Evening Update: Extreme intoxication can be used as a defence for violent crime, Supreme Court of Canada rules

Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

Extreme intoxication resembling a state of automatism can be used as a defence for violent crime, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in three cases involving the use of drugs that led to stabbings, beatings and, in one case, a death.

On Friday, the court struck down a federal law from 1995 that blocks the use of the defence. A Liberal government passed the law after the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in 1994 that a man who had sexually assaulted a woman in a wheelchair had to be allowed to present the defence. Henri Daviault had consumed seven or eight beers and a large bottle of brandy, and his defence argued he was virtually an automaton who did not know what he was doing.

This time, the court was unanimous, saying the fundamental flaw in the federal approach is that it risks wrongful convictions by allowing punishment for involuntary conduct. It said the law violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in its protection of the presumption of innocence, and what it called the principle of fundamental justice that says conduct must be voluntary to be criminalized.

The federal law “enables conviction for conduct that an accused person was not aware of and could not control and therefore cannot be a ‘guilty act’ as defined by the underlying offences,” Justice Nicholas Kasirer wrote for the court in one of the three cases, that of Matthew Winston Brown of Alberta. “This result follows even where individuals ingest alcohol or drugs in common‑place situations where there is no subjective or objective foresight of automatism or violence.”

Read more:

The statue representing justice looks out from the Supreme Court of Canada over the Parliamentary precinct in Ottawa, March 25, 2021.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Russia hit with setbacks as Ukraine blasts ship in Black Sea and thwarts armoured column in Donbas

Ukrainian forces destroyed parts of a Russian armoured column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas region, video from Ukraine’s military showed on Friday, as Moscow appeared to be refocusing its assault in the east after a new pushback by Kyiv.

Ukraine has driven Russian troops away from the second-largest city of Kharkiv in the fastest advance since Kremlin forces pulled away from Kyiv and the northeast over a month ago, although Moscow is still bombarding villages north of Kharkiv.

Ukrainian court to hear first war crimes case

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian court held a preliminary hearing on Friday in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, after charging a captured Russian soldier with the murder of a 62-year-old civilian.

The case is of huge symbolic importance for Ukraine. The Kyiv government has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Read more Ukraine-Russia coverage:

A closer view of a barge, serna class landing craft and sunken serna craft near Snake Island in the Black Sea on May 12, 2022.The Associated Press

Pope Francis to tour Canada in July, with stops in Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit

Pope Francis will visit Canada at the height of the summer in a cross-country tour that will take in Quebec City, Edmonton and Iqaluit, the Vatican announced Friday.

The visit will take place from July 24 to July 30, a somewhat longer trip than had been expected for the increasingly frail pontiff, who is 85 and was recently spotted in a wheelchair for the first time because of chronic pain in his right knee.

The Vatican press office gave no other details of his trip, saying that information on the full program “will be published in the coming weeks.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said in a separate release that the visit to specific sites will be planned in dialogue with Indigenous partners, and that Pope Francis is expected to visit the site of a former residential school while he is here.

Some First Nations leaders said they are disappointed the locations don’t appear to include sites where unmarked graves were announced last year, and say there was inadequate consultation with survivors and leaders.

Read more:

The final audience stands with Pope Francis and members of the Indigenous delegation where the Pontiff delivered an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system, at the Vatican, April 1, 2022.Vatican Media /The Canadian Press

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To end violence against women, Canada needs to focus on men: Canada only has a handful of programs to help men stop abusive behaviour in their relationships, but stigmas make it harder to convince governments to pay for them.

Elon Musk puts $44-billion Twitter deal ‘temporarily on hold’ over fake account data: Elon Musk tweeted on Friday that his US$44-billion cash deal for Twitter Inc was “temporarily on hold” while he waits for the social media company to provide data on the proportion of its fake accounts.

There’s a lunar eclipse on Sunday. Here’s how and when to look for the visually striking celestial event: Sky watchers can expect a rare treat on Sunday night when the full moon plunges through Earth’s shadow, transforming its bright silvery disk into a rusty red orb.

Cineplex ‘not rushing’ to increase price of movie tickets despite first-quarter losses, CEO says: Even as inflation hits the price of everything from groceries to gas, the cost of a movie ticket is staying put – at least for now.

Scientists hail major ‘breakthrough’ in understanding what causes SIDS in babies: A team of Australian researchers have identified a biochemical marker in the blood that could help identify newborn babies at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a breakthrough they said creates an avenue to future tragedy-preventing interventions.

Gas prices are rising even as oil prices fall. What gives?: In recent weeks Canadians have faced ever-steeper costs at the pumps, with average national gas prices hitting close to $2 a litre and likely to push higher as the Victoria Day long weekend approaches. Yet the story of oil prices has been the opposite, setting up an infuriating disconnect for consumers. If oil prices are falling, why aren’t gas prices falling too?


A broad-based rally helped Canada’s main stock index gain more than 400 points on Friday, while U.S. stock markets also rallied to gain ground.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 400.76 points at 20,099.81.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 466.36 points at 32,196.66. The S&P 500 index was up 93.81 points at 4,023.89, while the Nasdaq composite was up 434.04 points at 11,805.00.

The Canadian dollar traded for 77.20 cents US compared with 76.69 cents US on Thursday.

The June crude contract was up $4.36 at US$110.49 per barrel and the June natural gas contract was down 8 cents at US$7.67 per mmBTU.

The June gold contract was down US$16.40 at US$1,808.20 an ounce and the July copper contract was up eight cents at US$4.18 a pound.

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What the Holocaust took from us

“Devorah was 24 when she was murdered in the gas chamber at Treblinka on Oct. 20, 1942, along with her parents, Moshe Aron and Sara Lederman. And her little brother, Isaac. A fate my father miraculously escaped. Another miracle: Somehow these two photographs found their way to my father in Canada, years after the war.” – Marsha Lederman

The past is present: What role should Canada’s historians play in reconciliation? The question has proved surprisingly controversial

“Offering up different interpretations of past events is what historical inquiry is all about. But this fight has been unusually nasty and personal, partly because what’s at stake is so important. History is the stories that a people tell about themselves. This struggle is about who will tell the story of Canada in the context of reconciliation, and what that story will be.” – Ira Basen

Want better election debates? Have more of them – which means cutting the networks out of them

“As we digest the latest in the long-running series of televisual farces known as election debates – sad trombones, anyone? – the thought inevitably arises: Why are we so terrible at organizing debates in this country?” – Andrew Coyne

With a million COVID-19 deaths, America dives deep into a strange cult of self-sacrifice

“No country escaped unharmed or unpanicked – but the level of harm and panic in the United States is so much higher than it is in Canada, with almost three times as many deaths per hundred thousand people, that it demands a special explanation. One thing has emerged, unsurprisingly, as a constant truth, one that does correlate absolutely with success and failure in the pandemic: Inducing immunity by introducing the immune system to the bad agent before the agent gets to go wild protects people from lethal infection.” – Adam Gopnik

Canada reaches a grim milestone – 40,000 COVID-19 deaths

“Canada has reached another grim milestone: 40,000 COVID-19 deaths. That this has been greeted with nary a shrug says a lot about how, in the 26 months since we registered the country’s first pandemic fatality, we have become inured to death. We have not so much learned to live with COVID-19 as we have come to not really care any more about its lethal toll. Still, crossing a new threshold is as good an excuse as any to take stock of where we are.” – André Picard


How your garden can help fight climate change

There are new pest insects, fewer pollinators and more invasive weeds. In some parts of the country, plants, trees and shrubs are blooming earlier than ever before, while in other regions once-hardy species are struggling because the temperatures are either too hot or too cold. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts weather will only become more severe (more heatwaves, more heavy rains) as global temperatures continue to increase.

What this all means, of course, is many traditional gardening practices no longer fit into our changing climate, says Mitchell McLarnon, an assistant professor of environmental education at Concordia University in Montreal.

It all sounds dire but McLarnon says home gardeners can help preserve and protect the delicate ecosystem by getting smarter about what they plant, how they plant and how they care for their gardens. Here’s how to ensure your garden – big or small – is doing its part to make our world a greener, healthier place.


Until two years ago, mRNA vaccines had never been approved. Now, vast research offers hope in treating more than COVID-19

Illustration by Romain Lasser

The COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, both of which rely on mRNA created in a lab, have been hailed as a medical revolution. Their success has set off a tsunami of interest in using the technology to combat a Who’s Who of modern pestilences. Targets include influenza, Zika, HIV, malaria, cancer, heart disease, cystic fibrosis and “Disease X,” the placeholder name given to whatever yet-to-emerge illness fuels the next global health disaster.

Using mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) created in a laboratory, the groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccines teach cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response. They’re faster to produce than conventional vaccines, and the mRNA technology is infinitely reprogrammable. Diseases other than COVID-19 can, in theory, be tackled in similar ways – meaning that the potential applications of synthetic mRNA to prevent illness and treat diseases seems nearly limitless.

“The pandemic has been a total game-changer for the field,” Anna Blakney, a biomedical engineer at the University of British Columbia, said of mRNA science. Before COVID-19, most people had never heard of mRNA, she says. No company had completed a phase three trial of an mRNA product, let alone brought one to market. Now there are two approved mRNA vaccines that have been injected into the arms of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, providing the ultimate proof of concept for a technology that some doubted would ever be ready for prime time.

Faster to produce than conventional vaccines, Kelly Grant writes about how the potential applications of synthetic mRNA to prevent illness and treat diseases seems nearly limitless.

Evening Update is written by Emerald Bensadoun. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.

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