Aug 15

‘Very good’ chance G7 countries will agree to Trudeau’s ransom policy: Canadian rep

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s personal representative at the G7 summit in Japan says there is a very good chance of consensus among member countries on not paying ransom for citizens kidnapped abroad by terrorists groups.

“There’s a growing sense that the problem isn’t going away,” Peter Boehm told reporters at the summit.

“Citizens of our country can be in danger at any time and by paying ransom you are just aiding and abetting terrorists.”

Boehm is tasked with negotiating on behalf of Canada in the drafting of the summit’s closing communique, which is where the reference to ransom policy will be found.

READ MORE: Trudeau to pitch Canada’s new approach for boosting world economy at G7 summit

He said Trudeau has been the primary driver of the ransom issue at the summit.

Late last month Trudeau was forced to articulate his government’s position after Canadian hostage John Ridsdel was beheaded in the Philippines once a ransom deadline passed.

WATCH: ‘Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists’: PM Trudeau comments on murder of John Ridsdel 

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The 68-year-old had been vacationing at a resort in the southern part of the country last September when he and another Canadian, Robert Hall, along with Hall’s Filipino girlfriend and a Norwegian man, were kidnapped.

Ridsdel was beheaded by Abu Sayyaf captors on April 25th; Hall is still being held hostage. The militant group is associated with both the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Filipino president-elect Rodrigo Duterte reportedly apologized for the killing of Ridsdel when Justin Trudeau called to congratulate him on his recent election.

At the time Trudeau called Ridsdel’s execution “cold blooded murder,” but insisted paying ransoms would put other Canadian lives in danger.

“Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists,” Trudeau said. “Directly or indirectly, and there are very direct and clear reasons for this.”

READ MORE: What you need to know about Abu Sayyaf, the group that kidnapped John Ridsdel

Trudeau’s position is supported by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, but other G7 countries have historically taken a different position.

France and Italy have both paid ransoms for hostages in the past.

There has also been peculation that the Canadian government played a role in the release of two former Canadian diplomats — Robert Fowler and Louis Guay — who were kidnapped in 2009 by al-Qaeda.

The U.S has a policy not to directly pay ransom, but won’t prosecute families that do so.

Aug 15

Red Deer knocks Brandon out of Memorial Cup

RED DEER, Alta. – The Red Deer Rebels felt the pain of elimination back in April when the Brandon Wheat Kings bounced them from the Western Hockey League playoffs. Evan Polei never forgot the feeling.

Polei scored in overtime as Red Deer exacted some revenge by knocking Brandon out of the 2016 Memorial Cup with a 2-1 victory on Wednesday.

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    “You can’t even describe it because we lost to those guys,” said Polei. “For them to come into this tournament and lose all three (round-robin games) and we’re the ones to send them home is an absolute great feeling.”

    The 20-year-old Polei, a Wetaskwin, Alta., native, took a feed from Conner Bleackley at the side of the net and beat Jordan Papirny 3:50 into the extra period.

    “Surreal moment, it’s my first overtime goal, biggest goal of my career,” said Polei, who is in his fourth year of major junior.

    “I thought (Bleackley) was gonna shoot. I actually fanned on that shot, it was fortunate to go in.”

    Red Deer will face the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in Friday’s semifinal. The OHL champion London Knights have already earned a berth in the tournament championship on Sunday after going 3-0 in round-robin play.

    Adam Musil scored for the host Rebels in regulation time.

    Tim McGauley scored for the WHL champion Wheat Kings.

    Rylan Toth made 33 saves for the win as Papirny stopped 30-of-32 shots in defeat.

    “Losing out to them was tough, little cherry on top to knock them out, maybe a little pay back I guess,” said Toth.

    Brandon also lost 5-3 to the Huskies and was hammered by the Knights 9-1 at the tournament.

    “We had much higher hopes coming to the tournament than how it played out. The three teams that played the best are the teams still playing,” said Wheat Kings coach Kelly McCrimmon. “Somewhere between the (WHL finals) and Red Deer we lost our mojo.”

    Both teams came out strong in the first, playing some exciting hockey that kept the 7,000 fans in attendance at the Enmax Centrium engaged despite the game staying scoreless through the first 20 minutes.

    Grayson Pawlenchuk nearly scored for the home team with five minutes to play in the period but was turned away by Papirny on a breakaway. Shots were 8-7 Rebels after the first.

    The second period started similar to the first and Jeffrey De Wit got the first real scoring chance four minutes in, but Papirny made another breakaway save to keep it 0-0.

    Shortly after a Brandon penalty expired, McGauley broke down the wing and snapped a shot over Toth’s glove to make it 1-0 with 8:34 to play in the second.

    “It was a tight-checking game, not much room, much space. We got down one and our mindset was to win the game,” said Rebels coach Brent Sutter. “We didn’t want a situation where we lost a game but (advanced) on a goal differential.”

    The two teams traded some chances, but Papirny and Toth both shut the door heading into intermission. Shots were 21-18 Brandon after 40 minutes.

    Toth was busy early in the third period as the Wheat Kings produced two scoring chances while playing with the man advantage, but it stayed a one-goal game.

    Helewka almost tied the game seven minutes into the third, but Papirny got his right pad down.

    Papirny was finally beaten with 5:05 remaining in regulation. Haydn Fleury put a shot on net that was partially blocked before Musil picked it up and put it past the Brandon netminder. Shots were 33-29 Wheat Kings heading into overtime.

    “No one has short memories, we knew we were beaten in the semis by Brandon,” said Sutter.

    Notes: Brandon’s leading scorer from the regular season Jayce Hawryluk was scratched (undisclosed). McCrimmon would not comment when asked why.

Aug 15

Cavaliers crush Raptors 116-78 in Game 5

CLEVELAND – The Toronto Raptors rode a wave of momentum into Cleveland on Wednesday.

But by the merciful end of an atrocious Game 5 effort, it was tough to believe the Raptors had ever beaten the Cavaliers at all.

Cleveland’s trio of Kevin Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combined for 71 points as the Cavaliers thoroughly trounced the Raptors 116-78 to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

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“They kicked out butts. That’s the bottom line,” coach Dwane Casey said in the post-game news conference, over the cheering of a Cavs fan out in the corridor.

DeMar DeRozan had just 14 points, while Kyle Lowry had 13, but no other Raptor scored in double digits in Toronto’s worst performance of these playoffs. Jonas Valanciunas returned from his ankle injury to score nine points in 19 minutes.

READ MORE: Raptors playoff pandemonium stretches beyond the #6ix to Halifax

The Raptors were coming off back-to-back victories at the Air Canada Centre, infusing fans with a glimmer of hope for an historic NBA finals appearance. But the Cavaliers’ homecourt had proven deadly to Toronto in Games 1 and 2: a 50-point deficit combined.

The Raptors are now a loss away from ending the deepest playoff run in franchise history.

Casey has predicted a different game on their return trip to Cleveland, but it was evident virtually from the opening whistle that they were in for a long night.

“We knew they were going to come out like a freight train and they did, and we didn’t meet that level of physicality on either end of the floor,” Casey said.

Instead, they laid down on the tracks. In a noisy Quicken Loans Arena awash in wine and gold, the Raptors looked completely discombobulated. They were terrible in virtually every category, a dog’s breakfast of poor decisions, terrible shooting, and head-slapping turnovers. Their defensive effort, against a Cavs team that opened the post-season 10-0, was half-hearted.

WATCH:Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan spoke about the Raptors massive loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5.

“We just didn’t get in a rhythm,” DeRozan said. “It was kind of stagnant. We had (19) turnovers, that’s (19) opportunities that we could have had to at least run something. . . but we turned it away.”

They’d dug themselves an 18-point deficit by late in the first quarter, and when Love drained a three-pointer late in the second, the Cavs were up by a whopping 34 points. Cleveland’s 65-34 lead at the break was the biggest halftime gap in conference finals history.

When it seemingly couldn’t get worse, it did. Frustration mounted. The Raptors looked like they wanted to be anywhere else. And by the end of the third, the score was a shocking 100-60.

Both teams subbed out their starters for a fourth quarter played after hundreds of fans had already departed the building. According to ESPN Stats, it was the fifth largest margin of victory in conference finals history.

Lowry and DeRozan shot just 7-for-20 between them against a smothering Cavaliers defence, and DeRozan was left lamenting his lack of activity.

“I only took eight shots, and a couple of shots came late in the game when we were down,” DeRozan said. “I didn’t come out aggressive like I wanted to. . . just got to understand no matter how they play, just got out there an be aggressive.

“Just eight shots throughout the whole game – that’s not me.”

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue had blamed their two losses in Toronto on poor shooting, and his team proved him right. The Cavs shot 57 per cent on the night. Love, who’d made just five of 23 shots in Games 3 and 4, topped Cleveland with 25 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

The Cavs grabbed 48 rebounds to Toronto’s 27 – just one more than Bismack Biyombo had, on his own, in Game 3. Biyombo had just four rebounds after grabbing 40 the past two games.

The Raptors coughed up 30 points on 19 turnovers.

The series returns to the Air Canada Centre for Game 6 on Friday. A victory, however, would send them back into Cleveland for a do-or-die Game 7, where the noise reached ear-splitting levels Wednesday night in a crowd that included Montreal Canadiens star P.K. Subban and Browns defensive back Joe Haden.

While the Raptors won the regular-season series against Cleveland, all their victories came at home. They’ve now lost all four trips across the border this season.

Asked why the Cavs are so lethal at home, Lowry shrugged.

“I dunno,” he said. “They play extremely well here. Tonight, Kevin Love got it going early, Kyrie got it going early. LeBron did what he usually does. We’ve got to take one of them out of the game.

“They play very well here, they’ve protected home all year.”

Shots of Canadians Drake, Justin Bieber and Nickelback flashed on the Jumbotron, encouraging fans to boo. Late in the game, the camera focused on a downcast Raptors fan folding his “We The North” flag.

DeRozan’s four points were the most by a Raptor in a first quarter that saw Toronto trail by just four points before the Cavs closed the quarter on a 17-3 run to end the frame up 37-19.

Lowry’s six points topped Toronto in the second quarter, but they were barely noticeable in a quarter the Cavaliers outscored their visitors 28-15.

Aug 15

Filipino president-elect Duterte apologizes to Trudeau for Canadian’s beheading by militants

SHIMA, Japan – A spokesman for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there’s a good chance the Group of Seven leaders will agree that their countries should not pay ransom to terrorists.

Peter Boehm, Trudeau’s personal representative at the G7, told reporters there’s a good chance that position will be included in the communique from the summit this week in Japan.

“I think there’s a growing sense that the problem isn’t going away, that citizens of our countries can be in danger at any time and by paying ransom you are just aiding and abetting terrorists,” said Boehm, the deputy minister of international development who served as Canada’s ambassador to Germany from 2008-2012.

READ MORE: ‘Very good’ chance G7 countries will agree to Trudeau’s ransom policy: Canadian rep

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He added that Trudeau has been pushing for the G7 leaders to join Canada in refusing to pay ransoms to kidnappers.

Boehm’s comments followed a media report from the Philippines that says Trudeau has received an apology from Filipino president-elect Rodrigo Duterte for the killing of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel.

The online report by Rappler says Duterte told a news conference he apologized to Trudeau on Tuesday when the Canadian prime minister called to congratulate him on his recent election victory.

The militants had been asking for a ransom payment in exchange for Ridsdel’s release before he was beheaded last month.

Another Canadian, Robert Hall, was kidnapped by the same group and is still being held hostage in the Asian country.

READ MORE: Canadian hostage Robert Hall appeals to Filipino government in Abu Sayyaf video

The Rappler report also says Duterte said Trudeau brought up the “universal declaration of human rights.”

“I’m following it — I said that we are partners, may we remain partners for all time,” Duterte said, according to Rappler.

“Please accept my apologies for the incident that resulted in the killing of your national and we will try our very best to make sure nothing of the sort will happen again.”

The report said Duterte described his nine-minute conversation with Trudeau as a “civil” one.

He also said he commended Trudeau for the protection of Filipino workers in Canada, Rappler reported.

WATCH: Former chief of staff to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and IRA negotiator speaks with Tom Clark

“I am aware there are Filipinos, a lot of them, working there,” said Duterte.

“I am happy that they have found protection even in the labour laws.”

A spokesman for Trudeau confirmed that the prime minister spoke with Duterte, but declined to offer details of the call.

Cameron Ahmad says the Canadian government won’t comment or release any information that could compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of the remaining hostages.

Ahmad says the government’s first priority is the safety and security of its citizens.

The militants released a video showing Ridsdel’s beheading, an American group that monitors jihadi websites said after his killing.

Ridsdel, 68, of Calgary, was one of four tourists — including Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor — who were kidnapped last Sept. 21 by Abu Sayyaf militants.

In a series of tweets, Rita Katz of the SITE Intelligence Group cited the video as saying Ridsdel was beheaded on April 25 “due to non-compliance” of the Canadian government.

Ridsdel was beheaded after Abu Sayyaf militants made a large ransom demand for his release.

Trudeau has said Canada would never pay ransom for the release of hostages.

“Paying ransom for Canadians would endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live work and travel around the world every single year,” Trudeau said earlier this month.

A senior official said at the time that the RCMP was conducting a criminal investigation into Ridsdel’s murder.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the ongoing hostage case, said the Mounties were relying on the extraterritorial provisions of the Criminal Code to pursue the overseas investigation.

The two Canadians, Sekkingstad, who is a permanent resident of Canada, and the Filipina woman were snatched from a marina.

Ridsdel’s body was found by villagers beside a dry creek in a mountain near Talipao town in Sulu province. Police recovered his head in Sulu’s Jolo town.