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What happened last week in Canada?

Quebec Gov’t Tables Motion for Provincial Gun Registry

In response to the federal government’s recent vote to scrap the national long-gun registry, the Quebec government has unanimously voted to create its own provincial gun registry.

Provincial Minister of Public Security Stéphane Bergeron is prepared to table the bill at the National Assembly, noting that the cost to run a gun registry may be too high.

The provincial government is currently involved in a court battle with Ottawa. The Quebec government wants to save the federal government’s database on Quebec gun owners, which is otherwise set to be destroyed. Should Quebec win in court, the new bill will allow the government to use the data to set up its provincial gun registry.

“The Quebec government is stepping in to protect its citizens where the federal government is failing,” Wendy Curkier, president of the National Coalition for Gun Control, said to The Globe and Mail.

Canada appoints first ambassador of new Office of Religious Freedom

On Feb. 19, Stephen Harper named Andrew Bennett the first ambassador of the newly created Office of Religious Freedom. Bennett is the Dean of Augustine College, a small, private Christian arts college in Ottawa.

The Conservative government has promised the creation of this office since it formed a majority government in 2011. Its stated mandates include advocating for minority groups, opposing religion-based hatred, and promoting tolerance internationally.

According to the CBC, the Conservatives decided to take concrete action in creating this office after Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic man and the minister of minorities in the Pakistan government, was assassinated in Pakistan in March 2011.

Critics are accusing the Conservatives of creating the office in order to win the vote of minority groups. Other groups, including Humanist Canada, have expressed concern that the office will not defend the rights of non-religious people.

Police raid Montreal City Hall in corruption investigation

Approximately 120 police anti-corruption investigators arrived at Montreal City Hall armed with search warrants on Feb. 19. Anne-Frédérick Laurence, spokeswoman for the Unité Permanent Anti-Corruption (UPAC), told the CBC that the raid was part of a continued investigation into suspected fraud and the creation of falsified documents.

The investigation is believed to be looking into the illegal spending of public money that occurred in 2000 under former Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and the Union Montréal party.

Although police did enter his office, current Mayor Michael Applebaum has stated that the raid was not targeted at him, but that he could not disclose details of the investigation.

“It’s a stain on the city of Montreal, but at the same time, this is work that has to be done, and I’m glad that UPAC is doing [it],” Applebaum told The Globe and Mail.

Nova Scotia community losing hope in search for five missing fishermen

Five Nova Scotia fishermen are missing at sea after a recent storm, which the RCMP is now handling as a missing persons case. The formal search for the five men was called off the night of Feb. 19, after officials concluded there was little chance the fishermen have survived the rough seas and cold water.

In response to family members’ pleas, the Department of National Defence (DND) has agreed to send an aircraft to locate the wreck of the 13.5 metre boat before it sinks. Family members of the missing fishermen believe that the men may have been trapped in the wheelhouse of the boat.

Members of the community had already hired a diving team, in case officials did not respond, and are hoping the DND aircraft will tell the divers the location of the capsized boat.

“We need closure now,” George Hopkins, the father of one of the missing men, told the CBC. “We need it looked at to know that there’s no one inside that boat.”

Four wounded in Whitby apartment building Shooting

Police are searching for suspects in a shooting that left four young men wounded in a Whitby, Ontario apartment building on Feb. 21. All four men were taken away from the scene in ambulances, and one of the victims, a 19-year-old male, was transported by helicopter to a Toronto hospital. He remains in critical condition.

Neighbours who heard gunshots and screaming in the building called the police, who arrived on the scene at around 12:30 p.m. The police have set up a perimeter around the twenty-storey building as they search for suspects.

On the same afternoon, another gunshot victim walked into a Scarborough hospital. Police have yet to determine if there is a connection to the incident in Whitby. These shootings come in the wake of a year of extreme violence in Toronto, with 33 shooting deaths and 54 total homicides in 2012.

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