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Trudeau calls sexual misconduct a ‘systemic problem,’ says politics must change to include more women

Posted on 02 February 2018 by admin

 “Add women, change politics is how we will make a better country,” Trudeau told Liberal MPs. Absent from the meeting was former sport and persons with disabilities minister, Kent Hehr, who resigned last week after being accused of sexual misconduct.

OTTAWA—Thwarting inappropriate behaviour amongst those who wield power and building on international trade agreements are both essential elements to creating a better country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday as he rallied his party’s caucus a day before Parliament was set to resume sitting after its six-week winter break.

Trudeau told Liberal MPs that change is needed to encourage more women to enter politics.

“Add women, change politics is how we will make a better country,” Trudeau told the gathering as he referenced a women in politics social media campaign the prime minister said was more than just a hashtag. “Sexual harassment is a systemic problem. It is unacceptable.”

 His comments came as the recent movement against sexual misconduct, which saw the resignations since Wednesday of the Progressive Conservative party leaders in Ontario and Nova Scotia, was felt within the federal Liberal caucus room.

Absent from the meeting was Trudeau’s former sport and persons with disabilities minister, Kent Hehr, who resigned last week after being accused of sexual misconduct while he was a member of the Alberta legislature.

Liberal party whip Pablo Rodriguez confirmed Sunday that he had received another complaint about Hehr and passed it to the person in charge of the inquiry into the former minister’s behaviour.

Meantime, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan was to formally take on Hehr’s portfolio Monday at a Rideau Hall ceremony and retain it at least until the investigation is complete.

While Hehr remains a member of the Liberal caucus, the Prime Minister’s Office said he decided not to attend the meeting.

Had he been there, however, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable by his presence.

“Sexual harassment on the Hill is a very serious issue, and we need to take it seriously,” she said.

“But we also need to make sure that we’re allowing due diligence.”

Other Liberals, however, struggled over questions of why Hehr was allowed to remain in caucus while a fellow Alberta MP, Darshan Kang, resigned from the caucus last summer after being accused of sexually harassing two female employees in his office. Kang has denied the allegations and a PMO staffer said he resigned voluntarily.

Members of Parliament were expected to debate legislation Monday, Bill C-65, which would strengthen sexual harassment protections for federal employees, including those working on Parliament Hill.

Members of Parliament were expected to debate legislation Monday designed to strengthen sexual harassment protections for federal employees, including those working on Parliament Hill.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu, who acknowledged there is a “whisper network” operating around the Hill, said part of the goal of Bill C-65 is to prevent misconduct. But she suggested it won’t be easy.

“We’re in an environment where we have high degrees of power, with parliamentarians, and often staffers who have very little power and are in often precarious work,” she said outside caucus. “So it sets up an environment that is ripe for this kind of behaviour.”

As Sunday’s caucus meeting began, Trudeau also boasted about last week’s signing of a new, comprehensive international trade agreement — known as the CP-TPP — that he said included significant gains for Canada over the former Trans-Pacific Partnership approved by the previous Conservative government.

The prime minister said his government hopes to make similar gains during negotiations of a new North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico.

As the sixth round of talks to reach a deal were wrapping up in Montreal, Trudeau also set aside nonpartisanship over NAFTA, accusing the Opposition Conservatives of being willing to bend to U.S. demands for changing the pact.

“They wanted us to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership with no improvements,” Trudeau said of the Tories.

“And if they had their way, we’d give into American demands on NAFTA.”

While visiting Washington earlier this month, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said his party was united with the Liberals in seeking an updated NAFTA. Scheer has in the past, however, accused the Trudeau government of not properly spelling out a plan for the NAFTA talks.

The Conservatives said the resumption of Parliament will give Scheer an opportunity to once again pounce on the prime minister over his 2016 vacation with the Aga Khan.

Mary Dawson, whose tenure as federal ethics commissioner ended last month, found that Trudeau violated four provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act when he and members of his family stayed on the billionaire religious leader’s Bahamian island.

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Patrick Brown’s resignation a cue to ‘shine a light’ on unwanted sexual advances, premier says

Posted on 02 February 2018 by admin

Kathleen Wynne praises the two women who came forward. Brown has denied the allegations.

The resignation of Patrick Brown over allegations of unwanted sexual advances is a cue for Ontarians to “shine a light on behaviours that are unacceptable,” says Premier Kathleen Wynne.

“This is a shared responsibility,” she told a packed news conference in her office Thursday morning, for the most part leaving talk of politics aside with the June 7 election quickly approaching.

“We are all in this together and we are all in it as employers, we’re in it as family members, we’re in it as workers in all sorts of environments.”

Wynne praised two women who came forward in interviews with CTV News on Wednesday night for their courage.

She urged anyone who is considering whether to go public with accusations about bosses, colleagues or acquaintances “to make sure they have trusted people to speak to because it is a hard thing to do when you have had an experience that has broken a trust.”

Brown has denied the allegations from the two young women, who say they were teenagers and drunk at the time of the incidents when he was the federal MP for Barrie before entering provincial politics.

One of the women said Brown, a non-drinker, “pulled down his pants and I don’t know if he said ‘suck my dick’ or ‘put this in my mouth’ but something along those lines.”

“These allegations are false. Every one of them,” Brown said Wednesday night, hours before he resigned as party leader.

Wynne, whose government launched the “It’s Never OK” advertising campaign to fight sexual misconduct with a series of trail-blazing ads, said it’s important to realize how devastating such experiences can be.

“I believe victims when they come forward,” she added in an 18-minute news conference.

“It is really, really important that we understand how deeply troubling this is to human beings, to people,” the premier said in answering a host of questions from reporters.

“There will be lots of talk about the politics. But this is about creating safety. How can you expect young people, young girls, young boys growing up…to feel safe if we don’t as the adults create those spaces.”

Wynne acknowledged she has had problems with MPPs in her own caucus over inappropriate sexual behaviour, with one still not identified and said stronger rules have been put in place.

“At the heart of those procedures is a respect for the privacy of the victims who come forward,” said the premier. Her former Niagara MPP Kim Craitor was forced to resign in 2013 over sexual harassment allegations. The riding was subsequently won by New Democrat Wayne Gates.

Wynne declined further comment on the Brown situation but said “there should be due process and there is a legal process that has to be part of this.”

Going forward, Wynne said changing the culture around unwanted advances “goes way beyond government policy…way beyond government action” to individuals in their everyday lives.

“We have our own little flashlights.”


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2018 begins with liberal changes from the Liberals

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

The minimum wage is going up and the cost of prescription drugs is going down as election year hits Ontario.

The minimum wage is going up and the cost of prescription drugs is going down as 2018 — an election year — dawns in Ontario.

Thousands of workers will also get an extra week of vacation, and sick notes for the boss are banned among a host of changes that take effect Jan. 1, with opposition parties accusing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals of timing it all to their advantage for the June 7 vote.

New Year’s Day sees the minimum wage surge $2.40 an hour to $14 and a new pharmacare plan — the first of its kind in Canada — called OHIP+ covering four million children, teens and young adults under 25.

They will get free access to 4,400 medications on the provincial formulary simply by presenting a health card and a valid prescription at any pharmacy.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is touting how the government is “helping people get free medications for their kids” and promising a $15 minimum wage in a year.

“There are people right now who live in Ontario who are earning the minimum wage, $11.60 an hour, and they still have to go to the food bank,” Wynne says.

“If you’re working full time you should be able to feed yourself and your family,” she adds, explaining the dramatic change that has some business groups warning the hike could lead to job cuts and higher prices.

“Making $15 an hour is great, but only if you have a job,” Karl Baldauf of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce cautioned before the increase was passed.

The new measures are among the biggest New Year goodies seen in years.

Opposition parties say that’s no coincidence given that the Liberals, who have rebounded in a recent poll to be in a dead heat with Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives, are seeking another term.

“The Liberals have always operated in their best interest,” says NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who slams the governing party for not acting sooner on her push to raise the minimum wage and phase it in more gradually to help businesses adjust.

“This should have been done years and years ago.”

Brown has pledged to slow the increase to $15 over a period of four years.

Other changes coming January 1 include:

•          a 22.5-per-cent cut in the corporate income tax rate, from 4.5 per cent to 3.5, for small businesses to offset the higher minimum wage;

•          10 days of personal emergency leave to all staff in provincially regulated industries, with two days paid, for all who have been with an employer at least one full week — with a notable exception of 7 days leave for automotive sector companies. The one week employment requirement is in place to prevent people hired for a few days from calling in sick and getting paid;

•          People with five years at an employer get three weeks’ vacation, up from two;

•          The cost of borrowing for payday loans is capped at $15 per $100 borrowed, down from $18;

•          Municipalities will be able to restrict areas where payday loan shops can operate and limit the number.

•          Ontario links with Quebec and California in the largest carbon market in North America in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Progressive Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) warns parents that kids and teens, college and university students and young adults already in the workforce may not be able to get the same medications they’re used to under OHIP+ if they are fortunate enough to have other coverage.

“The Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) plan covers fewer drugs than private insurance companies,” notes Yurek, a pharmacist himself.

“They might get surprises when they go for a refill of a prescription that’s not covered. Doctors and pharmacists will be scrambling to find alternatives.”

Liberals counter that people with private plans can still get those medications, although they may have co-payment costs or deductibles, while families without drug insurance coverage will save money on every prescription.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins calls OHIP+ “the biggest advancement of medicare in this province in generations” and says patients wondering if their particular medications are covered can check on the site, under medication coverage.

“It’s important to stress that OHIP+ will cover every single drug on Ontario’s formulary: asthma inhalers, EpiPens, diabetes test strips, oral contraceptives, cancer drugs and drugs for rare diseases,” he adds.

“Diabetes test strips and insulin for low-income families struggling to pay the bills every week will save them thousands of dollars each year.”

Other medications under OHIP+ include antibiotics for infections, antidepressants, mental health drugs and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs.

Pharmacies will be reimbursed by the government for the cost of dispensing and providing the drugs. Doctors and nurse practitioners are being urged to check the ODB formulary before prescribing medications, to make sure patients without private drug plans can get the medicines they need free of charge.

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Ontario’s long-awaited new nuclear emergency plan falls short, Greenpeace says

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

Ontario has updated its plan for dealing with nuclear emergencies for the first time since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Ontario has updated its plan for dealing with potentially deadly emergencies at nuclear power plants for the first time since the 2011 Fukushima disaster forced the evacuation of 70,000 people in Japan.

The 173-page effort follows criticisms from provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk earlier this month that the nuclear response blueprint has not been changed since 2009 to reflect lessons learned elsewhere.

“Ontario has three nuclear power facilities and 18 operating reactors, which makes it the largest nuclear jurisdiction in North America and one of the largest in the world,” she wrote in her annual report.

“Plans need to be regularly updated with current information and to reflect the best approach to respond to emergencies so they can be used as a step-by-step guide during a response,” Lysyk added.

The new plan takes into account radiation emergencies that could stem from reactor accidents, leaks during the transportation of radioactive material, explosions and even a satellite crashing on nuclear plants at Pickering and Darlington east of the heavily populated Greater Toronto Area or at the Bruce reactors near Kincardine on Lake Huron.

“This updated plan will help ensure we are more prepared than ever for emergencies so that our families and our communities are safe,” Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde said in releasing the document on Dec. 21.

The plan was released a week after the government put out a request for experts to conduct a technical study of it, making a mockery of the process, said the anti-nuclear group, Greenpeace.

“It’s ass backward and incompetent,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, senior energy analyst for Greenpeace, a vocal critic of the government’s nuclear energy program.

There is little in the updated nuclear response plan to prepare for a major disaster, he added, such as emergency zones that are too small given the potentially large scale of nuclear disasters.

“While other countries have strengthened public safety since Fukushima, it’s taken the Ontario government six years to maintain the status quo,” said Stensil.

“Other countries are preparing for bigger accidents.”

The new plan is based mainly on the possibility of a “design-basis accident,” which the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines as an accident “that a nuclear facility must be designed and built to withstand without loss to the systems, structures, and components necessary to ensure public health and safety.”

Stensil said design-basis accidents don’t release much radiation, as was the case with a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in 1979.

“Other countries decided in light of Fukushima to plan for accidents that reactors weren’t designed to prevent or control,” he added.

While the Ontario plan mentions a “wide range of accidents” should be considered, “the amount of detailed planning should decrease as the probability of the accidents’ occurrence decreases” to maintain an “appropriate balance.”

In contrast, Stensil said Germany’s Commission on Radiological Protection, known by the acronym SSK, goes further.

That agency states “the range of accidents included in emergency response planning should be redefined to more closely reflect an accident’s potential impact rather than its likelihood” and calls for contingency planning for “accidents whose radiological effects mirrors those of Fukushima.”

The tender issued for the technical study of Ontario’s nuclear emergency plan called for an assessment of the size of emergency zones, potential radiation doses, a wider look at weather patterns, possible meteorological effects at reactor sites and a study on drinking water impacts in the event of an accident.

At Fukushima, a massive offshore earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale triggered a tsunami that swamped the nuclear power plant, melting down three reactors and causing a fire in a fourth reactor.

The heavily damaged facility leaked radiation into the sea and surrounding countryside. The initial radioactive zone was bigger than the ones left by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, forcing large-scale evacuations.

While some areas remain under evacuation orders, large swaths of land are now considered safe. Decommissioning of the destroyed power plant is expected to take decades.

In her report, Lysyk warned a lack of preparation by emergency management officials “could result in confusion or delays” in any response to a tragedy.

Toronto city council passed a motion in November calling on the province to prepare for more severe accidents and expand delivery of anti-radiation potassium iodide pills beyond the current 10-kilometre zone around nuclear power plants.

The city also requested a study on the potential impacts of a major nuclear accident on the Great Lakes, which are a source of drinking water for millions in Canada and the United States, awareness campaigns for Toronto residents on how to prepare for a nuclear accident at Pickering or Darlington, just east of Oshawa.


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Young leaders demand more than ‘status quo’ budget at Toronto city hall

Posted on 28 December 2017 by admin

As it approaches its 20-year anniversary, the Toronto Youth Cabinet is still advocating for a better Toronto.

 “On behalf of the youth cabinet we want to express to you how much a spending freeze in 2018 would hurt Toronto’s youth and other marginalized youth,” begins Riley Peterson.

The 18-year-old Ryerson University student is seated directly in front of Mayor John Tory and a committee of his hand-picked executive members on this mild May day.

A freeze, direction endorsed by Tory and his allies, would make it harder to access social services and to break the cycle of poverty, Peterson says. It would leave residents waiting for better housing and transit.

“We need to break away from the status quo by truly investing in our city and the services that make it function,” she tells the committee. She endorses raising property taxes beyond the rate of inflation. “People are not numbers on a financial statement that the city balances.”

When she’s done with her deputation, Tory challenges the teen, asking if she’s aware this is just the beginning of the process.

Peterson looks directly at Tory, hands clasped in front of her.

“I’m aware of that, but also every year we come back, begging, basically, for money for our services.”

Peterson is one of just over a dozen young people tasked with running the Toronto Youth Cabinet, an official advisory body to city council, which turns 20 next year.

As this term moves into its final year, the group has become increasingly vocal about their vision for the city and how to fund it, challenging the adults who ultimately make the decisions.

“Honestly, I just Googled like “youth municipal politics,” says 20-year-old Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie of how she found the TYC and got involved.

She’s seated in the 15th floor office the TYC shares with the Toronto Seniors’ Forum in the east tower of city hall with Peterson and two other female leaders who all tell similar stories.

Beyond a Grade 10 civics class that doesn’t make civics sound very interesting, there are few lessons on the important of the municipal level of democracy thrust upon young people, the group says. And city hall, like other institutions can be an intimidating place for the teens and 20-somethings they represent.

The TYC has aimed to change that.

The cabinet was established in 1998 by then-councillor Olivia Chow to promote youth participation in city issues, with youth defined as anyone between the age of 13 and 24.

It remains enshrined in the cabinet’s constitution for its members to reflect the city’s youth in race, ethnicity, religion and other identities, and to represent all corners of the city.

Seven working groups led by youth tackle the big issues: Newcomers, community safety, transit, education, equity and employment, housing and the budget.

“We’re adding an additional lens to how we’re looking at city council,” says executive director Edna Ali, 21.

“Especially for the budget we add a different perspective, because I think a lot of the people in those discussions are focused on what’s going on now and what’s happening in the city now, but we’re also looking at 10, 20, 30, 40 years down the road too,” adds Peterson, who is the group’s budget lead.

“I think as youth we’re kind of tired of like just scraping by every year on the budget and not investing in the city now is going to have a real impact on our futures so that’s what I mean by status quo budgets.”

The youth cabinet is also challenging council for promising new initiatives without funding them in the budget.

In the preliminary 2018 budget, there are $41.2 million worth of programs and services that are not yet funded, though Tory has promised to add many to the budget. They include student nutrition, a low-income transit pass, an anti-Black racism plan and more childcare spaces.

“It’s not just they’ve promised it, they’ve made announcements,” said St. Louis-McBurnie. “Why did you announce it if you didn’t have the money to fund it? I think that is disingenuous.”

Like many other young people, St. Louis-McBurnie, who lives in co-op housing in Cabbagetown, says she’s come to accept she’ll never own a home in the city. As the group’s housing lead, she said that affordability crisis impacts youth like her in many ways.

“There are other things I have to think of: I’ll have to pay rent; I have student loans to pay back; If I have a child, I have childcare costs. I mean, when we talk about housing it isn’t housing in itself, it’s housing in conjunction with other issues that young people are facing,” she said.

“The mayor loves to say that he got the province to finally do something. But what did you finally do? There are things that you have to do as the mayor of the city to actually advance affordable housing and so for me, overall, the long-term vision would be more social housing. We have not built social housing since the 90s.”

Factoring into a city that is increasingly unaffordable for youth is a troubling unemployment rate, said Mana Sadeghipour, 25, who leads the equity and employment working group. The current rate, around 18 per cent is, according to city data, nearly triple the overall unemployment rate for the city and consistently higher than youth unemployment rates for both Ontario and Canada.

“There’s definitely a lower standard for youth and their standard of living and I think that’s something that needs to be talked about,” Sadeghipour said.

Chow told the Star she launched the youth advisory body to be an active participant in city debates.

“Given the city of Toronto provides services that have dramatic impact on young people, they, young people themselves, need to be engaged and provide wisdom, not just advice, and intervention to how the city functions and delivers service,” she said. “It’s their city.”

For now, the women in charge of the youth cabinet say they don’t have political aspirations. They’re happy trying to make progress behind-the-scenes while aware of the lack of youth and women of colour represented on council.

“In the future, possibly.”

“Maybe one day,” they say.

With the last budget of the term to be finalized in February, Ali said she’d like to see the whole process changed.

“Why are we only asking for the public consultation at the end?” she asked.

Instead of first setting direction like keeping taxes low, why not look at the city you want to build and then decide how to fund it? the group asks.

When describing to her peers what a budget freeze means, Peterson said she tries to explain it on their level, instead of how it’s usually discussed: The impact on single-family homeowners.

“Well that’s why you wait 10 or 15 minutes for the Jane bus or why your local library has weird hours, just breaking it down like that and then they start to say, like, ‘Why? We should be investing in our services because we need them.’ And then it comes to down to, well, we need to generate more revenue to do that and property taxes is one of the ways to do that.”

That stretching of dollars, she said, is felt across the city’s waitlists for affordable housing and recreation and in recent statistics that one if four children live in poverty in the city.

Then she pivots to a term the adults downstairs have been using a lot.

“Youth are at the end of the road that we’re kicking the can down,” Peterson said. “It’s something to think about.”


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Advocates urge more action for shelter crisis in Toronto

Posted on 28 December 2017 by admin

City of Toronto has a target of a 90 per cent occupancy rate but on Dec. 21, homeless shelter system was at 95 per cent capacity with more than 5,400 people.

The City of Toronto is facing renewed criticism for its handling of the city’s shelter crisis following a story last week about a badly injured homeless woman who spent the night on the floor of a drop-in centre after she was hit by a car because no shelter beds were available.

“We are playing with people’s lives, and this shell game, at some point we are going to lose and losses will be significant,” said Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale).

Wong-Tam said she felt “anger, heartbreak, and shame” when she heard the story of the homeless woman, identified only as K.A. She suffered a broken shoulder, a gash above her eye and bruising when she was hit by a car near Parliament St. and Bloor St. E. in the early hours of Dec. 7. It was five days before she could access a bed in respite care.

“Most of the shelter workers I’ve spoken to tell me absolutely, in no uncertain terms — and actually they’ve been a lot more forceful in their language lately — that ‘Councillor, we are full,’ ” she said.

While the City of Toronto has a target of a 90 per cent occupancy rate, the shelter system was at 95 per cent capacity on Dec. 21 — with more than 5,400 people staying in shelters.

In a statement Mayor John Tory said he has asked city staff to investigate what happened in K.A.’s case, which he called “an incredibly sad story.”

He added that he is “deeply concerned about the plight of people who are homeless in Toronto.”

“That’s why a majority of councillors voted this month to expand the City’s shelter system by 400 beds to deal with the unprecedented demand that we are facing. It is also why over the last three years, we have worked to expand the shelter system by more than 1,300 beds while, at the same time, we have worked to get people off the street and into permanent housing,” he said.

While these are steps in the right direction, Wong-Tam said, the city’s most recent announcement is ultimately just another temporary “Band-Aid.”

Dr. Glen Bandiera, the chief of emergency medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital, where K.A. was treated following her accident, said, while he can’t comment on the specifics of her case, the hospital does have a number of options available to it for patients who may not have anywhere to go or any supports at home, including admitting them to hospital, referring them to long-term care, or respite care.

“It depends a lot on the nature of the injuries and what type of environment is most suitable to create a healing environment,” he said, adding it also depends on whether the patient wants to avail themselves of any of those options.

While Bandiera said “we would not send the patient home if we didn’t think it was safe to do so,” space is often an issue.

“It’s not unusual that we have patients that come to St. Michael’s and we try to get them into the shelter system and we’re told that they’re full,” he said.

Bandiera said St. Michael’s also has a Rotary Centre for patients who are medically discharged but may need time to organize support in the community. But Jessica Slotnick, a community health worker who works with K.A., said they were told the Rotary Centre admissions were only for 18 hours, so K.A. couldn’t have spent the night.

Cathy Crowe, a street nurse well known for her work with the homeless, said 70 homeless people have died between January and September.

“The mayor has to call a state of emergency around the homeless shelters,” she said, adding that she’s also calling for the city to commit to 1,000 new shelter beds and to open the armouries for emergency relief.

The mayor, however, is unlikely to call a state of emergency.

Tory’s director of communications Don Peat said he has been advised that calling a state of emergency wouldn’t be an appropriate use of the law. Peat added that the Better Living Centre is preferable to the armouries. The last time the armouries were used, they could only be accessed during the evening hours and for a limited time.

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Richard Wagner sworn in as chief justice of the Supreme Court

Posted on 22 December 2017 by admin

Wagner takes over from Beverley McLachlin, who retired Friday after serving for 17 years as chief.

OTTAWA—Richard Wagner has officially taken the helm at Canada’s highest court.

The Quebec jurist was sworn in today as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada at a short ceremony at Rideau Hall.

Wagner takes over from Beverley McLachlin, who retired Friday after serving for 17 years as chief and a total of 28 years on the court.

Wagner was also sworn in as a member of the privy council in front of an audience which included his family, McLachlin, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Appointed to the Supreme Court by former prime minister Stephen Harper, the 60-year-old Wagner could hold the chief justice role for 15 years, should he opt to remain until the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Also today, Alberta judge Sheilah Martin was formally appointed to the high court.

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Canada’s electronic spies will be able to launch cyber attacks with little oversight, report warns

Posted on 22 December 2017 by admin

CitizenLab researchers raise red flags over proposed new powers for Canada’s Communications Security Establishment.

OTTAWA—Canada’s electronic spies will be limited “only by their imagination” in coming up with new cyber attacks and espionage campaigns under proposed legislation, a new report warns.

The Communications Security Establishment will be able to select targets and launch cyber attacks with little “meaningful” oversight, according to an analysis of Bill C-59 by the University of Toronto’s CitizenLab.

Bill C-59 “affords the CSE the ability to engage in a vast range of unenumerated and deeply problematic activities with the potential to seriously interfere with charter-protected rights and freedoms,” the report, to be made public Monday, reads.

Bill C-59 proposes to give CSE — for the first time in the agency’s postwar history — the explicit power to conduct cyber attacks and sabotage against foreign states and people. Until now, the secretive agency has been limited to intelligence gathering, defending government networks, and assisting law enforcement.

The proposed powers are broad. The bill explicitly prohibits CSE from causing death or bodily harm, and from obstructing or perverting “justice or democracy.”

That leaves a very long list of permitted activities, the researchers note.

“From mass dissemination of false information, to impersonation, leaking foreign documents in order to influence political and legal outcomes, disabling account or network access, large-scale denial of service attacks, and interference with the electricity grid, the possibilities for the types of activities contemplated in (Bill C-59) are limited only by the imagination,” the report reads.

Under the legislation, the CSE would require sign-off from both the minister of national defence and the minister of foreign affairs to launch a cyber attack. But the offensive cyber operations would not require judicial sign off or oversight, nor would they require approval by the proposed independent Intelligence Commissioner, the report reads.

In a statement Friday, CSE spokesperson Ryan Foreman suggested a warrant system for cyber operations may not be the best fit for the agency’s mandate.

“CSE is a foreign intelligence and cyber security organization, not a domestic security or law enforcement agency. Warrants for law enforcement … are generally for specific targets or operations … whereas CSE’s ministerial authorizations authorize a class of activities,” Foreman wrote, noting that the CSE is prohibited from directly targeting Canadians or people in Canada.

“However, these, and all of CSE’s activities would be subject to review” by a new parliamentary committee.

The report was prepared by CitizenLab researchers Christopher Parsons, Lex Gill and Ronald Deibert, as well as Tamir Israel, a lawyer with the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, and Bill Robinson, who has long chronicled CSE’s history and activities.

In an interview with the Star on Sunday, Gill said Canada also runs the risk of normalizing state-sponsored hacking and disinformation campaigns — a particular worry in North America, as the United States continues to unravel alleged Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election through disinformation and hacking.

“The open question (is) whether or not affording the (CSE) these types of capabilities will contribute to Canada’s security interests or undermine them,” Gill said.

“By creating a climate which normalizes these types of activities, creates a legislative framework for them, we’re accepting as Canadians that we think that these types of operations are okay. I’m not convinced that Canadians have had a robust public conversation about … a kind of cyber warfare.”

The report compares CSE’s new cyber operations powers to the much-criticized “disruption” powers granted to another security agency, CSIS, by the Conservatives in 2015.

Like the Conservatives’ Bill C-51, the Liberals’ national security bill permits CSE to take a wide array of “disruptive” activities — while explicitly prohibiting only a few limit cases.

Bill C-59 is still before the House of Commons’ national security committee. The governing Liberals have signalled a willingness to substantially amend the legislation should issues be raised. The committee’s review will resume in early 2018.

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Kathleen Wynne grilled on pot issues at Brampton town hall meeting

Posted on 22 December 2017 by admin

Ontario plans to open 40 government-run recreational cannabis shops on July 1. Other provinces to allow private retailers.

Is Ontario keeping too tight a lid on pot?

Premier Kathleen Wynne faced that question at a town-hall meeting Wednesday night in Brampton, where about 250 citizens — some with anger in their voices — grilled her about high local auto insurance rates, health care, workers’ compensation, the Tarion new home warranty system, the rising minimum wage, the recent five-week community college strike and other issues.

“‎Can we not have the private sector?” one young man asked as the clock ticks down to the legalization of marijuana across Canada on July 1.

That’s when Ontario plans to open the first 40 government-run recreational cannabis shops.

Other provinces are allowing private retailers into the business with strict oversight, but Wynne said Ontario doesn’t trust that model.

 “We have a very strong organization, the LCBO,” Wynne told the crowd at the Century Gardens Community Centre, referring to the liquor agency’s control of the cannabis-only shops.

“We need a safe ‎and responsible system that protects young people and is designed to undercut the black market.”

While critics have scoffed at that notion, insisting 40 stores is a drop in the bucket in a province as big as Ontario, Wynne said‎ Ontario will boost that number to 150 shops in the next couple of years.

Moderated by former Rogers TV host Nav Nanwa, the evening was the second in a series of Wynne town hall meetings to be held across Ontario.

The meetings are organized and paid for by the government to make Wynne, who faces re-election next June 7, more accountable and accessible to the public.

In that vein, audience members weren’t shy about pressing their concerns.

“When is our pay equity coming?” asked one woman who works at a non-profit community organization.

“It’s been 30 years. We’re still waiting,” she added in a testy tone after the premier said the Liberal government is working on it.

Wynne was also peppered with questions from people angry at the Tarion home warranty program and high auto insurance rates.

She acknowledged changes passed by the Legislature this week to improve Tarion don’t “go as far” as buyers want and said the auto insurance system is “broken” because geographic factors play too big a role in setting premiums.

“It needs to be rebuilt. That’s what we’re going to do,” she added, citing statistics that auto insurance rates in Ontario have dropped 6 per cent — a comment that drew murmurs of “no” throughout the audience.

In answering a man who bluntly stated “I’m upset my daughter was out of college for five weeks” because of a faculty strike, Wynne said the government is working on a system similar to the one in elementary and secondary schools where the government can intervene earlier if the school year ‎is judged to be in jeopardy.

“It went on too long. I agree with you,” she said of the strike, which was ended with back-to-work legislation in late November.

Wynne got a similar grilling from participants at her first town hall meeting last month at the Concert Hall in Toronto. More are planned but the next location has not been announced.

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Quebec Liberals promise guaranteed minimum income for some residents

Posted on 14 December 2017 by admin

The plan to guarantee income for those deemed unable to work came as part of the party’s anti-poverty strategy.

QUEBEC—Premier Philippe Couillard is promising to create a guaranteed minimum income for certain Quebecers as part of a $3-billion anti-poverty plan.

Couillard and Employment Minister François Blais presented the government’s five-year anti-poverty strategy in Quebec City on Sunday.

The plan would boost the annual income of those who are unable to work by more than $5,000 to about $18,029 a year and establish a guaranteed minimum income for them.

Those deemed able to work would not receive increased benefits under the plan but could be eligible for subsidized training or job search bonuses.

The Quebec government says the plan would help lift about 100,000 people out of poverty by 2023 but anti-poverty groups are already denouncing it, saying it creates two classes of poor by punishing those who are deemed able to work.

The next provincial election is set for October 2018.

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