGE FINDS WOMAN GUILTY OF HIDING DEAD BABIES IN LOCKER: A judge has found a woman guilty of disposing of the remains of six infants in a Winnipeg storage locker. Andrea Giesbrecht was charged with six counts of concealing the body of a dead child. The judge said Giesbrecht was aware that the children were likely to have been born alive and she wished to conceal their births. Giesbrecht was arrested in October 2014 after police found the remains in garbage bags and other containers inside a U-Haul storage locker. Medical experts testified the infants were at or near full term, but were so badly decomposed it couldn’t be determined how they died. The Crown argued that Giesbrecht took great pains to hide the remains and her pregnancies. The defence said she was saving the bodies — not disposing of them.

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U.S. CHAMBER HEAD SAYS DON’T HARM NAFTA: Tearing up the North American Free Trade Agreement will mean lost jobs in all three member countries, says the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But Tom Donahue also said there are ways to improve the trade deal between Canada, Mexico and the U.S., and there’s potential to create a stronger agreement that will improve North America’s overall competitiveness with the rest of the world. Donahue, who was critical of U.S. President Donald Trump before he was elected, came to Ottawa on Monday with a largely conciliatory message about the need to move forward constructively on bettering the economies of NAFTA’s three countries. He told an audience of business leaders, politicians and diplomats that the intertwined and integrated economies of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are a good thing that must be preserved.

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OTTAWA GREEN-LIGHTS MONTREAL INJECTION SITES: Health Canada has authorized three supervised injection sites in Montreal. Canada currently has two drug injection sites in Canada — both in Vancouver — and existing laws allow such sites to operate only in exceptional circumstances. Currently, applicants for new injection sites must provide medical and scientific evidence of benefit, along with letters from provincial health ministers, local police and regional health officials. In December, the Liberal government announced legislative amendments designed to remove 26 requirements for supervised injection sites introduced under the previous government. Health Minister Jane Philpott says the changes will make it easier for supervised injection sites to be established while adhering to criteria set out by the Supreme Court of Canada.

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GREYHOUND BUS BEHEADER SEEKS FREEDOM: A Manitoba psychiatrist says he believes a schizophrenic man who beheaded and cannibalized a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus will stay on his medication. Dr. Jeffrey Waldman says Will Baker, formerly known as Vince Li, knows that it’s the medication that keeps his illness at bay and Baker doesn’t want that to change. Baker was found not criminally responsible in the killing of Tim McLean in 2008 and is asking Manitoba’s Criminal Code Review Board to grant him an absolute discharge. That would mean Baker would be free, but Waldman says Baker would still work with his treatment team if released. Waldman says Baker plans to visit his native China if released, but would live in Winnipeg for the next two to three years.

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FEDERAL INMATES WANT PAY RAISE: Federal inmates say they want to be paid more and are hoping a court ruling will force the government’s hand on the matter. Lawyers representing inmates are arguing in Federal Court in Montreal that charter rights are being infringed by government policies. The salary paid to convicts who work has been frozen since it was introduced in 1981. Currently, they are paid a maximum of $6.90 a day. In 2005, the government ignored a recommendation by the Office of the Correctional Investigator to raise the salaries. A Federal Court justice is hearing arguments on the matter over three days this week.

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ABOUT 200 PEOPLE FIND NEXUS CARDS NO LONGER WORK: The federal public safety minister says about 200 people have been unable to use their Nexus cards to cross the U.S. border since President Donald Trump ordered a temporary halt to immigration from certain countries. Ralph Goodale says none of the 200 are Canadian citizens and the government continues to work to make sure citizens are treated fairly at the border. But he says Nexus is a discretionary program to expedite processing at the border and each country has the right to withdraw the privilege. The program allows citizens and permanent residents in both Canada and the U.S. to be pre-screened for clearance in a bid to speed up border crossings.

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BISON BACK IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK: Bison are once again grazing along the remote eastern slopes of Banff National Park after a more than century-long absence. Parks Canada announced Monday it has moved 16 of the animals to the mountainous landscape that vast herds of the species once roamed for thousands of years. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the historic moment is the perfect way to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Earlier this year, 16 healthy bison — mostly pregnant two-year-olds — were picked for the $6.4-million project. The bison are to be released in the summer of 2018 into a 1,200-square-kilometre zone, reclaiming their historic role in the ecosystem.

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ISRAEL RETROACTIVELY LAGALIZES SETTLEMENTS: Israel’s parliament on Monday passed a contentious law meant to retroactively legalize thousands of West Bank settlement homes built unlawfully on private Palestinian land, a step that is expected to trigger international outrage and a flurry of lawsuits against the measure. The explosive law is the latest in a series of pro-settler steps taken by Israel’s hardline government since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. Trump is seen as more sympathetic to Israel’s settlement policies than his fiercely critical predecessor. The Israeli government has approved plans to build thousands of new homes on occupied territory since Trump took office. Critics say the legislation enshrines into law the theft of Palestinian land.

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The Canadian Press

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