Watching hurricane Fiona, crime gun tracing: In The News for Sept. 23

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Sept. 23 …

What we are watching in Canada …

As much as 200 millimetres of rain is forecast to fall on Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec this weekend, as hurricane Fiona tracks towards the East Coast.

In addition to significant storm surge, potential for flooding in coastal and mainland areas and an “all-time” low pressure across the region, the potentially “historic” storm is expected to cause widespread power outages due to trees and hydro poles brought down by powerful wind.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Environment Canada meteorologist Bob Robichaud said it remains to be seen if Fiona’s wind gusts will set records, but the expectation is that gusts will be stronger in some areas than the 150 km/h winds felt when post-tropical storm Dorian made landfall in 2019.

Fiona is expected to reach Nova Scotia waters by Friday night before passing through the eastern mainland part of the province, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island on Saturday, and on to Quebec’s Lower North Shore and southeastern Labrador early Sunday.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S., said the forecast was for the worst gusts to hit eastern Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and parts of Prince Edward Island

Coastal areas of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are expected to experience pounding surf, with waves off Nova Scotia expected to build to more than 10 metres, while wave heights could be more than 12 metres in eastern parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Also this …

Federal agencies are trying to boost efforts to trace the origins of guns used in crimes, but it appears jurisdictional hurdles could prevent the measures from going as far as some would like.

The federal government says the RCMP has introduced a new mandatory tracing policy, meaning that in places where the Mounties are the police of jurisdiction, seized illegal guns will automatically be sent to the force’s national firearms tracing centre.

The Commons public safety committee and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have called on the government to make it mandatory that all crime guns recovered during investigations by police across the country be submitted for tracing.

The most recent figures indicate only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of crime guns recovered each year are being traced.

In a response to the committee’s April report on reducing gun and gang violence, the federal government says tracing is a key tool to determine the sources of illicit firearms.

But the government stops short of a pledge to make the tracing of all crime guns a requirement.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

ATMORE, Ala. _ Alabama officials called off the Thursday lethal injection of a man convicted in a 1999 workplace shooting because of time concerns and trouble accessing the inmate’s veins.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the state halted the scheduled execution of Alan Miller after they determined they could not get the lethal injection underway before a midnight deadline. Prison officials made the decision at about 11:30 p.m. The last-minute reprieve came nearly three hours after a divided U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to begin.

“Due to time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned inmate’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the death warrant,” Hamm said. The execution team began trying to establish intravenous access, but he did not know for how long.

Miller was returned to his regular cell at a south Alabama prison.

Miller, 57, was convicted of killing three people in a 1999 workplace rampage, drawing the death sentence.

Prosecutors said Miller, a delivery truck driver, killed co-workers Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy at a business in suburban Birmingham and then drove off to shoot former supervisor Terry Jarvis at a business where Miller had previously worked. Each man was shot multiple times and Miller was captured after a highway chase.

Trial testimony indicated Miller believed the men were spreading rumours about him, including that he was gay. A psychiatrist hired by the defence found Miller suffered from severe mental illness but also said Miller’s condition wasn’t bad enough to use as a basis for an insanity defence under state law.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

KYIV, Ukraine _ Voting began Friday in Moscow-held regions of Ukraine on referendums to become part of Russia, Russian-backed officials there said.

The Kremlin-orchestrated referendums, which have been widely denounced by Ukraine and the West as shams without any legal force, are seen as a step toward annexing the territories by Russia.

The votes are being held in the Luhansk, partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. In Kherson, which is almost fully controlled by Moscow, the balloting was also expected to get underway on Friday morning.

The vote, which asks residents if they want their regions to be part of Russia, is certain to go Moscow’s way. That would give Russia the pretext to claim that attempts by Ukrainian forces to regain control are attacks on Russia itself, dramatically escalating the seven-month-old conflict.

The referendums follow President Vladimir Putin’s order of a partial mobilization, which could add some 300,000 Russian troops to the fight. The balloting will continue for five days through Tuesday.

As the votes was getting underway in the occupied regions, Russian social media sites were full of dramatic scenes of tearful families bidding farewell to men departing from military mobilization centres. In cities across the vast country, men hugged their weeping family members before departing as part of the draft. Russian antiwar activists, in the meantime, planned more protests against the mobilization.

Election officials will be bringing ballots to people’s homes and setting up makeshift polling stations near residential buildings during the first four days of the referendums, according to Russian-installed officials in the occupied regions, who cited safety reasons. Tuesday will be the only day when the voters will be invited to come to regular polls.

Polls also opened in Russia, where refugees from the occupied regions can cast their votes.

On this day in 1987 …

Saskatchewan became the first English-speaking province to ratify the Meech Lake accord.

In entertainment …

The Weeknd returned to his Toronto hometown on Thursday to give fans the concert they’d long waited to see.

More than two months after a nationwide Rogers network outage hurt the Canadian pop star’s plans to start his world tour at home, he returned with all the flames and fury he’d taken on the road over the summer.

Against a massive set of a post-apocalyptic city, he performed a number of his biggest hits, including “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Starboy.”

Then the singer, born Abel Tesfaye, took a moment to tell the crowd that returning home reminded him why he’s in music.

After recalling how he played his first concert ever at Toronto’s Mod Club in 2011, he pointed out that now he’s playing back-to-back nights at the city’s biggest venue, the Rogers Centre, which he called by its old name, the SkyDome.

The Weeknd will return to play a second show on Friday night.

Did you see this?

The windswept prairie east of the Rocky Mountains may seem like an unlikely spot for a hot-air balloon festival but the town of High River, Alberta is celebrating the event for the 10th straight year.

More than 20 brightly coloured balloons including a pink elephant, a black and yellow bee and the purple and yellow Eye of Ra, named after the Egyptian sun god, took advantage of a lull in the prevailing wind this week to get some up-in-the-air time.

Event director Jamie Kinghorn says the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival began after the community was hit by a devastating flood in 2013.

Kinghorn, who is also a town councillor, says it was hoped the event would lift the spirits of area residents.

He says the festival is a boost to local tourism and there’s not a hotel room available.

There are 23 balloons participating this year including some from the United States, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

The festival runs through Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2023.

The Canadian Press