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Canada expands aid targets; no new money for foreign development – National

OTTAWA – The Harper government is expanding its foreign aid priority list by five countries, widening the pool of recipients to the level set by the previous Liberal government.

It has added the Philippines, Burma, Mongolia, Burkina Faso, Benin, Congo and Jordan to the list and dropped Pakistan and Bolivia.

However, the reshuffling of aid priorities is not accompanied by any new funds to cover the expansion of the list of target countries to 25 from 20.

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READ MORE: Canada cuts aid as other nations push assistance to all-time high

Last month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Canada, along with its rich Western allies, to boost overall foreign aid spending to 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product from its current level of less than 0.3 per cent.

Development Minister Christian Paradis told The Canadian Press that the government will shuffle existing funds to cover priorities while putting in place new accountability measures to ensure the money is well spent.

“We will have to reshape things to make sure we do address the needs,” Paradis said in an exclusive interview.

He said the government will continue to pursue other sources of aid partnerships, including tapping into private corporations.

“We believe that we can unlock sleeping money in the private sector and philanthropists. We have to be proactive.”

The government shortened the list of priority countries to 20 in 2009 and drew fire for cutting several African recipients.

The new list includes Congo, where rape as a weapon of war has been criticized by Canada and many others.

READ MORE: World leaders praise Harper for mom and child health efforts

The new alignment jettisons Pakistan, a country that was the staging ground for al-Qaida attacks on Canadian troops based in Afghanistan. Canada ended its combat contribution to the Afghan mission in 2011 and withdrew the last of its military trainers in March.

“It’s no longer a focus because there is a lot of instability, huge security issues and we think that at this point, given the circumstances, we can concentrate on other places where we can make a real difference,” Paradis said. “We want to focus on results.”

As for adding Congo, Paradis said this aligns with the Canadian foreign policy priority of ending the forced marriage of young girls and the use of rape as a weapon of war.

New Democrat MP Paul Dewar, the Official Opposition’s foreign affairs critic, has for several years called on the government to recognize the carnage in Congo, which has claimed an estimated three million lives over the last decade.

Congo’s rich mineral deposits may have helped spark the conflict there, but Paradis said they also give the huge central African country its greatest hope.

“The needs are there, big time,” he said, noting that the country is among the lowest on the United Nations human development index.

“On the flip side, Congo has a lot of resources. So there’s a way to eradicate extreme poverty both with aid and after that, if they could focus on good governance and resource development.”

Iraq has also been added to a secondary list of development partners, countries that aren’t of primary focus, but that still receive some bilateral funding.

Paradis said Canada will continue to assess how it can make aid contributions there in light of the recent offensive by the al-Qaida Sunni militant offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The Palestinian territories also retain their spot on the list, while the tiny desert kingdom of Jordan has been added for the first time.

Jordan has been inundated by a massive influx of refugees from the civil war in neighbouring Syria and has been the recipient of some major Canadian assistance in recent years to help it cope.

“Supposing the Syria crisis was going to end tomorrow, the region will have years to recover from this,” Paradis said.

“Even if you say this is a middle-income economy, well they have major, major challenges and this why we put them (Jordan) as a country of focus.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Canada’s military needs to do more to improve mental health care, say MPs – National

OTTAWA – The Canadian Forces have made great strides in dealing with combat injuries, but must do more to help soldiers and their families deal with mental health issues, a Commons committee reported Friday.

The all-party defence committee said the military should conduct rigorous mental health screening of recruits and train soldiers to assess their own mental health.

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It also said more should be done to educate military families about mental health issues before soldiers deploy, and should get more training about so-called operational stress injuries before they are sent into the field.

SPECIAL SERIES: Global News spoke with five current and former members of the Canadian Forces, each with post-traumatic stress disorder. What they revealed amounts to a crisis in the military. READ THEIR STORIES HERE.

“Although resiliency and readiness training may not prevent every member from developing an OSI, the committee believes the programs are of benefit particularly in de-stigmatizing the subject of mental health and encouraging members needing treatment to self-identify and seek treatment early,” the report said.

Military medicine deals well with combat injuries, witnesses told the committee. In Afghanistan, a wounded soldier who still had vital signs on arrival at the multinational hospital in Kandahar had a 97 per cent chance of survival.

READ MORE: Veteran’s wife makes impassioned plea for increased help from feds 

Hans Jung, a former surgeon-general to the Canadian Forces, told the committee it’s the highest survival rate in the history of warfare.

However, more emphasis must be placed on mental health, and more should be done to help ex-soldiers make the shift to civilian life, said the report, which includes 32 recommendations.

And it said the government should fund research into military medical issues, including the handling of brain injuries.

READ MORE: ‘More than 200′ military members share stories of mental illness: DND

The report noted that progress has been made in recent years, but some soldiers who served in the past missed out on those benefits.

“The committee acknowledges that the CAF has come a long way over the last decade with regard to resiliency training and mental readiness. It was, however, distressing to hear from family members that their loved ones serving in uniform may not have had access to such training given that it was unavailable until a few years ago.

“There are, no doubt, many others who are also victims of timing and past insufficiencies.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Hundreds of fans turn out at VGH to support Gino Odjick

WATCH ABOVE: Fans gather outside hospital in flash mob for Gino Odjick

VANCOUVER – Hundreds of fans showed up at Vancouver General Hospital this afternoon to offer cheers of support for former Vancouver Canucks player Gino Odjick, who is fighting a rare terminal heart disease.

The 43-year-old former Canuck was wheeled outside to greet the crowd as they chanted “GINO, GINO, GINO!”

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On Thursday night the Vancouver Canucks posted a letter from Gino to his fans saying he is in the biggest fight of his life.

Just two months ago, he was diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, a condition that causes abnormal protein to be produced and deposited on the heart. It is hardening his heart and doctors have told him he may only have months or even weeks to live.

“In my heart, I will always be a Canuck and I have always had a special relationship here with the fans. Your “Gino, Gino” cheers were my favourite. I wish I could hear them again. You have been amazing,” wrote Gino in the letter.

Now fans have decided he will hear those cheers again while he is battling the disease from his hospital bed.

WATCH: Close to 300 people turn up to VGH to offer support.

Another event has also been planned for Sunday, July 13, at 11 a.m. also at Vancouver General Hospital.

“I am inviting all Canucks fans to join me in a rally outside Vancouver General Hospital where Gino is being treated right now for a “Gino!” chant,” wrote the organizer.

WATCH: Odjick fondly remembered in Vancouver

Thoughts and prayers have been pouring in on social media for the fan favourite.

The Vancouver Canucks have also released a tribute video to Gino:

There are three ways that you can help and send your support to Gino as well.

Send your Wishes to Gino on a special website set up for him.Donate to support the “Gino Strong Fund” which supports travel costs for Gino’s kids and members of the Odjick family to travel to Vancouver to be with GinoDonations to support aboriginal youth education and wellness initiatives can also be made through the Canucks for Kids Fund

Do you know of any other events going on for Gino? Let us know in the comments.

The difficulty one man faced coming out as gay in his community – Toronto

For 29-year-old Daniel Pillai it has been a long journey finding his identity as a gay man.

He grew up surrounded by South Asian culture and tradition – things he followed and respected – but still felt something was missing.

“Somewhere around grade 11 I realized they were South Indians from the Fiji Islands and then later in my life I realized I was gay. So I was having an identity crisis,” he said.

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“I didn’t look at my identity separate from my parents and culture. There really wasn’t anybody I could have a conversation with in my family.”

Pillai said he knew he was different from the rest of his family as an early age. He often tried to explore his identity through dance and dressing up in his mother’s clothes.

“Whether it was dressing up in my mom’s clothes and dancing to Madhuri Dixit songs or dancing at a wedding or a party, [my father] was very embarrassed,” Pillai said.

Pillai said being different certainly made him stand out, both at home and in the school yard.

“They surrounded me in the soccer field during recess. They bullied me and eventually these four girls got the entire school, they just kind of surrounded me and I was alone in the centre being humiliated,” Pillai said. There was a lot of bullying in my own family when it came to my sexuality. We know who you are without me knowing who I actually was.”

Not understanding his own identity led Pilliai down a road of inner exploration. He needed to know what was right for him, rather than what was right for his family.

“It was an evolution. I woke up one day and I said I am gay and I’m going to tell my mom,” he said.

“She ‎said I will always love you, but cried herself to sleep that night, not because I was gay, but she had no idea what was happening.”

His mother wasn’t upset he was gay, Pillai said. Instead she was concerned about what her family might say.

“’My son is telling me he is gay. I know that is not accepted in society. What will my brothers and sisters think?’ She was clouded by a lot of fear,” Pillai said. “My dad, he didn’t really listen. We haven’t really spoken about it.”

Pillai was 25-years-old when he told his family he was gay. He is happy now, with a budding career as an entertainment journalist and a new love for life.

“The last four years have been very freeing. I was a prisoner in my own world. Really coming out was my own choice. When you learn to accept yourself first, that love just radiates and you attract like minded people,” he said.

Pillai said he is proud to celebrate with WorldPride in Toronto, not just with the LGBT community but everyone.

“That rainbow flag is not just representing the different sexuality – it celebrates diversity‎,” Pillai said. “When I told my parents I was gay… it was an absolute and it would not change our relationship.”

Supreme Court rules Walmart broke Quebec labour code by closing store – Montreal

MONTREAL – The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Walmart violated Quebec’s labour code when it closed a store in Jonquiere, Quebec after workers tried to unionize it.

A decision that some experts believe could have ramifications for the rest of the country.

“Walmart may be able to close stores again but they will have to pay (we will see by how much) and this may have a positive impact on unionizing,” Robert Hebdon told Global News.

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Hebdon is a professor in McGill University’s Faculty of Management and specializes in organizational behaviour and industrial relations. He said the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision could have implications for all of Canada.

“All Canadian labour laws have a provision that provides for a freeze on conditions during a union recognition drive, thus I think this decision does have implications for the rest of Canada,” he said.

“Closure should be intrepreted as a change in conditions and thus contrary to all Canadian labour laws.”

In August 2004, the Quebec store was the first Walmart to unionize in North America.

When the collective bargaining dispute was ordered to arbitration, Walmart announced that it would close the store, citing financial reasons.

Quebec employees, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada, said that the retailer made the decision after they exercised their right to organize, and demanded to be reinstated.

In 2009, Canada’s top court defended the company’s right to close the store, and refused an appeal by Walmart employees.

The company now owes compensation to the workers, which has not yet been determined.

However, Hebdon suggested it could be considerable.

“I would not be surprised if was quite large taking into account retroactivity and interest costs.”

Top 10 reasons why Canada is awesome – National

TORONTO – As we celebrate Canada’s 147 birthday, Global News takes a look at the Top 10 reasons why our country is so awesome (not that you needed a list).

We suggest you stand up, remove your hat and hum the national anthem while reading this post.

10. Our balls are bigger

Football in Canada is much different than any other country. Our field is longer and wider than American football fields. We play with a larger ball. Fewer downs to try to score. Oh, and we also use our hands, unlike the European version of football where players kick a round ball down a grass field.

9. We invented basketball

Thanks to James Naismith, a McGill University phys-ed teacher, Canada can lay claim to inventing the sport of basketball. Naismith invented the sport in 1891 while working at a U.S. college. Although Canada is best known for producing some of the world’s best hockey players, our country has been showcasing our home-grown talent in the NBA. For the second consecutive year, a Canadian was selected first overall in the NBA draft — Anthony Bennett in 2013 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, left, congratulates Andrew Wiggins who was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the number one pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York.

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

8. We legalized same-sex marriage ages ago

Canada legalized same-sex marriage almost nine years ago while many countries were still debating the issue. The Canadian government legalized same-sex marriage on July 20, 2005, becoming the fourth country to do so.

Jen Chang, left, and Inae Lee pose for photos before joining over 100 gay couples in a mass wedding during World Pride 2014 at Casa Loma in Toronto, on Thursday, June 26, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

7. Poutine

Many Canadians enjoy the savoury taste of French fries, gravy and cheese curds all piled together in a heaping platter of goodness. Enough said.

Bourbon Street Baron of Beef Poutine.

Supplied, K-Days

6. We are patriotic

From sewing flags on our backpacks and putting a beaver on our nickels to belting out the national anthem for a free beer, we Canadians are very patriotic. According to a 2008 survey, Canada is the sixth most patriotic country in the world.

5. We are funny!

Canada has produced some very well-known comedians: Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Seth Rogan and Will Arnett. Just to name a few.

4. Canada is big and beautiful

All 9.98 million square kilometres of it. As the second largest country in the world, Canada boasts endless lakes and rivers. We have access to three oceans, and we boast one of the few places in the world you can ski and surf (outside) in the same day.

Banff, Alberta, Canada

THE CANADIAN PRESS

3. Music

Canadians make music that’s heard all over the world. From Paul Anka to Justin Bieber, this country knows how to make music that sells. We’re well represented by such diverse artists as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, David Foster, Bryan Adams, Deadmau5, Michael Buble, k.d. lang, Gordon Lightfoot, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Drake and Anne Murray.

Canadian singer and host of the 2013 Juno Awards Michael Buble speaks to the media before the 2013 Juno Awards in Regina on Saturday, April 20, 2013.

Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

2. Attractive cities

In a recent survey Toronto was named the fourth most attractive city in the world. It was the only Canadian city to make the list. The annual survey from PwC ranked 30 destinations worldwide for several factors including education and technology, quality of life,  ease of doing business, health and safety, economic clout, and transport. Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Quebec City and Montreal have consistently ranked high in past world surveys.

1. There’s no one reason why Canada is awesome

But this pretty much sums it up.

Happy birthday, Canada!

-with files from John R. Kennedy and  Irene Ogrodnik

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WATCH: Hunter Hayes reflects on meeting Bublé, not feeling ‘Invisible’

ABOVE: Watch Hunter Hayes appear on Global’s The Morning Show.

TORONTO — Country star Hunter Hayes ended his week-long visit to Canada on Friday by singing the praises of homegrown crooner Michael Bublé.

“I’m a huge fan,” said Hayes, who was invited to hang out backstage with Bublé in Edmonton.

“I was so excited because I’ve always wanted to meet him.”

During an appearance on Global’s The Morning Show, Hayes said he has seen Bublé perform several times.

“He’s a cool guy on stage and you assume that that’s who he really is because he’s funny, he’s just cool and goofy — and he was even cooler,” Hayes said. “He was so cool, like so chill. I had to tell him, ‘dude you have no idea how nervous I am.’”

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Hayes is a Louisiana native who blasted onto the music scene in 2011 with a hit self-titled debut album — that came after five independent releases — and singles like “Wanted” and “Somebody’s Heartbreak.” He earned three Grammy nominations and an opening slot on Carrie Underwood’s tour.

His sophomore release, Storyline, includes the hit “Invisible” which has resonated with everyone from bullying victims to gay teens.

Hayes said the song is based on personal experience.

“I’m a music geek, self-proclaimed. I always have been, I always will be,” he explained. “That’s kind of my place but it took me awhile to figure out that that was OK. For a long time … I was an outcast and I didn’t really have a place to fit in.”

Hunter Hayes appears on ‘The Morning Show’ on June 27, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

The singer said he found his place thanks to his fans.

“I can be myself and feel like myself and share what it is that I’m passionate about,” said Hayes. “I want to share that story, from seeing that thing that makes you different from a bad thing to a good thing.

“I want to share that with anybody who’s maybe been through something similar or going through something now.”

Hayes is only just getting started.

“This is my world,” he said. “This is all I ever dreamed about.”

World’s largest aircraft returns to Edmonton

Watch above: The world’s biggest aircraft is at the Edmonton International Airport tonight. Vinesh Pratap gives us a closer look.

EDMONTON – It can carry 45 African elephants. Or seven humpback whales. Or more than the equivalent of three fully-loaded 737s.

The Antonov An-225 is the longest, heaviest airplane in the world – and is the only one of its kind.

Built in Ukraine in the 1980s, the An-225 was originally designed to carry the Soviet Union’s space shuttle, but now charters oversized cargo across the globe.

On Friday morning the plane landed at the Edmonton International Airport, to deliver a new waste heat boiler for Agrium’s nitrogen fertilizer operation near Redwater, AB.

WATCH: The An-225 lands at the Edmonton International Airport, live on the Morning News. 

The boiler was made in Berlin, Germany. It was then transported by barge, truck and then flown by the An-225 across the Atlantic to Edmonton. Logistics company DB Schenker of Canada organized the international move.

This is not the first time the  An-225 has touched down in Edmonton. In March of 2010, the plane was chartered by the U.S. military to bring supplies from Edmonton-based Canadian Helicopters to Afghanistan. It picked up 50 tonnes of supplies, including three helicopters. In November of 2007, the plane delivered three armoured vehicles for military training.

BELOW: Photos of the plane’s arrival

The Antonov An-225, world’s largest plane, at the Edmonton International Airport Friday morning.

Morris Gamblin / Global News

People waiting to see the Antonov An-225, world’s largest plane, land at the Edmonton International Airport Friday morning.

Vinesh Pratap / Global News

The Antonov An-225, world’s largest plane, at the Edmonton International Airport Friday morning.

Vinesh Pratap / Global News

The Antonov An-225, world’s largest plane, at the Edmonton International Airport Friday morning.

Vinesh Pratap / Global News

The Antonov An-225, world’s largest plane, at the Edmonton International Airport Friday morning.

Vinesh Pratap / Global News

The Antonov An-225, world’s largest plane, at the Edmonton International Airport Friday morning.

Vinesh Pratap / Global News

The Antonov An-225, world's largest plane, at the Edmonton International Airport Friday morning.

Morris Gamblin / Global News

WATCH: On Saturday, it could be seen taking off from the Edmonton International Airport.

Some interesting facts:

Powered by six turbofan enginesMax speed: 850 km/hLength: 84 m (275 ft.)Wingspan: 88 m (290 ft.)Empty weight: 285 tonnesMax. takeoff weight: 640 tonnesCrew: six peopleCost to build another An-225 (est. in 2011): Over $300 million, and would take three years

More to come…

Follow @KarenBartko

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School’s out for summer – so drivers better slow down – Edmonton

EDMONTON – No more pencils. No more books. Tens of thousands of Edmonton students are now on summer break. That means drivers are being cautioned to pay more attention, especially near playgrounds, parks and residential areas.

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“These little guys, they don’t think when they are playing,” said Cst. Tedd Benesch, a traffic enforcement officer with the Edmonton Police Service. “The ball goes out on the road – they’re going after it. If mom calls them across the street – they don’t think to look both ways before they go. It’s up to us to be more vigilant as parents and drivers, and watch for them.”

Police say pedestrian and cyclist injury collisions go up in the summer.

“Nine out of the 23 traffic fatalities in Edmonton last year were vulnerable road users,” said Gerry Shimko, executive director with the City of Edmonton’s Office of Traffic Safety.

Speeding and careless driving in neighbourhoods is a top concern for Edmontonians, according to an EPS survey.  “We’ve ticketed someone doing 135 km/h in a park in a 50 zone,  and another doing 87 km/h the other day, so they’re not getting the message,” Cst. Benesch said.

Speed isn’t the only infraction officers are watching for. Distracted driving tickets are handed out on a regular basis.

“It’s amazing how many we write in a day, and we’re not even touching how many are actually out there,” said Cst. Benesch.

“We need to get that message out there:  that split-second that you look down is all it could take. It could mean the difference between being able to stop and striking somebody because you didn’t see them.”

EPS Tips for Drivers:

Watch out for children – If children are playing near or on the street, please use caution, reduce speed, and be prepared to stop quickly. Be alert while driving in residential areas, near park spaces or sports fields.Lookout for pedestrians – Use caution when approaching and traveling through intersections, and don’t count on pedestrians to obey traffic signals or use crosswalks.  Always double check before turning or reversing.  Be careful when driving near people wearing earphones or older adults who may not see or hear a  vehicle approaching.Use caution around bicyclists – Children and inexperienced riders can be unpredictable while riding, so give them adequate space in traffic.  When passing cyclists, slow down, give them space, and do a shoulder check to ensure that it is safe to move back into the lane.Obey the speed limit and other posted signs – Drive the speed limit and for the road conditions.  As a vehicle’s speed increases, so does the distance needed to stop.Be a role model – Teach your children to follow the rules of the road, such as using a crosswalk safely at an intersection, and only crossing after making eye contact with drivers.  Set a good example by driving responsibly, minimizing distractions from electronic devices or phones, and not drinking and driving.

Follow @KarenBartko

Oklahoma residents shaken by earthquakes linked to fracking seek answers – National

WATCH: Oklahoma residents want to know if the shaking is a result of oil and gas exploration.

EDMOND, Okla. – Earthquakes that have shaken Oklahoma communities in recent months have damaged homes, alarmed residents and prompted lawmakers and regulators to investigate what’s behind the temblors – and what can be done to stop them.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Thursday night for a town hall meeting on the issue.

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READ MORE: Why fracking may be responsible for increased earthquakes in Oklahoma

Earthquakes used to be almost unheard of on the vast stretches of prairie that unfold across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, but they’ve become common in recent years.

Oklahoma recorded nearly 150 between January and the start of May. Most recently, the U.S. Geological Survey recorded a magnitude 3.6 earthquake southwest of Guthrie early Thursday morning.

Though most have been too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives, they’ve raised suspicions that the shaking might be connected to the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Now after years of being harangued by anxious residents, governments in all three states are confronting the issue, reviewing scientific data, holding public discussions and considering new regulations. The states are trying to reconcile the scientific data with the interests of their citizens and the oil and gas industry.

Oklahoma state Rep. Jason Murphey, a Guthrie Republican, said though the damage from quakes hasn’t been serious, it’s still a big problem for his constituents. He said residents have reported cracks in interior and exterior walls, doors that no longer close properly, trim that is separating and even foundation problems.

“Those types of reports are becoming commonplace,” Murphey said.

WATCH: Timelapse map of earthquakes across Oklahoma

Murphey said many of his constituents believe there’s a relationship between the earthquakes and injection wells that are used to dispose of wastewater from oil and natural gas drilling operations.

Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said the agency is closely monitoring the area’s seismic activity to determine whether the earthquakes are a natural phenomenon or are man-made.

“It’s one thing to have suspicions. It’s another thing to demonstrate that scientifically,” Holland said. “We have a lot of faults in Oklahoma.”

Seismologists already know that hydraulic fracturing – which involves blasting water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to free oil and gas – can cause microquakes that are rarely strong enough to register on monitoring equipment.

However, fracking also generates vast amounts of wastewater, far more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into so-called injection wells, which send the waste thousands of feet underground. No one knows for certain exactly what happens to the liquids after that. Scientists wonder whether they could trigger quakes by increasing underground pressures and lubricating faults.

READ MORE: Gros Morne National Park and the war over fracking

Another concern is whether injection well operators could be pumping either too much water into the ground or pumping it at exceedingly high pressures.

Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry in the state, said the agency is monitoring the activity of every injection well in a seismically active area.

“We’re looking for anomalies,” Skinner said. “This is not an abstract exercise in policymaking. The reason that we’re all here is that it’s frightening.”

In Texas, residents from Azle, a town northwest of Fort Worth, who have endured hundreds of small quakes, went to the state capitol earlier this year to demand action by the state’s chief oil and gas regulator, known as the Railroad Commission. The commission hired the first state seismologist, and lawmakers formed the House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity.

After Kansas recorded 56 earthquakes between last October and April, the governor appointed a three-member task force to address the issue.

–Associated Press writers Emily Schmall in Azle, Texas, and Kristi Eaton in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press