Canada in Brief, Jan. 19-25

January 18, 2017 Updated: January 18, 2017

Trudeau affirms support of NATO after Trump brands alliance obsolete

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed Canada’s support of NATO days after president-elect Donald Trump’s pronouncement that the military alliance is obsolete.

But he stopped short of saying he would be willing to boost the defence budget so Canada could meet NATO’s spending target for its member countries.

Trudeau cited Canada’s leadership in Latvia, where it will contribute 450 troops and command several national contingents as part of a military deterrent to Russia on Europe’s eastern flank.

Trump criticized NATO during the U.S. election campaign, and sparked surprise in Europe when he levelled more attacks this week.

But Trump’s nominee for defence secretary, retired Marine general James Mattis, spoke in support of NATO during his congressional confirmation hearing last week.

New web crawler being used to detect and track child pornography

WINNIPEG—A new online tool is being used to detect and help remove child pornography from the Internet.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has unveiled a program called Project Arachnid, which crawls the web in search of images of child exploitation.

The Winnipeg-based charity says the automated program, run on a bank of servers, can scan 150 web pages a second. It compares any images and digital information found to reports by police agencies around the world.

Officials say in its first six weeks, the program has processed 230 million web pages and found 40,000 different images of child sexual abuse. When offensive material is found, Internet service providers are notified to take it down and authorities are alerted.

Researchers to look at ways of mitigating impact of Arctic oil spills

WINNIPEG—Ottawa and the Manitoba government have announced $4 million in funding for a large-scale research project aimed at helping Canadian companies and agencies be better prepared to mitigate the environmental impact of Arctic oil spills.

The Genice project will use microbial genomics in dealing with the issue of increasing traffic in Canada’s northern waterways and the risk that comes with shipping and oil exploration.

Simon Potter of Genome Prairie says climate change may present the opportunity for year-round shipping traffic along Canada’s Arctic coast, and it’s key to be prepared.

Professor Gary Stern of the University of Manitoba says the project comes at a critical time because “Canada needs to be prepared in the event of an oil spill in Arctic waters.”

McDonald’s Canada warns all menu products may now come in contact with nuts

TORONTO—McDonald’s Canada has started serving its first product containing peanuts or tree nuts that do not come in an individual package, causing concerns for customers with severe nut allergies.

McDonald’s says in a statement on its website that its new Skor McFlurry contains chopped almonds in the pieces of chocolate bar used to make the treat. The company says this means all of its other products may contain or come in contact with peanuts, tree nuts or other allergens.

McDonald’s previously only served individually packaged peanuts and tree nuts.

Financial impact of Fort McMurray wildfire reaches $9.5 billion

EDMONTON—An assessment of the total financial impact of last spring’s Fort McMurray wildfire is pegging the direct and indirect costs of the blaze at $9.5 billion.

The figure includes the expense of replacing buildings and infrastructure as well as lost income, profits, and royalties in the oilsands and forestry industries, said MacEwan University economist Rafat Alam.

It also includes early estimates on indirect costs such as environmental damage, lost timber, and physical and mental-health treatment.

However, Alam said it can take up to 10 years to get a complete picture of everything that happened and what it cost.

His figure dwarfs the $3.7 billion insurance companies have estimated they will pay out.

With files from The Canadian Press