New buoy in New York Harbour to allow scientists to listen to singing whales in real time

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Scientists have deployed a buoy 22 miles off the coast of New York’s Fire Island to monitor several species of great whales in “near real-time.” The high-tech acoustic device will eavesdrop on the songs of the whales to better understand and safeguard their movements near two busy shipping lanes entering New York Harbour.

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“We know they’re there, but we know very little about them,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, director of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ocean Giants Program. His New York-based organization, in collaboration with the New York Aquarium, has teamed with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts on the research project.

Scientists last week deployed the buoy, which is four feet in diameter with a mast standing six feet above the sea surface south of Long Island. The buoy is connected by “stretch hoses” to a weighted frame that sits 125 feet below on the sea floor. The frame features high-tech listening devices connected to an underwater microphone.

READ MORE: ‘Captivity is degrading’: Buenos Aires Zoo, Georgia Aquarium take steps to end animal captivity

The devices will focus on obtaining data on the sounds of several species of baleen whales because they are endangered, said Dr. Mark Baumgartner of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The data will be transmitted back to scientists in near real-time, for analysis within about two hours, Rosenbaum said.

The buoy also will collect the sounds of other whales, but that information will be archived in the listening devices at the bottom of the sea and analyzed when the buoy is retrieved after a year, Baumgartner said.

WATCH: Caught on Camera: Rangers rescue stranded pygmy whales in New Zealand

The scientists noted that all whales rely on their acoustic environment to socialize and navigate, and they are vulnerable to underwater noise, ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements.

The research collected could help prevent ship strikes, and may be helpful as the federal government and New York state consider placing a massive wind energy farm offshore in the coming years.

The buoy has been placed inside what is called the New York Bight, which features busy shipping lanes and lucrative fishing grounds. The Bight is home to seven species of great whales, including the humpback whale — known for its acrobatics and long, haunting songs — and the blue whale. The highly endangered North Atlantic right whale — one of the world’s rarest whale species — migrates through New York waters, and fin, sei, minke and sperm whales also have been seen or heard, the scientists said.

READ MORE:10 whales dead, dozens stranded on Indonesia’s Java island

Similar buoys were deployed off the coasts of Massachusetts and Maine earlier this year, and a Cornell University project has deployed near real-time buoys in shipping lanes near Boston to help protect the animals from ship strikes in that area, Baumgartner said.

Scientists around the world deploy listening devices to study whales, but the projects off New York and New England are the only known projects that relay information in near real-time, he added.

Alleged partnership of Canadian casino company with gambling tycoon could trigger new investigation

A Hong Kong tycoon suspected of links to organized crime in Macau casinos was allegedly a partner with B.C.-based Great Canadian Gaming in a casino ship venture in the South China Sea, a Global News investigation shows.

This new information could lead to an investigation by B.C.’s gaming enforcement branch, Attorney General David Eby said.

WATCH: Global investigation raises more money laundering concerns

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Global’s investigation — based on extensive interviews with former Great Canadian employees and review of hundreds of pages of legal and corporate documents — reveals that Cheng Yu Tung, who was Hong Kong’s third-richest man before his death in 2016, was allegedly a key backer for the casino ship known as the China Sea Discovery.

Poll shows voters support public inquiry into B.C. casino money laundering

Great Canadian’s casino cruise only lasted for about a year, ending in 2001, and was plagued by problems with Chinese gangsters and armed junket operators, according to documents and witness interviews. It ended in a number of law suits.

A statement from Eby, says that even for casino ventures that take place outside Canada, significant investors involved with B.C. registered casino companies must be vetted for suitability and integrity by B.C.’s government. And B.C. casino companies must operate with integrity, the statement says, wherever they do business.

Eby’s ministry confirmed that Cheng Yu Tung has not been registered to participate in B.C.-based gambling businesses.

“Allegations of unregistered individuals participating in companies that deliver gaming services in British Columbia are serious,” Eby said in a statement.

“Any credible information about such individuals should be forwarded to British Columbia’s Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch so that appropriate investigations can be initiated.”

Sandy Garossino, a former Crown prosecutor who has been critical of organized crime influence in B.C. casinos, called the revelation of Cheng Yu Tung’s alleged partnership with Great Canadian a “bombshell” that “blows open the necessity of a public inquiry, into what happened in B.C.”

WATCH: Global investigation raises more money laundering concerns

Reviewer Peter German, a former high-ranking RCMP officer, filed a scathing report confirming that Chinese organized crime networks with roots in Guangdong, Macau and Hong Kong, laundered at least $100 million through loan sharks and VIP gamblers in B.C. Lottery casinos.

German concluded casinos “unwittingly” allowed organized crime to launder money. And German called River Rock Casino the “epi-centre” of the activity.

Great Canadian, which has become the dominant casino operator in Canada after being awarded new contracts in the Toronto area, continues to be reviewed for management integrity by Ontario’s regulator, due to allegations made public last year by Eby’s ministry.

WATCH: David Eby blames BC Liberals for money laundering issues

Calls mount for probe of Wynne government casino contracts that ‘smelled of backroom deals’

German’s report does not probe Great Canadian’s troubled venture into Asian cruise ship gambling in 2001.

But a former Great Canadian security supervisor who was aboard the China Sea Discovery, Proka Avramovic, says he believes Great Canadian’s Hong Kong-based venture was an important introduction to the model of Chinese VIP gambling.

In a court case involving China Sea Discovery investors, Avramovic testified about terrifying incidents aboard the casino ship, including the time a powerfully connected Chinese businessman allegedly held Great Canadian employees captive in a port of the Chinese island of Hainan, until he was repaid for an investment.

The businessman, only referred to as “Mr. Y” in court, controlled armed forces in Hainan and had real estate assets in Richmond, according to Great Canadian employees.

Avramovic testified that his complaints to B.C.’s government after he returned from the China Sea Discovery were dismissed, and he was informed regulators didn’t want to handle his allegations about loan sharking in B.C. Lottery casinos, because the industry was expanding.

“The China Sea casino was the template of how things would work in Canada,” Avramovic said in an interview. “These red flags were raised 15 years ago, and it has to be connected to what is happening now.”

Garossino agreed, saying new information about Cheng Yu Tung could help explain how the Macau gambling model took root in B.C.

How Chinese gangs are laundering drug money through Vancouver real estate

“If Cheng Yu Tung was involved in a partnership with Great Canadian in any way, at any time, it would be a bombshell, in my opinion,” Garossino said in an interview. “Cheng would be an unsuitable partner, in any jurisdiction in North America. And what is really striking about this revelation, is that everything about the River Rock Casino model has had outward manifestations of the Macau model, almost from the beginning.”

In a prepared response for this story, Great Canadian’s chief operating officer Terrance Doyle did not answer specific questions about Cheng Yu Tung’s alleged involvement with Great Canadian, or other allegations in this story. Doyle said the China Sea Discovery only operated for a limited time in 2001, offering casino cruises out of Hong Kong, and Great Canadian was a minority partner in the joint-venture.

“Any attempt to extrapolate from this business venture, while relying on the comments of former Great Canadian employees or innuendo, significantly risks doing a disservice to your readers,” Doyle stated.

“Dr. (Peter) German found that casino service providers in B.C. were operating in accordance with AML (anti-money laundering) policies, practices and statutes,” Doyle stated. “And in the case of Great Canadian, we undertook detailed efforts to report all suspicious activity that led to certain law enforcement action, as well as taking proactive measures to combat loan sharking efforts in 2016.”

Notorious for Triad activities

Cheng Yu Tung was famed for building a multi-billion dollar empire through his private jewellery conglomerate, and gambling, real estate, and banking interests in Hong Kong, Macau and China. His family’s empire is now estimated at over $20-billion, according to Forbes.

A Guangdong native, Cheng once bested Donald Trump in a New York real estate deal, and also had ties with a Chinese leader whose family secretly amassed billions as Cheng’s businesses expanded in China, the New York Times has reported. Cheng’s real estate wealth extends into Canada, too. Along with a consortium of Hong Kong tycoons, in the 1990s, Cheng was an early investor in major Vancouver condominium and hotel developments.

But Cheng is also known to police and gambling regulators around the world for alleged associations to organized crime figures in Hong Kong, and because for decades he and Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho controlled a Macau casino monopoly, run through a byzantine network of private and public companies. Ho was also a major investor in Vancouver real estate, the Washington Post reported in 1991.

U.S. gambling regulators have concluded, documents show, it is almost impossible to be involved in Macau VIP room gambling, without connections to Chinese organized crime. A 2009 report by the New Jersey attorney general’s division of gaming enforcement, alleged Cheng Yu Tung was directly involved in operating three VIP rooms “that are notorious for triad activities” in Stanley Ho’s Macau casinos.

In an interview Garry Clement, a former director of the RCMP’s proceeds of crime program and the former Hong Kong Liaison Officer from 1991 to 1994, said that in his Hong Kong duties he “learned of Cheng Yu Tung’s ties to Stanley Ho, at a time when Ho controlled the Macau casinos and enabled Triads to establish gambling rooms.”

Clement said he forwarded “significant” reports to RCMP headquarters about Cheng, Ho and Triads, “detailing connections,” and his concerns.

Cheng’s business partner Stanley Ho, and Ho’s family, have twice been rejected as suitable investors in B.C. casino companies, due to background investigations, B.C.’s Ministry of Attorney General confirmed. But Cheng Yu Tung’s alleged partnership with Great Canadian appears to have been undetected.

Stanley Ho, who is now 96, has repeatedly denied any links to Triads, and has never been arrested or convicted.

“Cheng was an original partner, all the way through”

In 2000 Great Canadian was looking for a way to tap into the high-end market of Asian high-rollers.

Gambling is illegal in China. But in Macau, and in casino ships cruising international waters near Hong Kong, Chinese VIPs can get money offshore through junket operators, and lay massive bets.

Great Canadian executives including Walter Soo, the company’s current head of international VIP gaming, saw an opportunity in floating casinos.

“We had $500 limits in B.C. and we wanted to do $10,000 bets,” one former Great Canadian employee involved in the China Sea Discovery venture said.

VIP linked to top Chinese officials, real estate, corruption allegations, gambling

According to legal filings, Great Canadian, Allegiance Capital, an investment bank from Texas, and a Hong Kong real estate tycoon named Charles Ming, invested about $15 million in an aging cruise ship, named it the China Sea Discovery, and turned it into a gambling vessel. Ming planned to attract investors in Hong Kong, court documents say.

Walter Soo ran the casino for Great Canadian, according to court testimony.

The business plan was also detailed in a Wall Street Journal story in 2001, which said Ming and his Hong Kong travel company, Kamhon, would run the venture for a subsidiary of Great Canadian Gaming. The story mentions Kamhon’s connection to New World Development Co., the multi-billion dollar Hong Kong corporation directed by Cheng Yu Tung. But there is no mention of Cheng’s involvement.

A review of emerging market corporate records indicates that Kamhon is a subsidiary of New World Development Co.

Ming, who died in 2008, was a director and major shareholder of Great Canadian Gaming, according to Washington State gaming records.

If Cheng’s alleged partnership with Great Canadian is investigated by B.C.’s government, this information could be relevant. In a response, B.C.’s Ministry of Attorney General informed Global that its staff could find no B.C. gaming records for Ming, Cheng, or Kamhon.

All government documents related to the China Sea Discovery case have been destroyed due to passage of time, a response to a Global News freedom of information request says.

Some former Great Canadian employees said there was excitement that Cheng Yu Tung, who was seen as “royalty” in Hong Kong, would provide the China Sea Discovery access to port infrastructure in Hong Kong.

But it didn’t work out that way.

“Cheng was an original partner, all the way through,” one former Great Canadian employee, who asked not to be named for fear of being sued, said. “But there was no access to any of Cheng’s infrastructure, and that was kind of disappointing to Great Canadian. Because you think you are partnering with a substantial player in Asia, and then you get there, and it is almost like they didn’t really want to be seen, being in the gambling business.”

Accounts of Cheng’s involvement with Charles Ming in a South China Sea cruise are supported by a 2002 Hong Kong media report, from the widely read Apple Daily.

The report says that Ming was accused by an Asian bank of an unpaid debt in the 2001 venture, and that posters announcing the claim, including pictures of Ming and Cheng, were pasted to the walls of New World Development headquarters.

Gamblers playing slot machines at the River Rock Casino in Richmond B.C.

Sharon Doucette/CP

Walter Soo threatened

Avramovic, a security manager with Great Canadian until 2003, testified about his experiences on the China Sea Discovery and in B.C. casinos, in the Texas court case.

Avramovic testified about a scenario allegedly involving Soo that was reported to Great Canadian’s head office. When the China Sea Discovery made arrangements to cruise with VIPs from the Chinese island of Hainan, a figure only referred to in transcripts as “Mr. Y” allegedly attempted to take control.

“We had real trouble with Mr. Y, that mob guy,” Avramovic testified.

“Mr. Y was making some demands about the money that he invest, and Walter Soo tried to resolve the issues. Then Walter Soo’s being threatened by him. Mr. Y wanted money back in order to free the ship from China.”

Global News could not reach Walter Soo to ask questions about his involvement in the China Sea Discovery.

Avramovic testified about receiving a $900,000 cheque from a Great Canadian executive at Vancouver’s YVR airport, and hand-delivering the cheque to Great Canadian executives in Hong Kong.

Great Canadian executive Boki Sikimic, who was Avramovic’s boss, also testified in the Texas court case, and reported the same transaction.

“I know that’s in Hainan when we have to send money to pay. Somebody took the ship,” Sikimic testified. “The reports that I receive, they’re running away. They owe money to China. They been paid some Mr. Y. He wants to take the ship.  I remember guys sending reports there was guns on the ship.  Everybody is, you know, running scared for their lives, from operation.”

None of the allegations in the case between Allegiance and Great Canadian were proven in court. And in cross-examination, Great Canadian’s lawyer challenged Avramovic’s testimony that Mr. Y’s entourage was armed, and that Walter Soo was threatened by Mr. Y, and that a deal was made with Mr. Y to free the ship. Great Canadian eventually settled with Allegiance out of court, a corporate statement from Great Canadian says.

The testimony of Avramovic and Sikimic, is supported by an account of the China Sea Discovery voyage filed on a shipping news website. The account says armed officials operating a travel charter in Hainan made ‘severe’ threats to casino and ship employees.

A number of former employees, including Avramovic, said Great Canadian’s casino ship could not obtain fuel to leave Hainan, until Mr. Y was satisfied.

Some former Great Canadian employees said they were aware that Mr. Y owned real estate assets in Richmond, B.C., and in addition to running a travel agency in Hainan, he ran spas and karaoke lounges in Hong Kong. They said some Great Canadian managers, including Walter Soo, continued to visit Mr. Y in Richmond, after the alleged difficulties in Hainan were resolved.

One employee explained that there was nothing “nefarious” in Great Canadian’s actions. But from Hong Kong to Hainan, Great Canadian was beset with the problem of Triads that controlled Asia’s VIP market.

“There were bad people, trying to control what we did, and they could control immigration in China,” one employee said. “Mr. Y wanted a stake in the casino because he could bring on the players, and he knew there was a lot of money to be made … He was the king of that island, and what he said went.”

WATCH: John Hua spoke exclusively with Fred Pinnock about what the BC Liberals knew about the problem of money laundering in B.C. casinos.

Junket agents

In testimony in the Texas court case, Avramovic and Sikimic pointed to junket agents, and what Sikimic viewed as suspicious activity at the China Sea Discovery cash cage. Sikimic said he received numerous reports from ship security staff, of unknown junket agents taking stacks of money from the cash cage, that they did not gamble with.

According to Sikimic’s testimony, junket agents aboard the China Sea Discovery were paid a commission related to the amount of money a VIP gambled.

“Agents are paid and junkets are paid,” Sikimic testified. “Somebody come (to the cash cage) and the guy says give him $200,000. He is one of the agents. He’s the one that represents somebody. He says give him 200. Now, from those 200, I’ve been told they get commission. They get five percent.”

Great Canadian’s lawyer objected to Sikimic’s testimony on junkets, claiming it was irrelevant to the case.

In the language of Fintrac, Canada’s anti-money laundering agency, Sikimic’s testimony about player agents could provide examples of “third-party” transactions. Sikimic testified that he questioned these alleged junket transactions to his superiors at Great Canadian. But he was repeatedly told “that’s the way they do things,” in Chinese gambling, Sikimic testified.

If B.C.’s government were to investigate the China Sea Discovery case, this could be an example of an operations “integrity” issue, as referred to in Eby’s response for this story.

Reports on junket gambling in Macau, explain that junket agents arrange deals with Chinese border officials in which Chinese VIPs can transfer cash out of China, avoiding capital export controls, and receive the cash or chips in private casino rooms. Or, VIPs can take cash loans from junket agents in order to buy casino chips, and pay back the loans in China.

German’s report concludes that the second type of transaction — VIPs taking criminal cash loans in B.C. and repaying debts in China, just as “it happens in Hong Kong and Macau” — eventually became common in Metro Vancouver casinos.

Money laundering report recommends new police unit to oversee casinos

Avramovic also testified that when he took over security on the China Sea Discovery, he was briefed that some high-rollers involved with junkets would not be checked for weapons.

“That was Hainan,” Avramovic testified.

“So of course, I didn’t want to interfere. I didn’t want to jeopardize, you know, anyone’s safety on the ship because, obviously the Chinese custom officer will let them go.”

In cross-examination, Great Canadian’s lawyer said Avramovic couldn’t prove he saw actual weapons onboard the China Sea Discovery.


Anti-laundering Report

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David Eby speaks about money laundering at casinos in BC


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Explaining his allegation in an interview, Avramovic said: “I was briefed that some important people will come through the security and we shouldn’t really check them, because they are junket players. I was instructed those players and their entourage are probably armed and have lots of cash, so they won’t be going through the metal detectors.”

Another former Great Canadian employee claimed to have witnessed a feared alleged Macau casino junket operator and her entourage skirt metal detectors, while boarding the China Sea Discovery, in Hong Kong.

Peter German’s report does not question whether VIP-delivering companies allegedly involved on the China Sea Discovery, could have followed Great Canadian back to B.C., after 2001.

Global News asked Sandy Garossino and Garry Clement, if based on the evidence in this story, that could have been the case.

“The danger is obvious,” Garossino said. “The thing about organized crime is, you can’t run away from these relationships, even if you want to.”

“I believe this is just a continuation of what was started overseas, and the China Sea Discovery, only being one outlet,” Clement said.

Whatever the case, in the time period covered by German’s report — when Walter Soo was responsible for developing Great Canadian’s massively profitable VIP program at River Rock Casino — B.C. Lottery Corp., Gaming Enforcement Branch, and RCMP investigators noted serious concerns with Chinese VIPs and suspicious cash transactions.

According to German’s report, a B.C. Lottery Corp. investigator claimed that “the River Rock VIP room was ‘full of facilitators.’ Some members of senior management within River Rock appeared to have developed friendships with these players.”

“The investigator sensed that high-limit gamblers, referred to as ‘whales,’ were untouchable,” German’s report states.

German’s report specifically noted a suspected “third-party” transaction at River Rock — a potentially illegal transaction according to Fintrac’s anti-money laundering regulations — which resembles the “agent” transactions described in Sikimic’s testimony.

At River Rock, a “VIP host allegedly arranged a buy-in of $200,000 in $100 bills for a person who was representing a high-limit player,” German’s report states. “Apparently, the intent of the buy-in was to obtain chips in advance of a visit from China, by four friends of the banned player.”

In a media release welcoming the conclusions in German’s report, Great Canadian said German recognized the role casinos have in combatting illegal activity, and German “has acknowledged the proactive measures that Great Canadian has implemented beyond what was required by regulation.”

Loan sharks

In his testimony, Sikimic claimed that he resigned from Great Canadian partly because he was tired of dealing with loan sharks in B.C. casinos, and “I was afraid for my life, and life of my family, if I go further.”

“Everything dealing with loan sharks … it’s the biggest problem.  Government — they know what’s going on. Even police knows (and the B.C.) Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch,” Sikimic testified, in 2004. “There was shooting, there was people found dead in the car … everything was connected to the loan sharks. So it’s not a group of, you know, people that you would mess with.”

Great Canadian’s lawyer objected to Sikmic’s testimony on loan sharks, saying it wasn’t relevant to the case.

But German’s report confirmed a number of murders and disappearances related to loan sharking in B.C. Lottery casinos, in the 2000s.

“Loan sharks were a staple of casino life … staff and players at many casinos paid little attention to these people,” German’s report states. “They typically carry illegal or undeclared cash given to them by their bosses. The money is to be repaid with interest, secured by the borrower’s personal safety or possessions.”

In an interview, Clement noted “this is exactly the same modus operandi that occurred in Macau casinos, in the 1990s.”

Garossino also said German’s description of loan sharking in B.C. casinos matches the Macau model, and River Rock Casino showed “outward manifestations” of this, in early cases of loan shark related violence. Garossino pointed to the murder of female loan shark Rong Li in 2006 near River Rock, just two years after the casino opened. Rong Li was part of a 24/7 criminal lending operation at River Rock, according to court testimony.

German’s report says that a “decade of dirty money” started after 2002 in B.C. casinos, when the minister then responsible for B.C. Lottery Corp., Rich Coleman, decided to streamline gambling regulations.

Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman speaks to media during a press conference in the Legislative Library on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 in Victoria, B.C.


In an interview, Proka Avramovic said that he believes Coleman attempted to discredit him, when CBC broadcast Avramovic’s allegations about loan sharks, in a 2004 TV interview. Avramovic believes if Coleman would have seriously considered his allegations about loan sharks, when Coleman was solicitor-general, the casino money laundering scandal that has shamed B.C., may have been avoided.

Former head of B.C.’s illegal gambling enforcement team blames RCMP, B.C. Liberals for inaction against money laundering

“Upon my arrival back from China, (from the China Sea Discovery) I felt that I had to do something more, regarding loan sharks in Lower Mainland casinos,” Avramovic said. “Because I saw some of the familiar faces, from the time sailing on the casino ship in the China Sea.”

In a prepared response, Coleman said he acknowledges more could have been done to combat money laundering in B.C. But Coleman said “there is a strict divide” in B.C. between politicians and “those charged with administering” criminal justice.

“Decisions on which cases to investigate and prosecute are made without any influence at all from elected officials,” Coleman said. “I could not, and would not, provide direction to police on what or how they should be investigating. It is simply nonsense to suggest otherwise.”

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Executive Committee pushes ahead transit plan for next 15 years

Despite a torrent of criticism on costs and level of access, Mayor John Tory defended his plan for a single-stop subway extension, costing $3.2 billion, from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre.

“Get transit built. Stop being world champion debaters and start being world champion builders, that is what I think people want in this city,” said Tory, who balked at the idea of going back to an LRT plan for the city’s neglected east end.

“Build it and they will come.”

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But at least two left-leaning councilors argued residents would get more value for money from an LRT network.

“For the same amount of money we could build 25 LRT stops to serve more people in Scarborough,” Coun. Joe Cressy said.

“What we just saw today is that all the money is now going to the Scarborough Subway Extension. Because the cost went up so much, there’s nothing left for the light rail program that we were told was part of the original package,” added Coun. Gord Perks.

“It was a bait and switch.”

But Scarborough Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker defended the mayor’s plan as part of a vital transit network that he says his constituents want.

“It’s money very well spent,” he said. “Subways, whether they be in downtown Toronto or York University, they’re all expensive; but the Scarborough subway at $3 billion is the same as everyone else’s or cheaper.”

But residents and students at Scarborough’s University of Toronto campus just want progress in whatever form.

“Our frustration is that there has been a lot of talking and debating and nothing that’s actually being done,” said student Sitharsana Srithas who added that it takes 90 minutes to commute from the university’s Scarborough campus to the downtown campus.

Another concern for residents is the recommended alignment for the Downtown Relief Line. A staff report recommends the line cut along Queen Street to Eastern Avenue and then up Pape – a narrow residential street.

“It’s incredibly narrow, it’s 18-metres wide and the right of way would mean the subway is almost literally being built under people’s homes and that’s a big concern for residents,” said Simon Cohen, who lives on Pape Avenue.

Coun. Paula Fletcher successful passed an amendment asking the city to explore an alternate alignment.

Victims of shooting file lawsuit against Regina’s Pump Roadhouse

Two men have filed lawsuits against the Pump Roadhouse nightclub in Regina after they were the victims of a brazen shooting.

According to new court documents, Sarain Stoney and Jordan Burns were wounded when a gunman opened fire in the early morning hours of April 29.

WATCH: Two men shot at Regina’s Pump Roadhouse suffer serious injuries

ChangSha Night Net

The statements of claim offer new details of what transpired at Pump Roadhouse from the perspective of the victims.

In the documents, Stoney said he was let in the back door by a Pump employee and allowed to enter without being searched.

He goes on to state that around 1:30 a.m., he saw a man with a gun and turned to run in the opposite direction. Stoney claimed he was shot twice as he ran away.

The first bullet entered below his right ear and exited his left cheek, according to Stoney. He stated that he “suffered a broken jaw, injured his tongue, lost two teeth, tissue damage to his face and mouth, nerve damage and permanent scarring.”

Stoney stated the second bullet hit his right shoulder.

The statement claimed that the injuries Stoney sustained will likely require further surgeries and treatment, plus psychological counseling to help with “mental anguish and anxiety.”

READ MORE: Canada-wide warrant issued for Regina man wanted in nightclub shooting investigation

On Tuesday, another statement of claim was filed by Jordan Burns.

Burns stated that he was waiting to order food when the gunman collided with him, turned around and shot him twice in the left arm.

He stated that “there are bullet fragments in his left forearm” and he isn’t able to bear “any significant weight on his left arm.”

In both statements, Stoney and Burns claim that Pump Roadhouse showed “wilful disregard for the safety of the public generally…by having the opportunity to act and either neglecting or choosing not to do so.”

The nightclub’s owner, Mark Smith, said additional security measures have been applied since the shooting.

“We implemented the wand and the metal detection and a very vigorous, vigorous search. We really scrutinize people when they come through the door,” Smith said.

READ MORE: Owner of Pump RoadHouse says Regina club will be enhancing security

Smith said he hopes the victims fully recover and will let the nightclub’s insurance company deal with the claims.

None of the allegations against Pump Roadhouse have been proven in court.

‘We can basically consider ourselves a world leader’: Researcher excited by Lethbridge’s new neuroscience lab

A state-of-the-art optical imaging lab in the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience is providing the University of Lethbridge with new insight into neurological disorders, such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

The University of Lethbridge unveiled its new neuroscience facility on Thursday.

The lab includes modern developments in technology, along with a group of genetically-modified mice – known as transgenic mice – that allow scientists to study the brain in action.

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    Dr. Majid Mohajerani, one of the doctors leading the project, said the new lab will give the university an edge in science.

    “I invested a lot of effort in order to bring our infrastructure to acceptable levels,” Mohajerani said. “We can basically consider ourselves a world leader.”

    Since human subjects cannot be used, researchers isolate the genes of a particular disease, transfer them into mice, then simulate potential situations. A mouse brain carries many of the same genes as a human, and therefore are extremely beneficial in the study of human illnesses, like neurological diseases.

    READ MORE: Of mice and men: Lab rodents react differently to male researchers

    “When the mouse grows up, it looks like the gene that affects humans also does something similar in a mouse brain,” Mohajerani said.

    “Now we can use the mouse as a model to study that type of disease.”

    With the new developments, researchers will now be able to solve many unanswered questions about the complex nature of a brain suffering from neurological diseases, including stroke and dementia.

    “One of the questions we are currently addressing in the lab, is how a very small stroke that we don’t notice can work towards the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Mohajerani said.

    “The problem happens when we get many of them accumulating and they prevent network activity in our brains.”

    The lab equipment gives scientists an opportunity to shine light on specific areas of the brain in a transgenic mouse and activate neurons in brain activity, such as recalling a memory.

    Mohajerani’s research enables the university to attain new information about how the brain functions, and could also lead to identifying the best treatment for human patients suffering from disorders.

    “We don’t know whether the findings we make with mice are necessarily translatable to humans, but we don’t have any other choice,” he said. “We have to try different things and hope to see one of them get translated into actual use in humans.”

    Mohajerani said after two and a half years of hard work, he’s excited to finally begin.

    “This would not be possible without the talented people who work with me in this department,” he said. “This is a collective effort of many people. I’m very glad that the senior members of this department had this vision.”

Westmount parents hold ‘swim-in’ to protest pool schedule

WESTMOUNT – Some parents are making waves over pool restrictions at the Westmount recreation centre.

A peaceful protest was staged Tuesday evening in opposition to adults-only swimming hours at the facility.

“Unfortunately, a petition, visits to city council, numerous emails and so on have not worked, so we’re trying something different this time,” said Angela Lehrer, who organized the swim-in.

ChangSha Night Net

“We’re trying to get as many families as possible to come, hang out and show support for what we call ‘share the pool.’”

The current schedule at the pool has adult-swim three times a day, five days a week.

The other two days, adults have two sessions alone.

Lehrer, a mother of three, said one of the issues she has is with the timing.

The evening adult-only swim at 6:30 p.m. falls at a time when many young families want to take their children to the pool.

“Demographics of Westmount are changing, and most people are dual-income families and they want to be here after work with their kids,” she said.

Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., when it was time for adult-only swim, kids stayed in the pool.

Lehrer explained it’s part of her “share the pool” concept.

She believes all adult-only times can be shared with children, with some restrictions.

But not everyone is on board with that idea.

“There’s less and less time for adults; it’s all becoming about families and kids and there’s a lot of people like myself that don’t have children,” said Westmount resident, Johanna Stosik.

“So I think that it would be really nice to have no kids on deck every now and again – the way it’s always been because you could just kind of relax.”

The other fire heroes: meet the Alberta Wildfire management team

As the Fort McMurray wildfire raged, firefighters could be seen working tirelessly to battle the blaze.

At the same time, another group of people was also working tirelessly, behind the scenes, managing the provincial response.

Their jobs differ greatly from the widely-celebrated firefighters and air tanker pilots who were on the front lines, but the stresses faced by people like fire weather meteorologists and logistical coordinators were profound during those first weeks of May.

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    Every day of the wildfire season, two weather briefings take place to inform employees of the risks posed by Mother Nature. During the first week of May, Paul Kruger led the team responsible for making the forecast.

    “Any time you don’t get any rain in the last two weeks of April, you’re starting to think there could be some sort of problem somewhere in the province,” Kruger said.

    He and his colleagues knew there was the potential for a big fire incident, but without an actual ignition it’s impossible to tell where. Once the fire started south of the Fort McMurray, they made their best recommendations of how the weather would impact its growth.

    The conditions were explosive, unlike anything he’d seen.

    “Maybe that might be the one thing that I’ve never seen, just how dry the whole layer of atmosphere was,” Kruger explained.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire officials receive heroes welcome at Alberta legislature 

    As Fort McMurray residents fled the inferno, the importance of Kruger’s forecasts grew. It was the kind of stress he’d experienced just a couple of other times in his 20 years with Alberta Wildfire.

    “Yeah, you’re taking it home and then I am trying to think of other ways to get my mind off of it because my decisions have been made so I am hoping that I did the best job that I possibly could with the information that I had,” Kruger said.

    On the other side of the building Kruger works in, a situation room is full of cubicles, monitors and professionals who use his forecast to make critical decisions.

    “It’s coordinating basically all of the resourcing and actions controlled by this room,” Cory Davis explained. “So aircraft and manpower and logistics and priority setting for the province.”

    As the provincial Wildfire Operations Coordinator, it is Davis’ job to manage over 200 aircraft and thousands of front line firefighters. He admits that other than being on the front line of the firefight itself, it’s the most demanding job he’s ever held.

    “Because you are moving a lot of resources and trying to fill the needs of the fire and the needs of areas as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Davis explained. “And just having that stress of trying to get what they need when they need it and not always being able to succeed with it.”

    While Fort McMurray was burning, there were several other wildfires burning out of control. Imagine having to decide what areas should receive help first.

    “We’re always faced with stressful scenarios, whether it’s 100 fires out in the middle of nowhere in the bush to one fire threatening a major community,” Davis explained.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire timeline of events 

    He doesn’t credit himself for his department’s success, but rather the team that supported him.

    “It always tends to be a stressful environment and we work so closely together and (such) long hours that we become a pretty close and tight-knit family.”

    Wildfire manager Chad Morrison shared all of these stresses in addition to being the spokesperson for Alberta Wildfire during the disaster.

    “You know that the fire is just outside the town and evacuations have been called,” Morrison recalled. “Those are big moments for everybody… you feel just during that whole experience how much it’s impacting people.”

    “There’s a lot of work and training that goes into getting prepared for these types of things and even with that training, it never truly prepares you for these types of historic events.”

    Morrison’s updates had the power to mobilize families and corporations into action.

    “Trying to get information out to the public is a huge, key thing,” Morrison explained.

    Yet when asked if he thinks he should also be called a hero, Morrison deflected the praise onto all of his colleagues.

    “Doing these types of events are humbling experiences as a whole, fire tends to be that way,” he said.

    “What I think is so rewarding is just seeing how everyone pulls together… seeing Albertans as a whole pull together and do what they can to bring Fort McMurray back.”

Labour board could set precedent for Saskatchewan employers and unions

A Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board ruling on if supervisors should be excluded from a Saskatoon union could set a precedent for employers moving forward, according to a University of Saskatchewan (U of S) law professor.

In mid-June, the Saskatoon Public Library submitted to the board that 28 of its supervisory positions be excluded from its employee’s bargaining unit. Similar action has taken place with the City of Moose Jaw.

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    “I think these first two or three applications are going to be key in determining what’s going to happen in Saskatchewan labour relations,” said Keir Vallance, a U of S assistant law professor who formally practiced labour law.

    “If the board comes down … against exclusion, that may put a brake on other employers bringing these types of applications, if the board allows them you may see even more applications than expected of this sort.”

    READ MORE: Saskatoon library supervisors being removed from union

    The action stems from the Saskatchewan Employment Act, which states that supervisors should not be in a bargaining unit. Vallance said the measure is unique to Saskatchewan.

    The legislation came into effect in April and employers can now act to remove supervisors or keep their bargaining units status quo.

    “For supervisors to be in the same bargaining unit as the people they supervise, sometimes that can create a conflict,” said Carol Cooley, the Saskatoon Public Library CEO.

    “If there’s a performance management issue that comes up, that can create a tension for a supervisor who is in the same bargaining unit as the people they’re trying to manage.”

    READ MORE: New year brings changes to Sask. essential services legislation

    The union that represents Saskatoon Public Library workers is CUPE Local 2669. Rhonda Heisler advises the group and said the action is unnecessary.

    “Supervisors are able to draw the distinction between their job descriptions and their union affiliation,” said Heisler, who is a servicing representative with CUPE.

    Heisler said there are mechanisms in place to assist a supervisor who “does feel conflict about supervising another union member.”

    “Historically this has always worked for us.”

Istanbul airport attack: Air Canada halts service to Ataturk Airport

A terrorist attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport which has left dozens of people dead has forced Air Canada to halt operations to and from the Turkish city.

“As a result of events in Istanbul, today’s flight, due to leave Toronto this evening, has been cancelled and tomorrow’s return flight from Istanbul, on the same aircraft, is also cancelled,” Peter Fitzpatrick, Air Canada spokesperson, told Global News.

Fitzpatrick said Air Canada has been in touch with all of its employees in Istanbul and determined they are safe. The airline runs daily service to Istanbul.

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Security camera appears to show moment of explosion inside Istanbul Airport


Security camera appears to show moment of explosion inside Istanbul Airport


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Aftermath video of twin bomb explosions at Istanbul’s airport

ChangSha Night Net

“As more information becomes available, we will assess when normal operations can resume,” Fitzpatrick said.

So far there have been no reports of any Canadians killed or injured in the attack, Global Affairs said in a statement to Global News.

READ MORE: Istanbul airport attack: Dozens dead, possible links to ISIS

“The Emergency Watch and Response Centre and our offices in Ankara and Istanbul are closely monitoring the situation and are working to determine if Canadian citizens have been affected,” the statement said.

“To date, we have no reports of any Canadian citizens being affected by the incidents.”

Saskatoon police tactical support unit call-outs climb as high risk incidents rise

Every time they respond, they are putting their lives on the line for the safety of the public and other officers.

The need for the Saskatoon Police Service tactical support unit (TSU) is on the rise as more high risk and often violent incidents involving guns continues to climb.

READ MORE: Patrolling from the sky: An inside look at Saskatoon’s Air Support Unit

In a warehouse on 33rd Street East, we are invited to watch them in action as they play out a domestic violence scenario.

Simply put, they are the team that hopes for the best and plans for the worst.

According to Sgt. Ken Kane with the TSU, that involves training so when members are called to a risk or weapons complaint, everything is just second nature.

“We want to make sure when that time comes and we have to go into a situation like this that we are fully prepared to make sure we can hopefully bring it to a peaceful resolution,” he said.

“That’s why we train twice a month to make sure those skill sets are there when we need them.”

The TSU is a part-time team, made up of members whose primary duties lie somewhere else within the force.

“Everyone except for three are assigned to patrol division so we have a total of 22 members on the team, two of whom are canine handlers who are trained to a tactical standard as well.”

On any given shift, there will be two or three members for when crisis calls come in and inevitably – they do.

WATCH BELOW: Police release dramatic rescue video and tools used to diffuse standoff

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    In his 15 years with the team, Kane says calls have risen from 15 to 20 a year to more than 100 last year alone.

    “With the growth of the city, the drug trade and the good economy, I think it’s just led to more violence in the city.”

    READ MORE: Busy weekend for Saskatoon police with almost 1,000 calls

    The average tactical team call-out costs costs $8,000 and many times if the armoured rescue vehicle isn’t on-site, it’s right around the corner in case its needed.

    To date, patrol officers have responded to 34 high risk or violent situations this year and each was resolved successfully with the assistance of the TSU.

    “We will isolate, contain and negotiate for as long as it takes,” Kane said.

    “I think it comes down to training, patience and experience.”

    Negotiators often do the “heavy lifting” by talking the suspect down for as long as it takes, at times up to 11 hours.

    “Any time we walk away from one of these situations where the suspect is in custody, there’s no use of force and no one in the public or any police members are hurt, that’s a win for us.”