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In today's Morning Brief, we look at district energy systems and their renewed popularity in Canada amid a growing desire to embrace greener energy technologies. We also look ahead to a meeting between Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump, and the latest in a CBC News series about vaping.
The sun's heat is captured by this array of solar panels, mounted on the garages of Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks, Alta. The homes are connected to a district energy system that stores heat in the summer to heat the homes in the winter. (CBC)

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Canadian communities tap into greener ways to heat and cool buildings

Have you heard of district energy systems? The idea is that instead of having an individual heating and cooling system for each building, multiple buildings are hooked up to a single, central system. The heating and cooling are distributed to individual buildings through pipes that typically contain heated or chilled water.

It's not a new concept, as some district energy systems in Canada are more than 100 years old. But thanks to environmental concerns and the desire in communities to use greener energy technologies, new projects are popping up across the country. The climate benefits associated with these systems have also earned them an endorsement from the United Nations Environment Program.

But what's motivating projects that can be found anywhere from major cities like Toronto and Vancouver to smaller communities in Yukon and rural Manitoba? Climate change and climate change resilience are major factors. In Canada, buildings are the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after oil and gas, and transportation, Environment and Climate Change Canada reports. And nearly two-thirds of energy use in buildings is for heating and cooling.

Many energy sources used in district energy systems  such as biomass, sewage, lake water or seawater — aren't feasible or economically viable on a small scale. But once a community installs a district energy system, "you can unlock a bunch of technologies," according to the president and CEO of Markham District Energy in the Great Toronto Area. The choice of energy source for a district heating system is what is available locally and can generate co-benefits for the local community. You can read about some of the different examples found across Canada here.

Despite the benefits of district energy, most buildings in Canada are still heated and cooled individually. Partly, that's because building an economically viable district energy system typically requires two things not often found together: high density and undeveloped land. Read more about how experts are advocating the development of district energy systems here.


6-year-old battling cancer gets a surprise unicorn ride

Emma Clarke, 6, wore a crown and held a sceptre as she rode around on a unicorn this past weekend. (Submitted )

The Clarke family of St. John's thought Emma had beaten cancer twice, until a routine scan before her sixth birthday showed it had returned. Despite what Emma's been through, Courtney Clarke said her daughter is brave, tough and in the end, still a child — which is where Clarke's friends Brian and Amanda Critch came in. "I said to my wife a few weeks ago that Emma wanted to see a real unicorn and I said to my wife again, 'You know what? Emma is going to see a real unicorn if it's the last thing I do,'" Brian Critch told CBC. Read more about Emma's day with her favourite animal here.


In brief

E-cigarette liquids on the Canadian market contain potentially harmful chemicals, including a suspected carcinogen banned in food in the U.S. CBC News independently tested several nicotine vaping liquids, and the results found two chemicals in particular, pulegone and benzaldehyde, that could be dangerous to human health when vaped at high levels. The tobacco industry has phased out pulegone in cigarettes because of concerns over potential toxicity to smokers, while benzaldehyde has been shown to be a potentially toxic respiratory irritant at high doses. Read more about the tests here.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump today on the sidelines of the NATO summit in London. A source with direct knowledge of the situation says Canada will press the U.S. for more information about where the NAFTA ratification process stands in the U.S., given recent momentum toward a deal. Before the new NAFTA is brought into force, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico must independently ratify the agreement. You can read about Trudeau's coming meeting with Trump here, and learn more about what the PM is likely to face at the NATO summit itself here.

Manitoba's AFN regional chief says First Nations would need about $3.5 billion in funding over five years to effectively take over responsibility for child welfare services. Bill C-92, which comes into force on Jan. 1, did not come with statutory funding, and First Nations leaders worry the law will fail without the financial resources to accompany its implementation. Manitoba regional Chief Kevin Hart said some First Nations could end up in debt "right out of the gate" when they take over child welfare services, something he called "unacceptable and unfair." Read more about the annual AFN special chiefs assembly here.

As China eclipses North America as the biggest movie marketplace in the world, it's forcing films to change in order to access its lucrative marketplace. Take the recently released Midway, the Chinese-backed production featured a subplot where Chinese villagers sheltered an American pilot, while the director said the movie "wouldn't have happened" without China. The country's central government closely controls which movies can be seen, limiting foreign films to a quota of about 34 a year, but government-sanctioned co-productions are exempt. Read more about the impact on Canadian filmmakers and Chinese moviegoers here.

Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Marc Crawford was put on leave while the team reviews allegations regarding his conduct with another organization. Former NHL forward Sean Avery recently told the New York Post that Crawford kicked him after he was whistled for a penalty when he played for the Los Angeles Kings during the 2006-07 season. The situation with Crawford comes after Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters resigned last week following accusations he directed racist slurs at a Nigerian-born player with one of Chicago's minor-league teams a decade ago. Read more about the allegations here.

Now here's some good news to start your Tuesday: When Pierre Gosselin retired as an RCMP sergeant after 37 years, he promised to continue a weekly ritual with a man with mental-health issues. Every Tuesday, for nearly six years, Gosselin has held hands with Matthew Brandon — who has autism, cerebral palsy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder — and watched the Sergeant Major's Parade, a training exercise for cadets. Brandon's caregivers were nervous when Gosselin announced his retirement, but that hasn't stopped the ritual. "As long as I'm capable of being here every Tuesday," Gosselin said, "I'll be here for Matty." Read more about Gosselin's and Brandon's relationship here.


Today in history: Dec. 3

1833: Oberlin College in Ohio, the first totally co-educational college in the U.S. and the first school to advocate abolition of slavery, has its opening.

1970: The October Crisis ends when British Trade Commissioner James Cross is released by his FLQ kidnappers in Montreal. Cross was seized from his home in October, and another FLQ cell later kidnapped and killed Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte on Oct. 17. The kidnappings prompted the federal government to invoke the War Measures Act. Cross's kidnappers and their families, a total of seven people, received safe conduct and transportation to Cuba.

2009: In a surprisingly undiplomatic rebuke, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is publicly chided by Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao at a traditional Chinese welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for taking too long to visit the country.

2014: A grand jury in New York City declines to indict a white police officer on criminal charges in the July chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. It triggered protests around the country and sent thousands into New York's streets.

2015: A South African Appeals Court convicts double-amputee Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court's conviction on the lesser charge of manslaughter for the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day in 2013.

2018: Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques blasts off in a Russian Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station for a six-month mission. The rocket, also carrying Anne McClain of NASA and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency, successfully docks with the space station six hours later.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters