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Protests hit border crossings

A week of native protests that temporarily closed several Canada-U.S. border crossings and railway lines escalated with a rally on Parliament Hill.

Hundreds of protesters marched and blocked the entrance to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office before his meeting Friday with First Nations' leaders.

Protesters stopped traffic for several hours at border bridges in Cornwall, Sarnia, Fort Erie and Queenston, Ontario, as well as Surrey, British Columbia.

They also blocked a Canadian National rail line in Sarnia and the main line between Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal for several hours near Belleville, disrupting 1,000 VIA Rail passengers and freight traffic.

Protesters say government bills will encroach on their historic treaty rights and the environmental protection of native land. "We shared our lands all these years and we never got anything from it — all the benefits are going to Canadian citizens," Ontario chief Theresa Spence said. Her comments followed the release of a federal audit showing a "lack of documentation" for $104 million given to aid the reserve from 2005 to 2011.

Weather extremes coast to coast

They're having a "heat wave" in southern Ontario, freezing in British Columbia and digging out in Newfoundland and the Prairies.

A blizzard lashed Newfoundland with about 2 feet of snow while up to a foot covered the area from Alberta to Saskatchewan on Friday. Toronto and southern Ontario have had record-breaking high temperatures the past few days, reaching into the 50s this weekend and melting what little snow had fallen.

There's an "extreme-weather alert" in Metro Vancouver throughout this weekend with homeless shelters adding beds and heated facilities as temperatures plunged into the mid 20s at night.

News in brief

• A Toronto man and his wife who spent winters in Florida have been found murdered in their townhouse in Hallandale. Police said the bodies of David Pichosky, 71, and Rochelle Wise, 66, were found by a neighbor after they failed to show up for lunch.

• An anti-corruption unit of 20 investigators has been established in Montreal with "far-reaching powers." Mayor Michael Applebaum said the office will be "autonomous and independent" and complement Quebec's own unit. The action follows investigations into widespread corruption in the construction industry that led to the resignations of several mayors, including Gerald Tremblay of Montreal and Laval's Gilles Vaillancourt.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar is higher at $1.0168 in U.S. funds while the U.S. dollar returns 98.34 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent. Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,564 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,239 points.

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Regional briefs

• Calgary hospitals have postponed surgeries due to severe outbreaks of flu and noroviruses. Seasonal viruses are up about 20 percent over normal years in the city and throughout Alberta. Across Canada, there is a similar trend with more flu cases and lingering colds reported this winter.

• Parents were thrown into disarray when a planned one-day strike by elementary teachers was ruled illegal and schools remained open. The Ontario Labor Relations Board ruled at 4 a.m. Friday the "day of protest" would violate their contract and they could be heavily fined. The teachers are upset over a two-year freeze in their pay and benefit cuts.

Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]

Protests hit border crossings 01/12/13 [Last modified: Saturday, January 12, 2013 7:53pm]
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