Canadian students urged to flee Hong Kong and a modest hero; In-The-News Nov. 19

In-The-News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 19.

What we are watching in Canada ...

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Some Canadian universities are urging their exchange students in Hong Kong to consider returning home as the semi-autonomous Chinese territory is beset by escalating violence between government officials and pro-democracy protesters.

Dozens of Canadians remained in Hong Kong on Monday, according to several institutions reached by The Canadian Press — many of which said it would be in their students' best interest to flee the violence.

So far just one Canadian school, Montreal's McGill University, has reported a partnership with Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the campus at the centre of a tense police siege.

McGill said the ongoing violence has prompted campus closures at some of the schools where 22 of its students were completing exchanges.

"There is now a clear and strong message from our partner universities in Hong Kong to end the semester early," the school said in a statement, noting the "vast majority" of students have opted to follow the university's guidance and leave the city.

The University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University near Vancouver, Ontario's Queen's University and the University of Toronto all say they have contacted students and are helping make travel arrangements for those who wish to leave.

Global Affairs Canada is urging Canadians in the area to exercise "a high degree of caution" as a result of the political unrest.

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Also this ...

MONTREAL — About 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers are on strike after the union and company failed to reach a deal by the midnight deadline.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing the employees, gave the required 72-hour strike notice on the weekend.

Union spokesman Christopher Monette says they are still in talks with CN in hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement and ending the labour dispute as soon as possible.

The union has said passenger rail services in the country's three biggest cities would not be affected by the strike.

It represents workers at commuter rail services including Go Transit in Toronto, Exo in Montreal and the West Coast Express in Vancouver, where passengers would remain unaffected.

The workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, say they're concerned about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.

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ICYMI (In case you missed it) ...

MONTREAL — Erick Marciano says he doesn't consider himself a hero for using his SUV to shield pedestrians from a speeding car last week.

"It was just a natural thing to do," the 48-year-old says, "and if I had to do it again, I would do it again."

Others would say Marciano is overly modest.

Marciano says he was sitting in his vehicle on Nov. 12 when he saw the driver barrelling towards an intersection filled with people, with police in pursuit.

His mind flashed to stories of drivers mowing down pedestrians in Europe, and he didn't want that to happen in Montreal. Honking his horn, he pulled in front of the driver.

Marciano managed to get out of his car just before the collision and wasn't hurt, but his SUV suffered serious damage in the crash with the suspect's vehicle. The 19-year-old suspect was arrested and is facing several charges in connection with the incident.

Mayor Valerie Plante says Marciano showed "remarkable heroism" when he pulled his vehicle in front of a driver fleeing police at a busy intersection.

He's been given a certificate of honour and invited him to sign the city's Golden Book.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — Two top national security aides who listened to U.S. President Donald Trump's call with Ukraine are scheduled to testify in the impeachment hearings, launching back-to-back sessions as Americans hear from those closest to the White House.

An army officer at the National Security Council, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and his counterpart at Vice-President Mike Pence's office, Jennifer Williams, both had concerns as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukrainian president about political investigations into Joe Biden.

They are set to testify publicly this morning. In the afternoon, the House will hear from former NSC official Timothy Morrison and the former Ukraine special envoy, Kurt Volker.

In all, nine witnesses are testifying in a pivotal week as the House's historic impeachment inquiry accelerates and deepens.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

HONG KONG — About 100 anti-government protesters remained holed up at a Hong Kong university Tuesday, unsure what to do next as food supplies dwindled and a police siege of the campus entered its third day.

City leader Carrie Lam said 600 people had left the Hong Kong Polytechnic campus, including 200 who are under 18 years old.

Police have surrounded the university and are arresting anyone who leaves. Groups of protesters made several attempts to escape Monday, including sliding down hoses to waiting motorcycles, but it wasn't clear if they evaded arrest.

Lam said those under 18 would not be immediately arrested, but could face charges later. She said the other 400 who have left have been arrested.

After five months, the Hong Kong protest movement has steadily intensified as local and Beijing authorities harden their positions and refuse to make concessions. China took control of the former British colony in 1997 promising to let it retain considerable autonomy, but the protest movement was fuelled by the belief those freedoms are being eroded.

Universities became the latest battleground last week, as protesters occupied several campuses, using gasoline bombs and bows and arrows to fend off riot police backed by armoured cars and water cannon. Those at Polytechnic are the last holdouts.

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Weird and wild ...

DES MOINES, Iowa — A jury has awarded $1.4 million to a man who wanted a circumcision but instead got a vasectomy.

The Des Moines Register reports that the jury last week levelled a $2-million judgment against Dr. Kevin Birusingh, who performed the vasectomy.

But jurors decided the man who filed the lawsuit, Zaw Zaw, was 30 per cent responsible.

Zaw is a 41-year-old refugee from Myanmar.

Birusingh's lawyer says Zaw, who is not fluent in English, signed two informed consents that were translated into Burmese, and completed four consultations before undergoing the procedure.

The lawsuit says there's no word for "vasectomy" in Burmese and Zaw's lawyer, Marc Harding, says a doctor's referral documents showed Zaw was seeking a circumcision.

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On this day in 1858 …

The Crown Colony of British Columbia was formally proclaimed by Vancouver Island Governor James Douglas at the Hudson's Bay Company trading post of Fort Langley. Britain united the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island eight years later.

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Celebrity news ...

TORONTO — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Sportsnet broadcaster Ron MacLean "spoke from the heart" during his monologue on "Hockey Night in Canada."

MacLean opened the first intermission segment on Saturday night — the first since Don Cherry was fired last week — by speaking alone on camera for nearly five minutes.

Bettman says MacLean "obviously made his feelings clear," but declined to weigh in on Cherry's departure.

"I believe the CBC has had a number of statements, we've had a number of statements, Don has spoken and I'm not going to start another news cycle," he says.

Cherry used the phrase, "You people," during the "Coach's Corner'' segment on Nov. 9 but later denied that he was singling out visible minorities.

MacLean, who apologized the day after, talked at length about his close relationship with Cherry during his monologue but said he had to choose "principle over friendship," adding "Coach's Corner is no more."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2019.

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