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Sask. work deaths reaching crisis level, says U of R professor

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A rising number of work-related deaths have reached a crisis level, according to University of Regina associate professor Sean Tucker.

37 people have been victims of work fatalities from January to the end of August in 2018. That’s up from 27 in all of 2017 and 31 in 2016.

In 2012, the number of workplace deaths hit a high of 60. Since then, the numbers have been steadily declining- until this year.

Work-related deaths in Saskatchewan are on the rise after hitting a ten-year low in 2017.

Meanwhile, Alberta and Manitoba are both seeing much lower fatal injury rates during the same time period, though it should be noted Manitoba uses a different reporting system for vehicle-related incidents.

This year, the leading causes of workplace fatalities in Saskatchewan are occupational disease and motor vehicle-related incidents. It’s a shift from 2017 when the leading causes were occupational diseases and acute injuries.

According to the Worker’s Compensation Board, occupational disease-related fatalities are often diagnosed years after a workplace exposure.

The group expects occupational disease-related deaths will continue as workers in the province are often exposed to asbestos, putting them at risk of disease or death decades into the future.

The stats don’t always reflect the faces, families and stories of those who were lost, but Tucker said there are concrete steps that can be taken to reverse the dangerous trend.


READ MORE:
Moose Jaw, Sask. company fined in worker’s death

“It doesn’t have to be this way in Saskatchewan,” Tucker said. “Serious injury and fatalities are preventable- and actually quite easily preventable.”

He’s calling for enhanced occupational health officer training, increased police knowledge of occupational health and safety criminal charges and a greater awareness of workplace safety inspections.

Tucker would also like to see more safety materials for workers who have learned English as a second language, and more education about basic rights in the workplace.

All workers have the right to know about hazards in the workplace, participate in the control of hazards in the workplace and be part of an occupational health and safety committee, and refuse work that is usually dangerous without repercussions.


WATCH:
Man killed in Saskatoon workplace incident

Tucker wants to see new provisions added to existing legislation that would allow workers to refuse work they believe is dangerous on behalf of their younger, more vulnerable colleagues.

The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation board also said it’s changing some of its approaches in hopes of keeping more people safe.

“All workplace fatalities are preventable,” Vice-president of prevention Phil Germain said. “We all need to step up to make our workplaces safer. All organizations, no matter their size, should be investing in their own safety programs and make safety a key part of their culture. Safety belongs to each of us individually as much as it is a collective concern. Working safely is just smart business and it’s the right thing to do.”

It’s a long road ahead, but Tucker is optimistic things could start moving in the right direction if action is taken.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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Acting OPP chief asks court to examine ombudsman’s decision not to review Ron Taverner appointment

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The acting head of the Ontario Provincial Police has asked a court to rule whether the provincial ombudsman can review the hiring process that saw Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner named as the next OPP commissioner.

The move came Friday, after Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé turned down a request earlier in the week from Interim Commissioner Brad Blair to probe “potential political interference” in the appointment.

Taverner, a close friend of Premier Doug Ford, is expected to be sworn in as commissioner on Monday. In his original request to the ombudsman on Tuesday, Blair asked that Taverner’s installation to be delayed pending his requested review of the appointment.

According to a statement from Blair’s lawyer late Friday afternoon, Dubé “refused to exercise his jurisdiction to review Commissioner Blair’s request.”

In response, and in one of his final acts as interim commissioner, Blair filed an application to a divisional court “to determine and enforce the jurisdiction” of the ombudsman to review the OPP commissioner hiring process.

“If the Ombudsman does not review the complaint, the independence of the OPP will continue to operate under a cloud of suspicion,” reads the application.

“This is a serious matter as the independence of the OPP — a body that can be called in to investigate provincial politicians — must be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the citizenry.”

The application is relying on a section of Ontario’s Ombudsman Act, which states that when there is a question about whether the ombudsman has the jurisdiction to investigate any case, a directly affected person — in this case Blair — “may apply to the divisional court for a declaration.”

A spokesperson for the ombudsman’s office could not be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Earlier Friday, the NDP made a personal appeal to Taverner, urging him to delay the appointment until an investigation has wrapped up — and, in a separate letter, called on the province’s attorney general to “stop his swearing in” if he doesn’t.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Taverner’s appointment is too fraught with controversy, given his close connection to Ford, and said “officers and leadership of the OPP, as well as the people of Ontario must have absolute confidence there has been no political interference … and that there will be no political interference in policing matters going forward.”

In a letter to Taverner, she said he should “do the right thing.

“That is why I am asking you to delay your installation and assuming command of the OPP until a full investigation … has been completed,” Horwath wrote.

She also accused Ford of demonstrating “poor judgment and a lack of transparency.”

In a second letter sent to Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh said “this appointment cannot go ahead under this growing cloud of suspicion … as Ontario’s attorney general and the chief prosecutor your first duty is to uphold the law … it is incumbent upon you to use your influence and authority as attorney general to intervene in this process and stop the swearing in of Supt. Taverner” for now.

Taverner’s appointment, announced Nov. 29, has dogged by speculation that Ford interfered in the hiring process.

The Star’s Kevin Donovan has revealed that Taverner was previously offered to lead the Ontario Cannabis Store, as well as a deputy minister position in the ministry of community safety with a source saying: “Doug wanted to do something for Taverner. That is what we are hearing.”

Both Ford and Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones have accused critics of slinging mud at the 72-year-old Toronto police superintendent, who has headed divisions in Etobicoke.

Taverner officially resigned from the Toronto police Friday and is set to begin his new job Monday.

Ford recently told reporters he did not recuse himself and signed off on the appointment.

Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones has said she supports Taverner, and that the appointment to the $275,000 position was made by an independent panel.

The NDP is personally appealing to Ron Taverner, urging him to delay taking the top OPP job until an investigation into his appointment has wrapped up — and if he doesn’t, Ontario’s attorney general is being asked to step in to stop his swearing in.

In two letters released Friday afternoon by the NDP, Leader Andrea Horwath says Taverner’s appointment as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police is too fraught with controversy given his close connection to Premier Doug Ford, and said “officers and leadership of the OPP, as well as the people of Ontario must have absolute confidence there has been no political interference … and that there will be no political interference in policing matters going forward.”

She says Taverner should “do the right thing. That is why I am asking you to delay your installation and assuming command of the OPP until a full investigation … has been completed.”

In a second letter sent to Mulroney, Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh says “this appointment cannot go ahead under this growing cloud of suspicion … as Ontario’s attorney general and the chief prosecutor your first duty is to uphold the law … it is incumbent upon you to use your influence and authority as attorney general to intervene in this process and stop the swearing in of Supt. Taverner” for now.

Taverner’s appointment, announced Nov. 29, has been lauded by some but heavily criticized by others who alleged Ford interfered in the hiring process.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy



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EXCLUSIVE: China, Meng Wanzhou and Canada — how Huawei CFO’s arrest is playing out behind the scenes

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Ever since Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou landed at Vancouver’s YVR airport at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 to catch a connecting flight to Mexico, Canada has been placed in the middle of a battle between the world’s two greatest powers.

Meng, 46, is at the centre of allegations that Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant linked to China’s People’s Liberation Army, has used a Hong Kong shell company known as Skycom to do business with Iran, defying U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Huawei denies the allegations.

The United States alleges Meng has been avoiding travel to the country ever since she learned of investigations into her business dealings. But when Meng landed in Vancouver and tried to pass Canadian customs on Dec. 1, she was flagged for detention and arrested by the RCMP, as the U.S. had filed proceedings for an extradition request with Canada.

Now, a high-stakes game of politics, espionage and covert surveillance operations is playing out in Vancouver, where Meng, one of China’s most powerful executives, was released on bail after a three-day hearing that was followed by media outlets worldwide.

READ MORE: Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou granted bail, will live in Vancouver under electronic surveillance

Sources in law enforcement and government provided accounts of the unfolding events in British Columbia, a case that experts say has triggered a serious international crisis for Canada.

Already, China has apparently retaliated for Meng’s arrest by detaining two Canadians on national security charges, former Canadian ambassadors to China and CSIS employees say. And China has promised further revenge.

However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland told reporters Friday that China has drawn no connection between the arrests and the extradition of Meng.

WATCH: Who is Michael Spavor, the second Canadian to go missing in China?






Sources in this story could not be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information they provided.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, while media outlets from around the world prepared to attend a Vancouver court hearing that would decide where Meng should stay during the pending extradition hearing — in one of her two luxurious homes in Vancouver or in jail — some elite RCMP officers already believed they had the answer.

A source told Global News the officers were saying Meng would be released later that day. They were right: Tuesday afternoon, Justice William Ehrcke released Meng on a $10-million security. Later that night, as media cameras crowded around, Meng was escorted in a protective embrace to a black Cadillac Escalade SUV by Scot Filer, a respected former RCMP geographic profiler with business experience in China, and the CEO of Lions Gate Risk Management, the private firm handling Meng’s security while she’s out on bail.

A vehicle is seen outside of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s home in Vancouver on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A source said that while some of Canada’s business leaders have suggested the country was wrong to arrest Meng because of the political and economic consequences as well as the damage China has promised to inflict, it was never an option to let her continue on her travels to Mexico, where she reportedly planned to conduct business for Huawei.


READ MORE:
‘China will take revenge’ if Canada doesn’t free Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou: Global Times editor

Extradition requests from the United States are a standard, daily occurrence to be handled by Department of Justice Canada officials, a law enforcement source familiar with the Meng case and the general process said. As long as the evidence and allegations filed by an extradition treaty partner are in order, a suspect will be detained and enter the hearing process, and there will never be political interference, the source said.


Meng has two Vancouver homes worth $22 million in total. Now that she is living in one of the homes, RCMP officers are conducting covert surveillance operations in the area at night, a source said. This is to make sure that Meng doesn’t attempt to flee Canada and to monitor whether Chinese state agents attempt to contact her, according to a source.

At this time, since Meng has few friends in Vancouver; it is only neighbours attending her home, a source said.

Agents of China’s powerful Ministry of State Security, which protects China’s national interests and conducts intelligence operations in foreign lands, are also believed to be covertly monitoring Meng, a source said. And while crowds of Meng’s supporters protested for her release this week outside a downtown Vancouver court, MSS agents were also believed to be monitoring the events.

“Absolutely, the MSS are here (watching Meng) in Vancouver,” one source said.

Supporters hold signs and a Chinese flag outside B.C. Supreme Court during the third day of a bail hearing for Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The RCMP did not directly answer questions for this story nor deny information provided to Global News.

In a statement, the RCMP said: “Under the terms of a consular agreement between Canada and the People’s Republic of China, the RCMP contacted Chinese consulates in Vancouver and Ottawa within hours of the arrest.”


READ MORE:
Trudeau’s justice minister will make final call on Meng Wanzhou extradition — if court approves it

Stephanie Carvin, a Carleton University professor and former strategic analyst for CSIS who was not involved in tactical operations, said China has “robust” global spy networks, and it would make sense for MSS agents in British Columbia to be conducting operations to protect China’s national interests.

“Huawei is not a normal company in any sense,” Carvin said. “It is wrapped up in Chinese nationality and represents (Chinese President) Xi Jinping’s interests as a national champion company. It doesn’t surprise me the Chinese state is taking a huge interest (in Meng’s case in British Columbia) and retaliating with these two kidnappings of Canadians in China.”

Carvin said that while the RCMP is not usually the lead agency in Canada’s counter-intelligence operations, it would make sense that the RCMP “wants to keep track of who is coming and going from Meng’s residence.”

WATCH: Supporters of Huawei and Meng Wanzhou protest for her release outside a Vancouver court house.






Meanwhile, according to B.C. political sources, there was high-level interest within the provincial government about Meng’s detention conditions.

State media in China have charged that Meng’s arrest was an affront to her dignity and human rights. In an editorial titled “Canada’s treatment of Meng Wanzhou in violation of human rights,” the Global Times claimed that Meng was “immediately handcuffed at the airport and taken to a detention facility…subjected to rude and degrading treatment…put into restraining devices used on felons.”

A source claimed that while Meng’s initial detention and bail proceedings played out, B.C. Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff Geoff Meggs allegedly took an interest in where and how Meng was detained. The source said Meggs reportedly had a call made to the office of B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth “expressing concern that they could not hold Meng in a Canada Border Services facility…(and saying Farnworth) needs to make sure she is extended courtesies.”

Meng was detained before her release at B.C.’s Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge. The CBSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case.

The reported contact from the premier’s office to Farnworth was seen as “odd,” according to a source with knowledge of the case.

WATCH : Ralph Goodale says rumoured ban on Huawei is ‘speculation’






Meggs was not available for an interview. However, in response to requests for comment from Global News, a spokeswoman from the premier’s office said it was “our communications director (that) made an informational request about what had been reported in media about Ms. Meng.”

In an emailed response, a spokeswoman for Farnworth said: “The premier’s communications director contacted the solicitor general’s office to simply gain clarity on what was being reported on this investigation. This is standard procedure. This was a request for information only — there was no request for any change in circumstances.”

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of China’s detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, a source with knowledge of Canadian relations with China said that Canada should expect China to carry out threats of revenge. It has been reported that China’s MSS is handling the cases of both Kovrig and Spavor.

“The Chinese don’t just say threats,” a source said. “This would be all planned out from Beijing beforehand. If they say they will do something, they are going to do it.”

Canada is currently considering whether to take further action, such as issuing travel advisories for China, a source said. A B.C. trade mission to China has already been cancelled, and on Friday, federal Tourism Minister Melanie Joly reversed her position from Thursday, deciding to postpone a trip to China.

The situation is so volatile, a source said, that the RCMP is also considering cancelling an international police training mission to China’s mainland that is scheduled for early 2019.

sam.cooper@globalnews.ca

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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GM working to retrain employees affected by Oshawa plant closure

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General Motors of Canada is working with other employers to identify jobs and targeted training programs for GM employees affected by plans to close the Oshawa Assembly plant next year, the truck and auto maker said Friday.

It says several employers have identified about 2,000 jobs that will become open in Durham region in 2019 and 2020 — many of them related to the refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear power plant southeast of Oshawa.

General Motors has also identified 300 openings for auto technicians at GM dealerships in Ontario and 100 jobs that will be open at other GM facilities in Ontario.

In addition, GM estimates about half of the 3,000 unionized and salaried employees are eligible to retire under the company’s defined benefit pension plan — leaving about 1,500 who will want to transition to new occupations.

GM Canada vice-president David Paterson said the company is committed to spend « millions » to ensure its employees get the retraining they require, but the exact amount will depend on what other employers provide.

« What we want to do is to assure employees that their training will be taken care of. We’ll make sure that there’s enough money to do that, » he said in an interview.

OPG wants to hire Oshawa workers, GM says

GM Canada says Durham College will also establish a confidential internet portal in the new year to help auto workers identify job openings and begin plans to take retraining courses offered by a consortium of colleges.

The city of Oshawa and surrounding areas east of Toronto were shocked last month when the highly rated Oshawa Assembly plant was included as one of five North American GM plants identified to close next year.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias has said the union would fight against the Oshawa closure.

« They are not closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight, » Dias said Nov. 26.

Paterson said GM recognizes that the union has voiced « some strong opinions » but thinks it would be good for employees if they have time to plan for their future.

« We have an obligation and duty to work with our union to determine — in addition to our pensions and the income supplements our employees will get — what things we can provide, » Paterson said.

He said two of the prospective employers that came to GM after the closure announcement are Ontario Power Generation and Aecon, a construction company, working on the nuclear plant’s refurbishment.

« They have huge needs in terms of millwrights, boiler makers, electricians and a number of areas where our employees are especially suited to that type of work and have great experience, » Paterson said.



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