‘Room’ wins top prize at TIFF 2015

TORONTO – Room has won the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The drama, directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Brie Larson and Vancouver’s Jacob Tremblay, won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award.

Based on Canadian author Emma Donoghue’s novel, the story follows a mother and her young son, who believes the shed they live in is the entire world.

WATCH: Trailer for Room

The inaugural Platform Prize, which is worth $25,000 and chosen by a jury, went to the Canadian film Hurt by Alan Zweig.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Award is often a predictor of Academy Award success.

Last year’s winner was “The Imitation Game,” which went on to get eight Oscar nominations, nabbing one golden statuette for best adapted screenplay.

WATCH: Brie Larson reacts to positive feedback on her new film Room

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©2015The Canadian Press

Regina Transit extending service to growing communities – Regina

REGINA – The Hawkstone neighbourhood in the city’s north-end has parks, shopping and development, but was lacking public transit.

Resident Jill Straker wants to see buses coming to her area, even though she has to drive to work.

“It would be nice to have the service to give people the option, instead of having to drive,” she said.

Alex Tuzkoe is in the same boat, “I have a car but if I didn’t have one I would use it for sure.”

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They were happy to hear bus service is coming to Hawkstone starting Monday. The Route 16 bus from Lakeridge will now service the eastern part of Rochdale Boulevard.

“It’s about time that they have service out here. It’s getting more and more populated. The more cars that are coming in here, it’s getting kind of congested,” said Straker.

Before, residents from the Hawkstone neighbourhood would have to walk at least three blocks to the nearest bus stop, in a shopping complex.

Resident Arsh Dhaliwal said she doesn’t mind the walk in the summer, when it gets cold, she’s not too fond of it.

“In the winter-time, it’s so hard to walk,” she said. “This is 10 minutes and it feels like 20.”

The city decided to expand service based on feedback from residents, but wanted to wait until it made business sense.

“We look at the density of the areas, before we provide transit service to those areas. It has to meet 1,000 residents per kilometre of route. Then we look at introducing services if resources are available,” said Nathan Luhning with Regina Transit.

Hawkstone isn’t the only newer neighbourhood that will see buses rolling down the streets. Westerra, the Southeast Lands and Greens on Gardiner are also on Regina Transit’s radar.

“Having our transit service accessible to all residents is a priority for us. If we can get into those newer neighbourhoods, we can develop habits early on so people can rely on transit throughout their lifetimes,” Luhning explained.

Officials will monitor ridership of new routes closely for the first year to make sure people are taking the bus.

“We do have standards. If it doesn’t reach certain standards, we may re-evaluate the service and change it to make it more attractive to customers,” Luhning said.

‘It’s going to be a massive spectacle’: Edmontonians given sneak peek of Nuit Blanche exhibit – Edmonton

EDMONTON — People in downtown Edmonton Sunday afternoon got a sneak peek of “Dance of the Cranes presented by Ice District,” one of the dozens of art installations that will transform the downtown core next weekend for Nuit Blanche. The free, one-night contemporary art event will feature more than 30 exhibits from local and international artists.

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Brandon Vickerd is the artist behind the Dance of the Cranes, which involves choreographing four illuminated construction cranes to a piece of instrumental music.

“It struck me as a really beautiful, sublime experience and I decided it would be a great performance to stage and actually plan out a choreographed movement that changed the way people thought about the construction industry,” said Vickerd.

“Initially when people hear about a performance of dancing cranes there’s a minute of shock or thinking that it’s a joke but when they actually experience the event it creates this huge communal experience where people come together.”

Next Saturday night will be the third time Vickerd has showcased the Dance of the Cranes. He first put it together for an event in Toronto in 2009, and most recently in Washington, D.C. this summer.

“This is the largest and most ambitious dancing cranes so far,” he said Sunday. “It’s going to be a massive spectacle.

“The cranes will start off all dark, all the lights on the site will be dimmed, and then when the music kicks in it’ll echo through the streets. It’ll be a loud, instrumental piece that slowly builds up. And then the cranes will slowly begin to come to life.”

Vickerd doesn’t do it alone, though. He’s enlisted the help of four PCL Construction crane operators, four riggers and several others from the construction company to put on the performance.

Kevin Bell is one of the operators involved in the crane choreography. He believes his is the “best seat in the house.”

“It does look pretty cool actually. When you’re up there and you’ve got both cranes swinging simultaneously, it’s appealing,” he said.

Bell is no rookie; he was involved in a similar performance in the university area a couple years ago.

Watch below: PCL’s dancing cranes

Dance of the Cranes will be performed next Saturday from 11 p.m. to midnight. It’s one of 31 interactive exhibits planned for the city’s first Nuit Blanche, which runs from 7 p.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Sunday in the downtown core.

Nuit Blanche was first celebrated in Paris in 2002. The event was launched in Toronto in 2006 with about 450,000 attendees. Since then, it has grown to attract upwards of a million people each year.

Condo evacuated after fire breaks out in Evanston – Calgary

CALGARY- More than a dozen people were evacuated from a condo complex after it caught fire early Sunday morning in the Northwest community of Evanston.

The call came in just before 6:00 a.m. Sunday. Crews called a second alarm, after the fire engulfed the front porch of one unit on Evanscreek Court Northwest.

In total, 16 people were evacuated from six units, in the two-storey building. Firefighters say it will be at least a day before residents are able to return home.

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It started in a townhouse and quickly began spread but thanks to the quick actions of a neighbour, everyone made it out okay.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The sound,  the smell, the fear of everybody around here, it’s awful” said Tracy Logan who lives nearby.

One unit was heavily damaged. Two other units received some damage as well.

“They will stay evacuated for the rest of the day as crews go through and ensure this fire is completely out,”  said acting battalion chief Randy Mccray Sunday afternoon.

“They were so fast. They had it contained. I had to go over and give them hugs because I don’t know how they do it,” said Logan.

The heat was so intense, it melted the siding on the homes across the courtyard in the area. Sheldon Dyer alerted the neighbours about the fire.

“I looked over and there were just flames engulfed out. I just went running over there, got him to call 911 , screamed at him and ran over and banged on people’s doors for 10-15 minutes to get them up,” said Dyer.

A lot of appreciation was shown for the neighbour’s quick actions.

“Sheldon is the hero for probably saving those people and the dog,” said Logan.

But for Dyer, he only wishes he could have done more.

“There was no hero thing. We just did what we had to do. I’m glad everyone got out,” said Dyer.

There were no injuries reported.

Fire officials continue to investigate the cause of the fire.

Mountain came to men: study on ancient stone tools in B.C.

VANCOUVER – First Nations in British Columbia were once believed to have travelled long distances to find prized volcanic rock for tools, but a new study of an ancient village suggests the mountain actually came to them.

Archeologist Colin Grier has been studying the Gulf Island village site at Dionisio Point on Galiano Island for almost two decades, but it wasn’t until his team picked up a few dark stones on the beach that they began questioning the theory of travelling for stones to make tools.

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The associate professor at Washington State University’s anthropology department said the team tested the beach stones, the debris from stone toolmaking at the site and the volcanic rock from Mount Garibaldi over 100 kilometres away on British Columbia’s mainland.

The chemical fingerprint matched.

Grier said the finding dispels the theory that the villagers went all the way to Mount Garibaldi between 600 and 1,500 years ago to get the stone for their tools. Instead, the rock came to their beach thousands of years before.

“It was picked right off the local beach, brought there by glaciers, conveniently, 12,000 years ago,” he said.

Grier co-authored the study published in the September issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

It said the volcanic rock was difficult to fashion into a tool, but it kept a better edge and required less retouching during use compared with obsidian or chert, a silica rock.

“We conclude the high-quality tool stones were readily available in secondary glacial till deposits at the Dionisio Point locality,” the study said.

Grier said the beach stones — while not the highest quality — made it much more possible for the villagers to be self-sufficient because the material for tools was easily accessible.

“You could go down to the local corner hardware store rather than having to pick up and pack the canoe up and head off to the Super WalMart on the mainland,” he chuckled.

That didn’t mean the First Nations did not travel at all. In fact, other studies showed they often trekked to other villages on Vancouver Island and the mainland, Grier said.

There is a lot of evidence that many island villagers went to the Fraser River to fish for salmon during the summer.

“The villages they were living in were likely inhabited through the winter, after they had dried all their salmon and bought it back,” Grier said.

The Dionisio Point village, part of a protected provincial park and only accessible by boat, is considered one of the best preserved village sites on the entire B.C. coast.

“It’s an amazing element of the archeological record of British Columbia and Canada, and really, of the world,” said Grier, a Canadian who lives on Galiano when he’s not working in Washington state.

The Gulf Islands sit right along the Canada-U.S. border between Vancouver Island and B.C.’s mainland.

Grier said the islands are a treasure trove of archeological sites with new discoveries taking place all the time, giving more hints about what ancient Coast Salish life was like hundreds of years ago.

©2015Canadian Press

‘No hope’ of family reunion, says Syrian refugee living in B.C.

VANCOUVER – Majd Agha wasn’t sure what he would say to a crowd of reporters gathered outside a newcomer centre under construction in Vancouver.

The 22-year-old Syrian refugee didn’t prepare a speech. But still infuriated by news of a Hungarian camerawoman tripping and kicking migrants, he spoke eloquently and firmly about the need for Canada to do more.

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“As long as you’re Syrian, it’s going to be extremely hard for you to come to Canada,” he said in an interview at the recent event.

The Canadian Press has been reaching out to Syrians who arrived here as refugees to tell their stories. Since civil war broke out in 2011, more than four million Syrians have fled the country.

Agha spoke at a construction site at the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia’s Welcome House, a $24.5-million refugee housing and support centre being built in Vancouver.

The college student knows he was one of the lucky ones. He arrived in Canada in June 2014 with the help of the United Nations Refugee Agency, after an arduous journey that led him to Russia, Lebanon, Turkey and Thailand.

READ MORE: Federal government eases rules on Syrian refugee claims

He was among a group of refugees who were stuck in a Thai airport while authorities refused to allow the UN access to interview them. Two months later, authorities relented and the UN moved Agha to the Philippines before bringing him to Canada.

Agha is now studying bioinformatics while working part-time at a Tommy Hilfiger. His parents and one of his sisters live in Damascus, while another sister lives in Saudi Arabia.

The last time he saw his family was in 2013. They talk occasionally, but the time difference makes it difficult and he fears constantly for their safety, he said.

“It’s really hard, especially when you see on the news how dangerous the situation is,” he said. “You never know if they’re sleeping, or if there’s no power or if they’re not able to talk to you.”

Ideally, Agha said, his family would try to immigrate to Canada. But they do not want to leave their homes permanently — and even if they did, the application would be pointless, he said.

“There’s no hope,” he said. “The application costs a lot of money, and if you’re just going to be denied, then no, it’s not worth it.”

Reality Check: Are refugees an economic burden?

His family desperately wants to visit him. But their recent $800 application for a tourist visa was denied, with Canadian authorities citing concerns the family would stay in the country.

The Conservatives pledged on Saturday to declare all displaced Syrians as refugees and appoint a special co-ordinator to speed up the intake of 10,000 migrants by September 2016.

But Agha, who now sees himself as an advocate for other refugees, called on the government to focus on reuniting families who have been separated.

“I hope they would be able to work this out faster, not only for me but for most people who have families back home,” he said.

“Everyone is missing their family.”

©2015Canadian Press

Terry Fox family distances itself from Conservative party campaign announcement

The Conservatives insist a multimillion-dollar campaign pledge to match donations raised by the Terry Fox Foundation doesn’t cross the line by leveraging the popularity of one of Canada’s most revered heroes.

Federal Industry Minister and Tory heavyweight James Moore was in Port Moody, B.C., on Sunday to announce that a re-elected Conservative government would commit up to $35 million to match donations raised in this year’s Terry Fox Run.

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“It would be nice if the other political parties would all double down on our commitment and stand with the legacy of Terry Fox and say regardless of what happens on Oct. 19 that they will recognize Terry Fox as a hero and will move forward,” said Moore, who is not running for re-election.

READ MORE: Thousands gather across B.C. for 35th anniversary Terry Fox Run

“But it’s a commitment that will for sure be met by Stephen Harper should he be elected.”

The Terry Fox Foundation has avoided politicizing Fox’s legacy by steering clear of endorsing any particular party, and no one from Fox’s family was present for the announcement.

“They’re aware of it,” said Moore when asked about the Fox family. “They’re enthusiastic and they think it’s great.”

The Conservative announcement coincided with the 35th annual Terry Fox Run, which this year aims to fundraise $35 million — one dollar for every Canadian.

“As Canadians are coming in from the rain here in the Lower Mainland and from runs all across the country they’re going to come home and realize that the money they’ve donated to the Terry Fox Foundation through the Terry Fox Run today is going to be matched by the federal government,” said Moore.

WATCH: NDP leader Tom Mulcair said that a Canadian hero like Terry Fox should not be politicized, and criticized the Conservatives for doing so.

The outgoing MP added that a Tory win on Oct. 19 would also mean $12.5 million in capital funding to help establish the Canadian Cancer Society’s proposed research and cancer-prevention centre in Vancouver. The remaining funds would come from other levels of government and private donors.

Thirdly, Moore said a Conservative victory would see the government renew its $250-million commitment to the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer when the twice-renewed, five-year program expires in 2017.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s wife, Laureen Harper, was also on hand for the announcement, and spoke of taking part in the five-kilometre Terry Fox Run with Vancouver-area Tory MP John Weston.

“It poured rain and we looked like drowned rats,” joked Laureen. “But it was beautiful.”

Laureen was introduced by the region’s Conservative candidate, Tim Laidler. Laidler is aiming to wrestle control of the hotly contested riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam from NDP incumbent Fin Donnelly, who won the seat last election by a couple thousand votes.

WATCH: Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Terry Fox donation announcement is not a matter of playing politics with one of Canada’s heroes

Electoral boundary redistribution has shaken the New Democrats’ hold in the area by bringing more Conservative supporters into the riding, which could spell trouble for Donnelly.

Laidler also stands to benefit from Moore’s star power, as his decision not to run for re-election hasn’t stopped him from lending the party a helping hand on the campaign trail.

UPDATE – On Monday, the Fox family issued a statement:

“Our son and brother ran across the country in 1980 in an effort to unite a nation for a common cause.

We are committed to furthering his dream by reaching out to all Canadians regardless of their political interests. We would always welcome government support of cancer research in Terry’s name.

Specifically, we would hope that all federal parties would come together in this the 35th anniversary year, for Terry and all who run in his name, in support of the Terry Fox Research Institute’s proposal for a pan-Canadian comprehensive cancer centre strategy.

We need to clarify that we did not respond enthusiastically suggesting the idea was great as MP James Moore reported in yesterday’s Conservative announcement promising to match The Terry Fox Foundation’s fundraising efforts this year up to $35 million.

We will continue to make no public comments with respect to any federal party promises during the election campaign unless it is a unified all party announcement.”

Artist ploughs massive drawing of Fidel Castro into field in Italy – National

A giant portrait of Fidel Castro was ploughed into a field near the northern Italian city of Verona on Sunday.

Italian “land-artist” Dario Gambarin used a tractor to create the 130 metre-wide picture, entitled “Fidel”, in a field in Castagnaro.

The artwork comes as Pope Francis arrives in Cuba for his historic visit to the communist country.

The portrait, Gambarin said, is an homage to the former leader of the Cuban revolution who will met Francis on Sunday.

Gambarin said it took him between eight and nine hours to “draw” the portrait with a plough.

The tribute to Castro isn’t the only giant portrait of a famous figure Gambarin has produced.

Over the past few years the land artist has produced a giant image of U.S. President Barack Obama to coincide with his visit to Italy in July 2009, and Pope Francis immediately after his election in March 2013.

Gambarin deletes his works after a few days so that the field can be cultivated as usual, so the works are always executed between the harvest of the crop and the sowing of seed for the next one.

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©2015The Associated Press

Redblacks beat Roughriders for third straight win

REGINA – The Saskatchewan Roughriders gave Chris Milo the boot earlier this season in favour of veteran Paul McCallum. On Saturday, Milo was happy to return the favour. Milo, who signed with Ottawa on Aug. 1, hit three of four field goal attempts – including the go-ahead 14-yarder with six seconds remaining – to guide the Redblacks to a 30-27 comeback victory over the host Roughriders.

Ottawa won its third game in a row and improved to 7-4, while Saskatchewan dropped to 1-11 in front of 30,480 fans at Mosaic Stadium.

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“It felt good. You always want to do well against teams that let you go,” said Milo, who spent four seasons with Saskatchewan. “This team is progressing and playing good football and at the end of the day our ultimate goal is to compete for first place in the division.”

READ MORE: Veteran QB Kevin Glenn returns as Riders’ starter

Milo’s kick helped him atone for his missed convert with 2:34 left in the fourth quarter that would have put Ottawa up 28-24. The Riders’ Tristan Jackson returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards and three plays later McCallum booted a 37-yard field goal to tie the game at 27. Ottawa decided not to receive the kickoff and pivot Henry Burris guided the Redblacks on a seven-play, 68-yard drive capped off with Milo’s winning field goal.

“It was all about taking what they gave us,” Burris said about the drive. “I had to use my feet at times to move the chains and just chip away. There was plenty of time and no need to rush things.”

Burris threw for 477 yards and two touchdowns in the game, relying heavily on receiver Chris Williams (eight catches, 137 yards, one TD). Ottawa’s Ernest Jackson caught six balls for 101 yards while Greg Ellingson had 45 yards receiving to go along with a TD.

The Redblacks trailed 20-14 at halftime, but outscored Saskatchewan 16-6 in the final two quarters. It was a similar story last week against the B.C. Lions, when Ottawa outscored the Leos 17-0 in the second half en route to a 31-18 victory. In its last three games, Ottawa has outscored teams 54-9 in the second half.

“We make great adjustments at half time. As the game goes on, our team figures out a lot of the things the other team is doing and we put ourselves in position to be successful,” Burris said. “Saskatchewan is a great team and their defence played a heck of a game tonight, but we found ways that could help us be successful and at the end of the day it helped us win a big game.”

Kevin Glenn, who was activated off the six-game injured list this week to replace Brett Smith, went 16 of 29 for 227 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Riders (1-11). Naaman Roosevelt hauled in three catches for 95 yards and a touchdown for Saskatchewan while Jerome Messam rattled off 53 yards on 10 carries. McCallum hit 4 of 5 field-goal attempts.

It was another case of close, but no cigar for Saskatchewan.

“I certainly can’t question the guys’ effort, but some of the little challenges we’ve had in the past came back in this game at inopportune times and we weren’t able to finish with the victory,” Rider head coach Bob Dyce said. “Whether it’s a procedure call or sack that takes you out of field goal range, those are things that have to be corrected.”

Glenn moved into seventh all-time in CFL career passing yards, passing Matt Dunigan. Burris made his 215th career start, ranking him fifth all-time in the CFL.

John Chick, who recorded one sack for the Riders, now has seven sacks in his last seven games. Roosevelt’s 71-yard touchdown catch was the longest scoring play for Saskatchewan this season.

©2015The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau says he would consider airlifting refugees from Syria

HALIFAX – Standing inside one of the country’s foremost symbols of its openness to the world – the so-called “Gateway to Canada” – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Sunday he’d consider airlifting Syrian refugees in order to fulfil his pledge to welcome 25,000 asylum seekers by Jan. 1.

Hundreds of boisterous supporters came to hear him speak at Halifax’s Pier 21, the former immigration depot that welcomed over one million immigrants and refugees between 1928 and 1971.

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“For me, it’s always a humbling and an incredibly deep privilege to be able to stand here at Pier 21,” he said on a stage overlooking the Halifax port.

“It’s a place that touches me deeply.”

READ MORE: Trudeau vows to scrap F-35 program, use savings to increase navy spending

Trudeau defended his promise to welcome 25,000 refugees from Syria by year’s end – more than the Conservatives or the NDP have promised to do – by saying all that’s standing in the way is political will.

He said the Conservatives’ announcement Saturday that they would cancel the requirement refugees first be designated as such by the United Nations before applying for asylum in Canada as “a sudden and convenient change of heart during an election campaign.”

WATCH: Authorities in the European country of Croatia are struggling to cope with the migrant crisis

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that while security screening will remain the government’s priority, his government will issue thousands more visas by the end of the year to people fleeing the sectarian conflict and civil war in Syria.

READ MORE: Election sidelines Harper government’s back room bid for French helicopter ships

Trudeau dismissed suggestions his plan would compromise Canadians’ security as many of those seeking refuge in Europe and North America are coming from a territory controlled or affected by the violence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, whose leaders openly call for terrorist attacks on Canadian soil.

“No one is suggesting we should put aside security in order to (bring in refugees),” he told the crowd.

People fleeing Syria can be properly assessed by employing more case workers, increasing screening capacity and “looking at the possibility of airlifts,” Trudeau said.

The choice to talk about refugees at Pier 21 is fitting, considering the role it played for decades in welcoming the tired and needy from across the world.

Roughly 200,000 refugees from the Second World War – many of them Holocaust survivors – travelled to Canada between 1946 and 1952, often through the doors of Pier 21, which has since been turned into an immigration museum.

READ MORE: Breaking away from the pack: strategists on what party leaders may have to do

Pier 21 was also the first point of contact in Canada for many of the 50,000 Hungarian refugees the country accepted after that country’s uprising against the Soviets in 1956.

Canada welcomed as many as 35,000 Hungarian refugees during a one-month period that year.

“The fact that (Conservative Leader Stephen Harper) has been talking about security as an impediment to doing this is quite frankly a distraction from a lack of political will to get it done,” he said to strong applause.

The party also released new English and French-language ads on Sunday on television and social media.

Trudeau later travelled to St. John’s, N.L., on Sunday evening for a rally with supporters.

©2015The Canadian Press