10 year old once given 48 hours to live has ‘miracle’ recovery a year later

Almost a year ago, Patty Furco was told she was going to lose her daughter.

Her second child, Abby, was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of four. Today the 10 year old based in Virginia Beach has made a “miracle” recovery even doctors can’t explain.

“Sometimes we can’t grasp what has happened and what continues to happen,” the 41-year-old mom-of-three tells Global News. “We had prepared for Abby to die.”

Abby’s long journey

In the last few years, Abby went through several hospital visits, intense chemotherapy sessions and radiation treatments, Furco says, but in 2015, things took a turn.

After being in remission for 11 months, Abby relapsed in September 2014. A year later, she had a bone marrow transplant that caused acute graft versus host disease (GvHD) — a common side effect of the transplant.

“Late last spring the side effects [of GvHD] were out of control and started a downward spiral leading to continuous dialysis [and] a long pediatric intensive care unit stay,” Furco says.

Abby’s organs weren’t keeping up and her kidneys began to fail.

“[My husband] and I tried to be hopeful, yet we prepared everyone, including our other daughters, for the end.”

Her family was told by doctors their little girl would die.

“I still have flashbacks to sitting at my dining room table with the head hospice nurse, choosing a funeral home. [My husband] Joe and I talked about where we wanted her remains. I clearly remember thinking about specific songs I wanted played during her memorial service,” Furco says.

Living in a tight-knit military community, Furco says her friends gathered together to give support.

Last year she remembers driving Abby to a girl scout event in another part of town, and passing by the funeral home she had picked out for her daughter.

“My heart sunk and I called Joe crying,” she says. “It just caught me off guard. Here I am in the car with my thriving Abby and we’re driving by the funeral home I picked six months earlier.”

Her recovery can’t be explained

Abby’s doctor, pediatric hematologist and oncologist Jacob Wessler, told People magazine there’s no real explanation of Abby’s recovery.

“We have no idea [how she got better] and there is no way to test it,” he tells Global News. “She’s the only patient I have to do this. She is one for one as far as our experience.”

Wessler was the first person to diagnose Abby and has been working with the Furco family for six years.

READ MORE: Saskatoon family appealing for more childhood cancer research funding

Although he adds there have been ups and downs throughout the journey and continues to be, last June he remembers bringing Abby home to feel more comfortable. At this point, he had believed she wouldn’t survive.

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He reduced the amount of medication and check-ins, as her family prepared for the worst.

“But she sat there and just started getting better,” he says. “It was really interesting and fascinating.”

At first, Wessler told the family there was no absolute timeline of when her organs would fail, but weeks and soon months went by and Abby was feeling better. Almost a year later, she is the best she’s ever been.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened, but it’s a good news and bad news situation,” he says. “It’s great that it has happened, but it is a little maddening we don’t know why. But for Abby it doesn’t matter why — what matters is she’s better.”

The heartache living with a sick child

Parenting coach Julie Romanowski of Vancouver says for any family or parent who is going through a similar situation with a sick child, the most important thing to do is to be aware of your situation.

“It sounds obvious but when people are in crisis mode, we think life is ‘normal’ and we need to keep going,” she tells Global News. “Get a good support network and let them know you are in crisis. Pretending nothing is going on adds more stress.”

READ MORE: Hundreds of Calgarians take part in annual ‘Run for Childhood Cancer’

And if you have other children, it can get difficult to talk about what their sibling is going through, especially the topic of death.

Romanowski says siblings also need a support network and parents need to be honest with them.

“If you pretend nothing is happening, that’s what makes the situation dangerous. We have to get real and accept our current situations… younger children will look at their parents on how to deal with the crisis and mimic it.”

Her recovery is also inspiring others

Furco says since 2012, the family has been very active in raising awareness for childhood cancer. They raise money for cancer research and put time into learning about Abby’s medication.

Abby is also an ambassador for the St. Baldrick`s Foundation, a private fund of childhood cancer research grants. Since 2012, her fundraising campaign has raised US$133,226.

Patty Furco and her daughter Abby.

Courtesy of Patty Furco

But Furco says hearing from other families with similar situations has been the most heartening. Some people tell her Abby has inspired them to get out of bed or keep fighting their own disease.

“That’s a gift that could only come out of this dark journey that has consumed our lives for many years,” she says. “It’s giving people hope and letting them continue dreaming about the future.”

Abby is looking forward to summer

Today, like many children, Abby is looking forward to her Grade 5 graduation. She is once again in remission and is receiving steroids twice a day.

Her mom says she loves to play Minecraft, hang out with her friends and plans on being a chef when she grows up.

“This is amazing as last year around this time, she was barely walking then wheelchair-bound. Through very hard work she is now able to walk on her own, currently working on long distance stamina,” she says.

Furco says her daughter is also looking forward to summer camp, a place where she meets other cancer patients and survivors.

“Our hope for Abby is that she gets to live a full life full of happiness. We take each day as it comes, so we hope that each day continues down the path of good health and growth in every way possible.”

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To buy or rent a cottage? These 5 questions will help you decide

To buy or rent a cottage? It’s the eternal question Canadian families face, especially as summer draws near.

Ask your friends and relatives, and you’re likely to find an even split between those who can’t imagine life without a lakeside property and those who see a second home as a ball and chain.

READ MORE: Why this may be the best summer ever to spend your vacation in Canada

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Coming up with a list of pros and cons isn’t much help, either. In theory, there as many good reasons to purchase a cottage and as there are not to.

In the buy camp: Building priceless memories by the same lakes as the kids grow up. Having an affordable gateway for every break and long weekend. Eliminating the risk of a ruined vacation because your rental cottage looks nothing like the pictures. Similarly, avoiding massive family disappointment — especially for the little ones — when it turns out the rental you have been booking every summer and have grown to love isn’t available this year. And so on.

READ MORE: Think you don’t need insurance when travelling in Canada? Think again

In the rent camp: The kids’ memories may be priceless, but owning a cottage certainly has a price tag — and a hefty one. Renting means your hard-earned vacation time won’t be sucked into a black hole called “cottage upkeep.” It also means being able to explore a different lakeside spot every summer — or deciding, guilt-free, that you’d rather go to Paris instead.

A more productive approach may be examining your specific circumstances and financial situation, according to Maureen Reid, Meridian Credit Union branch manager in Penetanguishene, a popular cottage country destination on the southeasterly tip of Georgian Bay, Ont.

For the undecided cottage vacationer, she has a list of five key questions:

1. How much will it really cost you?

Step one is assessing whether you can really afford to own a cottage. The question goes beyond whether you can carry two mortgages, Reid points out. As with any residential property, buying involves a slew of legal fees and taxes, as well as monthly expenses like utilities. Heat in particular can be a financial back-breaker in a cottage, said Reid, especially if you have to rely on electricity to keep it cozy inside.

READ MORE: The genius life hacks that working moms and dads use to get it all done

Other potential costs include owning, maintaining and docking your own boat if that’s the only way to reach your property, said Reid.

And then, of course, there’s upkeep. Although Reid told Global News it’s hard to come up with an average estimate for this kind of expense, it’s safe to say it will likely be higher than whatever your average yearly spend is on your first home. From rodent infestations to pipes that burst in winter, the fact that cottages are usually immersed in nature and used only for part of the year tends to drive up the maintenance bill.

READ MORE: Flooding, flooding everywhere – do Canadians have insurance for it?

2. How much will you (realistically) use it?

Once you’ve come up with a comprehensive cost estimate, ask yourself how much R&R bang you’re going to get for your buck, according to Reid. Is the cottage close to home? Do you get lots of time off in the summer? Will you be able to use the property in the winter as well? If so, then great.

On the other hand, if you only have two weeks to spend lakeside every year, will the stress of the drive and the upkeep work eliminate your ability to relax?

READ MORE: Here’s why a good school isn’t always worth the home price premium

3. Are you going to rent it?

This one goes back to question No. 1. Being able to rent your cottage for periods of time when you’re not there will make it easier to afford it, noted Reid.

Doing so has become easier than ever with online home-sharing services like Airbnb. And if you’re worried that the tenants who presented themselves as a “a quiet middle-aged couple’ will turn out to be a horde of partying teenagers, Facebook groups, which tend to be more community-focused, are another great resource. A short post advertising your property among friends and neighbours can quickly locate a trustworthy tenant.

READ MORE: Buying and selling online? Instead of Craigslist or Kijiji, try Facebook

Still, not all cottages rent easily, cautioned Reid. Remote properties in less well-known areas might have fewer takers.

4. Is it a good investment?

This is really a two-part question. The first thing to consider is whether using your savings to buy a cottage makes sense. Owning two homes could mean tying up a lot of your investments in real estate, which can be risky.

READ MORE: Moody’s downgrades Canadian banks: Beginning of the end for the housing market?

Speaking to your financial advisor is always a good idea, said Reid.

The second part of the equation is figuring out what the rate of return on your cottage will likely be. A winterized property in a coveted, easily accessible location will be easy to sell and likely to appreciate over time, said Reid.

The opposite is generally true, if your version of a cottage is only a few steps removed from a wooden shack, or if it becomes inaccessible in winter.

READ MORE: Here’s how much climate change can cost homeowners in damages

5. What financing is available to you?

Location and features like insulation, heating and running water will also dramatically affect what kind of financing you’ll be able to access in order to purchase your cottage, said Reid.

What Reid calls a “type A” cottage — one with all the amenities — usually guarantees you’ll be able to get a regular mortgage.

For a more rustic “type B” property, on the other hand, your only option might be a personal loan, for which the going interest rate is generally 7 per cent, much higher than currently available mortgages.

William Sandeson murder trial hears full day of testimony ahead of holiday weekend

The seven-woman, seven-man jury sitting on the first-degree murder trial of Dalhousie medical student William Sandeson heard a full day of evidence on Thursday.

Sandeson, 24, is accused of killing fellow Dalhousie student Taylor Samson, 22.

Samson was studying physics and about to start his fifth year of university when he disappeared in August, 2015. His body has never been found.

WATCH: Murder trial hears from police, Taylor Samson’s girlfriend

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Staff Sgt. Andre Habib, a forensic identification officer with Halifax Regional Police was the first witness on the stand Thursday.

The crown had questioned Habib the previous day but court ended before the defence had an opportunity to complete their cross-examination.

Lawyer Eugene Tan questioned Habib about what protective clothing he wore when at Sandeson’s apartment on Henry Street. He told the court he wore both gloves and booties.

READ: Jury hears William Sandeson told roommate not to come home on night of alleged murder

The defence also questioned Habib about his experience using a trajectory kit. He testified not only did he take a two month course but he also did a seminar with a firearms expert in Calgary a few years ago.

Habib told the court he was not a ballistic expert but that he and other identification officers are able to use the trajectory kit to determine which way an object, like a bullet, may have come from.

Habib also testified that he was involved in the search at the Sandeson family property in Lower Truro, N.S.

He said he had been involved in searches of that nature “numerous times” and was satisfied that police did the best they could at the scene. “We left no stone unturned,” he told the jury.

WATCH: William Sandeson murder trial hears police searched family farm looking for body

The second witness to testify on Thursday was Rick Chadwick who currently works with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Chadwick told the court before going to RBC he worked as an RCMP officer.

Chadwick says he was served a production order – which requires documents to be made available to law enforcement  – for the banking information of Taylor Samson.

He told the court that Samson was a client at the bank for eight years and had an everyday account, a tax-free savings account and a MasterCard.

Chadwick testified that until August 13, 2015, there was “actual activity by the client.” Following Samson’s disappearance, the only activity he said was on the accounts was automatic.

WATCH: Former teammate of William Sandeson tells court he saw bleeding man, bloody cash

Two volunteers with Ground Search and Rescue were also called as crown witnesses.

Wayne Burns, a volunteer with search and rescue for 15-years, told the court that he and a team of volunteers searched the farm property for hours.

Burns was the one who located the refrigerated ice cream truck and informed police. He testified he looked inside and saw three bags but did not enter the truck.

READ: Court hears bag found in ice cream truck at Sandeson farm smelled like decomposition

Lawrence Corbin, also a volunteer searcher, testified that when he arrived to search at the farm in August 2015 he was told by officials that searchers could possibly find human remains. None were ever located.

Corbin and his team found a pair of gloves located in some brush, not far from where the ice cream truck was. He told the court that he flagged the gloves and called his command centre before searching the rest of the area.

READ MORE: William Sandeson says during interrogation video intruders may have shot Taylor Samson

Cpl. Shawn Reynolds, an RCMP officer, was the incident commander for the Sandeson farm search. He told the court that he helped coordinate and run the search, as well as pass information along to the Halifax Regional Police major crime unit.

Reynolds said he was notified by search and rescue that a pair of gloves were located and helped seize them. He also secured the scene where the ice cream truck was located until ident officers arrived to process it.

READ: Jury shown gun, bullets and cash seized from William Sandeson’s apartment

David Webber, a civilian member of the RCMP was also called to the stand. He is a forensic lab technician and was tasked with examining Sandeson’s DVR.

He told the court that although the DVR was passport protected he found a back door to access the video. Webber testified that he was able to dump video from Aug. 13-18, 2015 from the DVR and give it to investigators.

Webber said he did not splice or edit any of the video. After the initial video dump from Aug. 13-18, Webber said he was able to go back and locate video for two and a half months, which was also turned over to investigators.

Under cross-examination, Webber admitted he originally thought he had discarded his notes from the case but later found them.

WATCH: Last images of Taylor Samson shown to jury in William Sandeson murder trial

The final witness to take the stand Thursday was Det. Const. Jonathan Jefferies, a Halifax Regional Police officer. He told the court that he was the scene coordinator for the farm search.

Jefferies said he executed a search warrant at the property and explained to William Sandeson’s father what police would be doing.

When questioned by defence lawyer Brad Sarson, Jefferies said that police and volunteer ground search rescue members did search some property that was not covered under the search warrant. However, Jefferies said they asked the owners of the property if they could search there and had them sign consent forms.

Jefferies was also tasked with getting a DNA sample from Sandeson after he was arrested and remanded to the Central Nova Correctional Facility in Dartmouth. While there, he also told the court he questioned Sandeson about the whereabouts of Samson’s body but Sandeson did not speak about it.

READ MORE: William Sandeson ‘confident’ as murder trial begins in Halifax: defence

The trial is scheduled to sit for 32 days over the course of eight weeks.

The case does not hear evidence on Friday and because Monday is a statutory holiday, the jury is scheduled to resume hearing testimony on Tuesday morning.

2017 Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds for ticketholders

The biggest music festival in B.C. has been cancelled.

Global News has learned that the organizers of the Pemberton Music Festival have filed for bankruptcy.

Documents obtained by Global News show there will be no automatic refunds for tickets as “the festival is now in bankruptcy and has no ability to provide refunds for tickets purchased.”

READ MORE: What to do if you have a ticket to the 2017 Pemberton Music Festival

Ticketholders may file a proof of claim form with Ernst & Young, which is the festival’s trustee in bankruptcy. However, determining if a refund is applicable will not be known for several weeks.

Refunds may be available to ticketholders from third parties if tickets were purchased using a credit card.

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As each bank and credit card issuer has its own specific policies, ticketholders can contact their bank or credit card issuer directly to determine whether a refund can be obtained.

READ MORE: What to do if you have a ticket to the 2017 Pemberton Music Festival

Documents also show the festival owes US $2.5 million to its creditors. Festival directors determined they were unable to meet the festival’s financial obligations as a result of decreased ticket sales and increased operating losses.

WATCH:  2017 Pemberton Festival goes bankrupt. Jill Bennett broke the story and has the details. 

Organizers say they have collected $8,225,000 in ticket revenue so far this year. The budgeted expenses stand at $22,000,000.

READ MORE: Some ticket holders are out more than $1,000

They say the festival has been significantly impacted since 2015 by a weakening Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar.

READ MORE: Security guards from 2015 Pemberton Music Festival owed thousands

Shareholders and investors funded several million dollars to cover the festival’s cash losses over the last three years.

Last summer, it was revealed a group of security guards were still owed money for working at the festival the year before.

In the minutes before today’s announcement, the festival’s website said all but the $369 regular tickets were sold out. Both the website and the festival’s 杭州桑拿会所 account have now been scrapped.

WATCH: Why are so many music festivals failing?

Huka Entertainment, the promoter and planner for the cancelled festival, said in a statement:

“For the past four years, Huka Entertainment has worked to create a one-of-a-kind experience in the most beautiful place on earth. We are heartbroken to see the 2017 Pemberton Music Festival cancelled.

As a contract producer, Huka did not make the decision to cancel the festival. That decision was made by the Pemberton Music Festival, LP. We are extremely disappointed for our fans, artists and all of our partners who have supported the festival over the years.”

The summer camping music festival was supposed to take place July 13-16.

This year’s lineup included such high-profile performers as Muse, Chance the Rapper, A Tribe Called Quest and dozens of other acts.

Pemberton Music Festival: Boom or bust for the local economy

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Pemberton Music Festival: Boom or bust for the local economy

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The Pemberton Music Festival was first held as a three-day event in 2008.

It was not held for five years between 2009 and 2013, resuming in 2014 under different ownership.

Nova Scotia Election: McNeil fends off attacks from PC, NDP leaders in debate

Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil fended off multiple attacks on his record Thursday as Nova Scotia’s major-party leaders clashed over health care, education and the economy during the first televised leaders debate of the campaign.

During the 90-minute back-and-forth, Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie and NDP Leader Gary Burrill targeted McNeil’s broken promises on doctors and the film tax credit.

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But McNeil brushed off the barrage with confidence, a generally calm demeanour and an ability to hold the floor. He pointed to his achievements while in office.

READ MORE: Complete Nova Scotia election coverage

“Let’s not turn back now,” he said, looking into the cameras during his closing remarks. “We are in a time where we can make strategic investments and continue to build what we’ve accomplished.”

Still, his opponents pointed to what they painted as his penny-pinching, top-down style with teachers and other public-sector unions while in government.

WATCH: McNeil fends off attacks from PC, NDP leaders in first Nova Scotia election debate. Marieke Walsh reports.

Both Baillie and Burrill wove into the debate their disapproval over McNeil’s handling of issues while in power, especially on health care.

Baillie questioned McNeil’s 2013 promise that every Nova Scotian would have access to a family doctor.

“You promised them a doctor,” Baillie told McNeil, who cited a number of other promises he’d been able to keep.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia Election: Why health care has become the number one issue

Baillie said one of the hardest calls he’d had to make was to Kim D’Arcy, whose husband, Jack Webb, died Feb. 1 after he had languished for six hours in a chilly emergency-room hallway and was bumped from his room by another dying patient during five days of struggles in Halifax’s largest hospital.

“We need more doctors. We need them urgently,” Baillie said.

Burrill asked McNeil if he would admit the province has a health care crisis.

“Do I believe there’s a crisis? No,” McNeil said. “Are there challenges? Of course there are.”

McNeil defended his record, saying the province’s health system has improved during his term, and his government has taken measures to train and bring more doctors to Nova Scotia.

His government reduced administrative costs by merging health authorities, he said.

McNeil said a re-elected Liberal government would invest in collaborative care teams to ensure all Nova Scotians have access to primary care.

READ MORE: New poll shows N.S. Liberals continue to lead, 24 per cent of voters undecided

He also defended attacks on his labour relations record, arguing he has to represent all taxpayers at the negotiating table.

“Being premier you need to strike a balance,” McNeil said. “You need to make sure that not only can you afford the wages you are prepared to talk about, but you need to make sure you have room to make the investments Nova Scotians require in their communities.”

Burrill said teacher morale “is at an all-time low,” and promised to reopen negotiations with the province’s teachers, cap class sizes and hire more specialists.

“Let’s give teachers the real discipline and attendance policies they deserve and let’s get mental health into classrooms,” Baillie said.

Baillie criticized Burrill’s promise to make community college tuition free.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia Election 2017: Tracking party promises on education

“Making education free means we’re going to train people to go somewhere else,” he said.

The debate featured no obvious knockout blows, however, and a calm McNeil later told reporters he felt he did what he needed to do.

“Nova Scotians expect their premier to look at all the circumstances and make decisions that they believe are in the best interest of all Nova Scotians, defend those decisions and talk about what the future looks like … and that’s what I did tonight,” he said.

Baillie was asked whether he had done enough to make Nova Scotians consider the Tories at the polling booth.

He said the debate was about presenting his party’s long-term vision for creating jobs, while drawing a contrast with “Liberal mistakes” over the last three-and-a-half years.

“I think he (McNeil) still has a lot to answer for, quite frankly, but for me today was about showing people that we have a more positive way forward.”

The debate was a first-time experience for Burrill, who held his own as the NDP tries to rebound from a stinging election defeat in 2013.

“I’ve worked harder for less,” he quipped to reporters.

Burrill said for him the debate was about presenting two fundamentally opposed views on the best way to get the province moving.

“We have two parties that support the view that developing a budget surplus is the most important sign of a government’s competence and a party — us — that takes the view that what’s most important is the needs of the people,” he said.

Nova Scotia NDP proposes nearly $1 billion deficit over four years

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Nova Scotia NDP proposes nearly $1 billion deficit over four years

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Nova Scotia PCs unveil new spending, promise balanced budget with few details on cuts

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Liberals release platform with $1.08 billion in spending and tax cuts



Nova Scotians go to the polls May 30.

Cirque du Soleil looks to hire 200 people for Edmonton run of ‘Kurios’

If you ever had dreams of running away to join the circus, this might be your chance — sort of.

Cirque du Soleil is looking to hire about 200 people in Edmonton for its run of Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities, which will be shown under the big tent at Northlands from July 20 to Aug. 13.

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    “These are jobs that are ushers, box office, people to work in the retail merchandise area. We are also looking for some individuals to work in the kitchen, experienced chefs,” explained Hilary Predy with Adecco Employment Services, the company in charge of the hiring.

    A job fair was held in Edmonton on Thursday and another will be held next Wednesday to recruit summer employees. Workers will be employed from July 15 to Aug. 13 and work anywhere from 25 to 30 hours per week.

    “It would be great for university students, teachers who are on summer vacation, people who don’t want to have a full commitment for the summer but would like to be involved with the show for the four weeks that [it’s] around,” Predy said.

    Kurios tells the story of an ambitious inventor who defies the laws of time, space and dimension in order to reinvent everything around him. The visible becomes invisible, perspectives are transformed and the world is turned upside down — literally.

    The next job fair in Edmonton will be held on May 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Scotia Place. Anyone interested in applying for one of the summer jobs can also do so online.

Times Square suspect’s checkered past included 2 months in navy prison

NEW YORK, May 18 (Reuters) – The driver of the car that careened through New York City‘s Times Square on Thursday was a U.S. Navy veteran who had been arrested at least four times before for offenses including drunk driving and threatening someone with a knife, according to police officials and public records.

Richard Rojas, 26, plowed into people on the sidewalk in his burgundy Honda sedan and sped three blocks through one of the city’s busiest areas, killing one pedestrian and injuring 22 others before crashing into a metal stanchion, police said.

READ MORE: 1 person dead, multiple injured at New York’s Times Square after car drives onto sidewalk

Rojas returned from his Navy service with a drinking problem and had posted “crazy stuff” on social media, said a friend, Harrison Ramos, speaking to Reuters outside the apartment building where Rojas lives in New York City’s Bronx borough.

“Don’t make him out to be a terrorist or something,” Ramos said. “He served his country and when he came back, nobody helped him.”

Rojas attended college and works in real estate, Ramos said.

“He went through a real tough time,” Ramos said, adding that he had lost contact with Rojas. “That’s my friend. I care about him, and it hurts.”

NYPD announce charges against man who drove car onto sidewalk in Times Square

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NYPD announce charges against man who drove car onto sidewalk in Times Square

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Only a week ago, Rojas was arrested at his apartment in the Bronx for threatening another man with a knife.

“Do you feel safe? You stole my identity,” Rojas told the man, grabbing his neck in one hand while brandishing the knife in the other, according to a police spokeswoman. She did not have additional details about the incident.

He was charged with menacing and possession of a weapon, according to court records. He eventually pleaded guilty to harassment, a violation, and was not sentenced to any prison time.

Rojas was also charged with drunken driving in 2008 and 2015, according to New York City police. The state motor vehicle department confirmed he was convicted of driving while impaired in both cases but still had a valid driver’s license as of Thursday.

WATCH: NYPD awaiting results from toxicology tests on Times Square driver

As of 5 p.m. (2110 GMT) on Thursday, police had not yet announced formal charges against Rojas in the Times Square incident, and he had not yet appeared in court. It was not immediately clear whether Rojas had a defense lawyer.

Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011. He served as an electrician’s mate fireman apprentice, mostly based in Florida.

While stationed in Jacksonville, Rojas was arrested for battery and resisting an officer without violence, both misdemeanors.

READ MORE: 28 injured after vehicle plows into New Orleans parade crowd, driver appears intoxicated

An arrest report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said Rojas yelled at an officer, “My life is over,” and threatened to kill police after his release from jail. He also told the officer that he had beaten a cab driver to whom he owed money and had been drinking at the time of the arrest, according to the report.

Court records indicate the charges may have been dropped.

Navy records show he spent two months in a military prison in Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 2013 but do not specify why.

He left the service in May 2014, according to records, which do not offer any additional details.

READ MORE: 2 arrested after Stockholm truck attack kills 4, injures 15

A few hours after the Times Square incident, about 20 police officers and detectives occupied the sidewalk outside the six-story red brick building where Rojas lives.

A woman who used to live in the building, Fati Razak, said she occasionally sees Rojas when she returns to visit her mother.

“We don’t have anything in common except to say ‘hi,’” said Razak, who works as a hairdresser next door. She said Rojas’ family is Dominican and that his mother is a “sweetheart” who sometimes makes food or coffee for the beauty salon’s workers.

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‘Never should have happened:’ 78-year-old woman dies in Cobourg, Ont., hospital foyer

Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, Ont., has completed an internal review of emergency procedures after the apparent death of an elderly woman in the regional health facility’s front foyer earlier this month.

“This is a terrible situation that I feel never should have happened,” witness Patrick Ahern told Global News.

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Ahern and his girlfriend Joeline Cabanaw were walking toward the hospital to visit a patient on May 9 when they watched an ambulance, sirens blaring, pull up to the building’s front entrance. That’s where they noticed a 78-year-old woman had collapsed on the ground.

“It was quite evident to see that this woman was vital signs absent,” said Ahern, a former OPP auxillary officer.

“We arrive there (and) EMS start compressions; they’re trying to perform lifesaving CPR on this woman in the front foyer of a hospital … where is the medical team that’s involved with the hospital?”

“I just felt for that poor woman and her husband who was hovering over her body – helpless,” recalled Cabanaw.

Ahern estimates it would’ve been a three to five minute span before paramedics could arrive. Time the couple says could’ve been used to provide immediate aid had hospital staff been notified.

The woman’s family identified her as Joyce Devonshire of Port Hope, Ont.

Her son said she suffered a heart attack while going to the hospital for a routine appointment.

Hospital protocol doesn’t allow for volunteers, such as the person at the front desk of a hospital, to deliver care, but volunteers can call in alerts like a code blue, which is used when a patient’s heart stops. That would have put a process in place to get immediate medical attention for the woman from within the building; getting her into the nearby emergency room much sooner.

“Someone not breathing, not responding, that’s the difference between life and death,” said Ahern.

“Unfortunately for this poor woman and her family it resulted in the latter.”

In the immediate aftermath, the hospital’s CEO insisted that volunteers here did what they were instructed to do by calling for help.

But the hospital’s President and CEO Linda Davis won’t talk about whether it was the right kind of help.

“I can’t speak to the particular incident,” she said, citing privacy requirements.

“There are situations when Emergency Management Services are called to assist. That occurs in other hospitals. And so from that perspective, there are times when we use EMS,” Davis said.

Deeming the situation “unusual,” Davis had hospital staff and management launch and internal review of the hospital’s response last week. The results were released Wednesday and there are seven recommendations:

1. Refresh education to all NHH staff and volunteers on the existing hospital policy directing the use of the existing 5555 telephone service to report emergencies on hospital property, regardless of where they occur
2. Instruct staff and volunteers to ‘err on the side of caution’ when calling emergency codes – they can be easily cancelled if found they are not required
3. Instruct volunteers to reach out to closest available staff if immediate assistance is required, so that a staff member may take over
4. Remind staff located at/near all entrances of their role to assist volunteers should they be in need of assistance
5. Add regular emergency code exercises in hospital entrance ways and parking lots to existing mock emergency training
6. Place prominent Emergency? Dial 5555 stickers on specified phones
7. Review the current process regarding emergency preparedness education for volunteers and staff during orientation and enhance as required

Ahern said he’s not a medical expert, but the recommendations should do more to change procedures that he said are “failed.”

“If that’s the best we can do, we’ve failed,” he said.

“We’ve failed as a system, we’ve failed as a hospital, and if we’re going to allow that and accept that —; we’ve failed as a community.”

READ MORE: Family asking questions after son dies following Surrey hospital ER visit

Ahern said he remains in touch with the family of the woman and heard they’re seeking legal advice.

Meanwhile, Devonshire’s son described her as someone who was always active in her community by doing fundraising work for local initiatives as well as working for the Province of Ontario and Town of Scarborough as it was known then.

The family said she leaves behind an 80-year-old husband and that she was also a grandmother and great grandmother.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau rolls through Edmonton to promote rail service bill

Transport Minister Marc Garneau rolled into Alberta on Thursday to promote his bill that aims to help modernize Canada’s freight rail industry.

After getting his photograph taken near a grain elevator, Garneau told an Edmonton business luncheon that people cannot take for granted an industry that moves $280 billion worth of trade goods every year and is a backbone of the economy.

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Garneau said the Transportation Modernization Act introduced this week would make the rail network more reliable, more competitive and better able to handle increased traffic. That would include greater movement of grain from a projected increase in crop production in coming years.

He noted the rail traffic bottleneck in Western Canada of 2013-14 when millions of tonnes of grain was left stranded in bins and on farm fields.

READ MORE: CN not to blame for grain backlog: president

“Our rail network’s ability to serve as a reliable supply chain partner has been affected by congestion,” he said.

“That becomes a more pressing concern when we look at forecasts saying that western grain production is expected to increase by almost 20 per cent in the next 10 years.”

Garneau said the legislation is designed to be fair to rail and shipping companies that need to attract investment to expand to meet growing demand for their services.

The proposal would require railways to provide data on rates, service and performance; allow some shippers to use a competing railway’s network; define the level of service that should be provided and allow shippers to seek financial penalties for poor performance.

The minister emphasized the need to provide better service to agricultural producers, especially in Western Canada.

“Grain farmers are the lifeblood of the Prairie economy,” he said. “Upwards of 60 per cent of their crops are destined for export markets. We are talking about more than $15 billion in sales.”

Garneau said he hopes the bill will pass this fall.

Agriculture groups have been lobbying hard for improvements for fear of a repeat of grain transportation delays. Some contend that producers have lost billions of dollars since 2013 due to a lack of rail and port capacity.

Farm groups say they are generally pleased with Garneau’s bill, but it remains to be seen if farmers would be better off.

Lynn Jacobson, president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, said producer groups are studying the legislation and will have more to say when they meet with Canada’s agriculture ministers this July in St. John’s, N.L.

Jacobson said it’s a good start and could go a long way toward preventing another grain shipment bottleneck.

“It could be the remedy.”

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association said the bill appears to include measures to improve service, but only time will tell.

Todd Lewis, president of the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said the legislation looks good, but farmers will keep pushing for change.

“We are all going to have to be vigilant to make sure that was is perceived to be being done is being done, and that it is beneficial to us.”

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has called on the government to pass the legislation in time for farmers to benefit from the changes this year.

Canadian National (TSX:CNR) said it has been moving more regulated grain since the backlog, including an 11 per cent increase this year. Most has been covered by commercial agreements that include possible penalties.

CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said the company is reviewing the legislation and he suggested it could have unintended consequences “with respect to investment and will give U.S. railways access to the Canadian market at regulated rates – without reciprocity.”

Garneau said the government is aware of concerns about U.S railroads and the issue is covered in the legislation.

Do Sask. MLAs make the grade?

The legislative session is over, and MLAs are returning to their home communities for the summer.

Global News frequently asks professors for commentary on political matters of the day. So we got three of our regulars, Ken Rasmussen (Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy), Jim Farney (political science) and Jason Childs (economics) to grade the performance of several key MLAs.

Are cracks beginning to show in Wall after a decade into his term, or is the country’s most popular premier meeting one of his government’s biggest challenges head on?

“I think he delivered a really difficult budget in a way that hasn’t destroyed the party, and hasn’t destroyed its prospects for the next election,” Childs said.

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Most of the issues Premier Wall faced came from the rollout of the provincial budget. As Farney pointed out, other issues impeded the premier, such as his use of a private email server.

“For a guy that exuded a lot of confidence… there wasn’t a lot of great footing there. He didn’t really seem to have his feet and his game together like he has had in the past, so he showed weakness,” Rasmussen said.

“He hasn’t managed to transition into a Premier who cares in its good times to being a premier who cares in its bad times very well at all I don’t think,” Farney said.

Overall, not the best showing for the long-serving Premier but he held onto a majority of his support.

Opposition leader Trent Wotherspoon is in a different situation than his peers because in a year he will no longer be interim NDP leader. This is where his challenges appear.

“I think they need to start presenting alternative budgets, because one of the criticisms I keep hearing is, it’s fine to say this sucks, but what are you going to do?” Childs asked.

Farney agreed that the NDP need to start presenting alternative ideas, but overall he said the budget response was a strength of Wotherspoon’s.

“He did well. He had lots of targets to go after. He moved his team around well so it wasn’t just him opposing, basically the whole caucus got in on the act,” Farney explained.

“As an interim leader that’s really important.”

As Wotherspoon’s time leading the NDP comes to an end, the consensus is the party needs to shift from just being an opposition if they want to succeed next election.

“As they get set for a new leader, and so on they’re going to need to appear as more of a government in waiting than merely an effective opposition,” Rasmussen said.

Finance Minister Kevin Doherty’s second budget aims to get the province out of deficit in three years, but the consequences of cuts dominated headlines.

“I think he did a good job doing a sales pitch on what is arguably one of the harshest budgets released in a long time in Saskatchewan,” Rasmussen said.

However, Rasmussen believes this budget may still cost Doherty his seat in the next election.

Farney said this budget dampened the province’s relationship with the small business community, which is backed up by Canadian Federation of Independent Business surveys.

“That’s such a core constituency with this government. To not have them onside is a really big weakness,” Farney said.

At this point, Childs said the finance minister’s best course of action is to push forward and focus on the budget’s strengths.

“Say look, this is going to put us to a place where we can do different things where we’re not going to be paying ridiculous amounts of interest servicing this debt,” he said.

Education Minister Don Morgan found himself at the centre of multiple controversies, including cutting the operating budgets of school boards, increasing the decision making power of his ministry, cutting library funding and ultimately restoring it.

“I think by walking back the library cuts. That really showed some strength,” Childs said.

“Credit where credit is due, it’s never easy for a politician to do that.”

The legislative session may be over, but Morgan isn’t out of the woods on dealing with school boards yet. Their reduced budgets are due next month.

“So despite the work they’ve done in trying to establish a basis to go forward they didn’t really convince many people this was the way forward, certainly none of the major stakeholders,” Rasmussen said.

As for the two grades, Farney said Morgan is difficult to evaluate. He said it ultimately comes down to if you agree with his decisions.

“If you like the direction he’s taking things then you’d probably give him an A- for really driving change. If you don’t then he’s down in the D’s,” Farney explained.

Grants-in-lieu of property taxes, the formally obscure agreement between the provinces and 109 municipalities has stirred tensions between the two levels of government since budget day.

Childs saw Harpauer standing by this decision, and standing up to municipal response, as her biggest strength this session.

“[Harpauer said] these guys are just being whiners basically. They’ve got reserves, they’ve got money. Why should these guys not get cut as well? But that’s a pretty weak win,” the economics professor said.

Childs added removing grants-in-lieu payments for SaskPower and SaskEnergy properties alienated affected towns and cities, who should be key allies.

Both Farney and Rasmussen saw it as a poor performance overall.

“She’s an experienced minister, so it was an inexplicably weak performance,” Rasmussen said.

The government relations minister did restore partial funding for nine communities, and removed a clause in the bill that would have prevented legal action.

However, there is still ground to recover. A task Farney said should be Harpauer’s key focus.

“Find some kind of common ground. Find some areas to cooperate on that are workable. I mean infrastructure is always one,” Farney said.

“She’s got a responsibility for First Nation’s issues too, and there’s always more work that can be done there.”

The session began with Ryan Meili being sworn in after winning the Saskatoon-Meewasin by election following the untimely passing of Sask. Party member Roger Parent.

The rookie MLA and two time NDP leadership candidate served as critic for a number of portfolios, most notably advanced education.

“He didn’t come across as a rookie, I think he had a fairly strong performance given that there’s a lot of attention focused on him, rightly or wrongly,” Rasmussen said.

However, with the Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign approaching all three professors thought Meili didn’t stand out as a leader-in-waiting.

“I didn’t really notice that he came through in the news the same that Nicole Sarauer did or Carla Beck. I don’t think he was noticeably landing punches,” Farney said.

Premier Brad Wall and other cabinet members took to calling Meili the next NDP leader during Question Period.

Meili announced his intentions to seek a third provincial NDP leadership bid Thursday morning. Childs said he will have to broaden his political approach, and show he can be a leader for the province and not just a faction of the NDP.

“These ideas have to be manageable, affordable, and there’s got to be a recognition that cranking the corporate tax rate back up to 40, 50 per cent is not on,” Childs said.

“That’s just not going to fly.”

The MLAs will now go back to their constituents and do their homework over the summer before returning to Regina for the fall session, where ongoing consequences of the budget are sure to dominate the house.

7 defining moments that shaped Canada in the last 150 years

“The great themes of Canadian history are as follows: Keeping the Americans out, keeping the French in, and trying to get the Natives to somehow disappear” – Will Ferguson, Canadian author and satirist.

Ferguson’s caustic quote from his novel, Why I Hate Canadians, captures Canada’s internal struggle for unique identity, with its inability to reconcile the horrific actions taken against indigenous populations.

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READ MORE: Canada 150 celebrations will cost taxpayers half a billion

In just 150 years, Canada has made its mark in the the history books as a country that has struggled to emerge from its British-colonial roots, yet has made huge strides to become a beacon of human rights.

“[Canada] has seen the kind of changes from very much a dependence on Britain to a country that stands alone on the world,” said author and historian Christopher Moore.

And although Canada has existed for nearly 500 years, here are 7 defining moments from the last 150 years as put together from interviews with Canadian authors and historians.

Constitution Act of 1867

Charlottetown Prince Edward Island Sept. 1864 Historical Events – Several of the Fathers of Confederation photographed at the Charlottetown Conference in Sept. 1864 where they had gathered to consider the union of the British North American Colonies. Sir John A. Macdonald and Georges Etienne Cartier are in the foreground (National Archives of Canada)

On March 29, 1867, the British North America Act (BNA Act) was passed by British Parliament, creating the Dominion of Canada.

“The basic structure of how this country operates from one side of the country to the other, and the provinces and how we govern ourselves is still based on that document that was put together in the 1860s,” Moore said. “That is a remarkable thing.”

READ MORE: How Canada freed the Netherlands, forging a lifelong friendship

The idea for a union was first created three years earlier by some of Canada’s founding fathers, including John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier and George Brown, among others.

“We’ve grown from three million to 35 million, and yet somehow we’ve remained basically with that federal structure and that government structure that we’ve had since 1867,” said Moore.

The BNA Act created a federal state between three colonies — the Province of Canada (Ontario and Québec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The act also gave a blueprint for the distribution of powers between the central Parliament and the provincial legislatures.

Manitoba was added in 1870, followed by British Columbia (1871), Prince Edward Island (1873), Alberta and Saskatchewan (1905). Squabbling between the provinces meant Newfoundland wouldn’t join until 1949. The Northwest Territories joined in 1870, then Yukon (1898), and Nunavut in 1999.

Persons Case of 1929

The Famous Five – the group that fought to have women declared persons. (CP PHOTO/Files-Calgary Herald/CP)

For Canadian author and historian Charlotte Gray, whose latest book is The Promise of Canada, the work of five women activists stands out as a “crucial” moment for the country and its constitution.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1928 that women were not “persons” under the British North America Act and could not be appointed to the Senate.

READ MORE: Young women fill House of Commons on International Women’s Day

The group of women, which included Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung, appealed to the Privy Council of England. The appeal led to a stunning reversal of the court’s decision in 1929.

Gray said it wasn’t only a hugely liberating moment for women, but also helped to define Canada’s constitution as a “living” document.

“That our constitution should take into account changes in society, this is a huge difference between Canada and particularly the Supreme Court in the United States, which has this doctrine of [originalism],” said Gray.

The Indian Act and Residential Schools

One of the five residential schools named in a class action lawsuit: an orphanage and boarding school in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, c. 1910.

Courtesy, Ches Crosbie Barristers

First introduced in 1867, The Indian Act has had a far-reaching and devastating effect on First Nations communities across Canada, said James Daschuk, an assistant professor in health studies at the University of Regina and author of Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life.

READ MORE: The changing face of Canada, from 150 years ago to today

The Act outlined Ottawa’s responsibilities for deciding Indian status, local First Nations governments and the management of reserve land. Today it still rules around reserves, guardianship of youth and children, and management of band resources and elections.

“It affects First Nations people from cradle to grave,” said Daschuk. “For 140 years, it’s been the legislation that has served to marginalize and impoverish indigenous people.”

READ MORE: What happened to Jim? Experiments on Canada’s indigenous populations

The Indian Act also provided funding for residential schools, a network of schools that removed children from their families and the influence of their culture. Survivors of residential schools have offered disturbing accounts of horrific sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

“Residential schools were the most tragic and cruel establishments,” Gray said. “Very, very quickly these institutions became just agents of the state to try and eliminate and eradicate native culture.”

READ MORE: What was the ‘60s Scoop’? Aboriginal children taken from homes a dark chapter in Canada’s history

Second World War

Members of the Royal Canadian Medical Corps evacuating Allied soldiers from the beach after the Dieppe, France raid during the Second World War.

The Associated Press

Canada fought valiantly at battles in the First World War — including Vimy Ridge and Hill 70 — but its decision to enter the Second World War of its own accord helped define itself as an independent country.

At 11 a.m. on Sept. 3, 1939, Britain declared war on Germany two days after more than 250,000 Nazis marched into Poland. But rather than Canada rushing to join Britain, like Australia and New Zealand, Ottawa waited a full seven days before it officially entered the fray.

READ MORE: More than half of First World War records now online

Between 1939 and 1945, more than one million Canadian men and women served full-time in the armed services, according to Historica Canada, with more than 43,000 people killed. Canada’s sacrifice during the war was embodied in heroic campaigns from Dieppe to Ortona and Juno Beach.

READ MORE: Mapping 6,160 Torontonians killed in three wars

Discovery of oil

Alberta’s first oilsands operation (called Bitumont) on the shore of Athabasca River, is seen from the air near Fort McMurray, Alta., Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

In 1875, Canada’s Geological Survey discovered the presence of a black, gooey substance in Alberta. The oilsands would have a dramatic impact on the country’s economy and political landscape.

“The discovery of oil in Alberta confirmed that this country had resources for the 20th century,” Gray said. “We were set to have a fairly healthy economy throughout the 20th century.”

WATCH: Alberta takes steps to cap oilsands emissions

Canada’s oilsands, which attracted $34 billion in investment in 2014 alone, have been at once an economic driver of the 20th century and source of major political tension between the federal government and provinces.

The industry has created enormous wealth for Canada and Alberta, but has also been targeted by environmental groups as contributing to climate change.

Universal health care

Former NDP leader Tommy Douglas poses in Ottawa in this Oct. 19, 1983 file photo.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Schwarz

Canadian medicare was borne out of fiery debate in the 1960s, when Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas held up a belief that all residents should have a basic level of health care.

“[Douglas] just overrode the established interests of the insurance companies, the status quo of financial companies and the doctor’s union,” Gray said, adding that doctors in the province went on strike for 23 days as the province was thrown into chaos.

READ MORE: Is Canada’s health-care system ready for our rapidly greying population?

Douglas would go on to lead the newly formed NDP, and 10 years later all provinces would adopt similar health care systems.

Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982

The Queen signs Canada’s constitutional proclamation in Ottawa on April 17, 1982 as Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau looks on. With the stroke of a pen by the Queen in Ottawa, Canada had its own Constitution, one of the many notable dates in the history of the country. Canada marks its 147th birthday July 1.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Poling

On April 17, 1982, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau looked on as the Queen signed Canada’s Constitution and its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The [Constitution and Charter of Rights] is hugely important,” Dashcuk said, noting that it granted greater equality and civil rights for all Canadians.

READ MORE: Canada’s Charter remains a flawed document that no politician dares try to fix

The Charter protects freedom of expression, the right to a democratic government, the right to live and seek work anywhere in Canada, the legal rights of people accused of crimes, indigenous peoples’ rights, the right to equality (including gender equality), among many other rights.

And while some Canadians hold this document up above all others, Global News’ chief political correspondent David Akin points out that for many Quebecers, Conservatives, New Democrats and indigenous Canadians, the Constitution and the Charter can be problematic documents that need to be challenged.

*With files from the Canadian Press

IN PHOTOS: Flood warning issued for area just north of Peace River

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

Alberta Environment and Parks said the warning was issued after it received “reports of of severe flooding” just north of the town of Peace River.

“The Highway 35 bridge might be constricting flow resulting in the increased water levels upstream,” the government said in an emergency alert. “Roads and farmland are currently being affected.”

John Krysztan runs a 10,000-acre farm in Dixonville and said his farmland is like a lake and he doesn’t believe he’ll be able to seed his crops now.

“(I) phoned the local MLA office and told them we’re going to be in a disaster area here,” he said Thursday evening.

“I’ve been farming here for over 30 years and I’ve never seen the water levels at this pace here.”

Krysztan said the area experienced some rain after the weekend but the rate at which the river is rising is concerning.

“It’s overflowing everywhere,” he said. “All the creeks are backing up because the river is so high.”

Krysztan added he knows of at least one home that he believes will need to be evacuated and that a number of farmers are being impacted by the floodwater.

View a photo gallery of the flooding in the Dixonville area below:

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Mitchell Krysztan

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Aarin Sorensen

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Aarin Sorensen

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Aarin Sorensen

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

Aarin Sorensen

A flood warning was issued for the Whitemud River near the northern Alberta hamlet of Dixonville on Thursday afternoon.

COURTESY: Aarin Sorensen

The government is warning people in the area to be aware of rising water levels and to “take appropriate precautionary measures.”

For more information, people in the area are being asked to contact their local municipality.

On Sunday, the Town of Peace River warned residents that rain in the region had “resulted in higher than average stream and river flows for the tributaries of the Peace River.”

It said municipal crews were on standby and that town officials were in regular contact with Alberta Environment and Parks’ River Forecasting Centre.

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Harvard student submits rap album as English thesis, gets an A-minus

BOSTON (AP) —; While other Harvard University students were writing papers for their senior theses, Obasi Shaw was busy rapping his.

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Shaw is the first student in Harvard’s history to submit a rap album as a senior thesis in the English Department, the university said. The album, called “Liminal Minds,” has earned the equivalent of an A-minus grade, good enough to guarantee that Shaw will graduate with honors next week.

Count Shaw among those most surprised by the success.

“I never thought it would be accepted by Harvard,” said Shaw, a 20-year-old from Stone Mountain, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. “I didn’t think they would respect rap as an art form enough for me to do it.”

READ MORE: Artist to explore role hip hop plays in indigenous cultures with Sask. students

Shaw describes the 10-track album as a dark and moody take on what it means to be black in America. Each song is told from a different character’s perspective, an idea inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century classic “The Canterbury Tales.” Shaw, who’s black, also draws on the works of writer James Baldwin while tackling topics ranging from police violence to slavery.

Shaw’s thesis adviser, Harvard English lecturer Josh Bell, said Shaw is a “serious artist and he’s an amazing guy.”

“He was able to turn around an album that people in the English Department would like very much but also that people who like rap music might like,” Bell said.

WATCH: Obama flows with hip-hop free-styler at White House

Harvard undergraduates aren’t obligated to submit senior theses, but most departments require it to graduate with honors. Often it takes the form of a research paper, but students can apply to turn in an artistic work as a creative thesis. Some submit screenplays, novels or poetry collections.

Shaw was at home for winter break in 2015, struggling to find a topic for a written thesis, when he told his mother, Michelle Shaw, about the creative thesis option. He had recently started writing his own raps and performing them at open-microphone nights on campus. His mother connected the dots and suggested he record an album for his thesis.

READ MORE: ‘Hip Hop Evolution’: Documentary delves into music genre’s overlooked history

It took Shaw more than a year to write the songs and record them at a studio on Harvard’s campus. His friends supplied many of the beats, while he taught himself how to mix the tracks into a polished product.

“I’m still not satisfied with the quality of the production just yet, but I’m constantly learning and growing,” Shaw said.

READ MORE: Beatboxing biology professor wants her raps, rhymes to inspire other students, teachers

Rap and hip-hop have drawn growing interest from academia in recent years. Harvard established a fellowship for scholars of hip-hop in 2013, and other schools including the University of Arizona have started to offer minors in hip-hop studies.

Clemson University announced in February that a doctoral student submitted a 34-track rap album as his dissertation, a first for the South Carolina university.

Shaw plans to circulate the album online for free and hopes it opens doors to the music industry. In the meantime, he’s headed to Seattle to work as a software engineer at Google.