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

Hundreds more international firefighters coming to Canada aid

Over the next two weeks, nearly 700 firefighters from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the United States will be joining the more than 500 international firefighters already in the country to help battle the wildfires raging across the country.

The Canada Interagency Forest Fire Centre reported that as of this afternoon there were 324 fires burning across the country, and 167 are considered out of control.

One of the worst hit areas has been suburban Halifax, where nearly 200 Halifax-area residents boarded buses today to view what remains of their homes, scorched by the fires that have destroyed many of their neighbourhoods.

The grim tour wound its way through subdivisions northwest of the downtown, which fire officials said would be safe to enter for a short time. About 200 structures, including 151 homes, have been destroyed so far in the Halifax area.

The first people admitted back into the evacuation zone around Upper Tantallon and Hammonds Plains would be those whose homes were gutted. Next, residents whose properties suffered less damage would be invited to see their residences.

Meanwhile, Sept-Îles, on Quebec’s north shore has declared a state of emergency as forest fires rage nearby. Parts of the city were ordered to evacuate by 4 p.m. today. Earlier this week, an out-of-control forest fire in Northern Quebec forced the evacuation of about 500 homes in Chapais, west of Chibougamau.

And Alberta is still battling dozens of fires, 18 of them out of control.

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Trudeau continues to stand by David Johnston despite calls that he step down

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is holding firm, saying that he is committed to keeping David Johnston in place as Canada’s special rapporteur on foreign interference, despite a majority of MPs voting in favour of his stepping down.

  • John Ibbitson:It is wrong for opposition politicians to denigrate and belittle Mr. Johnston. Rather than threatening to boycott the process, they should be pushing to have the report delayed to early next year, so that Mr. Johnston can have adequate time to conduct hearings and prepare his recommendations. They need a strong report from him. He’s all they’ve got.”
  • Andrew Coyne:This story has just begun to be told. Far from resolving all doubts, Mr. Johnston’s report has succeeded only in raising new ones. It is clear now, if it was not before, that the task of investigating this matter cannot be entrusted to him.”

At least 50 dead, 350 injured in train collision in India

Two passenger trains collided in the eastern Indian state of Odisha today. There was no official confirmation yet on the number of dead in the disaster, which took place in Balasore district. Media reports said at least 50 people had died. More than 350 injured passengers had been admitted to various hospitals.

The Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai, collided with another passenger train, the Howrah Superfast Express, railway officials said.

Two dead in Russian border town shelling, Belgorod governor says

Two people were killed and four others injured earlier today after Ukraine shelled a town near the Russian border. Officials in nearby regions reported overnight drone attacks.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces in Kyiv said today that they shot down 36 Russian missiles and drones in and around the capital overnight. Two people were hurt by falling debris.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Europe’s problem child no more: After years of misery, the Greek economy is on fire

Central Athens nearly burned to the ground on Feb. 12, 2012 when anti-austerity protesters and “anarchists” fought it out in the streets against Greek riot police dressed like Roman gladiators. Grexit – Greece’s exit from the euro zone – became a clear and present danger in 2012, when the country’s economy collapsed, and in 2015, when an anti-austerity Syriza party was elected and Greece defaulted on an international loan payment. Today, it’s the economy, not the city centre, that is on fire. Eric Reguly reports.

Thousands of police to enforce Hong Kong ban on Tiananmen massacre gatherings

Police in Hong Kong have threatened to arrest anyone gathering in public to mark Sunday’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 and anyone convicted of taking part in an unauthorized assembly can face between three and five years in prison.

U.K. pandemic inquiry leads to debate over the use of WhatsApp for Downing Street business

Former British prime minister Boris Johnson announced plans in 2021 for a public inquiry into how his government handled the pandemic, but as the inquiry is finally set to get under way, it has been derailed by a debate over the use of WhatsApp by Johnson and other officials and whether thousands of unredacted messages should be turned over to the inquiry.

Ontario pledges $23.6-million to deal with potentially dangerous old oil-and-gas wells

Queen’s Park expects to spend $23.6-million over three years developing a strategy to identify and plug some of the thousands of old oil-and-gas wells in Ontario. This marks a shift for the Ford government, which had spent the past two years pledging little in the way of concrete changes.

MARKET WATCH

U.S. and Canadian stocks closed higher today after a labour market report showing moderating wage growth in May indicated the Federal Reserve may skip a rate hike in two weeks, while investors welcomed a Washington deal that avoided a catastrophic debt default. It was the biggest gain in seven months for the TSX, with energy and financial shares among the biggest winners in a broad-based rally.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended up 352.38 points, or 1.8%, at 20,024.63, its biggest advance since November 2022. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 701.19 points, or 2.12%, to 33,762.76, the S&P 500 gained 61.35 points, or 1.45%, to 4,282.37 and the Nasdaq Composite added 139.78 points, or 1.07%, to 13,240.77.

The loonie was trading at 74.51 cents (U.S.), up 0.13 cents.

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TALKING POINTS

Pride flag flap shows why it is time to end public funding for Ontario Catholic schools

Konrad Yakabuski: “Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, abortion and contraception (for starters) is incompatible with the equality rights that publicly funded schools should teach and uphold. But no Ontario government has had the guts to take this issue on.”

Canada’s no good, very bad summer is just getting started

Marsha Lederman: “When there is an emergency, you want the person in charge to be smart, diplomatic and fair. Someone who doesn’t burn bridges in the name of bravado and vote-courting. Someone who will abandon partisanship for leadership. You don’t want a disaster trying to lead you through a disaster.”

Just say no to Ottawa’s nanny-state rules for smokers

Editorial: “Only a government as convinced of its own virtue as this one is would believe that literally putting words into people’s mouths was the logical next step in what we all recognize is an important public-health battle.”

A clear view from shore

Darren Calabrese: Photo essay: “The challenges and joys of living on our Eastern Coasts always seem so palpable, which I believe galvanizes the complex communities that dot the landscape.”

LIVING BETTER

In these mystery novels, cities are one of the main characters

If quarantines and lockdowns kept you homebound, if airport hassles and the expense of travel continue to keep you nestled in the comfort of your home, you can still see the world through the pages of detective fiction. We present four series of mystery novels that set you in the sinister streets of Edinburgh and Venice, L.A. and Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

TODAY’S LONG READ

Three days inside the sparkly, extremely hard-core world of Canadian cheerleading

Three full days of wild energy, the Canadian Cheer National Championships is the largest tournament in Canadian cheer. This year, there were 8,000 athletes gathered in Niagara Falls – small flyers, lithe tumblers, powerful bases – bolstered by at least double that number of supporters.

Competitors ranged in age from five to fortysomething, many coming from gymnastics and dance, drawn by cheer’s mix of athletics, entertainment and teamwork. The International Olympic Committee officially recognized cheer in 2021, paving the way for it to become an Olympic event as early as 2028, and putting to rest any doubt that cheer is indeed a sport.

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