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Prince Charles opens Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

TORONTO – Prince Charles officially opened Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair Friday, before spending the rest of the morning rubbing elbows with crowds of unsuspecting fair goers, in some of his most intimate moments of his three-day visit to the Toronto area.

"Nothing could give me greater pleasure than to declare the 87th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair officially open," the prince said to a crowd of thousands at Ricoh Coliseum.

The fair is the world’s largest indoor agricultural show, showcasing Canada’s best farming products and technologies.

It attracts more than 150,000 visitors a year.

Gayle McPherson, fair association president, introduced Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, before Charles was presented with a basket of Canadian honey and maple syrup. The Duchess was given a western-style horse saddle.

The royal couple then split up and wandered through the fair’s maze of displays and stables.

The prince surprised many as he strolled through a cattle barn, filled with Aberdeen Angus cattle, greeting a group from rural Ontario at the fair to participate in a pig exhibit.

Marilena Seroski and her daughter from the Hamilton area, turned to find themselves face to face with the Prince of Wales, as his entourage led him into a convention hall filled with agricultural exhibitions.

"I can’t wait until I get home and tell my family, because no one would believe I shook his hand," she said. It was an unexpected honour, she said, but the memory would last a lifetime.

"People of importance like that, you usually would be seeing them from far away. It was really something."

But the sight of royalty enthralled not everyone.

Trent, a young student from Our Lady of Peace Catholic School, slipped in behind the prince’s entourage after Charles had spent several minutes viewing a display of prized massive pumpkins.

"That’s the prizewinner right there," Trent marveled at a giant, 563.18 kilogram specimen, his back turned to the prince.

The royal couple were scheduled to leave for Victoria, B.C. early Friday afternoon.

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UN gang leader files complaint against RCMP over arrest

United Nations gang leader and convicted drug smuggler Clay Roueche has filed a complaint against the RCMP about the way in which he was arrested in May 2008.

Roueche filed the documents in Ottawa on Oct. 15 with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, CPC spokesman Nelson Kalil confirmed Thursday.

Roueche is alleging his rights were violated when the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-B.C. tipped American authorities that Roueche was traveling to Mexico for a wedding and a gang ceremony.

At the time, Roueche was wanted in the U.S. for conspiracy to import marijuana, export cocaine and money laundering, charges to which he pleaded guilty last April.

When Mexican authorities turned the UN crime boss away, he was sent back to Canada on a flight that landed in Texas, where he was arrested.

Roueche was also under investigation in Canada at the time of his U.S. arrest. Eight of his UN associates are now facing charges of conspiring to kill the Bacon brothers of Abbotsford. Roueche is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case.

Roueche is to be sentenced in Seattle in December on the drug smuggling and money laundering charges.

The U.S. Attorney is seeking 30 years behind bars for the Canadian, saying his drug gang was international, sophisticated and deadly.

Throughout his 18 months in U.S. custody, Roueche’s American lawyers never filed a complaint or a court submission about the circumstances of Roueche’s arrest.

Kalil said Roueche’s complaint was sent to the RCMP for investigation the day after it was received.

"If the RCMP decides it is vexatious or there is nothing to it, they’ll submit that in a report," Kalil explained.

CPC head Paul Kennedy will then review the RCMP report and decide if further investigation is necessary, Kalil said.

"It is going through the usual process."

The RCMP did not return phone calls on the Roueche complaint.

Emily Langlie, who speaks for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle, said they wouldn’t be commenting.

"We have not seen the complaint, and it has no bearing on the prosecution here in the U.S. Our prosecution is the only thing we address via our court filings."

The Americans have said they don’t want Roueche to be able to take advantage of a prisoner offender treaty, meaning he would have to serve at least 80 per cent of whatever sentence he is handed Dec. 16 in a U.S. penitentiary.

Details of the information passed by B.C. police to the U.S. are contained in a March 3, 2009 affidavit by RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Coyle and filed in the U.S. case.

Coyle said it was the head of the Canadian investigation, Insp. Andy Richards, who called the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to tell them Roueche was on his way south.

Richards has never been with the RCMP. He was a Vancouver police department member seconded to the CFSEU and is now an inspector with the Port Moody police department.

ICE had made Richards aware of "the outstanding U.S. warrant for Roueche’s arrest."

"ICE advised they would hold off its execution due to their national investigation on Roueche and CFSEU’s active criminal investigation," Coyle explained. "ICE expressed an interest in liaising with their Mexican partners, if the opportunity presented itself, to facilitate the arrest or Roueche."

But the escalating gang warfare in B.C. linked to Roueche’s gang made police feel more needed to be done, the court documents say.

"In May of 2008 the Vancouver area was experiencing a significant number of violent acts which included shootings and murders. Roueche and his associates were believed to be involved in some of these acts and/or had knowledge. It was felt there was an increased risk to the public’s safety due to the on-going violence," Coyle said.

"CFSEU was aware of Roueche’s planning air travel to Mexico on May 16/17, 2008 to attend a friends wedding. Insp. Richards contacted ICE, expressed his concern and explained that he would not have any objection if ICE decided to effect Roueche’s arrest. ICE made the determination to act on their outstanding warrant."

Roueche was aware that he could be arrested in the U.S.

In a wiretapped conversation in April 2008 he told girlfriend, Pamela Lee, that if he travelled to the U.S. he’d be in jail "for like 20 years."

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Cuts coming to Fraser Health

Tightening purse strings means Fraser Health will see another round of sweeping cuts.

In an attempt to balance the budget, Fraser Health CEO Nigel Murray announced Thursday the region will scale back some services to rein in a $10-million deficit.

The changes include reductions and closures involving acute care, hospice care, spiritual care and addiction and mental-health services.

“Fundamentally, these are the exact service cuts they said they wouldn’t cut before the election,” said NDP health critic Adrian Dix. “They are going to profoundly impact the level of care in Fraser Health.”

Abbotsford Regional Hospital will close the doors on its six-bed adolescent psychiatry unit, sending its patients to Surrey Memorial.

Chilliwack General Hospital’s 10-bed withdrawal unit will be axed, with addicts sent to Creekside withdrawal unit in Surrey instead.

The amalgamation will also see more focus put on home detox services, according to Murray.

“We’ll be making sure that those already in the program will have good transition strategies for them,” Murray said.

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A 25-bed convalescent care unit at New Westminster’s Queen’s Park Care Centre, which officials say is no longer needed, will be closed. An eight-bed hospice at the centre will also close in advance of a 10-bed unit opening in Delta.

The cuts will also see 5.5 full-time health unit aides (HUAs), who assist in mass immunization clinics, laid off to save $250,000 annually.

Murray said the change will not impact H1N1 immunization programs as HUAs can’t immunize patients and licensed practical nurses, who can, will be taking their place.

Other cutbacks include:

– Funding for 11 residential-care beds at Bear Creek Lodge, and another 11 at Newton Regency in Surrey.

– Eliminating funding for the Matrix Youth Addictions Program in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows.

– Temporary closures of some ambulatory care outpatient clinics until March 31.

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Surrey RCMP officer found guilty of assault

METRO VANCOUVER – An RCMP officer found guilty of assault continues on active duty with the Surrey detachment, RCMP media relations officer Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said Thursday.

The convicted officer, Const. Frank Lambert, was found guilty in Chilliwack Provincial Court on Wednesday of assault relating to an incident while he was on duty, an RCMP news release said.

Vermeulen said in an interview Thursday that decisions are made on a case-by-case basis about whether to allow officers who are charged or convicted of offences to continue on active duty.

According to an RCMP news release, the incident occurred in July 2007, when Lambert and several other officers caught six men at the scene of a break and enter at a Surrey school.

The release said one of the suspects made a comment to another, but didn’t specify what was said. Lambert "was then observed by another RCMP officer utilizing excessive force in the management of a handcuffed prisoner by pushing him onto the hood of a police car several times. The prisoner was not injured."

The Surrey detachment launched internal and criminal investigations.

Lambert was charged with assault in January 2008. His sentencing is tentatively set for February 2010.

In the internal code of conduct investigation, the officer in charge of the Surrey detachment found in February 2008 that the allegations were "substantiated." Lambert, an officer for five years, faces formal discipline before an adjudication board.

Penalties could range from a reprimand to dismissal, Vermeulen said.

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Prince Charles lauds Canadian support for military

Prince Charles expressed his appreciation of Canada’s support for its military after presenting new colours to two Canadian regiments Thursday evening.

Thanking military families and the rest of Canada for their “compassion and loyalty,” he said he was moved by the acts of solidarity he has seen during his trip to Canada.

“I cannot tell you how moved my wife and I are that so many of you have chose to come here on this autumnal evening, or are watching this parade on television at home, or who line what has so poignantly become known as ‘The Highway of Heroes’ to honour the fallen,” Charles said during a formal military ceremony Thursday night, in front of more than 5,000 people at Toronto University’s Varsity Stadium.

The prince presented new colours Thursday to the Royal Regiment of Canada and the Toronto Scottish Regiment, on the fourth day of his 11-day tour of Canada. Charles is the colonel-in-chief of both regiments.

The ceremony’s location, the downtown Varsity Stadium, has historical significance since it was the site of the 1965 Presentation of Colours to the Toronto Scottish Regiment by the late Queen Mother.

Well ahead of the prince’s arrival, both regiments marched onto Varsity field in full military uniform.

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Charles inspected the regiments with their commanding officers, Col. Blake Charles Goldring of the Royal Regiment of Canada and Lt.-Col. Justin Neil of the Toronto Scottish. He then officially presented the regiments’ new colours, blessed by a military chaplain.

The presentation of colours was the highlight of a busy day travelling Ontario, during which the royal couple was greeted by applause at Hamilton’s Dundurn Castle.

A cheering crowd of more than 400 greeted Charles and Camilla there as they visited the ancestral home of the Duchess of Cornwall.

Arriving by motorcade, they waved at the large crowd gathered outside the castle and shook hands with the mass of smiling supporters.

After about five minutes, the royal couple joined Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and began their tour of Dundurn Castle.

Built between 1832 and 1835, the distinctive Regency-style chateau was constructed for Sir Allan Napier MacNab, Camilla’s great-great-great grandfather.

Sir Allan, born in Niagara, became prime minister of the United Province of Canada in 1854. He would be buried on the castle grounds in 1862.

While Camilla’s Canadian roots were the draw for many in attendance, some still fawned over the prince.

“I’m glad he is here, it is a real honour,” said John Fleming. “The more you know about him, the more you like him. And not too many people know much about him.”

This is the Camilla’s first visit to Canada, and Charles’ first since remarrying in 2005.

Later in the afternoon, the royal couple hid under overworked umbrellas as they visited HMCS Haida, a former military ship now sitting in Hamilton’s harbour as a museum.

More than 200 visitors, many in military garb, greeted the tour as rain and hail poured down. After fighting the wind on board Haida, Charles fired the ship’s guns, delighting the crowd.

He later unveiled a plaque to commemorate their visit, before leaving Hamilton to tour the Niagara College Teaching Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Today, Charles will officially open Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, before leaving the province for British Columbia.