Ontario Premier Doug Ford called out “bad actors” who are flouting health restrictions in the province and holding private parties despite surging COVID-19 cases in Ontario, pleading with Ontarians to “have fun within your own household.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford called out “bad actors” who are flouting health restrictions in the province and holding private parties despite surging COVID-19 cases in Ontario, pleading with Ontarians to “have fun within your own household.”
The RCMP sergeant who headed the foreign and domestic liaison unit responsible for Meng Wanzhou's arrest says she saw no problem with Canada Border Services Agency officers questioning the Huawei executive before she was taken into police custody.Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf testified in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday that the original plan she discussed with her supervisor would have seen RCMP officers board Meng's plane on arrival from Hong Kong in order to execute a provisional arrest warrant.But by the time she arrived at the airport on Dec. 1, 2018, Vander Graaf said her officers had agreed instead that the CBSA would intercept Meng once she got off the plane and then take her to a secondary examination area to begin an immigration admissibility examination."This seemed like a reasonable course of action and it seemed like a safe course of action," Vander Graaf said."[The CBSA] had to do what they had to do, and I didn't have any input on what they were planning on doing or what they needed to do for their job or their responsibility. So I had really no sense of the timeline of how long they would take."Fraud and conspiracy chargesVander Graaf was testifying at a hearing to gather evidence in advance of extradition proceedings next year. Defence lawyers plan to argue that the delay in the arrest amounts to a violation of Meng's rights because CBSA officers questioned her about her business without a lawyer, seized her electronic devices and asked her for the passcodes, which they later gave police in error.Meng faces fraud and conspiracy charges in New York in relation to allegations that she lied to an HSBC executive about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.Prosecutors claim that by relying on Meng's alleged lies to continue financing Huawei, HSBC was placed at risk of loss and prosecution.Vander Graaf is the third RCMP officer to testify so far.She took the stand after two days of testimony from Const. Gurvinder Dhaliwal, one of the two officers who was tasked with executing a provisional warrant for Meng's arrest.Conflicting evidenceDhaliwal was the exhibits officer responsible for making sure that Meng's phones and laptops were kept secure. He and Vander Graaf are at the centre of conflicting evidence relating to defence allegations that RCMP improperly shared technical information about the electronic devices with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.In testimony, Dhaliwal claimed he took pictures of the serial numbers, make and model of the devices and then sent them to the RCMP's file coordinator and a supervisor, Staff. Sgt. Ben Chang.Vander Graaf's contemporaneous notes later record Dhaliwal telling her that Chang provided the serial numbers to the FBI. But Dhaliwal told a defence lawyer Tuesday that he had no recollection of Chang telling him he had sent the information — or of telling Vander Graaf it had happened.Meng's lawyer, Scott Fenton, suggested that Dhaliwal did recall the conversation. But Dhaliwal said he was "positively sure" he didn't speak to Chang.Chang has retained a lawyer and is refusing to testify, according to the defence.'These things are fluid'By the close of proceedings on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley had not yet reached the topic of the discrepancy between Vander Graaf's notes and Dhaliwal's memory.He dwelt instead on the circumstances surrounding Meng's arrest. From the outset, Vander Graaf seemed to echo previous testimony in which RCMP officers have stated they were mainly concerned about safety considerations and ensuring CBSA officers were able to carry out their duties in an area that was under their jurisdiction.The day before the arrest, she says she spoke with her supervisor, acting Insp. Peter Lea, who favoured boarding the plane directly in order to arrest Meng the moment her flight landed.Vander Graaf said she didn't think it was the kind of emergency situation that would necessitate officers making the arrest on the plane.She characterized Lea's idea as a "strong" suggestion."These things are fluid and other information arises," she said. "So I would suggest a course of action, but if there was a reason to change that then that would be fine."In his testimony, Dhaliwal said he didn't see why Meng couldn't have been arrested as she walked off the plane, leaving the CBSA to conduct their examination after she had been cautioned of her rights. The defence has repeatedly suggested that Canadian authorities deliberately delayed the execution of the warrant —which called for Meng to be arrested "immediately" — so the CBSA could gather information illegally for the FBI.Meng's legal team will have a chance to make those arguments at a hearing on abuse of process sometime next spring.Those proceedings were originally scheduled for February, but on Tuesday, the Crown said they anticipated a delay which might involve the calling of even more witnesses to respond to the evidence currently being heard.Meng has denied the allegations against her.
The Township of Carlow Mayo had a public meeting on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. so residents could comment on the passing of the township’s draft cannabis bylaw, and the council could answer their questions about the bylaw. Many municipalities have faced illegal cannabis operations doing business within their borders, including Carlow Mayo, one of them being the illegal cannabis operation that was taken down by the OPP on Hartsmere Road in McArthurs Mills on Sept. 15. Mayor Bonnie Adams stressed that with this amended bylaw, it will impose restrictions on where cannabis operations can be permitted within their township, and hopefully curb these illegal cannabis production facilities from starting up in the first place. After taking and answering residents’ questions on the issue, council voted unanimously to adopt this amended bylaw. Adams thanked everyone for coming and explained that the purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for individuals to comment on the draft bylaw and pose any questions they may have before it was passed by council. The bylaw in question is bylaw 26-2020, which is a bylaw to amend the comprehensive zoning bylaw 33-2004, in accordance with Section 34 of the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990. “Without the amendments we are proposing, we would have no authority on where and how cannabis operations could be established that are licenced or registered by Health Canada. Please be assured that council does not take this lightly. It’s a major problem for us and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that our municipality is protected from any illegal operations that could occur within our municipality,” she says. Adams mentioned that back on Aug. 14, she had attended a Hastings County Zoom meeting with Councillor Dan Hughey and deputy clerk and treasurer Jenny Snider to discuss this problem. She said their concerns were addressed to MP Derek Sloan, MPP Daryl Kramp, inspector detachment cmdr. Scott Semple from the OPP, insp. Jim Walker from the OPP Organized Crime and Enforcement Bureau, Warden Rick Phillips with Hastings County and Warden Marg Isbester from Lennox Addington. As a result of the meeting, letters were sent to Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark and Federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu to ensure that all three levels of government are working in cooperation toward the issue of addressing illegal cannabis operations. Adams explains that in the letters the municipalities suggested some recommendations including; that Health Canada should share information about cannabis certifications with municipalities so they can ensure that certificate holders are compliant with the township’s zoning bylaw, that police forces have the necessary resources to monitor and take action against cannabis operations that conduct their business illegally, that the province provide means to amend legislation to establish a new provincial offence that creates an offence when unlicensed cannabis operations breaking planning and environmental regulations and when they ignore building codes, and that a suggested $100,000 fine be in place to act as a deterrent. If all else fails, the township would like to be able to collect any outstanding fines through municipal property taxes. While there has been no word from Minister Hajdu yet, Adams had heard that Minister Clark had shared these recommendations with Attorney General Doug Downey, solicitor General Sylvia Jones, the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and the Association of Municipalities of Eastern Ontario Monica Turner. “As you can see, we are not sitting doing nothing with regards to this awful thing that has come into our community,” she says. This amended bylaw only applies to illegal cannabis operations, not those more limited operations for personal and medical use. Industrial hemp production, which is a larger scale growing endeavor, is also not the target of this bylaw. Industrial hemp is a food and fibre non-drug variety of cannabis with a low THC content of less than 0.3 per cent. In 2014, over 100,000 acres of industrial hemp were grown in Canada. If anyone has any concerns that a larger scale operation is not growing industrial hemp, and is instead growing illegal drug cannabis, they should contact the OPP to investigate. Questions from residents had been submitted in advance of the meeting, so that the council could look into them and provide the most detailed answers possible during the meeting. Residents posed questions to council wondering whether the township knows whether Health Canada issues a licence to a particular property for a cannabis operation, and also whether the township can put a limit on the number of cannabis operations within the township. On behalf of council, Adams answered that Health Canada does not forward this information to the township, and that the township is uninformed about licence approval so they have no idea how many cannabis operations there are so cannot put a limit on them so far. Residents also asked council what regulations are being put in place to prevent cannabis operations from being too close to residential properties, and how the safety of the community is being ensured. Adams replied that with the new bylaw, cannabis operations must be in a permitted zone and must meet the required setbacks from sensitive land use, and adhere to other requirements set out in the bylaw. With regard to safety, Adams urged residents that if they have concerns about illegal and criminal activity, to contact the OPP and they will investigate. Questions also arose about how the township would regulate the smell from cannabis operations and the environmental impacts of cannabis operations with respect to water and waste. Adams replied that operations licenced and registered with Health Canada are permitted indoors only and that they must have an air treatment control system for the building or structure. With regard to water supply, cannabis operation owners are required to provide confirmation that there is adequate water supply for daily usage and for fire suppression. Private septic systems or other onsite disposal systems will be necessary to confirm that discharge from the facility can be handled appropriately. If an offsite handling is needed, the owner will provide documentation of agreements with approved waste handlers to the township’s satisfaction. Residents also asked if pre-existing cannabis operations would be taken care of by this new bylaw, and what these cannabis operations might do to local property values. Adams said that the new bylaw would not apply to pre-existing cannabis operations but that the township was working on a new bylaw that would pertain to the nuisance that may come with a cannabis operation, like the odour for example. With regard to property values, Adams said that they can’t forecast real estate values or MPAC assessments and that there are many factors that determine these values. Also asked by residents was how the township would enforce the amendments if licencing information is not given to the township. Adams answered that the amendment to the bylaw would allow the township’s chief building official and bylaw enforcement officer to have more ability to help them enforce the Ontario building code and the township’s zoning bylaw, and that all illegal operations will need to be reported and handled by the OPP. Having no more submitted questions and none from the gallery, Adams thanked everyone present for coming out, for posing their questions and for their comments. “We’re trying to bring this situation to light and to let you know what we’re trying to do to prohibit it and address the concerns,” she says. Adams then brought forth a motion by Hughey and seconded by Councillor Mike Cannon to adopt bylaw 26-2020. Council passed it unanimously and the public meeting was adjourned.Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
TORONTO — Justin Bieber emerged as the top Canadian nominee at this year's Grammys, but the singer says he's confused over why his latest album "Changes" wasn't acknowledged as an R&B project.The Stratford, Ont.-raised superstar turned to Instagram on Tuesday with a message that, in part, said he was "flattered" by his four nominations, while he questioned the Recording Academy's decision to box him into pop music categories."From the chords to the melodies to the vocal style all the way down to the hip hop drums that were chosen it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!" he wrote.But his fifth studio release wasn't recognized as such, and while it's unclear who submitted it for nominations, the recording picked up only pop praise, pushing him ahead of multi-faceted Canadian music producer Kaytranada, who trailed closely behind with three nods.Bieber grabbed a best pop vocal album nod, while his single "Intentions," with rapper Quavo, was recognized in the pop duo performance category. The hit "Yummy" is competing as best pop solo performance.Aside from his pop prospects, Bieber found his name under best country duo or group performance for his single "10,000 Hours" with Nashville act Dan + Shay.Being shut out of the R&B categories is a setback for Bieber, who many critics suggest is trying to shed his image as a teen pop star and mature into a soulful adult vocalist.His Grammys lead was nearly matched by Kaytranada. The Montreal producer made waves as a contender for best new artist where he'll compete against heavyweights that include Texas rapper Megan Thee Stallion and Los Angeles singer Doja Cat.Kaytranada, born Louis Celestin, is also up for best dance/electronic album for "Bubba," and best dance recording for "10%," featuring Kali Uchis.The first-time Grammy nominee was joined by fellow Polaris Music Prize winner Lido Pimienta who also scored her first Grammy nod with the album “Miss Colombia” in the best Latin rock or alternative category.Reached at her Toronto art studio Tuesday, Pimienta said the nomination was unexpected."I don't really pay attention to awards but it's still, of course, a great honour," she added."I might not care about it that much, but because I love my family, and people who love me care about it so much and they're so proud of me, I have to be happy, you know? And I am so grateful."Toronto rap star Drake pulled in three nominations. He has two for "Laugh Now, Cry Later" — best rap song and best melodic rap performance — and another for the music video of "Life is Good," a track he made with rapper Future.Producer Frank Dukes, who grew up in Toronto, shares two nods with Post Malone for his work on "Hollywood's Bleeding," up for album of the year, and the single "Circles," under record of the year.Among the biggest upsets was the total absence of Toronto singer the Weeknd from the nominations. His inescapable 2020 album "After Hours" and its No. 1 single "Blinding Lights" were considered front-runners by awards prognosticators.Late Tuesday, the artist born Abel Tesfaye addressed the snub on Twitter by addressing organizers and their largely secret voting process: "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency..."Other Canadians sharing the Grammy spotlight include singer-songwriter Jonathan Saxe, who performs under the name JP Saxe. He locked his first song of the year nomination with co-writer and duet partner Julia Michaels on their sombre "If the World Was Ending."Sam Ellis, a native of Cambridge, Ont., marked his own landmark Grammy moment as songwriter on "More Heart Than Mine," nominated for best country song.Leonard Cohen landed a fourth career nomination for his posthumous 2019 album "Thanks For the Dance" in the folk album category, while Rufus Wainwright added a second Grammy nod to his illustrious career, this year for "Follow the Rules" under traditional pop vocal album.Nasri Atweh, best known as the vocalist for reggae-pop fusion act "Magic!", was among the songwriters nominated for best R&B song with "Slow Down," performed by Skip Marley and H.E.R.British Columbia house music producer Jayda G, who started her professional pursuits as a science student in Vancouver, will compete for dance recording with her track "Both of Us.""Weird Al" Yankovic's longtime guitarist Jim West said being named in the new age category for the second consecutive year was enough to convince him to scrap plans of spending the day in line at the Los Angeles Department of Motor Vehicles.Renewing his driver's licence could wait, he decided, since he wanted to savour the moment for his album "More Guitar Stories."But West, who grew up in Toronto and Ottawa, wondered how different the Grammys might look compared to last year when fellow nominees could celebrate together. "One thing I think I'm gonna miss is going to the parties," he said."I don't think anybody's going to be up for anything like that."French-Canadian actress Audrey Brisson shares a nomination with the U.K. cast of "Amelie," a musical based on the 2001 romantic comedy that's recognized in the best musical theater album category.Sound engineer Shawn Everett secured three separate nominations in the best engineered album, non-classical, category. He's being recognized for Devon Gilfillian's "Black Hole Rainbow," Brittany Howard's "Jaime," and Beck's "Hyperspace."Several other famed Canadians didn't get nominations themselves but were involved in recognized projects. A reading by "Jeopardy!" contestant Ken Jennings of the late Alex Trebek's memoir "The Answer Is...Reflections on My Life" is competing for spoken word album, while Ottawa native Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" production is up for musical theater album, a prize for the vocalists.And Niagara Falls, Ont.-raised producer Deadmau5, born Joel Zimmerman, saw a rework of his track "Imaginary Friends" by Morgan Page land a spot in the remix category.The 63rd Grammy Awards air Jan. 31. on CBS and Citytv.—With files from Cassandra Szklarski.This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 24, 2020.David Friend, The Canadian Press
A lengthy appeal process came to its end Nov. 13, when the LPAT (successor to OMB) decided in favour of allowing the application for the Petyon pit. The pit, proposed in Southgate on Grey Road 9, about three km east of Grey Road 109. was opposed by some local residents. Two of those whose names were attached to the LPAT appeal were Douglas Karrow and Jo Chisholm, who had appeared at Southgate council over the years. As a pit application, there are planning concerns which involve the local municipality. The Official Plan Amendment was passed by Southgate and by Grey County in about three years ago. There is also a separate application, and an appeal, under the Aggregate Resources Act process. The proponent, Huttonville Sand & Gravel, was represented by Stovel & Associates. Ms Chisolm, a neighbour of the pit, and Mr. Karrow raised a number of issues, one of these being the cumulative effect of the number of pits in the Holstein area. The decision referred to the planning process where the commenting agencies did not indicate they found any cumulative negative effect aft considering noise, dust, water table quality and quantity, ecology, traffic, and land use compatibility. As well, the decision found that the evidence supported the position that the applications and accompanying studies had demonstrated that there would be “no negative impacts on the natural features or their ecological functions.” No further conditions were placed on the licence, as the decision noted that the licenced area had already been adjusted, additional water monitoring wells installed and the County had addressed traffic-related requirements.M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government says American duties on Canadian softwood lumber exports continue to be "unfair" and "unjustified," even if they have been reduced. An administrative review by the U.S. Department of Commerce imposes countervailing duties of nearly nine per cent on certain Canadian exporters, down from just over 20 per cent. It's the latest salvo in one of the most persistent trade irritants between Canada and the United States, a dispute that has been raging for nearly 40 years. The lower rate appears to be the result of a World Trade Organization decision in August that found Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission were wrong to impose the original duties in 2017. International Trade Minister Mary Ng acknowledged the lower tariffs as a step in the right direction, but insisted they remain baseless and unfair. Ng says the government will continue to seek a negotiated settlement and defend the interests of Canadian forestry companies and workers."While reduction in tariffs for some Canadian producers is a step in the right direction, Canada is disappointed that the United States continues to impose unwarranted and unfair duties on Canadian softwood lumber," she said in a statement Tuesday evening."These duties have caused unjustified harm to Canadian businesses and workers, as well as U.S. consumers."U.S. producers have long taken issue with Canada's system of provincially regulated stumpage fees, which are paid to the Crown in exchange for the right to harvest timber. They say the system unfairly subsidizes an industry which in the U.S. is privately owned and operated, with pricing set by the competitive marketplace.Canadian lumber exports play a critical role in the U.S., where demand for wood products used in construction significantly outstrips the domestic supply.The U.S. Lumber Coalition, a champion of countervailing duties against Canada, noted in a statement that the August decision by the WTO is being appealed — although the U.S. has effectively hamstrung the world body's dispute resolution panel by refusing to appoint new members. "It is absolutely imperative that these flawed WTO recommendations are not allowed to undermine in any way the continued enforcement of the trade laws," executive director Zoltan van Heyningen said in a statement. "The WTO case is far from over, and as such, it must not be allowed to influence the ongoing process and the results of the second administrative review."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — An RCMP officer tasked with overseeing the electronics seized from Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou says he doesn't recall a senior officer telling him that he shared information about the devices with American investigators. Const. Gurvinder Dhaliwal was the "exhibits officer" in charge of documenting and securing anything seized from Meng in 2018 during her arrest, which put a chill on Canada's relations with China. Dhaliwal was questioned in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday about a note from his supervisor that said Staff Sgt. Ben Chang had provided serial numbers to Meng's devices to a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and attributed the information to Dhaliwal. "I recall no conversation with Staff Sgt. Ben Chang," Dhaliwal said under cross-examination, adding he only recalls forwarding emails from Chang on to his supervisor. Dhaliwal is testifying as part of an evidence-gathering hearing where Meng's lawyers hope to collect information that will support their allegations that Canadian authorities improperly gathered evidence to aid American officials under the guise of a routine immigration exam. Meng is wanted in the United States on charges of fraud over allegations related to U.S. sanctions against Iran that both she and Chinese tech giant Huawei deny. She is the company's chief financial officer and daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei. Dhaliwal has told the court that after her arrest, Meng's file was transferred to the financial integrity branch of the RCMP's Federal Serious and Organized Crime unit because it was a “complex” case. He said Chang, a senior officer in the branch, told him in an email that the FBI asked for descriptions of Meng's devices, including serial numbers, makes and models, and also asked Dhaliwal to take photos. Dhaliwal told the court that he collected that information with help from an RCMP tech specialist. Under cross-examination, he said he did not consider doing so would constitute a "search" and did not seek prior judicial authority to do so. "Would you not agree with me that this is private information you were obtaining from Ms. Meng's phones?" asked Scott Fenton, one of Meng's lawyers. "It did not occur to me at that time," Dhaliwal said. Fenton also read a line from an email Chang sent that suggested Chang's team would forward some information about the devices to the FBI so they could enter a legal request for further sharing. Dhaliwal said he forwarded the emails to his supervisor but did not recall saying to her that Chang was going to be sharing anything with the FBI. The court has heard that Chang, a key witness, has obtained counsel and will not testify. Meng's legal team has also alleged that a plan was formed the night before Meng's flight arrived for RCMP to board her plane and arrest her there, but that was later changed. Ultimately, Meng's border exam took three hours before it was adjourned so she could be arrested and informed of her rights. Dhaliwal's supervisor Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf testified Tuesday that her own superior, acting Insp. Peter Lea, raised the idea of boarding the plane when they spoke on the phone. She described it as a "strong suggestion" and she communicated it to Dhaliwal that night. However, Vander Graaf said when she arrived at the airport the next morning, a meeting between border services and RCMP officers was already underway and they had determined Meng should go through customs first. Vander Graaf, who previously worked in surveillance at Vancouver's airport, testified that she didn't challenge the plan. "It seemed reasonable to me knowing that customs officers have their customs and immigration process," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
The North Battleford RCMP gang unit raided two homes and charged five people after seizing firearms, cash and a large quantity of drugs on Nov. 21. According to police, the first residence they raided was in the 1800 block of St. Laurent and the second home was on Scott Drive in North Battleford. At the residence on Scott Drive, police seized 9.8 pounds of pre-packaged cocaine in vacuum-sealed bags, about 350 grams of marijuana, a firearm, two loaded magazines and more than $25,000 in cash. At this residence they arrested Kage Pooyak, 22, and Teshina Nahbexie, 22, both from North Battleford. They were charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a restricted firearm with ammunition, possession of property obtained by crime, unauthorized possession of a restricted firearm, unsafe storage of a firearm, and possession of a prohibited weapon. At the residence on the 1800 block of St. Laurent, police arrested Sheldon Johnstone, 44, Blake Johnstone, 27, and Sierra Stone, 18, all of North Battleford. They are facing numerous firearms offences. Sierra Stone made her first appearance in North Battleford Provincial Court on Nov. 23 and she was released from custody. She is scheduled to appear in court next on Feb. 1, 2021. Sheldon Johnstone and Blake Johnstone also made their first appearance in North Battleford Provincial Court on Nov. 23. Their next court appearance is on Nov. 25. Pooyak and Nahbexie were released from custody and are scheduled to appear in North Battleford Provincial Court Dec. 29. The North Battleford RCMP General Investigation Section, the Saskatchewan RCMP Emergency Response Team, and RCMP Police Dog Services, all assisted the North Battleford RCMP Gang Task Force. The North Battleford RCMP Gang Task Force Unit is made up of North Battleford RCMP officers from several units as part of the detachment’s crime reduction initiative. The RCMP Gang Task Force targets organized crime, the drug trade and serious property crime. Since the RCMP Gang Task Force started in November 2019 they have arrested more than 150 high profile wanted individuals and members of local street gangs. They have also led a number of successful drug investigations, including the execution of search warrants and drug interdiction traffic stops. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
OTTAWA — The top federal public servant says only a small fraction of the 5,000-plus pages of documents the government has released on the WE Charity affair were blacked out.Privy Council clerk Ian Shugart told the House of Commons finance committee Tuesday that only about one per cent of the documents were redacted to protect cabinet confidences.Less than 2.5 per cent were redacted to black out information on other matters that were not relevant to the committee's investigation into the WE affair, he added.But opposition members of the committee said Shugart's estimates don't jibe with the documents released to them, which New Democrat MP Peter Julian estimated contained some 1,500 pages that were partially or fully blacked out.The clerk acknowledged there may have been other reasons for redactions, including solicitor-client privilege and protection of personal privacy. But he pointed out that he was asked to testify at committee Tuesday specifically on cabinet confidences.Shugart's testimony follows weeks of filibustering by Liberal members of the committee over opposition attempts to denounce the government's handling of the WE documents.The opposition-dominated committee had demanded that the documents be handed over without redactions to the parliamentary law clerk, who would determine what, if anything, needed to be blacked out. Instead, the documents were redacted before being given to the law clerk.Shugart told the committee Tuesday that cabinet confidentiality is a crucial constitutional convention that frees ministers to have full and frank discussions in cabinet while maintaining cabinet solidarity once decisions are made.Notwithstanding the long history of keeping cabinet confidences secret, Shugart said he directed public servants to make an exception in the case of the WE affair.He directed them to be "as transparent as possible" about releasing documents involving the student services grant program at the heart of the affair. And he told them to release documents that touched on matters about which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his ministers had already spoken publicly."As a result ... considerable information on the grant that would otherwise have constituted cabinet confidences was provided to the committee," he said.Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre noted that Shugart can be fired by the prime minister and suggested that he and other public servants used "the pretext" of cabinet confidentiality to protect the Liberal government from political embarrassment.But Shugart said he's "completely confident" that public servants carried out his directions fully and in a non-partisan manner. He said he informed Trudeau of the approach he was taking but did not consult him or ministers on specific decisions made about what should be released or blacked out.Shugart made no apologies for ignoring the committee's order that unredacted documents be sent to the law clerk. He argued that the executive branch of government has no authority to delegate its responsibility to protect cabinet confidences to the parliamentary law clerk.The federal ethics commissioner, meanwhile, told the committee that his office has received "tens of thousands" of pages of documents on the WE affair, none of which were redacted to black out cabinet confidences.Mario Dion is investigating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former finance minister Bill Morneau for possible violations of the Conflict of Interest Act.Both Trudeau and Morneau have close family ties to WE Charity but neither recused themselves from a cabinet decision to pay the charity $43.5 million to administer the now-cancelled student services grant program."We did receive all the documents we need in order to conduct these two examinations, including cabinet confidences," Dion told the committee.Poilievre found it "very strange" that Dion's office received more documents than the finance committee. But Dion suggested that's because his office asked for more documents than the committee did.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24. 2020. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
A Vancouver Island skating club is pulling out the big guns to raise funds for their ice rink this year: popcorn. Gold River skating club has over five to six fundraisers in a year to raise around $8,000 for their ice rink and coaching fees, however, this year with the pandemic on the scene, they opted for a COVID-19 friendly kernel-fundraiser. Ambyr Kohlman, president of the skate club and the organizer of the fundraiser, said that they ordered nine flavours of pre-packaged kernels. Within 24-hours community members had already placed orders with her over the phone and social media, said Kohlman, and added, that she dropped off the packaged items outside their doors. Community members then e-transferred funds to the skate club. “The community”s response was amazing and we’ve had so many people who donated extra money for the cause,” said Kohlman. The skating club is open from Oct. to March and this year, with the pandemic, a lot of extra health and safety protocols have been put into place. “We decided not to enrol really young, new skaters this year as they sometimes required physical help while training,” said Kohlman. The club will also be organizing a couple of other fundraisers before Christmas. ALSO IN NEWS: SRD receives provincial safe restart funding Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
The province has put Grey-Bruce into the “yellow” stage of its framework, based on the numbers and trends in COVID-19 cases. There were 47 confirmed active case in the two counties as of Nov. 24, with about 250 “close contacts.” “We have been seeing a deeply concerning trend of a significant increase in the number of cases locally, and in the number of close contacts of these cases.,” the press release said. “These findings are indicative of fatigue related to following public health measures.” The shift came into effect Monday. The following are the provincial restrictions in the yellow zones, provided for information for the general public. Those operating in each sector should seek guidance directly from Public Health. The limits in numbers for private gatherings, organized public events and religious services, weddings and funerals remain the same. Among changes are more restrictions on bars and restaurants, sports and rec facilities, personal care services, retail spaces and other businesses private gatherings. Bars and restaurants must only sell liquor from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and must close between midnight and 5 a.m. A limit of six people may be seated together. Limits to the numbers in sports and rec classes are lower: 10 instead of 50 indoors, with spacing increased to three metres. The description of league play remains the same – modified to avoid contact, 50 people per league. In retail, the change is that a mall must have a safety plan, as do personal care service providers, who must take contact-tracing information. “Collectively, it is in our control to change our designation back to Green as soon as we can – but it will take an effort from all of us,” the media release from the Grey-Bruce Health Unit said. The release also reinforced the following: Wash your hands frequently; Watch your distance (ideally 2 m); Wear your face covering correctly; Avoid Crowds; Arrange for outdoor activities instead of indoors whenever possible; Stay home if you are sick. Avoid close contact (unprotected contact within 6ft of each other) with those from outside your household; Avoid travel to areas with higher transmission and minimize non-essential travel. “Be kind, be calm, be safe,” the press release said.M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA)broke down where people contracted COVID-19 last week in an update posted online Tuesday. “Saskatchewan has high rates of community transmission. Case counts, active outbreak investigations, hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase,” the media release said. As of Nov. 18, the COVID-19 case was 104 cases per 100,000 people, which was an increase from 78 the previous. As of that report Saskatchewan still had the fourth highest case rate in the country behind Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec. Some areas of Canada have higher case rates than areas of the United States. That’s different from the active case count average, which was over 200 as of Tuesday. According to the federal government, the updated active case count per 100,000 population for Saskatchewan is 244 as of Tuesday. The daily test positivity rate was 6.7 per cent, up from 5.9 per cent last week. The test positivity rate is highest in adults age 20 to 39 and lowest in children under 10-years-old. The most likely acquisition source continues to be households and close contacts. The top source for persons who acquire COVID-19 in the community is recreation/recreational facilities such as ice rinks, bingo halls, bowling alleys and casinos with 25 per cent. Gatherings such as weddings, funerals and house parties are second with 17 per cent. Group homes, shelters and outreach programs were third with 14 per cent. Tied for fourth are educational facilities and food service establishments with eight per cent. In educational facilities cases are more likely teachers or staff and test positivity rates for students are higher in the 14-year-old to 19-year-old age range for students. In food service establishments cases are more likely among co-workers. Long term care, retirement and personal care homes are fifth with seven per cent. Fitness centers and transportation and trades (taxi drivers, meat packing facilities) are tied for sixth with six per cent. Nightclubs are seventh with five per cent. Places of worship are eighth with two per cent. The common risk factors in all of these is shared indoor airspace without masking, physical distancing and frequent hand hygiene, the province said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Tay council will consider a proposal put forward by the Simcoe County District School Board. The board is offering the township the chance to purchase a piece of surplus school property in Waubaushene. A letter included in the agenda for Wednesday's council meeting indicates that the school board has decided to go ahead with the disposal of the approximately one acres property on 199 Pine St. in the township's hamlet. Further in the letter from the board, the former Waubaushene Pines Elementary School property is being offered to the township at fair market value, which requires an appraisal from a qualified real estate agent at the time of the potential sale. The piece of land is zoned as institutional and has a 6,800 sq. ft. vacant building included in the deal. This proposal, which was forwarded on Nov. 12, will lapse within 90 days of being presented, so council has to consider all aspects and make a decision about its intentions around the property by Feb. 10. Also on the agenda is a request from the Parks, Recreation, and Facility Services division to submit a funding request of $39,500 to the Ontario Trillium Foundation's (OTF) Resilient Communities Fund. The pot of money was created to support non-profit organizations in their medium- to long-term COVID-19 recovery and rebuild efforts. The parks and recreation department would like to use the money to provide modified summer day-camp programming in 2021 in compliance with the provincial and public health guidelines related to COVID-19. The library has submitted a list of COVID-19 related expenses to be included in the grant ask. They're looking for washable keyboards for public computers, money for a Zoom Pro membership, mobile divider screens, personal protective equipment and sanitizing supplies, and wipeable chairs, all for the cost of $5,600. However, the staff report says that with the exception of the wipeable chairs, the rest of the items do not qualify for the OTF grant category. For those items, staff recommends the library be given money from the safe restart funds already received by the township. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and can be viewed online or an audio-only version is available via phone at (705) 999-0385 using the meeting ID 858 8639 0753.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
A Calgary police constable's emergency injunction to stop a documentary on police brutality from airing has been denied. Filmmaker Marc Serpa Francoeur said he and co-director Robinder Uppal were pleased to hear the injunction was rejected."Obviously, we feel the allegations are 100 per cent baseless," he said, shortly after the decision by a Court of Queen's Bench judge in Calgary on Tuesday afternoon.Const. Chris Harris alleged Lost Time Media, the production company behind feature-length documentary No Visible Trauma, edited an audio clip from his body-worn camera to make it seem as if he was instructing a recruit to cover up an instance of police violence. Harris is also suing the film's production company for defamation.Francoeur says he and Uppal stand by how the incident is shown in the film.CBC News has reached out to Harris's representation for comment. The film, which investigates cases of excessive force involving the Calgary Police Service through arrest footage and interviews with former officers, is set to have its Alberta premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival on Wednesday online, or Sunday at the Globe Cinema. A shorter version of the film, titled Above the Law, has been streaming online on CBC Gem since July — that version of the film does not include the scene featuring Harris. Francoeur said when that version aired, no concerns about the accuracy of the shorter film were raised by Calgary police. Concerns centre around audio following violent arrestThe concerns centre around a seven-minute clip from the full-length documentary posted online that shows an Indigenous man, Clayton Prince, running from police after a traffic stop. The clip shows dashcam footage of Prince lying facedown on the ground and putting his hands behind his head. Officers rush toward Prince, and one officer drops to his knees and begins to punch Prince in the back of the head. Then, the dashcam video is shut off. A later dashcam video shows Prince being taken into custody, alongside audio of Harris speaking with a young recruit in the background — but Harris disputes that the audio used in the documentary is accurate. In the documentary, Harris says in a subtitled clip, "What you saw here did not happen." The recruit giggles and responds, "That's policy, yeah, I know." Harris then says: "Guys decide to dispense some street justice. If that guy in the white van was videotaping us, this would not do very well because buddy is surrendering, he gets down on the ground, and he gets fed a whole bunch of cheap shots." Harris isn't identified and is just referred to as a veteran CPS officer. 'Did' versus 'should'But Harris said he didn't say "What you saw here did not happen," but actually said, "What you saw here should not happen."Harris said in an affidavit that the audio from the documentary was provided to two audio experts working independently from one another, one of whom was also given the original Calgary police audio recording. Harris said the audio experts told him the volume on that disputed word was lowered in the documentary, which makes it harder to hear. Harris's statement of claim argues he was teaching the recruit that the officers' behaviour during the arrest was not OK, and said that the clip is falsely subtitled in a way that damages his reputation and career. Francoeur said the filmmaking team emphatically denies that the audio was changed in any way to alter what was said."We are very confident that we can provide expert testimony to reject that … we take very, very seriously the onus to communicate clearly," he said.Francoeur said the audio that Harris's team has submitted seems to have removed the lower frequencies of the word in question, something they say is misleading and intend to question in court. Francoeur said they will be launching an online fundraiser to cover their court costs. The statement of claim said on Nov. 14, Harris's legal team sent a letter to the production company's legal team, demanding the film be edited to change that subtitle and to include commentary that indicates Harris was trying to train the recruit. Francoeur said he and his co-director offered to remove the subtitle in question and blur Harris's face, but Harris did not consider the offer adequate. Harris is seeking a total of $150,000 in damages, and a declaration that the clip from the movie was published "maliciously."Prince suffered broken ribs and a collapsed lung, and a key punctured the side of his neck. One officer in the case was convicted of assault, while two others were acquitted.Harris, who has been with the Calgary Police Service for eight years, testified at the trial that during Prince's arrest he tried to get his fellow officers to stop their attack by yelling "YouTube alert" in hopes they'd be scared a member of the public was recording the violent arrest. Francoeur said Harris also testified that he didn't submit notes about the incident at least in part because "they could have negative consequences for the other officers involved."
B.C. shattered its single-day record for new COVID-19 cases, confirming another 941 on Tuesday and 10 more deaths within the last 24 hours, as the province continued to urge everyone to put a pause on social interactions.The Fraser Health region continued to drive the spike in new infections with 72 percent of the new cases occurring in that health region.There are currently 284 people in hospital, up from 198 last Tuesday. Of that number, 61 are in intensive care.The death toll now stands at 358, up from 310 a week ago, with 7,732 active cases of people infected with the disease in B.C.Public health is actively monitoring 10,283 people across the province who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure. In total, there have now been 28,348 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began, and 19,605 people have recovered.$230 fines for not complying with mandatory mask orderThe Fraser Health region had the highest numbers of new infections on Tuesday, with 678 or 72 per cent of Tuesday's new cases. There were 174 new cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, accounting for 18 per cent of new cases, 49 in the Interior Health region, 29 in the Northern Health region, and 11 in the Island Health region.There are two new outbreaks connected to long-term care homes. One is at Little Mountain Place in Vancouver, and the other is at Valley Haven Care Home in Chilliwack.A previous outbreak at Fraserview Intermediate Care lodge in Richmond has been declared over.Meanwhile, the province has extended its state of emergency for another two weeks and announced $230 fines for anyone who does not comply with its mandatory mask order. The mandate requires workers and members of the public to wear face coverings in all retail environments, restaurants and indoor public spaces, including common areas of workplaces, except when eating or drinking.The order for mandatory masks does not include schools.The province says anyone who is not wearing a mask, who does not leave a space when asked, or who responds with belligerent or abusive behaviour is subject to the fine.Burnaby Hospital outbreak tied to 55 cases, 5 deathsIn a news release Tuesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix continued to implore British Columbians to support health-care workers by doing what they can to stop the spread of the coronavirus."Everyone, young and old, needs to pause their social interactions and increase their layers of protection and stay within their local communities as much as possible," the statement said."We need to ease the pressure to allow us to get over this next hurdle, and importantly, give us the ability to once again enjoy those things that are important to all of us."After an outbreak was declared at the Burnaby Hospital on Nov. 9, 55 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 and five people have died, Fraser Health said in a statement Tuesday,The health authority is also investigating 40 cases involving staff to determine whether they are connected to the outbreak.As a result of the outbreak, the hospital is not accepting new admissions with the exception of the intensive care, maternity and community palliative care units. Other measures and restrictionsOn Tuesday, health officials further tightened restrictions to try and prevent the spread of the disease.They ordered dance studios, yoga studios, gymnastics centres and other spaces offering group indoor fitness activity to temporarily suspend those activities across B.C.Social gatherings in B.C. are now restricted to household members only.That means no one should be meeting for social reasons with anyone outside of their immediate household, although a physically distanced walk with a friend or arranging for grandparents to pick up the kids from school is still acceptable.People who live alone can create a small exclusive "bubble" with one or two others, Henry has said.All indoor and outdoor events of any size have been suspended, including popular holiday events.B.C.'s latest public health orders will be in effect until at least Dec. 7.On Monday, Henry compared this pandemic to an Ironman competition, with "three different, strenuous legs."The final leg will only come when a vaccine is available, she said. "We got through the swim — just barely. And now we're on the bike ride and we've got some big hills to climb ahead of us," she said."Right now, we have a distance to go."
The Limerick Friends’ Club hosted another takeout dinner to raise money for a worthwhile local cause. The dinner was held Nov. 14 at the Limerick Community Centre, and people came to pick up their meals from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. According to Jo-Anne Carrol, they served over 60 people, down from the number of patrons who came to the takeout dinner back in September, but not bad either, considering the ongoing pandemic. Proceeds from the dinner went towards the Coe Hill Food Bank, to help out with their Christmas baskets. Even though they weren’t able to attend the dinner on Saturday, Councillor Ingo Weise and his wife Bonnie, who is a member of the Friends’ Club, helped set things up the day before. He acknowledged the impact that the Limerick Friends Club has had in raising money for worthy causes in years past, and how difficult it has been this year with COVID-19. “The Friends’ Club has most recently donated money to Wollaston Township for Halloween candy because the children couldn’t go door to door. These dinners have also provided an important social function in the community where people could get out and meet their neighbours. The roast beef dinner on Nov. 14 was held as a take-out so the social aspect will be missing although the volunteers themselves were finally able to get back together. The township of Limerick gratefully acknowledges the important service the Friends Club and all our volunteers provide to our community.” Dawn Lockhart, the chair of the Limerick Friends’ Club was busy in the kitchen on the evening of Nov. 14, but described the menu when she came out to deliver a few dinners to patron Lawrence Hiltz. “There’s roast beef, mashed potatoes, vegetables, a little bit of horseradish in there too, nice fresh homemade bread, coleslaw and gravy,” she says. “We also have a delicious triple layer cake for dessert and when that runs out, we have four different types of pie; apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb and cherry.” Jo-Anne Carrol was also helping out in the kitchen, and described the volunteers’ routine getting everything together. “We started yesterday peeling potatoes and things like that, and then the meat was cooked at 8 a.m. this morning. Then we came back at noon to do the rest. We’re getting to be a well-oiled machine. Our first one [the takeout dinner back in September] was a little delayed, but this one worked out really well. It’s a real learning curve,” she says. The price for this takeaway dinner was $15 for adults, $7 for children aged six years to 12 years, and kids under five years old ate for free. Sharon Boomhour was outside the community centre collecting money for the dinners and accepting donations. All told, they ended up raising around $850. Diane Percy explained that they intended to donate the money in the form of gift cards to the Coe Hill Food Bank’s Christmas baskets. “They put them in the baskets and we’ll be giving them a bunch of gift cards for that. And then we’ll also be donating some money to the seniors’ program for the lunches they serve down in Tudor and Cashel,” she says. The people coming by to pick up their meals seemed to be pleased that they were happening, even if it was takeaway versus an indoor dining experience. Nicolette Mitchell came by to pick up a couple of meals. “I think it’s great. I used to come for all the dinners so I try to make it for these,” she says. Geraldine Woodbank agreed with that sentiment. “Oh, yeah! If you want good cooks, you come here,” she says. Margaret Park comes by for all the dinners, as she lives just up the road from the community centre. “I kind of miss it where everyone’s inside because you get to see people and catch up,” she says. Lucy Leftman also came by and said she used to come for these dinners all the time, though not as much as she used to. “This is kind of nice, the fact that they’ve figured out a way to work around the whole thing [COVID-19],” she says.Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is hurting the US economy, the country’s housing market is booming. People are telecommuting. Kids are studying at home. These are some of the many reasons pushing Americans across the country to seek bigger homes. (Nov. 25)
OTTAWA — One of Canada's most controversial ex-ambassadors to China says he repeatedly tried to improve the living conditions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor after their imprisonment in the People's Republic almost two years ago.John McCallum also said Tuesday he regrets speaking about the October 2019 Canadian election in a meeting with Chinese officials in the months leading up to it.McCallum, the former Liberal cabinet minister who was fired as Canada's envoy to China in January 2019, was testifying at the special House of Commons committee on Canada-China relations.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired McCallum after he made a series of public comments that broke with the government's line following the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor, nine days after Canada's arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 on a U.S. extradition warrant.McCallum said that's when everything changed in Canada's relations with China, and that he has no doubt Kovrig and Spavor would be free right now had Meng not been arrested."From that moment onwards, the top priority of the government and of myself as ambassador was to secure the release of the two Michaels," said McCallum, noting that he has been one of the few people to visit them in prison."On more than one occasion, I tried to convince the Chinese that if they were unable to release Kovrig and Spavor they should at least improve their living conditions. Sadly, as you all know, Canadian efforts in this area have so far been unsuccessful."The committee has been examining Canada's relations with China, which have plummeted to an all-time low since December 2018. That will likely include making recommendations about dealing with Chinese security agents who intimidate Canadians of Chinese descent on Canadian soil.McCallum appeared relaxed over a video link and displayed no ill will to the government that ended his decades-long career as a politician and then a high-level political appointee. MPs from all parties gave McCallum warm respectful greetings, with the Conservative MP Michael Chong telling him he liked an old book he had written.Trudeau appointed his former immigration minister – McCallum was the political architect of the campaign to bring tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada in 2016 – to Beijing as a gesture of how he valued Canada's relations with China."I think I've done some useful things in my career," he said, citing the Syrian refugee effort, serving as Jean Chretien's defence minister when "we said no" to the United States' request to enter the Iraq war in 2003 and helping bestow honorary Canadian citizenship on South Africa's Nelson Mandela. "But I've never claimed to have led an error-free career."McCallum said he had regrets about his part of his meeting with Chinese officials in the summer of 2019, after he lost his ambassadorship. He said he used the opportunity to lobby for the release of Kovrig and Spavor, or at least improve their living conditions."I painted a dark picture of plummeting support for China among Canadians. And I also mentioned as part of this darkness an impending election. Now, in hindsight, I regret having spoken of the election. I don't think it was appropriate,” McCallum recalled.It likely didn’t make any difference, he said, "because at the end of the day, the Chinese refused to release or even improve the living conditions of our two detainees."In July 2019, McCallum told the South China Morning Post that he had warned China's foreign ministry that more harmful actions against Canada would only help what he said was the less-China-friendly Conservative party get elected.Conservative MPs wrote to Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault, calling the comments "very disturbing." Then foreign affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said they were "highly inappropriate." McCallum also said that as ambassador, he rejected an unspecified number of Chinese visa applications on the advice of Canadian security agencies but noted at the time that Australia had a bigger problem with Chinese meddling than Canada. That has changed, he said."What happens to Australia today is a guide for what might happen to Canada down the road." Earlier Tuesday, Chong urged Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to adopt a more consistent approach to getting tough with China.The Conservative foreign affairs critic told Champagne in a separate Commons committee meeting that the government needs to show Canadians how it will deal with growing Chinese intimidation of Canadians within Canada.Champagne replied that Canada has taken a smart and firm approach with China lately that includes speaking out against its ill treatment of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and of ethnic Muslim Uighurs.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
Following an 18-month review, the country’s largest Crown corporation has announced a new strategy for its relationship with Indigenous people and northern communities. Details of Canada Post’s Indigenous and Northern Reconciliation Strategy were revealed this past week. Canada Post hired Dale LeClair as its first director of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the spring of 2019 to examine the corporation’s relationship with Indigenous people and communities in the north. “It’s an internal look at where we are and where we want to be,” LeClair said of Canada strategy. “It’s been 18 months in the making.” The strategy indicates that there is plenty of room for improving the Canada Post/Indigenous relationship. But it also demonstrates Canada Post’s commitment to ensure these improvements become reality. Canada Post officials have identified about 1,200 First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities across the country. “We’re really only in less than 200 of those communities. I’m very pleased that our (Canada Post) board and executive realize that we have to address that,” said LeClair, who grew up on the Peavine Métis Settlement in Alberta. Getting a post office building, however, into every single Indigenous and northern community is not something that will be accomplished overnight. Or over the course of many years. For starters, LeClair said Canada Post officials have had discussions with about 30 First Nations across the country about the possibility of either building a new post office or improving current services in their communities. Improvements to existing locations can include installing postal lockers and having better access to financial, remittance and government services. “Over the next five years we’ll be looking at those first 30 (communities),” said LeClair, adding the locations being considered are scattered across the country. Improving postal services, on a case-by-case basis with communities, is one of four key pillars in the strategy. Another pillar is developing and implementing an Indigenous procurement policy. The goal is to begin developing this policy and have it start in the second quarter of next year. LeClair said 25 Indigenous individuals will be hired as part of this policy. “Hopefully by January we’ll have the substantive part of the team in place,” he said. Team members will assist with redefining Canada Post’s relationship with Indigenous-owned companies. The plan is to have Canada Post communicate with their suppliers to ensure they engage more with Indigenous communities. These partnership engagements can be in various forms, including Indigenous workforce apprenticeships, training or development, as well as subcontracting. Another pillar is to improve Indigenous employment and retention. Though he didn’t provide specific numbers, LeClair said Canada Post’s current Indigenous workforce is underrepresented in the corporation and employment numbers have fallen short of targets. LeClair said various barriers, including rules for unionized labour and the fact some Indigenous people are not keen to move away from their communities to cities in order to work for Canada Post, have kept employment numbers at less than ideal levels. “We have not had much success in the last 10-, 15- years in this area,” LeClair said of the number of Indigenous people Canada Post employs. “We now know we have to be better. It’s our hope we can substantially increase our numbers. So, over the next five years we are going to hire 3,500 Indigenous employees.” The final pillar is to support the viability, wellness and safety of Indigenous communities. To this end Canada Post officials have agreed to step up their efforts to work with various community leaders and law enforcement agencies. “We are the primary mover of parcels and mail,” LeClair said. This means that Canada Post employees are the ones who often deliver packages, including alcohol and drugs, that can wreak havoc in communities. “We are now on a full-fledged program where we want to focus on protecting these communities from illicit drugs and alcohol,” LeClair said. Doug Ettinger, Canada Post’s president and CEO, is pleased to see his corporation has developed its new strategy. “It commits us to taking concrete action to renew our longstanding relationship with Indigenous and northern communities,” he said. “While other organizations are also making efforts to move forward on reconciliation, we’re starting to implement our strategy now, and as Canada’s largest Crown corporation we have a unique opportunity to play a meaningful role in reconciliation.” Windspeaker.comBy Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
More community drop-in spaces, places to make and see art or learn something new, could be coming to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside if council approves a proposal to loosen zoning restrictions on storefronts in the neighbourhoods. Current city rules require storefront spaces be used for retail, health care or law office use. But many storefronts on East Hastings and other streets are sitting empty, even as homelessness has grown and many non-profits have had to limit the number of people allowed inside because of COVID-19 precautions. In May, the Army and Navy department store announced it would be closing after decades of operating in the neighbourhood. Owner Jacqui Cohen said the decision to close came after “insurmountable” losses caused by COVID-19. Tom Wanklin, a city planner who focuses on the Downtown Eastside, said there’s an opportunity to make better use of the closed storefronts. “What we are going to be doing is asking council to see if they would be willing to put it out to a public hearing to allow community-serving uses, including social uses, educational uses, local employment creation,” he said. Arts and cultural space is another potential use. “We’re working... to be able to know how many affordable spaces might be available, what is lying vacant, and talking to interested landlords as to freeing up some of those spaces,” Wanklin said. The request from the city planners is on the agenda for today’s council meeting. If council approves the idea, it will go to public hearing sometime in January, a process that lets people sign up to speak to city council about whether they support or oppose the proposal. The zoning changes are proposed for East Hastings between Carrall Street and Heatley Street; for Main Street between East Hastings and Alexander Street; and Powell Street between Main Street and Jackson Avenue. Organizations like the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre have been calling on the city to fast-track safe outdoor spaces, like patios, to help residents continue to access services in a physically distant way. Wanklin said city staff are now close to approving a patio space for the women’s centre, but many other organizations in the neighbourhood have the same need for more space. “With trying to create distancing, non-profits need more space in order to do that and bring people in,” said Mary Clare Zak, a social planner who has been working with Wanklin on the idea. They probably need twice as much space to do the same programming, she said. While some neighbourhood advocates have questioned whether the Army and Navy storefront could be put to some other use, Zak said city staff have not had any recent talks with Cohen. Zoning for most of Vancouver’s main shopping areas is designed to encourage streets full of retail shops open to the public. But COVID-19 has shown there needs to be more flexibility in how storefronts are used, city planners say. Zak said changes to storefront zoning in the Downtown Eastside could be a model for other areas of the city. “Non-profits, it doesn’t matter where you are, they’re all struggling with space capacity right now,” Zak said. Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
EDMONTON — The ivy and tropical plants spread across a living wall in the lobby of a landmark Alberta government building are being cut down earlier than planned because of a bug infestation.The United Conservative government had intended to remove the 223-square-metre plant installation in the Edmonton Federal Building's lobby next year to save the annual $70,000 maintenance cost.But the acting press secretary for Infrastructure Minister Tricia Velthuizen says a bug infestation was discovered recently, so it was decided to order the wall's immediate removal.About half of the greenery was torn down Monday, exposing the metal space which used to collect the fresh air generated by the plants to send through the rest of the building.Velthuizen said the living wall — which Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio said he thought was cool when he visited Edmonton — was something nice that the province can no longer afford.She said the wall will eventually be replaced with art from the provincial collection as part of upgrades to the building's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Velthuizen did not say when the new system will be in place or how much it will cost.The Edmonton Federal Building is just northeast of Alberta’s legislature. It was originally built by Canadian government to house its main federal offices in Western Canada. It underwent extensive renovations and, in 2015, more than 600 government staff and members of the legislature moved in.The building made headlines years ago when a tony penthouse apartment was added to the renovation design for then-premier Alison Redford and her daughter. The suite became known as the "Sky Palace" in the ensuing controversy. The company Nedlaw Living Walls Inc. installed the plants in 2014 and was hired to maintain the installation. Spokesman Adam Holder said the wall was built as part of building's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system and provided fresh air. He said he was disappointed to hear the decision to remove it and suggested maintenance costs could easily have been trimmed if the UCP government had asked."Before they rip the wall out, it would have been of paramount importance for them to know that they literally could have cut their $70,000 year maintenance bill by three-quarters," Holder said."It was extremely healthy, (and) if they were able to do quarterly maintenance on it (instead of monthly), that's where I get my 75 per cent from."Holder added the UCP government may face more costs than it expected ripping out the wall."This is going to cost almost seven figures for them to not only rip it out, (but also to) redesign the space and re-engineer the air-handling system. This was literally connected to a lot of ductwork throughout the entire building, not to mention the rooftop units, and the actual air extraction system was designed with this wall," he said."So now it has to be recalibrated. And you may be in a situation where you have to buy new equipment, or re-engineer old equipment. It's certainly not just a matter of, you know, kind of ripping out a floor lamp and that's the end of it."Jim Hole, son of former lieutenant-governor Lois Hole and the operator of a well-known greenhouse just north of Edmonton, said he understands why some people would be upset about the wall's removal."The downside is, of course, you lose the beautiful esthetics. You lose that nice humidity that comes from the plants. You do lose some filtration of air that may be a bit stale and some of the pollutants that occur indoors," Hole said.Everybody, including Alberta's political leaders, should be around plants on a regular basis to become healthier mentally and emotionally, he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press