Montreal police say baby of woman stabbed while pregnant dies

A baby delivered by C-section after the child’s mother was repeatedly stabbed has died in a Montreal hospital.

Police arrested the woman’s male partner, the primary suspect in the stabbing, not far from the apartment building where she was attacked. The man could face murder charges, according to police spokesperson Cmdr. Michael Chartrand.

Police were called around 2:30 a.m. ET Monday about the stabbing, which occurred inside a unit at a building in the Montreal North neighbourhood

The 33-year-old woman, who was about seven to eight months pregnant, was alone with her male partner at their home on Langelier Boulevard when she was stabbed, police said.

The woman was taken to hospital, where her child was born early this morning. The baby was initially listed in critical condition, but was reported to have died around noon ET. The baby’s gender has not been revealed.

Police are hoping to speak with the woman, who is in hospital in stable condition, in the next couple of hours.

Police say around 4:30 a.m. ET, the woman’s partner went into a convenience store about 10 kilometres away from the apartment building and threatened a clerk. 

Woman had called police hours before

Fearful for the safety of herself and her children, the woman had called police and was advised to leave her home hours before she was stabbed.

Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant said the woman called police between 10-11 p.m. ET Sunday. Her partner wasn’t home at the time.

When officers arrived at the apartment, they strongly suggested the woman leave her home with her two children and go stay with relatives, Brabant said.

It is unclear where the children were sent, but the woman opted to return to her home. According to police, at some point during the night, her partner returned to the apartment.

No one else was in the apartment when the stabbing occurred.

Victim knocked on neighbour’s door

Neighbour Noella Bernier said she heard noise early Monday morning, and looked out the window to see the woman’s partner leaving their home.

Soon after, Bernier said, the woman knocked on her door, crying.

“She was hurt, full of blood everywhere, lots of blood in her stomach area,” she said.

Bernier said the woman’s clothes were full of holes. She called 911. 

Noella Bernier

Noella Bernier lives in the same building as the victim and said she has heard arguing in the unit before. (Radio-Canada)

Bernier also said she has heard the couple arguing and children crying inside the home in the past.

Montreal police apprehend suspect in stabbing of pregnant woman; baby has died

Montreal police say a baby born by caesarean section this morning, after its mother was stabbed repeatedly, has died.

The woman’s partner, who police say is the primary suspect in the stabbing, has been arrested.

The following is a breaking news update; the original story follows below.


Fearful for the safety of herself and her children, a pregnant woman called Montreal police and was advised to leave her home hours before she was repeatedly stabbed there early this morning.

Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant said the woman called police between 10-11 p.m. ET Sunday. Her male partner wasn’t home at the time.

When officers arrived at the Langelier Boulevard apartment, they strongly suggested the woman, who was seven to eight months pregnant, leave her home with her two children and go stay with relatives, Brabant said.

It is unclear where the children were sent, but the 33-year-old woman opted to return to her home. According to police, at some point during the night, her partner returned to the apartment.

No one else was there when she was stabbed numerous times in her upper and lower body around 2:30 a.m. Monday, police said.

She was taken to hospital, where the baby was delivered by caesarean section. The baby is in critical condition, and the woman is in stable condition.

Police searching for partner

The woman’s partner, who is the primary suspect, fled before police officers arrived, Const. Manuel Couture said.

He was driving a 2007 four-door and grey Mazda 3, and police gave this description:

  • North African descent.
  • Brown eyes and black hair.
  • About five-foot-seven and weighs about 140 pounds.
  • Has a scar on his face.

Police say around 4:30 a.m. ET, the same man went into a dépanneur about 10 kilometres away from the apartment building and threatened the clerk.

Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant said anyone who spots him should not approach him, as he is considered to be dangerous, but call 911. Patrol vehicles have been informed to look for the suspect as well.

Police are also hoping to speak with the victim in the next couple hours.

Victim knocked on neighbour’s door

Neighbour Noella Bernier said she heard noise early Monday morning, and looked out the window to see the woman’s partner leaving their home.

Soon after, Bernier said, the woman knocked on her door, crying.

“She was hurt, full of blood everywhere, lots of blood in her stomach area,” she said.

Bernier said the woman’s clothes were full of holes. She called 911. 

Noella Bernier

Noella Bernier lives in the same building as the victim and said she has heard arguing coming from their unit before. (Radio-Canada)

Bernier also said she has heard the couple arguing and children crying inside the home in the past.

Investigators were planning to speak with neighbours Monday to try to determine the circumstances surrounding the stabbing.

Baby delivered via C-section after pregnant woman stabbed multiple times in Montreal North

Montreal police are searching for a 37-year-old man after a pregnant woman was stabbed numerous times early Monday morning and her baby was delivered by caesarean section.

The woman is in hospital in stable condition and her baby is in critical condition, according to Const. Manuel Couture.

Several calls came in around 2:30 a.m. ET for an incident on Langelier Boulevard near Tardif Street in the Montreal North neighbourhood.

The woman, who was several months pregnant, was at home with her boyfriend when she was stabbed multiple times in the upper and lower body, Couture said. There was no one else with them at the time, police said.

She was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The boyfriend, who is the primary suspect, fled before police officers arrived, Couture said.

The boyfriend was driving a 2007 four-door and grey Mazda 3, and police gave this description:

  • North African descent.
  • Brown eyes and black hair.
  • About five-foot-seven and weighs about 140 pounds.
  • Has a scar on his face. 

Investigators will speak with neighbours Monday to try to determine the circumstances surrounding the stabbing.

Branding Canadian oil green would be good for industry and for climate change: Don Pittis

To much of the world, Canada’s oil production is indelibly linked to images of tortured landscapes that make oilsands mining seem like something out the evil land of Mordor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

For that reason and several others, the idea of green Canadian oil may seem like an oxymoron.

But greening Canadian oil is not only possible, there are reasons why it would be good for business and the environment.

Certainly those most worried about climate change may be hard to convince.

Equally, pro-fossil-fuel climate change deniers of the type who agree with U.S. President Donald Trump that “global warming is a total and very expensive hoax,” will also be difficult to persuade.

USA-CLIMATECHANGE/

U.S. President Donald Trump announces last month that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. He has repeatedly called climate change a hoax. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Even coaxing less extreme advocates on both sides may be a challenge.

To many climate change campaigners, fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are the enemy.

During the last few hundred years, industrial humanity has annually released into the atmosphere billions of tons of carbon that had been trapped underground for millions of years.

Reducing the carbon

Scientists have shown that the relatively sudden discharge of all that carbon, as shown in the Keeling Curve, is directly correlated with rising global temperatures.

Keeling Curve, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The Keeling Curve, named after Charles Keeling who first alerted the world to the dangers of human-caused climate change, records the daily change in atmospheric carbon. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

To get the environmentalists on board, any green oil plan would have to show that it was contributing to reduced global greenhouse gas emissions.

If that’s the case, the next question is why people who make their living from oil and gas might want to co-operate.

Despite redneck stereotypes, there are lots of smart people in the oil and gas sector who understand the implications of rising temperatures on the future of the world their grandchildren will inherit.

Too much oil in the ground?

But in the shorter term, there are some good business reasons for making Canadian oil green.

As fossil fuel prices stubbornly refuse to fulfil the promise of a speedy bounce-back to levels that made many of today’s extraction projects feasible, there are signs that there may be no shortage after all.

Oil sands reclamation

Oil companies are reclaiming damaged land, and new techniques using steam extraction produce less carbon and leave surface vegetation unharmed. (Suncor Energy)

In fact, as governments around the world, with the exception of Trump’s Washington, move to limit climate damage and electric cars become cheaper, there are financial experts who say oil prices will stay low for the foreseeable future.

Not only that, but it may be that a lot of oil that we already know about will have to be left in the ground.

But that does not mean oil is suddenly going to disappear from the world economy. 

Petroleum use continues to grow, and even in countries like France that plan to end the use of fossil fuel vehicles, the target date is decades away.

Premium product

In the meantime Canadian oil could set itself apart in the world market by branding itself as green. Of course branding alone — like BP’s attempt at greenwashing — is not enough. It has to be credible.

The strategy of distinguishing your product in a market for an undifferentiated commodity has been proven to work.

In the market for the commodity labelled just plain beef, Angus Beef has been able to charge a premium price. “Free From” branded chicken has done something similar.

In the energy sector Bullfrog Power had an early success charging a premium for green electricity.

By exposing themselves to outside monitors, Canadian diamonds set themselves apart from so-called blood diamonds which were seen as being unethically mined, their profits used to fund African wars.

Like diamonds and like fisheries supervised by the Marine Stewardship Council, Canadian oil producers would have to open their facilities to independent inspectors who would set transparent criteria to indicate their greenness.

CANADA-PORTS/CRUDE

If the oil industry is able to show it is steadily decreasing the carbon content of its product, even diehard environmentalists might come on side. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Those criteria would have to be hammered out between the industry and environmental groups with reliable green credentials. To satisfy such groups, the criteria would have to have teeth.

Such things as natural gas released or flared would have to be monitored and demonstrate a gradual reduction. Measures of success in rehabilitating damaged ecosystems could be included. Total energy used per unit of energy produced would have to show a decline. 

As Chris Ragan, head of Canada’s independent Ecofiscal Commission, insists, one of the best ways to efficiently squeeze carbon out of the economy is to keep increasing carbon taxes.

That could have several effects.

An increasing carbon tax would steer Canadian individuals and businesses away from using fossil fuels, meaning Canadian oil companies would gradually sell less oil to Canadians.

At the same time it would push the energy industry to invent and commercialize ways of producing oil that created less carbon. It would push the industry to learn how to profit from lower-carbon energy alternatives.

With its carbon tax Alberta is already on the way. Formalizing and documenting and advertising the process of cutting the carbon content of Canadian oil production will be a way for the industry to benefit from its contribution.

Of course that could also mean that environmentally minded consumers around the world might be willing to buy more Canadian oil — a prestige product at a premium price — increasing sales overall while displacing less environmentally produced crude from the marketplace.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

More analysis from Don Pittis

Canada trails G7 in protecting land, parks advocates say

Canada lags behind most of the world in setting aside protected spaces, parks advocates say.

According to a report to be released today from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Canada stands last among G7 countries in protecting land and freshwater areas.

With only 10.6 per cent of land protected from development, Canada also ranks behind other countries with a large land mass including Brazil (29.5 per cent), China (17.1 per cent), Australia (17 per cent) and the United States (13 per cent).

“With all Canadian ecosystems in declining health and Canada’s list of endangered species growing each year largely due to habitat loss, urgent action is needed to protect much more of our land and inland waters,” the report states.

‘Lack of political will’

CPAWS releases a report every year on the state of Canada’s parks, and this lack of progress to set aside spaces is a common theme.

“I think it’s a lack of political will,” says CPAWS national executive director Éric Hébert-Daly.

In 2010, Canada endorsed the goal of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to set aside 17 per cent of its land and fresh water by 2020. By 2014, half of the countries that signed that treaty had reached their goal.

Canada is still just a little more than halfway there.

“I think that there’s a real problem in terms of being able to get governments to pay attention the way they need to, around this file. And it’s partly because everyone’s seen it as, oh it’s nice to have, and not a priority,” Hébert-Daly told CBC News.

“And I think now folks are starting to realize, well, nature is actually a priority. It is in fact key to our survival and if we do it right, Canadians can be leaders in the world rather than the laggards we currently are.”

Sage Grouse Alberta

Sage grouse are among the wildlife at the Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. (Jerret Raffety/Rawlins Daily Times via Associated Press)

Hébert-Daly sees signs of hope Canada can move up from the bottom of the rankings.

In March 2016, in a statement released during a state dinner in Washington, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re-committed to at least 17 per cent protection by 2020, and to going substantially beyond this target.

This spring the federal and Alberta environment ministers co-chaired a steering committee to start setting aside land.

“There is a tremendous number of what I would call low-hanging fruit in the country in terms of places where if governments would just do a little push and there would be significantly new protected areas,” Hébert-Daly said.

Species at risk

The report lists some areas where consultations have been done and all that’s left is for a provincial government to designate the area off limits from industrial development.

One example is the South Okanagan-Similkameen region in British Columbia, which is home to 57 federally listed species at risk.

Two decades of work has been done to set aside this land.

Lutsel k'e Dene First Nation

Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation is a remote community on Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. (Lutsel k’e Dene First Nation)

Local First Nations supported federal protection for the land in 2013, but it has not yet formally been made a national park reserve.

The report also points to land First Nations would like to see protected, which would help with the federal government’s efforts at reconciliation.

One example is the Thaidene Nene, in the Northwest Territories, where the Lutsel k’e Dene First Nation wants to protect about 30,000 square kilometres of the northern landscape.

“Governments have been sort of slow in dragging their feet and not doing what needs to happen to respect that will,” Hébert-Daly said.

He said there are also areas of the country where conservation is sliding such as New Brunswick, which he argues has no plan to protect additional spaces.

Another example he uses in the grasslands in southern Saskatchewan.

“The public pastures, which are an area that have been long protected … have just been essentially released to the province as private land they can now sell off,” he said.

McKenna Paris Agreement 20170602

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says the federal and Alberta governments are co-chairing a committee to set aside land for protection. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A statement from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s office says the steering committee co-chaired by Ottawa and Alberta is an effort to push governments to meet the 2020 target.

“It is also the first effort to move from a collection of protected areas to a connected network,” it said. Linking protected spaces “will play an important role in contributing to the recovery of species at risk and in mitigating the impacts of climate change.”

Under the previous government, Parks Canada saw its budget cut, in particular for scientific jobs that monitor the health of ecosystems in national parks.

Trudeau was asked, while visiting a park in Nova Scotia last week, what he would do to reinvest in parks across the country. 

“We recognize that under 10 years of a government that didn’t do enough on the environment, that didn’t prioritize the protection of our lakes and rivers, of our land and air, we have a lot of catching up to do,” he told reporters.

CPAWS wants governments to go beyond the 2020 goal “so that we can actually do what nature needs in the long run,” Hébert-Daly said.

Charlottetown mother advises extra caution swimming after getting caught in rip current with son

What started out as a routine swim at the beach could have ended tragically for Beth Johnston and her son.

She wants to warn others of how quickly getting caught in a riptide and pulled offshore can happen.

“I just feel very very lucky because a man lost his life on that same shore … where he drowned is just down the beach from where we were.”  

The Charlottetown resident and her youngest son, Charlie Ross, were swimming at Savage Harbour on P.E.I.’s North Shore — something they do at least once a week during the summer — when they were both caught in a rip current. 

“I grew up on that shore, my family had a home there. For six months of the year almost we were in that ocean swimming in all types of weather.” 

A rip current is a strong channel of water that flows out to sea from near the shore and can occur at any beach with breaking waves oceans, seas and large lakes.

Johnston said after they got to the beach they sat and watched the waves for awhile before going in for a sunset swim. 

“The sun was getting low in the sky and we were kind of following the sunset.”

Lost their footing

Johnston said Charlie, 12, had an underwater GoPro on to take video of the swim. The camera was later lost to the ocean.

“We were still on our feet, we were only about waist deep, and we weren’t actually swimming, we were just wading when we lost our footing.” 

Both mother and son quickly realized they couldn’t touch the bottom. Johnston said it seemed like it happened in 30 seconds.

“We were really far offshore over our heads and the waves were crashing over our heads. He turned to me and said ‘Mommy, I’m tired, I can’t swim, I can’t touch, I’m too tired.'”

Johnston said she realized they were in trouble and told Charlie to keep swimming. 

Beth Johnston

Beth Johnston says she and her son were very lucky to be able to get back to shore after they got caught in a riptide. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

“I kept reaching for his hand but I could see the waves crashing over his head.” 

When she saw the fear in his eyes, Johnston said she knew they were in a situation that would be difficult to get out of, but knew they had to try.

“I would swim as hard as I could forward and then the wave would crash over me and it would be that much further back than where I had begun.” 

Johnston said the shore looked further and further away. 

Charlie made it to shore first, and tried to call for help. Johnston said she could hear him screaming out for someone to help his mother but no one heard him because of how loud the waves were as they crashed onshore. 

“He was on the shore for 10 minutes watching me as I struggled to get to shore.” 

Concerned for son

Johnston said her real panic was realizing whenever she tried to swim to shore, she kept getting sucked back out. 

“I was so concerned about my little boy … I eventually got some footing and was sort of able to move my body forward by digging my feet into the sand.” 

Johnston said she knows if she and her son weren’t strong swimmers, neither would have made it back to shore. 

“It took all the strength I had.” 

Johnston said it took at least 20 minutes for her son to reach the shore, and 30 for her to reach it. Her son told her he felt very shaken and feared he was going to die in the water.

“I told him I felt the same way and it was actually the first time in my life I felt like it was a situation I was not going to be able to get out of.” 

Johnson said the force of water was strong and overwhelming. 

“Until you feel it yourself you don’t realize you’re powerless … the force of that water against your body is more than you can take.” 

Johnston said she feels great sympathy for the family of the man who drowned. 

“I experienced the exact same thing, we just had a different ending.”

Swim parallel to shore

If you are caught in a rip current, water safety experts advise don’t swim against.

Rip currents are too fast for even Olympians swimmers. Swim parallel to shore, and then when you are out of the current swim back to shore.

Teepee contract with non-Indigenous company fuels frustration ahead of Nova Scotia festival

An event being held next month in Grand Pré, N.S., to celebrate the historical ties between the Mi’kmaq and Acadians is taking heat over a decision to contract the work to build 15 teepees to a company that’s not Indigenous-owned.

Mi’kmaq lawyer Natalie Clifford said the move runs counter to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada adopted last year.

Under the declaration, Indigenous people have the “right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.”

Natalie Clifford

Natalie Clifford is a Mi’kmaq lawyer based in Halifax. (CBC)

By contracting out the teepee work to a non-Indigenous firm, Clifford said this goes against to the declaration.

“I find it kind of a disheartening, disappointing move on behalf of our own chiefs here in Atlantic Canada,” Clifford said.

“It’s not about excluding non-Indigenous people from taking part in our culture, but it’s about empowering us to be able to learn and move forward and create our own works that are of our culture and our historical knowledge.”

Nova Scotia firm is building the teepees

Organizers say they opted for a company that’s not Indigenous-owned because there’s no other option to get the structures made nearby.

“The only other way to get teepees these days would have to be to order them from Manitoba to Alberta,” said Morley Googoo, regional chief for Newfoundland and Nova Scotia with the Assembly of First Nations.

“There’s nobody here, and the next best thing was to keep it local.”

Morley Googoo

Morley Googoo, the regional chief for Newfoundland and Nova Scotia with the Assembly of First Nations, said there wasn’t a local Indigenous company that could make the teepees. (Emma Smith/CBC)

Little Foot Yurts, a small, family-owned firm in Wolfville, N.S., is making the teepees. Owners Selene and Alex Cole learned specialized manufacturing techniques from local Indigenous communities, as well as by travelling around the world.

“We’ve become like a sponge to learn not only about Mi’kmaq shelters, but also Sioux style and many other First Nation styles of living,” said Alex Cole, who is from England.

‘My doors are 100% open’

He’s hoping that Indigenous elders and youth will be involved in helping to erect the teepees at the festival site, and said he’s happy to share his expertise about how to build them, free of charge, with Indigenous people.

“I’m a very willing and intentional holder of this information, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to pass it back,” Alex Cole said. “My doors are 100 per cent open.”

Googoo said he visited Little Foot Yurts and said he’s proud of the work a “humble family” has put into the teepees.

While he understands why some people might be discouraged with the awarding of the contract, he said there’s still much more work to be done “to catch up on the supply and demand” after adopting the UN declaration.

“We’re still growing from a time where all our cultures and items were suppressed,” he said. “So while we look at this as a disappointment for some people right now, we have to look at it as an opportunity our people need to get into.”

B.C. wildfires remain relatively stable despite wind, scattered storms

Fire flare-ups caused by strong winds and thunderstorms in the forecast largely failed to materialize on Sunday, leaving many British Columbians breathing sighs of relief — but thousands are still out of their homes, and may not return for some time.

Environment Canada had forecast winds between 30 and 70 kilometres per hour in the Cariboo and Interior regions and thunderstorms in the Kootenays.

Geoff Paynton, with the City of Williams Lake, said the city is still under evacuation order, but today’s weather was “good news.” Still, he said the closest fire is seven kilometres away, and a large gust is all it would take to blow the fire into town.

Thousands of people from 100 Mile House, Princeton and surrounding areas were free to go home Saturday as evacuation orders were downgraded to alerts.

Judson and Stewart

Sean Judson and Amanda Stewart plan to head back to 100 Mile House with their family in coming days. (Chad Pawson / CBC)

Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage said residents were “praying” for winds to stay low.

“It’s like pouring kerosene on a fire [when winds pick up],” he said.

Officials cautioned that those people still need to be ready to leave anytime, should the alerts change back to evacuation orders.

On Friday, Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb was hopeful some evacuees would be able to return home later this week. He said he’s more doubtful now.

“At this stage it’s not looking great,” he said. “We had a couple of really good days and we were all hyped up about bringing people home and then this is happening,” Cobb said. “It’ll be a ‘wait and see’ again.” 

Firefighter hotspots

Firefighters hope to keep any new fires contained while they’re still small. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Saini said there are 152 wildfires currently burning across the province. Nine were sparked on Saturday, five of which were lightning-caused.

She said winds are expected to die down on Monday.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park was closed on Saturday night as a “proactive measure” due to a 4,000-hectare fire in park boundaries. 

To date, the province has spent more than $125.8 million fighting wildfires.

With files from Catherine Rolfsen

B.C. firefighters brace for new wildfires with lightning, ‘significant’ wind in forecast

B.C. fire officials are bracing for increased wildfire activity Sunday as thunderstorms and strong winds are forecast for many parts of the province.

Environment Canada said strong winds between 30 and 70 kilometres per hour are expected in the Cariboo and Interior regions, with thunderstorms expected in the Kootenays in the late afternoon. Meteorologist Chris Emond said the storms out east could be accompanied by winds of up to 80 km/h.

In other areas, including Williams Lake, Princeton and Castlegar, gusts could reach up to 50 km/h.

Navi Saini, a fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service, said crews are expecting an uptick in wildfire activity in the Cariboo region and Kamloops area because of “significant” wind in the forecast.

She said teams will be focused on containing new fires quickly, while they’re still small.

Despite weather concerns, thousands of people from 100 Mile House, Princeton and surrounding areas were free to go home Saturday as evacuation orders were downgraded to alerts.

Judson and Stewart

Sean Judson and Amanda Stewart plan to head back to 100 Mile House with their family in coming days. (Chad Pawson / CBC)

Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage said residents were “praying” for winds to stay low.

“It’s like pouring kerosene on a fire [when winds pick up],” he said.

Officials cautioned that those people still need to be ready to leave anytime, should the alerts change back to evacuation orders.

On Friday, Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb was hopeful some evacuees would be able to return home later this week. He said he’s more doubtful with Sunday’s forecast.

“At this stage it’s not looking great,” he said. “We had a couple of really good days and we were all hyped up about bringing people home and then this is happening,” Cobb said. “It’ll be a ‘wait and see’ again.” 

Firefighter hotspots

Firefighters hope to keep any new fires contained while they’re still small. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Saini said there are 152 wildfires currently burning across the province. Nine were sparked on Saturday, five of which were lightning-caused.

She said winds are expected to die down on Monday.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park was closed on Saturday night as a “proactive measure” due to a 4,000-hectare fire in park boundaries. 

To date, the province has spent more than $125.8 million fighting wildfires.

With files from Catherine Rolfsen

Thunderstorms, strong winds expected in B.C. as crews continue battling wildfires

B.C. fire officials are bracing for increased wildfire activity Sunday as thunderstorms and strong winds are forecast for many parts of the province.

Environment Canada said strong winds between 30 and 70 kilometres per hour are expected in the Cariboo and Interior regions, with thunderstorms expected in the Kootenays in the late afternoon. Meteorologist Chris Emond said the storms out east could be accompanied by winds of up to 80 km/h.

In other areas, including Williams Lake, Princeton and Castlegar, gusts could reach up to 50 km/h.

Navi Saini, a fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service, said crews are expecting an uptick in wildfire activity in the Cariboo region and Kamloops area because of the weather.

She said teams will be focused on containing new fires quickly, while they’re still small.

Despite weather concerns, thousands of people from 100 Mile House, Princeton and surrounding areas were free to go home Saturday as evacuation orders were downgraded to alerts.

Judson and Stewart

Sean Judson and Amanda Stewart plan to head back to 100 Mile House with their family in coming days. (Chad Pawson / CBC)

Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage said residents were “praying” for winds to stay low.

“It’s like pouring kerosene on a fire [when winds pick up],” he said.

Officials cautioned that those people still need to be ready to leave anytime, should the alerts change back to evacuation orders.

Saini said there are 152 wildfires currently burning across the province. Nine were sparked on Saturday, five of which were lightning-caused.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park was closed on Saturday night as a “proactive measure” due to an active fire in park boundaries. 

To date, the province has spent more than $122 million fighting wildfires.

With files from Catherine Rolfsen