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  • Three newly identified Canadian soldiers, casualties of one of the First World War's bloodiest battles, are set to receive a proper burial in France

  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has recommitted to his violent anti-drug crackdown, warning users and dealers to get themselves arrested and stay in prison if they want to survive​

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A final resting place for Canada's fallen

Their fates were known, but for more than 100 years their bodies were lost.

Now three newly identified Canadian soldiers — casualties of one of the First World War's bloodiest battles — are set to receive a proper burial in France.

The Department of National Defence today announced that three sets of remains recovered near the city of Lens in 2010 and 2011 have finally been identified. They've been matched to three Manitoba men who went missing in action in the summer of 1917 — Private William Del Donegan, Private Henry Edmonds Priddle, and Sergeant Archibald Wilson.

The trio, all members of the 16th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, died during the Battle of Hill 70 in August 1917.

The 10-day struggle to take and hold the piece of high ground overlooking Lens cost the Canadians more 9,000 killed and wounded. And 1,300 of the dead have yet to be found.

The identities of the Manitoba soldiers were established through a combination of "historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological, and DNA analysis," the DND reports.

Private Donegan, an Ottawa-born railway clerk, had been in France for just under four months when he was killed at age 20.

Pte. William Del Donegan, in a photo from the family of Caroline (Cavanagh Donegan) Consitt. (Department of National Defence)Private Priddle, a married broom-maker born in Norwich, Ont., was in his second month at the front lines when he died at age 33.

Pte. Henry Edmonds Priddle, in a photo from the DeCooman family. (Department of National Defence)Sgt. Wilson, originally from Scotland, was a barber who saw action in several battles in 1916 and 1917 before he was killed at the age of 25. Two of his brothers, John and Gavin, were also killed in the Great War, falling in Belgium and France respectively.

Sgt. Archibald Wilson in a photo from Heather Lee Aldrich and Holly Lynne Chong. (Department of National Defence)All three of the men enlisted in Winnipeg and were marked killed in action on the same day, August 16, 1917.

They will be buried by their regiment, with family and representatives of the federal government present, in a ceremony at the Loos British Cemetery on Aug. 23. The public is invited to attend.

Last summer, another member of the 16th Battalion, Private Reginald Johnston, and Sgt. Harold Shaughnessy of the 13th Battalion, were laid to rest in the same Commonwealth military graveyard.

Johnston's remains had been discovered in 2011 — along with the bones of six other men — during the construction of a new prison near Lens. His boots, bayonet and dog tag were recovered from the site, but it took a DNA match with a grandniece he never met to make the identification. He was 22 when he died on the first day of the Hill 70 battle.

Dr. Sarah Lockyer is a forensic anthropologist and co-ordinator of Department of Defence Casualty Identification Program. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)Shaughnessy's skeleton was recovered during excavations for a shopping mall parking lot last June, along with a gold signet ring bearing his initials and a partial ID disc. He died at age 32, on the same day as his newly identified comrades.

As The National's Nahlah Ayed reported last fall, the detective work of putting names to the remains of fallen Canadians is the responsibility of the DND's Casualty Identification Program and its lone forensic anthropologist, Sarah Lockyer.

In recent years, the program has helped identify and give a final resting place to 11 First World War soldiers and 19 Second World War dead — mostly airmen.

Some 27,000 Canadian dead from the two wars still have no known grave.

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Duterte doubles down

Rodrigo Duterte has recommitted to his violent anti-drug crackdown, warning users and dealers to get themselves arrested and stay in prison if they want to survive.

"You want to live longer? Stay in jail," the Philippine president said today during a televised address. "Look for your own reason to be in jail. Do not go out of that facility. It would not be healthy for you."

According to his government's own statistics, 4,075 people have been killed in anti-drug operations since the beginning of July 2016. The country's media and human rights organizations say the actual toll is much higher.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses the 120th Philippine navy anniversary celebration in Manila on Tuesday. During his speech, he issued a warning that any police involved with drugs, 'will be the first to go.' (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)Despite international condemnation, Duterte shows no signs of backing away from his bloody, extrajudicial methods, which have seen uniformed police and masked death squads given free rein to stalk and kill suspects.

Today he even put the nation's police on notice, saying that he worries they have become too soft — or corrupt — to carry out the necessary work.

"The system, it ain't working and we're producing, to my mind, some lousy men getting into the service under questionable circumstances," Duterte said, digressing from a speech meant to mark the founding of the Philippine navy. "Some of them, sadly, are really into drugs … I'm just warning them that if you are into it, you will be the first to go."

The remarks are just the latest indication that the autocratic president now feels almost unassailable in his position.

Former Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte. Her ouster, in an unprecedented vote by fellow magistrates, has sparked protests and been called unconstitutional and a threat to democracy. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)Last week, Duterte boasted that China's leader, Xi Jinping, had personally assured him that the superpower would not tolerate any attempt to remove him from office.

"The assurances of Xi are very encouraging: we will not allow you to be taken out from your office and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs," Duterte told a crowd in Manila.

He did not say when the promise was made, but Duterte and Xi met on the sidelines of an Asia summit in China last month.

Duterte's term as president doesn't end until June 2022, but there have been persistent rumours that his supporters are preparing to amend the constitution to do away with the country's one-and-done limit. Although earlier this year, he declared that he has no interest in becoming a "dictator" and instructed an audience of military officers to "shoot" him if he tries to hang on to power.

Still, many observers perceive the ouster of the chief justice of the Philippines supreme court earlier this month as an ominous sign.

Protestors demonstrate against the removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on May 18 in Manila. Sereno has accused President Rodrigo Duterte of having a hand in her ouster and urged him to resign. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)Maria Lourdes Sereno, a fierce critic of Duterte who has particularly questioned his war on drugs, was turfed in a close 8-6 vote by her colleagues.

Last week, she accused the president of being the force behind her removal and called for his resignation.

Duterte denies any involvement.

"She herself managed to alienate her own colleagues at the high court," Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, told the media. "Ex-Chief Justice Sereno should closely look at the mirror to see who is behind the Supreme Court ruling."

Quote of the moment

"Someone has to take the responsibility of what happened to me."

Bashir Makhtal,

a Canadian who spent 11 years in an Ethiopian jail on dubious terrorism-related charges, calls for an independent review of why it took the federal government so long to secure his release.

Canadian Bashir Makhtal was convicted on terrorism-related charges in Ethiopia in 2009 and given a life sentence. (Courtesy of Amnesty International)

What The National is reading

  • Mali seeks Canada's help in documenting human rights abuses (CBC)
  • Zimbabwe applies to rejoin the Commonwealth (CNN)
  • Australian archbishops convicted of child sex abuse cover-up (CBC)
  • Doubts over academic credentials of proposed Italian PM (Guardian)
  • F-35 stealth fighter sees first combat in Israeli operation (BBC)
  • B.C. woman loses mom in tragic wedding-day beach accident (Vancouver Sun)
  • Hundreds of far-right German extremists stripped of weapons (Deutsche Welle)
  • Two Sherpa guides killed on Everest (AFP)
  • Kenya threatens mass deportation of foreign expats (Africanews)

Today in history

May 22, 1962: Indigenous Canadians to vote for the first time in 1962 election

Canada was almost 100 years old before its First Nations were granted the right to fully participate in its democracy. Politicians from all the parties set about trying to woo Indigenous voters. But as this report makes all too clear, attitudes hadn't changed much. "There are fears that many indigenous bands will vote as a block, as many lack rudimentary knowledge of politics," says reporter Tom Gould.

Would-be MPs court a new group of voters for the 1962 race: Indigenous people living on-reserve. 1:28

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  • The original version of this story mistakenly identified Sgt. Harold Shaughnessy as a member of the 16th Battalion. He was a member of the 13th Battalion.May 22, 2018 4:22 PM ET

About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.

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