Day: March 21, 2019

The Latest: Merkel sets out German position on Brexit delay

BRUSSELS — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):

9:30 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says European Union leaders could approve a short delay to Brexit in principle so long as Britain’s Parliament passes a twice-rejected withdrawal deal next week. She says that if that doesn’t happen, another EU summit might be needed.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking EU approval for delaying Brexit from March 29 to June 30 at a summit starting Thursday. That request is complicated by European Parliament elections May 23-26 that Britain doesn’t want to participate in.

Merkel told German lawmakers that “we can comply in principle with this request if we were to have a positive vote next week on the withdrawal documents in the British Parliament,” but the EU must take care that the legitimacy of the European elections is ensured. She added that, if the withdrawal deal isn’t passed next week, “we will keep open whether there has to be another meeting of the European Council before the withdrawal date.”


8:05 a.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to persuade European Union leaders to delay Brexit by up to three months, just eight days before Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc.

May will meet the 27 national other EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, a day after she requested an extension until June 30.

European Council chief Donald Tusk says a short delay may be possible, but only if Britain’s Parliament approves May’s divorce deal with the bloc before the scheduled March 29 departure date.

U.K. lawmakers have already rejected the deal twice. May says they face a “final choice” between her deal, a no-deal departure that could hammer the economy, and cancelling Brexit.

But May angered many legislators with a televised speech Wednesday blaming Parliament for the Brexit impasse.

The Associated Press

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Excerpts from the Humboldt Broncos victim impact statements submitted to court

MELFORT, Sask. — The driver of a transport truck involved in a deadly crash with the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus will be sentenced Friday. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu has pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Loved ones of many of the 16 people killed and 13 injured in the collision last April submitted victim impact statements to the court as part of the process.

Here are excerpts from statements about those who died:

Marilyn Hay, mother of Tyler Bieber, 29, a play-by-play announcer from Humboldt, Sask.

“My last message from Tyler was at 3 p.m. April 6 to say he was on the bus. You see, Tyler would often drive on his own and I would always say why can’t you go on the bus? To me it was the safest. Part of me felt guilty then. The last, ‘I love you mom. Have a great day’ came three days earlier on my birthday, April 3. My birthday will never be the same.”


Toby Boulet, father of defenceman Logan Boulet, 21, from Lethbridge, Alta.

“I need to tell Mr. Sidhu that I do not believe that he got out of bed on the morning of April 6, 2018, to cause a crash that would ultimately kill our only son Logan. I do not believe Mr. Sidhu is an inherently evil person that feels no remorse. I believe that he feels tremendous remorse and wishes with all the fibers of his being that this tragedy would never have happened.

“I believe Mr. Sidhu wishes he could start April 6 all over again. I want the same … I want to start April 6 all over again.”

Carol Brons, mother of Dayna Brons, 24, athletic therapist from Lake Lenore, Sask.

“I’ve become so focused on my grief and what I no longer have. Celebrating birthdays, weddings, births, Christmas feels so hollow and lonely because Dayna’s laughter will never be part of these things.

“We had to plan a private funeral in our small parish church before the public service. This private funeral of 400-plus people was the church that we thought we would be celebrating Dayna’s wedding. Where we thought we would be walking her down the aisle to greet her happy, loving groom. Yes, we did walk her down the aisle, but we weren’t escorting a bride. We were escorting a casket.”

Marilyn Cross, mother of Mark Cross, 27, assistant coach from Strasbourg, Sask.

“Mr. Sidhu, I grieve for you as well. I am not sure I am yet ready to forgive the choice you made that fateful night of April 6, 2018, but I don’t hate you. When I look at you, I see a young man not much older than our son Mark. I grieve for the guilt you must carry for the rest of your days. I don’t know if you are married or have children, but I grieve for the loss your family will experience. I grieve for the loss of your freedom and future. No one will escape the horrors of this tragedy.

“In your future, I hope you make every effort to live a productive life doing good wherever you go. Make the world a better place just like our son Mark did.”


Melissa Doerksen, daughter of Glen Doerksen, 59, bus driver from Carrot River, Sask.

“It’s difficult to put into words how our lives have changed since April 6, 2018. The constant pain, sadness, loneliness, and emptiness of not having Dad in our lives is some days unbearable.

“We’re working towards finding understanding and forgiveness because that’s what my dad would have wanted.”

Christina Haugan, wife of head coach Darcy Haugan, 42, of Humboldt, Sask.

“I want to tell you that I forgive you. There are days while the unjustness and sadness are definitely still there, but I have been forgiven for things when I didn’t deserve it, so I will do the same.”

Russ Herold, father of defenceman Adam Herold, 16, from Montmartre, Sask.

“I hope that now and forever you remember Adam Herold and the names of the other 28 people on the bus that day. Their lives and that of their families are changed forever because of your actions. We will never know did we lose a great farmer, an NHL hockey player, a lawyer, a doctor, a future premier, maybe the prime minister of our great country? But I know I lost a piece of my soul, and my heart, my love, my son.”

Darlene Hinz, mother of Brody Hinz, 18, the team’s statistician from Humboldt, Sask.

“My emotions are all over the place. I am angry, frustrated, confused, crying lots, getting pissed off when people tell me to stay strong. Emotionally drained.”

Shauna Nordstrom, mother of forward Logan Hunter, 18, from St. Albert, Alta.

“I continue to feel empty and keep Logan’s bedroom door closed so his smell won’t disappear and while I cry, laying on his bed, I can’t breathe. I feel numb and lost. Logan was my only son. I remember the day he was born. My life felt complete … two beautiful daughters and now a son.

“The day he was gone my life was destroyed. My heart forever broken. The details of this accident and the way my son died never stop haunting me. My life is forever changed.”

Andrea Joseph, mother of centre Jaxon Joseph, 21, from St. Albert, Alta.

“I am the mourning mother of Jaxon Joseph, who died on April 6, 2018, at your expense when you decided to play God and drive through a stop sign and cross a major highway knowing damn well you could hit a vehicle and injure or kill someone. Who gave you the right to make that decision?

“You hurt my baby. You broke him, and for this I will never forgive you. You don’t deserve my forgiveness.”


Celeste Leicht, mother of forward Jacob Leicht, 19, from Humboldt, Sask.

“Jacob chose not to hold grudges and he chose to learn from his mistakes. I choose forgiveness. I choose to work at forgiving others.

“It’s a mistake the trucking industry is not held to a higher standard across the country and our federal and provincial governments aren’t jumping all over this to change laws in a much more significant way. We must learn from our mistakes. I choose to fight for change.”

Robin Lukan, mother of forward Conner Lukan, 21, from Slave Lake, Alta.

“I’m here today to look at the man who is responsible for taking my son away from me. I have no forgiveness. I want you to know who Conner was and how much he is missed. I want you to know you have forever destroyed the beautiful family I worked my entire life to create. I want you to look at me and know that your senseless lack of care has changed everything. I want you to see and feel the pain you have caused.

“He is gone and will never be home again. He will never be forgotten and no consequence, no sentence, no apology, no admission of guilt will ever be enough to fill the void that has been left.”


Meagan Hartley, sister of forward and captain Logan Schatz, 20, from Allan, Sask.

“On April 6, 2018, my 24th birthday, my baby brother Logan Schatz was taken from me. He was killed in this tragic accident, which I now will always be reminded of. Every time my birthday rolls around is going to be a horrible reminder that it’s one more year of my life he hasn’t been with me. One more year with conversations unable to be had, memories unable to be made, and his contagious smile and laugh unable to be seen or heard. This and so much more was all taken away from my family.”


Rhonda Clarke-Tobin, mother of goaltender Parker Tobin, 18, from Stony Plain, Alta.

“I miss my Parker so much … I have cried myself to sleep every night for the last nine months and am not sure that is ever going to end. You see it wasn’t just Parker’s life taken that day. It was his family’s as well. I live in fear every day when my husband and older son Kaiden leave the house. My anxiety of whether or not they will return is always there and always on high alert.”


Scott Thomas, father of forward Evan Thomas, 18, from Saskatoon.

“Hi Son, it’s Dad. Mom, Jo and I wanted to write a letter to you to read at the trial of the man who has pled guilty to killing you and your teammates and injuring your buddies. We have struggled for weeks to write something down and in the end we thought we could just write you a letter. God, we miss you. We miss you every waking moment of every day. We miss your smile. We miss your laugh. We miss everything about you.”

Allan Wack, father of defenceman Stephen Wack, 21, from St. Albert, Alta.

“Stephen was an incredible big brother to his one sibling Justin … When Stephen’s brother Justin was born, our family quickly learned that Justin was totally blind.

“During a family vacation to California when Stephen was three years old, he was riding in the back seat of the vehicle. The silence was broken when, after what turned out to be some quiet contemplation, Stephen piped up and said: “I would like to give Justin my eyes so he can see.”

Some of the 13 survivors or their family members also submitted victim impact statements. Here’s some of what they said:

Mark Dahlgren, father of Kaleb Dahlgren, who suffered serious injuries to his brain, spine and back

“We are unsure if he will ever play hockey again. His entire life revolved around hockey … This accident has certainly turned his life upside down.

“We are unsure what the future holds but are thankful Kaleb survived the accident and know he will overcome any long-term physical effects from the accident.”

Pam Gobeil, mother of Morgan Gobeil, who suffered a severe brain injury

“I am struggling. I don’t know if there are words to convey the impact that the events of April 6 have had on me. In 2017, after months of sickness, I was diagnosed with and subsequently treated for cancer. I thought nothing could be worse than losing my health. I was wrong. Watching your child suffer through the loss of his (health) is infinitely more painful. I would go back to that time in a heartbeat.”

Joanne Girard-Gomercic, mother of Matthieu Gomercic, who separated his shoulder, had a concussion

“My son remembers moments before the accident and then remembers waking up outside the bus in the middle of this disaster. Although he was in a lot of pain, he got up and looked around to see where he was. He was convinced that it was a nightmare because he could not believe that what he was seeing was real. Not only did he suffer physical pain but the emotional pain that followed was life-changing.”


Tanya LaBelle, whose son Xavier LaBelle was initially misidentified due to the extent of his injuries

“It was shortly after the vigil ended that we received the call that everyone now no longer expected, but had so desperately wanted to receive … our son Xavier was alive! Miraculously he survived the crash!

“There was unspeakable joy, and yet our grief also continued. We met with the beautiful family that had been keeping vigil by Xavier’s side, comforting and holding his hand until we arrived. We know they cared for him as a son, and we are forever grateful.”

Kevin Matechuk, father of Layne Matechuk, who suffered a severe brain injury

“This accident has totally changed our lives for the worse. It has put a huge strain on our lives, marriage, relationships.

“This tragedy is leaving such a physical scar. We cannot sleep at night. It is a struggle to try and smile or be happy. Layne is in therapy every day of the week. We are so busy trying to keep his spirits up that we have no time for ourselves, and depression seems to be eating us up.”

Roy and Laurel Patter, parents of Derek Patter, who suffered broken bones and bleeding outside his brain

“Although being parents that were blessed enough to have a survivor, the journey has not be an easy one. We feel the overwhelming grief for our fellow Broncos families that seems to consume our thoughts on a constant basis. We feel constant worry about our son. We see his struggles with such items as getting on the bus to travel to and from games. We see and feel his overwhelming frustration and sadness which in turn become overwhelming to us.”

Sydney Shumlanski, sister of Nick Shumlanski, who had minor injuries

“It’s been almost a year since the day that seemingly made our world stand still. My parents received a frantic phone call shortly after the Humboldt Broncos bus drove past our family home from my little brother Nick … My parents rushed to the scene as fast as possible and witnessed the aftermath of a terrible accident, which is something no person should have to see. My parents, Myles and Vivian, were one of the first sets of parents on scene and did what they could to help those who they could see as the survivors.

“Both my parents and Nick were witness to sights that no person should have to see in their lifetime.”

Tom Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan Straschnitzki was paralyzed

“All you had to do was stop … Why? Why didn’t you stop? You didn’t even slow down.”

Assistant coach Chris Beaudry, who wasn’t on the bus, but came upon the scene while driving his own car

“Your actions caused me to lose 11 sons and five friends. I have also lost my passion for teaching and coaching young men. I am unable to return to coaching at any level. I have lost part of myself. I’m not the same person I was the morning of April 6.”

The Canadian Press

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‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

Kevin Matechuk says he will never, never forgive the semi driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Matechuk’s 19-year-old son Layne of Colonsay, Sask., is still coping with a brain injury he suffered in the collision last April. The young man’s recovery is expected to be a long one.

The trucker who blew through a stop sign and caused the crash, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, is to be sentenced in Melfort, Sask., on Friday.

“I know he purposely didn’t go out to kill all those people but he did … run that stop sign,” Matechuk said recently from the family’s temporary home in Saskatoon.

“It was his fault.”

Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured when the transport truck drove into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.

Court heard that Sidhu went by four signs warning about the upcoming intersection before he came up to an oversized stop sign with a flashing light. His lawyer told court Sidhu was an inexperienced driver distracted by a flapping tarp on the back of his load.

Sidhu, 30, pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court. The Crown has asked that he serve 10 years in prison. The defence did not propose a specific sentence but said other cases point to between 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years.

Family members submitted 90 victim impact statements during an emotional sentencing hearing in January. Some said they forgive Sidhu, while others said they are too angry.

“It’s funny how the wide range of different people feel and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” said Matechuk.

Melanie Smith of Leduc, Alta., whose 20-year-old son Tyler was also injured, said she’ll be glad to have the court case over with.

“We’re content about how it turned out with him pleading guilty to all 29 counts and the emotion he showed,” she said.

“We don’t really have any thoughts either way on what he ends up getting sentenced. The problem is you either have to forgive or you somehow have to get past whose fault it was. It was his fault. And as a family we’re content.”

Former NHL player Chris Joseph of St. Albert, Alta., lost his 20-year-old son Jaxon in the crash.

He said forgiveness won’t bring his son back. And he’s going to be disappointed in whatever sentence Sidhu gets.

“I don’t know if there’s any number that would make me happy,” he said.

“He did the crime. He needs to do the time. And we would like the legal system to show that it doesn’t matter that you feel bad. It’s nice that you feel bad. It doesn’t matter though.”

Michelle Straschnitzki’s 19-year-old son, Ryan, from Airdrie, Alta., was paralyzed from the chest down. She said she has days when she would like to think forgiveness is possible.

But her anger overwhelms those feelings.

“There are days that it’s no — no matter what. Nothing’s going to be OK again and 16 people are gone and the lives of 13 children are still in flux.”

She wants the judge to give Sidhu a harsh sentence.

“It has to be more than a slap on the wrist. It has to send a message,” she said.

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Saskatchewan judge dismisses land use charges against protest group founder

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A judge has dismissed charges against one of the founders of the Indigenous Idle No More protest movement who was accused of living illegally on Saskatchewan park land.

Sylvia McAdam and her brother Kurtis were to stand trial for failing to comply with a provincial government order to vacate land in the Zig Zag Bay area near the community of Big River.

The Crown has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Court heard that Sylvia McAdam was living on the land for two years before she was ordered to leave early in 2017.

She argued her family had been at Zig Zag Bay for generations and she had a Treaty right to live on the land.

McAdam says the court ruling is a relief.

“My family has always lived there,” McAdam said outside court in Prince Albert Wednesday. “For the province to come and create a park there without our consent, in violation of Treaty 6, is problematic.”

Her lawyer, Larry Kowalchuk, says the family hopes to work out an agreement with the government for use of the land.

McAdam says she hopes to be able to live back on the property some day.

“That’s where I grew up,” she said.

Idle No More says it was formed in 2012 as a protest against the introduction of a bill by the former Conservative government to change legislation, including the Indian Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Environmental Assessment Act.

The group argued that the changes diminished the rights and authority of Indigenous communities while making it easier for governments and businesses to push through projects without strict environmental assessment. (CKBI, The Canadian Press)


The Canadian Press

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UK’s May asks a wary EU to delay Brexit until June 30

Exactly 1,000 days after Britain voted to leave the European Union, and nine days before it is scheduled to walk out the door, Prime Minister Theresa May hit the pause button Wednesday, asking the bloc to postpone the U.K.’s departure until June 30.

EU leaders, who are exasperated by Britain’s Brexit melodrama, will only grant the extension if May can win the U.K. Parliament’s approval next week for her twice-rejected Brexit deal. Otherwise, the U.K. is facing a chaotic “no-deal” departure from the bloc within days, or a much longer delay that May says she will not allow while she is in power.

May, who has spent two and a half years trying to lead Britain out of the EU, said it was “a matter of great personal regret” that she had to seek a delay to Brexit.

In a televised statement from 10 Downing St., May said she shared the frustration felt by many Britons who have “had enough” of endless Brexit debates and infighting – though she did not accept a role in causing it. Instead, she blamed Parliament for the deadlock, and warned that if lawmakers did not back her deal it would cause “irreparable damage to public trust.”

“It is high time we made a decision,” May said.

In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, May acknowledged that the Brexit process “clearly will not be completed before 29 March, 2019” – the date fixed in law two years ago for Britain’s departure.

May asked to delay Britain’s withdrawal until June 30, and said she would set out her reasons to EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Her longshot plan is to hold a third vote in Parliament on her deal next week, then use the EU-granted extension to pass the legislation needed for an orderly departure from the EU.

“As prime minister I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30,” May told the House of Commons – a hint she could quit if Britain is forced to accept a longer pause.

Tusk said he thought a short delay to Brexit “will be possible, but it would be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons.”

May’s request – and Tusk’s response – leaves Britain and the bloc facing Brexit uncertainty right up to the deadline for departure. Withdrawing without a deal could mean huge disruptions for businesses and U.K. residents, as well as those in the 27 remaining EU countries.

“Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking until the very last moment a positive solution,” Tusk said in Brussels.

Tusk made clear what other EU leaders have long hinted: The EU is unwilling to give Britain more time unless the government can find a way out of the Brexit impasse.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “if the (EU) Council is to decide on extending the deadline for Britain, then we would like to know: Why, why, why?”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a delay could only be granted if May guaranteed that its purpose “is to finalize the ratification of the deal already negotiated.”

EU leaders are united in saying that the divorce deal it spent more than a year and a half negotiating with Britain can’t be renegotiated.

But the deal has twice been rejected twice by hefty margins in Britain’s Parliament, amid opposition from pro-Brexit and pro-EU lawmakers.

May had planned to try again this week to get the agreement approved, until the speaker of the House of Commons ruled that she can’t ask Parliament to vote on the deal again unless it is substantially changed.

May told Tusk that despite the ruling “it remains my intention to bring the deal back to the House.” She’s likely to do that next week – within days or hours of Britain’s scheduled departure – by arguing that circumstances have changed and the speaker’s bar on a third vote no longer applied.

But she faces a struggle to overturn the huge margins of defeat for her deal in previous votes in January and last week.

Tusk did not say whether the EU would be willing to grant a long delay to Brexit if Britain changed course and abandoned May’s deal for a new approach.

British opposition politicians, and pro-EU members of May’s Conservative government, have urged a longer extension, saying a delay of just a few months could leave the country once again facing a no-deal Brexit this summer.

They want to commit to a close post-Brexit economic relationship with the bloc to ease disruption for businesses and citizens.

Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Angela Eagle said May should “stop banging her head against the brick wall of her defeated deal” and seek cross-party support for a new Brexit strategy.

But a shift to “soft Brexit” would infuriate the pro-Brexit wing of May’s divided party, and a long delay would require Britain to participate in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament.

May said postponing Brexit beyond June would result in Parliament spending “endless hours contemplating its navel on Brexit.”

Any delay that required Britain to take part in European parliamentary elections would be a major headache for the bloc. Britain’s seats already have been allocated to other countries to fill in the May election.

Britain believes it would not have to participate if it got a three-month delay, because the newly elected European parliament is not due to convene until July. Some EU officials take a different view and want any extension to end by May 23, the first day of the European elections.

The Brexit-fueled political chaos has drawn reactions ranging from sympathy to scorn at home and around the world. On its front page Wednesday, the Brexit-backing Daily Mail newspaper bemoaned the time since the referendum as “1,000 lost days.”

Juncker said Britain’s Parliament needed to decide whether it would approve the only deal that is on the table.

“If that doesn’t happen, and if Great Britain does not leave at the end of March, then we are, I am sorry to say, in the hands of God,” he said. “And I think even God sometimes reaches a limit to his patience.”


Cook reported from Brussels. Raf Casert in Brussels, Samuel Petrequin in Paris, Danica Kirka in London and Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed.

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