New report calls for unilateral ban on ‘killer robots’

Technology allowing a pre-programmed robot to shoot to kill, or a tank to fire at a target with no human involvement, is only years away, experts say. A new report called Monday for a ban on such “killer robots.”

The report by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic was released as the United Nations kicked off a week-long meeting on such weapons in Geneva.

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The report calls for humans to remain in control over all weapons systems at a time of rapid technological advances. It says that requiring humans to remain in control of critical functions during combat, including the selection of targets, saves lives and ensures that fighters comply with international law.

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“Machines have long served as instruments of war, but historically humans have directed how they are used,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior arms division researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

“Now there is a real threat that humans would relinquish their control and delegate life-and-death decisions to machines.”

Some have argued in favour of robots on the battlefield, saying their use could save lives.

But last year, more than 1,000 technology and robotics experts – including scientist Stephen Hawking, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak – warned that such weapons could be developed within years, not decades.

In an open letter, they argued that if any major military power pushes ahead with development of autonomous weapons, “a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”

READ MORE: Scarlett Johansson robot: Hong Kong man builds celebrity replica

According to the London-based organization Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and Britain are moving toward systems that would give machines greater combat autonomy. Human Rights Watch is a co-founder of the organization.

The U.N. meeting of experts on the issue, chaired by Germany, continues talks that took place in April 2015 and May 2014.

Tories push for justice minister to return money from fundraiser with lawyers

OTTAWA – The opposition Conservatives are demanding that the Liberal justice minister give back the money from a Toronto fundraiser last week.

Jody Wilson-Raybould attended the $500-a-head evening with lawyers at Torys LLP, a prominent Bay Street law firm.

Wilson-Raybould says she cleared it beforehand with federal conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mary Dawson, and was there in her capacity as an ordinary MP, not a cabinet minister.

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READ MORE: Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould appearing at private fundraiser at law office

“What we talked about was Canadian politics, being involved in politics and ensuring that everybody has the ability to have their views heard,” she said Monday in the House of Commons.

Alberta Conservatives Blaine Calkins and Michael Cooper, however, weren’t satisfied.

“Does the justice minister really expect Canadians to believe that high-priced Ontario lawyers paid 500 bucks a plate to meet with the member for Vancouver Granville?” Calkins asked during question period.

Cooper called it a “sordid” affair.

“Last week, the minister attended a pay-to-play fundraiser in which attendees were invited to pay in return for access to the minister,” he said.

“The minister of justice has a duty not only to be independent, but to be perceived as independent.”

Wilson-Raybould said every MP takes part in fundraising.

“I take my ethical responsibilities incredibly seriously,” she said, adding that she would never put herself in a conflict of interest.

Cooper urged her to apologize and “return to pay-to-play cash.”

Government House leader Dominic LeBlanc defended the minister, describing the fundraiser as legitimate and the Conservative attacks as “feigned indignation.”

WATCH: Justice Minister defends her attendance at $500 per ticket private fundraiser

“The Liberal party raises money in accordance with the principles of the Canada Elections Act,” LeBlanc said.

Cooper demanded to see the guest list from the soiree. Leblanc reminded him that donations are reported publicly every quarter.

When the Liberals were in opposition, they went after such potential conflicts.

In January 2014, Ralph Goodale, then deputy Liberal leader and now minister of public safety, accused Conservative heritage minister Shelley Glover of crossing the line with a Winnipeg fundraiser that included arts community stakeholders.

Goodale said the money should be repaid and Glover ended up not accepting the donations.

Former Alberta politician Jonathan Denis’ ex-wife denies writing emails in public dispute

CALGARY – A dispute between a former Alberta politician and his ex-wife that erupted during last year’s provincial election campaign has flared up again following their divorce.

Former justice minister Jonathan Denis — accused by his former spouse of kneeing her in the face, tampering with brakes on her car and throwing temper tantrums — released emails on the weekend that he said came from the woman and finally clear his name.

READ MORE: Court hearing for Jonathan Denis open, publication ban remains

The two identical emails released by Denis, sent last month with Breanna Palmer’s name and email address, said she regrets the steps she took against her former husband.

FILE: Jonathan Denis and Breanna Palmer.

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    “Jonathan Denis has never intentionally harmed me and I have never known him to use or possess illegal drugs,” said the emails. “I withdraw all allegations that I have made against Jonathan Denis about abuse or otherwise.”

    In an email to Global News, Palmer said:

    “I did not write that email and further, any such statement would come directly from myself and not through [Denis] or his legal team.”

    In a response to questions about the release, a spokesperson for Denis told Global News that “per Jonathan’s statement on the weekend, the documents speak plainly for themselves. Mr. Denis prefers not to comment further.”

    The scandal started last May, days before the election, when former premier Jim Prentice asked Denis to resign from cabinet because of a legal dispute with his wife.

    READ MORE: Prentice has ‘confidence’ in Denis as PC candidate despite resignation from cabinet

    A judge later lifted a publication ban that had kept details of the dispute under wraps.

    Palmer, a model and former beauty queen, had complained that Denis ripped a TV out of a wall and a seat off a toilet as their relationship eroded.

    READ MORE: Jonathan Denis resigns as Alberta justice minister amid legal proceedings with estranged wife

    She also alleged that he kneed her in the nose when she went to kiss him in bed. She said her car was broken into twice and her clutch and brakes were damaged. She further said Denis’s mother once locked her in the couple’s home.

    Palmer also claimed Denis used the drug lithium for mental-health issues.

    The judge ruled that while Palmer had real anxieties, there was no reasonable fear of family violence. He removed an emergency protection order she had previously been granted against Denis and his mother.

    The next day, the Progressive Conservatives lost the election and Denis lost his seat in Calgary.

    Their marital squabble remained out of the public eye until this year.

    In arguing over legal costs related to the emergency protection order, Denis and his mother claimed Palmer’s allegations were meant to hurt him during the election campaign and make Palmer money.

    Denis and his mother argued that “Palmer sought an extremely large payment of money from Denis to make the matter ‘go away,’” a judge summed up in January.

    “They claim that a tentative settlement was reached, but that Palmer changed her mind and rejected it, refusing to entertain other offers.”

    The judge ruled that he couldn’t speculate on Palmer’s motives and ordered both sides to pay their own costs.

    READ MORE: Judge lifts restraining order against former justice minister Jonathan Denis

    On Sunday, public relations firm Paulsen Group released a statement from Denis that said the couple’s divorce was finalized on April 1 and he was finally able to release two emails from her retracting last year’s allegations.

    “These allegations were serious, and they caused me harm. I am glad that the truth has prevailed,” Denis wrote.

    Palmer said in an email that she may have more to say in the future.

    With files from Global News

Bay Ferries begins taking Yarmouth to Maine ferry bookings

The schedule is up, prices posted and bookings ready to be taken for the revived Yarmouth to Portland, ME ferry service.

Bay Ferries began taking reservation bookings on Monday for daily sailings between June 15 and September 30.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia PCs want more details on new Yarmouth ferry plan

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    According to a statement from the company’s vice president of marketing and customer experience, Jeff Gaudet, the prices are “about equal” to those when the ferry was last offered in 2009.

    “Our research and customer feedback over the years showed us that customers prefer pricing as simple and straight-forward as possible,” he said.

    Based on a trip on Sunday, July 1, the cost of a one-way adult ticket without a car would be $107 USD or $194 USD roundtrip.

    A couple of adults with a vehicle up to 6’6″ in height would pay $413 USD on a one-way trip and $786 USD roundtrip.

    If that family added two youth aged five to 13, the price would increase to $543 USD for a one-way trip and $1,022 USD roundtrip.

    Bay Ferries is offering promotions, including $100 off vehicle fares for Nova Scotians on select days of the week, but reaction from potential travellers is still mixed.

    “That actually seems kind of high,” said Heather Barkhouse.

    “I would rather take that money and just stay around here. I mean, for that amount of money, I could go on a car trip to Ottawa for gas to visit my brother so no.”

    “I’m actually going to be driving to Maine in the next couple days but something like that I’d definitely try it out. I’ve never really been on a ferry before. I think it’d be a good experience,” said Sondra Brunt.

    Ferry heading out on potentially rough seas

    The success of the ferry is something Nova Scotians are watching closely. Bay Ferries will receive more than $32 million over the next two years from the province to operate the service. This comes after government cut ties with the previous operator, Nova Star Cruises.

    READ MORE: New Yarmouth ferry to cost government $23.3 million in first year

    Nova Star not only failed to meet passenger targets, but also cost the province $41.5 million in subsidies.

    It’s a mistake NSCC marketing instructor, Ed McHugh, hopes isn’t repeated.

    “So you’ve got your product now, which is basically the transportation across the bay. You’ve got your promotion, which has been lacking so far. You’ve got price, which now feels a little high,” he said.

    “Then you’ve got distribution of the product, which is interesting because not sure how strong a market it will be to take a ferry out of Yarmouth.”

    For the town of Yarmouth, the big question is whether Americans will be taking the ferry and choosing to stay.

    The Canadian dollar remains low, so the town’s mayor believes the cost will actually entice visitors.

    “I think the prices are great,” said Pam Mood.

    “I think a lot of our American friends are going to come over and economically, they’re going to come over, stay in our hotels, motels and make lots of purchases over here. So it’s all good.”

    She also says the sailing schedule, which will arrive in Yarmouth in the evenings, will encourage visitors to stay overnight.

    “The schedule is tremendously helpful. It’s a win win for Nova Scotia,” she said.

    People can get more information and book crossings here.

#OTwithKelly: Montreal Canadiens put rumours to rest after tumultuous season

BROSSARD – It was a season of great expectations.

After the best start in franchise history, the Montreal Canadiens failed to make the playoffs for the second time in five years.

“It’s pretty difficult talking to you here,” said Alex Galchenyuk on locker clean-out day.

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    “This time of the year, you expect to be in the playoffs. It’s the first time in my career I’ve missed it and there were big expectations.”

    The majority of the blame will be put on Carey Price‘s injured knee – but it doesn’t stop there.

    The team ranked 16th in the league in goals scored.

    READ MORE: #OTwithKelly: A lament for the 2015-2016 Montreal Canadiens

    A total of 46 different players suited up for the Habs and finding chemistry together was difficult.

    In December and January, the team picked up 13 out of a possible 50 points.

    “Can we have done better? Should we have? Yes,” said General Manager Marc Bergevin.

    “Are we happy here today? No.”

    Things went from bad to worse this season as off-ice controversies plagued the team – especially between captain Max Pacioretty and star defenceman P.K. Subban.

    READ MORE: Pacioretty, Subban say there’s no rift in Canadiens dressing room

    “If you could bring the camera in the wives’ room and see P.K. playing mini sticks with my son after the game I don’t think I’d be asked this question,” said Pacioretty.

    “We like each other, we play together, we respect each other,” said Subban.

    “Do I have to go over there and make out with him to show my affection? What do you want?”

    It turns out, a hug was enough to seal the deal.

    Team owner Geoff Molson, head coach Michel Therrien and Bergevin met the media together.

    Rumours turned to Therrien and if the team’s dismal performance meant the end of his time in Montreal.

    READ MORE: Habs forward Alex Galchenyuk’s girlfriend arrested for domestic violence: reports

    Bergevin was eager to put that rumour to rest.

    “It’s my job to address the team moving forward, but Michel will be behind the bench opening night,” said Bergevin.

    The focus now is on the off-season what moves the general manager will make.

    He said he is not trying to trade core players Subban, Price or Pacioretty and the team emphasized over and over they are united – even if it is in defeat.