B.C. aims to tackle money laundering at casinos

VANCOUVER – British Columbia is attempting to crack down on money laundering at casinos with help from the province’s anti-gang police agency and strategies that encourage gamblers to come without a wad of cash.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said 22 officers with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit will eventually be dedicated to investigating groups that use gaming facilities to legalize proceeds of crime.

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He said Monday that police will work with the B.C. Lottery Corp. and the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch as part of the Illegal Gaming Investigation Team.

“British Columbians that attend our casino and gaming establishments do so in the knowledge that they are participating in a lawful form of entertainment. They want to know and deserve to know that the people sitting at the tables with them are doing so on the same basis.”

Ernest Yee, executive director of the BC Gaming Industry Association, said in a statement that his group welcomes the new team and looks forward to working with authorities on the new initiative.

“We welcome the joint team’s efforts to raise public awareness of the role that casino operators play in identifying and reporting financial transactions,” the statement said.

A provincially funded RCMP team that targeted illegal gaming in B.C. was disbanded in 2009.

De Jong said suspicious currency transactions of $20.7 million last July led in part to the creation of a new unit, which will get 30 per cent of its funding from the federal government through the RCMP.

Government figures show that was the highest transaction between April 2015, when $11.8 million in dubious activity was recorded, and March 2016, when the figure was $7.3 million.

He said the government’s anti-money laundering strategy involves developing and promoting the use of cash alternatives at gaming facilities.

“We’re at a point now where it isn’t really necessary for people to enter casinos with vast sums of cash,” he said. “Operators will tell you that there is still, in some cultures, the propensity to do so.”

Other strategies include restricting patrons from exchanging small bills for large currency denominations and temporarily banning people from establishments while they are being investigated.

Solicitor General Mike Morris said the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Agency already deals with money laundering and organized crime and the new team is ready to take on illegal gamblers.

“It’s going to make a dent,” he said. “These folks are going to feel the brunt of this organization.”

Morris said the province’s civil forfeiture program stands to benefit as proceeds of crime are seized and money is funnelled into crime prevention strategies.

Supt. Kevin Hackett of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said officers will target high-level, violent crime groups that launder money through a lucrative source of funding to further their criminal exploits.

Where you live and what you earn help determine life expectancy

CHICAGO – The richest Americans live at least 10 years longer on average than the poorest, but that gap isn’t as wide in many communities, especially affluent, highly educated cities, a major study found.

The research emphasizes that where you live and what you earn help determine life expectancy, along with changeable behaviours including smoking and lack of exercise.

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Stanford University economist Raj Chetty and colleagues analyzed more than 1 billion tax records between 1999 and 2014, along with government records on nearly 7 million deaths. They used the data to estimate life expectancy at age 40 by income and geographic area.

READ MORE: Living in poverty in Winnipeg can lower life expectancy by 19 years: report

Their analysis was published online Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It comes during an election season marked by heated debate about income equality and the endangered middle class.

The report examines the well-known connection between income and longevity, but with more precision and detail than previous research, Princeton University economist Angus Deaton said in a journal editorial.

“The infamous 1 per cent is not only richer, but much healthier,” Deaton said.

READ MORE: Report shows life-expectancy gap between high and lowest income is almost 20 years

KEY FINDINGS

Men with the top 1 per cent in income lived 15 years longer than men with the lowest 1 per cent in income; for women that gap was 10 years.

Between 2001 and 2014, life expectancy didn’t change for people in the lowest 5 per cent of income, but it increased by about 3 years for men and women in the top 5 per cent. Those changes, and life expectancy in general, varied substantially by region.

The poorest Americans lived the longest in areas where smoking, obesity and inactivity were scarce, and access to medical care had less influence than previous studies have suggested.

READ MORE: Inuit life expectancy trails rest of Canada

The study did not include people with no income.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Data from Dallas, Detroit and New York help illustrate the findings. Among the lowest-income men and women, life expectancy was lowest in Detroit and Dallas and highest in New York. Among men at the lowest income level, life expectancy was 72 in Detroit, but almost 80 years in New York — a nearly seven-year difference. Among men at the top income level, it was about 86 years in Detroit and 87 years in New York, a difference of just one year. The gap was smaller among women.

The lowest life expectancies for the poorest men and women — less than 78 years — were in Indiana, Nevada and Oklahoma. For the richest, the lowest life expectancies — less than about 85 years — were in Hawaii, Nevada and Oklahoma.

READ MORE:Death by postal code: Income still dictates lifespan in Ontario

THE IMPLICATIONS

The poorest Americans fared best in affluent cities with highly educated populations. These tend to be areas with health-related public policies including smoking bans and high levels of funding for public services, the researchers said.

The findings raise the possibility that community-based public health approaches could help address the income-based longevity gap, a journal commentary said.

Life Expectancy by Country | HealthGrove

Durham Bridge residents tired of illegal dumping problem

Story highlights

Residents in Durham Bridge are fed up with their roadways being used as illegal dumping sites.

Many of the roadways in Durham Bridge are littered with garbage that has been illegally discarded and some people in the area have had enough.

“They think they can get away with it and put it in someone else’s backyard so to speak,” said Donna Bliss who walks several kilometres with her neighbour each morning, noting various types of trash along the way.

“I’ve seen automobile gas tanks, I’ve seen bicycles…the type of plastic that can be recycled, wood construction pieces that could go to be reused.”

Although she says she’s not surprised by the items she comes across, she admits some have made her scratch her head.

“I’ve seen dryers,” she said. “You can take metal to the land fill and they’ll pay you for it. You don’t have to dump it out here.”

“People feel they have a right to bring their garbage and dump it wherever they feel,” Bliss said.

Conservation officers say they’re as puzzled by the practice as residents are.

“The tipping fees aren’t expensive at the landfill,” says Conservation Enforcement Superintendent, Rick Nash.

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“A lot of the time they’ll drive a long ways into the woods to find a spot to dump it and I would think that it would be cheaper to pay the tipping fees than some of the gas to go there.”

Nash says each year another 50 or so new illegal dumping sites are found.

He says it can be a difficult crime to catch someone committing, but still the risk isn’t worth the reward.

“Anybody caught dumping, it’s a $604.50 ticket,” he explained.

“The second thing we’ll normally do is issue an order for them to pick it up. Failure to comply with the order can result in a daily penalty of up to $500 a day.”

With the snow melting and many looking to get rid of unwanted items during the spring season, Bliss fears her morning walks will only uncover even more discarded trash in her area, but she hopes those thinking about dumping their garbage will reconsider.

“You have choices this should be a no-brainer that its not a choice,” she said.

“We are fortunate that we have garbage pick up, we have landfills, we have places where you can recycle. There’s no excuse for bringing it out and just dumping it.”

Anyone who witnesses illegal dumping is asked to call the Conservation office or Crime Stoppers.

Kate Middleton and Prince William feel earthquake tremors while on safari

Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hopped into a jeep Wednesday morning and trekked out to see orphaned baby elephants and rhinos at Kaziranga National Park, a remote region in northeast India.

About 800 kilometres away, a strong earthquake struck Myanmar.

“We felt the tremor very strongly, but all is fine,” said British Deputy High Commissioner Scott Furssedonn-Wood, who was staying in the same 12-cottage jungle resort as Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton.

A security personnel stands outside the hotel where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are staying near the Kaziranga National Park, east of Gauhati, Assam state, India , Wednesday, April 13, 2016. A strong earthquake struck Myanmar on Wednesday night and was felt in parts of eastern India and Bangladesh, causing residents to rush out of their homes in panic. The tremors were felt in the eastern Indian states of Assam and West Bengal, including in the area of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.

AP Photo/ Anupam Nath

Accompanied by wildlife rangers, the royal couple used large bottles of milk to feed the animals in Kaziranga National Park.

Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge feeding baby rhino and elephants during their visit to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation in Kaziranga National Park

Photo by REX/Shutterstock

The park is also home to water buffalo, endangered swamp deer, tigers and two-thirds of the world’s population of Indian one-horned rhinoceroses.

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Prince William and Kate saw rhinos, wild boars, buffalos, hog deer and a variety of birds, according to V.S. Bhaskar, a top Assam state government official.

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“They enjoyed the trip quite a lot. They were very happy,” he said.

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Prince William reportedly asked the forest rangers about the conservation challenges they face.

The couple has already visited Mumbai and New Delhi on a week-long tour of India, which included a game of cricket.

Catherine Duchess of Cambridge playing cricket at Oval Maidan recreational ground, South Mumbai Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit to India – 10 Apr 2016.

Photo by REX/Shutterstock

MORE PHOTOS: William and Kate Middleton in India

Their visit has sparked a lot of excitement in India and even a viral campaign started by a 93-year-old.

WATCH: #WillKatMeetMe: 93-year-old Indian man asked the internet to help him meet Kate Middleton

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The royal couple is set to spend Wednesday night in the Kaziranga National Park area, and will leave for neighbouring Bhutan on Thursday.

READ MORE: Royal Family shares first vacation photos with Princess Charlotte and Prince George

They are travelling without their two children, two-and-a-half-year-old Prince George and 11-month-old Princess Charlotte.

They had taken Prince George to Australia with them in 2014 on their last royal tour.

-With files from Wasbir Hussain, The Associated Press

Prince William and Kate Middleton lunch with PM Modi on India tour

NEW DELHI – The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined India’s prime minister for a private lunch Tuesday at a former palace in New Delhi.

Before going indoors, Prince William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, strolled on either side of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They were seen chatting and smiling, before posing for cameras. Kate wore a full-sleeved gauze green dress, while William donned a blue suit and Modi was clad neck-to-toe in white.

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Related

  • Prince William and Kate Middleton in India: photos of their royal visit

  • Prince William, Kate take Princess Charlotte and Prince George to their country home

    READ MORE: Prince William and Kate Middleton in India: photos of their royal visit

    The British royal couple are in India for a seven-day tour that also includes a trip to neighbouring Bhutan. They’ve already visited Mumbai, and were to travel later Tuesday to a wildlife park in the northeastern state of Assam that is home to various endangered animals.

    They’re visiting Kaziranga National Park specifically to focus global attention on conservation. The 480-square-kilometre (185-square-mile) grassland park is home to the world’s largest population of rare, one-horned rhinos as well as other endangered species, including swamp deer and the Hoolock gibbon.

    READ MORE: Kate Middleton describes queen as doting granny

    The royal couple will also take a one-day trip to neighbouring Bhutan at the invitation of the Himalayan kingdom’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.

    William and Kate will then head back to India, where they’ll wind up their tour with a visit to the Taj Mahal, retracing the steps of a 1992 visit to the monument of love by William’s mother, the late Princess Diana.

    Catherine Duchess of Cambridge playing cricket at Oval Maidan recreational ground, South Mumbai
    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit to India – 10 Apr 2016.

    Photo by REX/Shutterstock

    Catherine Duchess of Cambridge at Oval Maidan recreational ground, South Mumbai
    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit to India – 10 Apr 2016
    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge meet children from Magic Bus, Childline and Doorstep; three NGOs who will benefit from a charity Gala, and join a game of cricket at Mumbai’s iconic recreation ground with a local cricket academy

    REX/Shutterstock

    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge at Oval Maidan recreational ground, South Mumbai
    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit to India – 10 Apr 2016
    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge meet children from Magic Bus, Childline and Doorstep; three NGOs who will benefit from a charity Gala, and join a game of cricket at Mumbai’s iconic recreation ground with a local cricket academy

    REX/Shutterstock

    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit the Mumbai slums
    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit to India – 10 Apr 2016

    Photo by Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

    Britain’s Prince William gets out of a car upon his arrival at Hotel Taj in Mumbai, India, Sunday, April 10, 2016. William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, visited this iconic hotel which was one of the prime targets of the 2008 terror attacks on the city.

    AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

    Britain’s Prince William, left, along with Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge speaks with hotel staff (not seen in picture)as they arrive at the hotel Taj in Mumbai, India, Sunday, April 10, 2016 .

    AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, and his wife, the former Kate Middleton lay a wreath on the martyrs memorial at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India, Sunday, April 10, 2016. The royal couple began their weeklong visit to India and Bhutan, by laying a wreath at a memorial Sunday at Mumbai’s iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel, where 31 victims of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks were killed.

    Mitesh Bhuvad/Pool via AP

    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge lay a wreath at Taj Hotel, scene of Mumbai terror attacks
    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit to India – 10 Apr 2016

    REX/Shutterstock

    Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William
    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit to India – 10 Apr 2016
    Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William meet Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai at the Bollywood Charity Gala at the Taj Palace Hotel

    Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

    Britain’s Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, participates in an event on young entrepreneurs in Mumbai, India, Monday, April 11, 2016. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are on a weeklong visit to India, their first royal tour in two years.

    Danish Siddiqui/Pool Photo via AP

    Britain’s Prince William, and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge,cut a cake to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, which is April 21 at the residence of British High Commissioner in New Delhi, India, Monday, April 11, 2016. William addressed a large gathering of prominent Indians at the reception to speak about his grandmother, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

    Vijay Verma/Pool Photo via AP

    Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge at the official garden party reception celebrating the Queen’s 90th Birthday at the British High Commission, New Delhi, India.

    Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock

Loblaw to invest $1B in major store expansion, create 20,000 new jobs

TORONTO – Loblaw said Tuesday it is planning to build 50 new stores and renovate 150 others this year in its latest effort to adapt to a rapidly evolving food retail sector.

The grocery and pharmacy giant said the $1.3 billion revamp and expansion project would cover stores of various banners. It is not yet releasing information on where the new stores will be located.

The number of new stores announced is not unusual, said Edward Jones analyst Brittany Weissman, though Loblaw (TSX:L) plans to renovate slightly more outlets than before.

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  • French’s ketchup ‘cannibalizing’ President’s Choice’s: Loblaw memo

  • Loblaw introduces online grocery shopping to four B.C. Superstores

  • Loblaw closing 52 stores across its sprawling retail empire

    Loblaw made a similar announcement early last year, when it said it would build 50 new stores and improve more than 100 others. Later, in July 2015, Loblaw said it was closing 52 locations across Canada that had fallen short of expectations – more than the 10 to 15 stores it would typically shut down.

    READ MORE: Canadian grocers’ move to cage-free eggs an ‘important commitment’

    “They close some stores each year, they open some new stores each year,” Weissman said.

    Catherine Thomas, Loblaw’s director of external communications, said in an email that the expansion would add about 5,000 new store employees while creating roughly 15,000 construction jobs.

    The new jobs would beef up Loblaw’s employee base by 2.6 per cent. Loblaw employs about 192,000 full- and part-time workers, according to its most recent annual information form.

    The company plans to invest $1 billion in the expansion, while Choice Properties REIT (TSX:CHP.UN), a real estate investment trust, is expected to contribute $300 million.

    “We continue to invest in our business in ways that matter for the Canadian economy and the millions of Canadians who shop with us each week,” Galen G. Weston, the company’s president and executive chairman, said in a statement.

    READ MORE: French’s ketchup ‘cannibalizing’ President’s Choice’s: Loblaw memo

    The announcement is the company’s most recent move to compete in an industry that has seen waves of change in recent months.

    Inflation and the dropping value of the Canadian dollar earlier this year triggered sharp increases in some food prices, and both Loblaw and rival Metro have dipped their feet into the waters of online shopping and pickup services.

    Just last month, Loblaw announced that it was expanding its Naturally Imperfect line of discount produce.

    Thomas said the completion and success of multiple IT and supply chain investments over the past few years now allows Loblaw to increasingly focus its capital on stores. The investment announced Tuesday would also go towards increasing Loblaw’s e-commerce, IT infrastructure and supply chain projects, the company said.

    Loblaw will likely expand its click-and-collect program, said Weissman. The service allows customers to shop online and pick up their order at a participating store.

    In February, Weston said the company planned to accelerate the program’s rollout beyond its current 39 stores.

    Loblaw already operates more than 2,300 stores. They include Loblaws, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart and Joe Fresh apparel outlets.

    The company’s most recent quarterly results in February showed profits slipped more than a third compared with the previous year. However, the decline was primarily due to costs and accounting items associated with unusual items, rather than store performance, Loblaw said.

    It will release its first-quarter results on May 4.

Canadian turtle smuggler snapped with 5 years in U.S. prison

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A Canadian man who repeatedly entered Michigan to buy and ship thousands of turtles to his native China only to be caught with 51 of them strapped to his legs was sentenced Tuesday to nearly five years in federal prison for smuggling.

It was a tough punishment for Kai Xu, who has been locked up for 19 months since his arrest and had hoped to be released. The 27-year-old expressed remorse to a judge and thanked agents “for stopping the darkness of my greed and ignorance.”

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Ahead of the hearing, Xu wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara, saying he sold turtles partly to make money for college. He said he was a semester short of an engineering degree.

The government said Xu shipped turtles to China from Canada and the U.S., or hired people to fly with turtles in their luggage to China, where they are coveted as pets. He was apprehended with 51 of them on his legs at the Ontario, Canada, border in 2014.

It’s not illegal to buy turtles from breeders in the U.S., but Xu’s crime was shipping them overseas without a federal permit.

Xu was not a “sophisticated international dealer,” defence attorney Matthew Borgula told the judge, adding that hiding turtles under his pants was “not a good way to get them across the border.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said Xu’s remorse was genuine, but described his smuggling scheme as one of the largest in recent years.

Woodward asked for five years in prison, near the low end of the sentencing guidelines. O’Meara could have gone lower than the guidelines, but settled on 57 months without an explanation, though he praised Xu for becoming fluent in Spanish while in prison and helping Hispanic inmates.

“We don’t have a whole lot of cases exactly like this every day,” O’Meara said of turtle smuggling.

The guidelines were enhanced by the value of the reptiles as estimated by the government. Prosecutors said shipments intercepted at airports were worth more than $1 million.

Borgula objected to the government’s conclusion and asked that O’Meara hear testimony. The judge declined, saying he was pressed for time. An appeal is planned.

“The sentence is very severe,” Borgula told The Associated Press.

Inadequate and under-funded services continue to afflict Attawapiskat

Chelsea Jane Edwards was deeply saddened when she heard her remote northern Ontario First Nation of Attawapiskat had declared a state of emergency over a recent spate of suicides attempts.

But she wasn’t surprised.

Edwards, who’s now studying policing in New Brunswick, knows first-hand how hard life can be in the James Bay community of about 2,000, particularly for young people.

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“It’s not surprising at all; it’s devastating,” the 20-year-old said of the news that has put Attawapiskat in the national spotlight this week.

READ MORE: Attawapiskat: Flying in crisis teams after suicide attempts doesn’t work, expert says

“When you’ve been living your entire life in poverty it comes with many issues. They will range from mental health, to inadequate housing, to not having enough to eat because you have to share the food with everyone in the household … I just feel like the action was long overdue.”

The federal health minister said Monday that five mental health workers have arrived in the community to address what she called “one of the most serious and pressing tragedies that our nation is facing.”

The state of emergency was declared by Attawapiskat’s chief and council on Saturday evening after the community’s 11th suicide attempt in the month of April and 28 suicide attempts in March.

For Edwards, the community’s plea for extra resources to deal with the situation was one she understood.

“The services provided are really inadequate and under-funded,” she said. “I was depressed every time I would go back. I had a hard time readjusting coming from off the reserve to back on the reserve.”

Edwards’ family moved to Attawapiskat, where her mother’s side is from, when she was a baby. She left the reserve to go to high school but went back and forth between the reserve and cities in northern Ontario as she had trouble finding families who would board her.

READ MORE: Attawapiskat’s suicide emergency is no surprise to anyone paying attention

She still considers herself lucky because her family supported her through high school and she was also able to get involved with Shannen’s Dream, a youth movement calling for better education for First Nations children.

Her activism took her to Ottawa, Toronto and even Switzerland, where she led a delegation of aboriginal youth before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

After graduating high school, and despite the adjustment issues that resulted from going back and forth, she returned to Attawapiskat for an entire year before starting her post-secondary degree. She continues to call the community home.

Attawapiskat declares state of emergency after 11 suicide attempts on Saturday

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Attawapiskat declares state of emergency after 11 suicide attempts on Saturday

01:54

“What’s it going to take to end this cycle of crisis and death among young people:” MP Charlie Angus on tragedy in Attawapiskat

01:25

Attawapiskat could be ‘any northern community’

01:47

State of emergency in Attawapiskat after 11 suicide attempts



“I was really exhausted. I needed to be around my family,” she said of her decision to return. “I needed to be home.”

Attawapiskat is a place, however, that comes with its challenges, she said.

There was a time when Edwards had to sleep on a couch because there was no room for her to have her own bed, she once had to wait months to see a counsellor and even when she did, it was uncomfortable to open up because the person she was speaking to was part of the community where everyone knows everyone.

READ MORE: Attawapiskat Chief says he’s homeless, needs more resources after spike in suicide attempts

The need for counselling and mental health support, particularly for the reserve’s young people, is significant, Edwards said.

“Honestly, there’s no social activity,” she said. “For myself, I felt isolated, I couldn’t really interact with other people, I just felt like I was in my own little bubble and it was hard to talk to other people about certain things.”

For all its problems, however, Edwards still plans to return to live in Attawapiskat in the future because she believes the community still has its merits.

“Attawapiskat is a very beautiful place. We have a lot of land and we’re very rich in our language and culture,” she said.

“I lived in Attawapiskat almost my entire life and the things I got to do, I want to bring back and show other youth they can do it too. I lived in the isolation and I’ve overcome the barriers. I feel like if they had other people who had overcome those challenges and they came back, they’d feel more hopeful.”