Politician, advocate, husband and father Paul Dewar succumbs to brain cancer

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When former Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer early in 2018, he was given some straightforward advice: Face death and walk back into life.

Dewar, who died at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, did both, with all the dignity and purpose he could muster.

According to a statement from his family issued Wednesday, Dewar was with his wife, Julia Sneyd, and sons Nathaniel and Jordan when he died.

He was 56 years old.

Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer early in 2018, Paul Dewar has died. 3:03

Before his death, Dewar wrote a letter that his family posted on Facebook Wednesday. He said his illness made him truly appreciate the beauty in the world

« I told you that I thought my illness was a gift and I genuinely meant that. In this time in between, I got to see the wonder of the world around us. » 

On Feb. 14, 2018, Dewar underwent surgery to remove a large tumour caused by the same incurable brain cancer that had killed Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie just a few months earlier.

Dewar chose to go public with his glioblastoma diagnosis in June 2018. He won widespread praise for facing his impending death with courage and grace, and for his resolute approach to the time he had left.

« It’s Grade 4, which is terminal. There is no cure, » Dewar told Robyn Bresnahan, host of CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning. In the same interview he also revealed he’d undergone the full range of treatment, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

« Then you hope for the best in terms of how much time you have to live. »

As the disease progressed, Dewar’s brain tumour affected his motor control, impairing movement in his left arm. Because he was left-handed, tying shoes and writing became more difficult. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Strong voice for human rights 

The support and admiration he received during his illness crossed party lines.

In an interview with Rosemary Barton, host of CBC’s The National, Dewar spoke of how MPs had reached out and shown him « love and support » in his illness — including Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who defeated Dewar in Ottawa Centre in 2015.

« While we may sit on different sides of the aisle, we’re all colleagues together, » a visibly shaken McKenna said in the House of Commons after news broke of Dewar’s diagnosis.

Dewar, seen here during question period in the House of Commons in April 2013, was a strong advocate for human rights around the world and often berated the government for what he saw as Canada’s failings abroad. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Politics in the family

Politics was a family affair for the former teacher. His mother was former MP and Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar. Dewar won the Ottawa Centre riding in the January 2006 federal election, taking over from former NDP leader Ed Broadbent.

On his first day on the job, Dewar told CBC he was aware of the high expectations resting on his shoulders.

« Yes, there is a gulp in my throat, » he said.

Dewar retained his seat through the 2008 and 2011 elections, winning a reputation as an engaging, down-to-earth politician.

Opposition critic

Then-opposition leader Jack Layton appointed Dewar foreign affairs critic, and he continued to hector the Conservative government over Canada’s failure to intervene in social injustices around the world.

During his nine years in office, Dewar championed many causes. He called on the Conservatives to denounce Uganda after its parliament introduced an anti-LGBT bill that included life in prison for those convicted. He spoke out against the mass murder of civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan. He criticized human rights abuses in Iran and Saudi Arabia, to which Canada had sold armoured vehicles. He also condemned Canada’s dwindling role in global peacekeeping, penning an editorial chiding the Conservatives for « a pattern of disengagement and withdrawal from the international community » and warning of the dire consequences of Canada’s new « arrogant isolationism. »

Paul Dewar’s mother, former Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar, spearheaded Project 4000, a campaign that brought 4,000 refugees fleeing Vietnam to Ottawa under private sponsorship. (CBC)

Dewar also refused to remain silent on issues closer to home, such as the raw sewage that for years had flowed into the Ottawa River during heavy downpours, the city’s lack of cycling infrastructure and the need for affordable housing at LeBreton Flats.

Dewar was also a vocal defender of federal public servants, especially when it came to threats against the independence of government scientists.

After Layton’s death in August 2011, Dewar announced his candidacy for NDP leader, but withdrew after finishing poorly on the first ballot.

Advocate for refugees

Dewar watched in 1979 as his mother, then mayor, spearheaded Project 4000, a campaign to bring 4,000 desperate Vietnamese « boat people » to Ottawa. In 2015, Dewar picked up that mantle, urging the Conservative government to fast-track thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing that country’s bloody civil war.

Speaking in 2015, the day after photos of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi’s corpse on a Turkish beach horrified the world, Dewar issued a call to action.

« Sometimes it takes that kind of image, and it was those images that my mother saw on the TV in 1979 that pushed her to act, » Dewar said.

Dewar often acknowledged his mother’s strong influence on his own politics.

« My mom was a strong feminist, and she said something very important and I learned at an early age: Don’t be afraid of power, know how to use and share it, and give it to those who don’t have it. »

Paul Dewar is flanked by his family after losing Ottawa Centre to Liberal Catherine McKenna in October 2015. (CBC News)

Created youth movement

After going public with his diagnosis, Dewar created Youth Action Now, an initiative to raise money to help engage young people to get involved in their communities. That movement will be among his lasting legacies.

As his disease progressed, Dewar took part in an immunotherapy drug trial at a Gatineau, Que., clinic aimed at prolonging his life.

« I really want more time with those two guys and Julia, » Dewar told CBC, his voice cracking with emotion.

« If I could steal more time, and hopefully I will, that’s what I want. » 

A celebration of Dewar’s life is expected to be announced in the coming days. 

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Video from Toronto shelters shows ‘inhumane’ conditions, indicates shelter system is broken, advocate says

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Inside one of Toronto’s warming centres, dozens of small beds are placed alongside the walls, with homeless people covering themselves in Red Cross-issued blankets.

At a 24-hour respite centre that’s supposed to host 100 people, many rows of small beds are lined up in a dimly lit hallway. Some people are curled up in their beds, others are milling around. There’s indistinctive noise from all around, and at some point someone somewhere seems to be banging on the door.

A video taken from inside the city’s respite centres and shelters shows conditions in which homeless people are living on a particularly cold evening in January 2019. This clip has been shortened from the original 6-minute version.

“Someone in there?” a voice asks later, as a note indicates one of four washroom stalls is out of order.

That’s part of what is contained in a six-minute video secretly filmed this past weekend offering a glimpse inside various drop-in centres and respite and warming locations as the city grapples with housing the homeless population amid extreme cold weather.

Street nurse and longtime homeless advocate Cathy Crowe said the “inhumane” conditions observed at the sites indicate how the shelter system is broken.

“We are now in a position where we are housing people in places that are not shelters,” she said of the city’s overnight drop-in, respite and warming centres, where more than 1,000 people — young and old, male and female — are currently being housed.

“That’s the only place they can go, and they are going to be there for weeks and months on end.”

In addition to existing shelters, the city has opened a number of 24-hour respite sites and drop-in centres to help homeless people who need shelter during the extreme cold weather period.

Crowe described the “shame” of living in a “dismal-looking” and crowded hallway with not enough space for people to securely store their belongings. Bathrooms and showers are scarce, and a number of them are out of order.

Some of the occupants are in wheelchairs, use walkers or have others medical issues, making it difficult for them and the rest of occupants to feel properly cared for, she said.

A secretly filmed video shows conditions inside various Toronto drop-in, respite centres.
A secretly filmed video shows conditions inside various Toronto drop-in, respite centres.  (YouTube)

“There’s a lot of coughing, a lot of tension,” said Crowe, noting the city’s response to the homeless issue has created “a second-tier of shelter that’s not really proper shelter.”

She said it is important for the public to see videos and images from inside the centres to understand the magnitude of the issue.

“I think they’re used to seeing pictures like that after a catastrophic thing like hurricane Katrina or in other countries a tsunami or a mass of fire or power outage,” she said.

Cathy Crowe stands beside a homeless memorial at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto on January 12, 2016. Crowe, a street nurse and longtime homeless advocate, says the “inhumane” conditions observed at the city's  drop-in centres indicate that the shelter system is broken.
Cathy Crowe stands beside a homeless memorial at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto on January 12, 2016. Crowe, a street nurse and longtime homeless advocate, says the “inhumane” conditions observed at the city’s drop-in centres indicate that the shelter system is broken.  (Randy Risling/Toronto Star)

Crowe and other advocates will join some city councillors on Tuesday to lobby for the ongoing homelessness issue to be declared an emergency, and seek for more help from all levels of government and other organizations. Four homeless people have died on the streets so far this year, including Hang Von, 58, who was struck by a garbage truck driver last week.

Mayor John Tory has been reluctant to officially declare an emergency situation over the homeless issue, something Crowe called “upsetting.”

“He used the word ‘urgent’ but refuses to use ‘emergency’ or ‘crisis’ or ‘disaster,’” she said. “I think he is extremely out of touch with the overall situation and continues to stigmatize the issue by blaming it on either mental health issues or refugees, and it’s just so wrong.”

Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat said the city’s own report on street needs assessment last year showed 32 per cent of respondents had a mental health issue and 27 per cent had an addiction issue, while 40 per cent were refugees or asylum claimants.

“The Mayor is being honest with the public about the underlying issues putting additional pressure on our shelter system and his commitment to working with city council, city staff, community organizations, and the other governments to tackle homelessness and the issues that contribute to homelessness,” he wrote in a statement.

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

Read more:

Opinion | Rosie DiManno: It’s tough to be homeless in Toronto — and it’s getting tougher

Under the Gardiner: ‘We check in on each other, that’s kind of the reason to be here’

Edmonton winter warming bus helps city’s homeless chart a route to survival

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P.E.I. hires long-awaited child advocate

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P.E.I. has announced it will create a child advocate position, becoming the last province in Canada to do so.

The announcement was made Friday by Premier Wade MacLauchlan in Charlottetown.

Island children deserve an independent non-partisan advocate … that is not what the premier is providing.— Peter Bevan-Baker

Michele Dorsey was named the children’s commissioner and advocate, effective Jan. 1, 2019. She’ll work through a new government entity, the Office for Children and Youth. 

« The new children’s commissioner and advocate and the Office for Children and Youth is a significant cross-governmental undertaking to build a bright, healthy, prosperous future for young Islanders, » said MacLauchlan in a written release.

The Office for Children and Youth will be responsible for championing the rights of children, ensuring the voice of children and youth are represented in policy and programs, supporting families navigating programs and services and more, the release said.

« A focused government-community approach to children’s healthy development will support healthier and safer environments for Island families, » said Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy. 

Recommended following inquest

The initial recommendation for P.E.I. to have a child advocate came from the jury at the inquest looking into the murder-suicide of four-year-old Nash Campbell and his mother Patricia Hennessey.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan made the announcement at Chances Family Centre in Charlottetown.

The two died in a vehicle fire near Tignish on June 21, 2013. Hennessey lost custody of her son the day before.

In his report stemming from that inquest, P.E.I.’s chief coroner of the day Dr. Desmond Colohan recommended the province « assess the need for such a position and consider the best way to meet the intent » of the jury’s recommendation for a child advocate.

Government’s initial position, defended time and again in the face of repeated criticism from opposition parties, was that the province could protect children without creating the position.

The province unveiled a new « hub model » to get various government agencies to work more closely and share information to better protect children at risk. It also created a position for a lawyer to represent children involved in contentious custody disputes.

Motion voted down in 2016

In April 2016 Liberal MLAs voted down a motion introduced by the PCs to create a child advocate.

« We’ve got the official guardian, the family law centre, we’re considering the establishment of a children’s lawyer, we have a hub model of four departments, the chief health officer is in place, » Premier Wade MacLauchlan said at the time. « What is in place is in the fullest sense delivering the service that would be provided by a child advocate. »

A year later, after his government tabled its first balanced budget, the premier said he might be willing to reconsider.

P.E.I. had been the only province in Canada without a child advocate, but after Doug Ford became the premier of Ontario his government announced it would cut its position for a child and youth advocate.

The P.E.I. government created a position for a child and youth services commissioner in 2010 but the position was quietly eliminated in 2015. At the time government said the position was dropped « as part of an effort to move as many resources as possible to the front line. »

‘Hugely disappointing’

Friday, Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker called Dorsey’s appointment « hugely disappointing, especially with respect to the authority and independence of the position, and the hiring process used to fill it, » he said in a written release.

The position is not actually a child advocate as the term is understood in other jurisdictions, he argued in the release.

« Island children deserve an independent non-partisan advocate — an advocate whose authority is set out in legislation, who is hired through an open merit-based process, and who can act independently of government interference, » Bevan-Baker said. « That is not what the premier is providing. »

More P.E.I. news

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B.C. seniors advocate weighs in after death of Kelowna woman, 90, following care-home incident

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Raise concerns if something isn’t right.

That’s the advice a B.C. seniors advocate is giving after the death of a 90-year-old Kelowna woman following a care-home incident just before Christmas.

On December 18, Kelowna RCMP said an altercation happened between two seniors in a care home. The woman was treated in hospital for undisclosed injuries but died the next day after her release.

“The Kelowna RCMP and the B.C. Coroners Service are continuing their investigation,” Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said on Thursday.

Isobel Mackenzie, a seniors advocate for the province of B.C., called it “a very tragic incident.”

“It’s traumatic for a lot of people,” Mackenzie said in an interview with Global News. “And it’s also very often devastating on the staff.


READ MORE:
RCMP investigate death of elderly Kelowna woman

“This type of incident is rare, but it does happen.”

She added that seniors in care homes are “overwhelmingly safe and secure in the facility they’re in.”

“The best thing that a family member can do is pick up the phone and talk to their loved one, or go in and visit their loved one if they can, and talk to them about their life in the care home,” she said.

“If those family members sense that something is not as it should be, they should be raising those concerns.”

Mackenzie says the Office of the Seniors Advocate for B.C. tracks aggression incidents in care homes.

“In a given year, there are roughly 425 to 450 reported incidents of resident-to-resident aggression that resulted in a degree of harm,” said Mackenzie. “And the degree of harm that needs to occur is one that requires first aid and/or a trip to a hospital. You don’t necessarily have to go to the hospital, but you would have needed some kind of first aid.

Those 425 incidents occur in a population of 27,000 residents, with more than half of facilities reporting no incidents in a given year, she said.

“So it does happen. It’s not prolific.”

Mackenzie said a survey of care homes and family members of people in care homes in B.C. found that 88 per cent of residents said they felt safe.

“But here’s the other interesting thing: We asked family members, ‘Have you seen residents behave aggressively in the home?’ And almost half of them, 46 per cent, said they have seen residents behave aggressively in the home. … Whether they result in harm to another person, that’s another step, but they are seeing some of these behaviours.”

WATCH BELOW: (Aired Dec. 7, 2018) Summerland care home under scrutiny






Mackenzie said they also asked family members if staff in the care home handled aggressive behaviours appropriately, and 88 per cent said yes, they did.

“When they happen, for the most part, although not exclusively, staff are able to defuse the situation and not escalate the aggression.”

Mackenzie also said “you can’t always predict when or who might become aggressive.”

“What you’re seeing is someone who might have been a passive person all their life,” she said. “Because of the neurological changes that are happening as a result of the disease, they can become aggressive.

“And you don’t know they’re going to be aggressive until the first time they become aggressive. So that’s part of the challenge.”

Mackenzie said how staff work with aggressive behaviours can defuse the situation to a large extent, and that there are some environmental conditions that will create opportunities for aggression. She also noted that there are links, albeit not strong, between staffing levels and incidents of aggression.

“The only one that had a strong correlation was if they have a diagnosis of aggressive behaviour issues,” said Mackenzie. “They are far more likely to engage in an incident of resident-to-resident aggression.

“We know that males are more likely than females (to engage in aggression). We know that younger residents are more likely than older residents, in part because they are more mobile.”

Mackenzie also noted that time of day has some impact, with the highest spike being between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Mackenzie would like that time window narrowed, as “there’s a lot happening between 4 and 8 p.m.: getting dinner and going to bed.”


READ MORE:
‘We feel like we’re the forgotten population’ — N.S. disability advocate calls for dedicated care homes

This type of incident isn’t the leading cause of concerns from seniors in care homes.

“What we hear from seniors in the Okanagan is, first and foremost, some issues about being able to stay at home before they have to go into a care home,” Mackenzie said. “Are supports and services available, or more precisely not available to them as they would like and need. And for some people, there are issues around access to the appropriate kind of care facility they would like to be in.

“In the Interior, you sometimes see people placed in a facility further away from home than you might see if they lived in a city like Vancouver or Victoria, where there are more facilities.

“And within facilities, it’s basically split 50-50. About half the people are very happy and about half the people are not so happy. And so we hear usually from the people and family members who are not so happy. And the kinds of things we hear about are that they would like more help, they want to get baths more frequently, they want better interaction with people.”

Mackenzie added that all of the care homes that are contracted by Interior Health are funded at 3.15 hours of care per resident per day. The goal is 3.36 hours within two years.

“At the end of the day, this incident could have happened in any care home with any population,” Mackenzie said. “We are monitoring how often these incidents occur. We are looking at training of staff to ensure that we put everything in place that we can to make our care homes as safe and secure as possible.

“But, at the end of the day, we’re talking about human behaviour that can be unpredictable.”

For more about the Office of the Seniors Advocate for B.C., click here.

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Surviving an overdose may depend where a person lives in Canada, advocate says

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The day after one of his closest friends died alone in his bedroom from an opioid overdose, Brandon Bailey started sharing his cellphone number across social media.

The recovered drug addict from Windsor, Ont., has a message for other users: If you’re going to use, call me.

READ MORE: How lethal opioids devastated a small region of Ontario

“I will come to you and make sure that you are safe,” Bailey wrote in a Facebook post.

Bailey, who is also a member of the Windsor Overdose Prevention Society, said he’s been frustrated by a lack of overdose prevention services like safe consumption sites in the city, and he wants to ensure the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is within arms reach for anyone at risk.

Since his November post on Facebook, he has also distributed his cellphone number on flyers.

“We need to be doing something,” he said.

WATCH: Health Minister says declaring a public health emergency wouldn’t help opioid crisis






The overdose crisis has devastated communities across the country and is being credited with slowing the progress of life expectancy, which had risen three years between 2000 and 2016.

Opioids killed an estimated 9,000 people between January 2016 and June 2018, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. About 94 per cent of those deaths were deemed accidental and almost three-quarters involved the powerful opioid fentanyl.

But access to overdose prevention services vary geographically, prompting some advocates to say that a person’s chances of surviving an overdose depends on where you live.


READ MORE:
Here are the Canadian cities with highest hospitalization rates for opioid poisonings in 2017

There are eight approved supervised consumption sites in British Columbia, nine in Ontario, six in Alberta, four in Quebec, and none elsewhere, according to Health Canada.

Supervised consumption sites allow people to use their drugs under medical supervision, many of which provide testing for fentanyl contamination and access to sterile equipment.

Naloxone is now available for purchase at pharmacies in every province and territory except Alberta, Yukon and Nunavut, the Canadian Pharmacists Association said.

Access to the free, take-home naloxone kits is more varied, with Quebec offering the nasal spray to anyone over 14 through pharmacies, New Brunswick giving naloxone to other sites like health and social services, and British Columbia offering free access to people at risk of overdosing, those likely to witness an overdose and to First Nations.

WATCH: The tragic impact of Canada’s opioid crisis on children






Jordan Westfall, executive director for the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, said rural and remote areas are particularly underserved.

“There are large parts of the country that don’t have these services pretty much at all. These are lifelines for people at risk of overdosing that aren’t accessible to people,” Westfall said.

A lack of education and political will have been the biggest challenges to preventing overdose deaths, he said. Unlike other health-care decisions that are based on data, the question of allowing services like supervised consumption sites is often put before the public, he said.


READ MORE:
Opioid crisis may be lowering Canadians’ life expectancy, report says

“In a lot of cases, we’ve put human lives up for public consultation. That’s kind of a metaphor for how we treat the health care of people who use drugs, which is stigmatized in society,” Westfall said.

He said harm reduction could go further by providing a safe drug supply to users, given that so many deaths appear related to drugs contaminated with fentanyl.

“Everybody else in the country, when they take a sip of beer they don’t have to worry that they’re going to drop dead. We need to see the same safety for everyone in the country using drugs on the streets,” he said.

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has been at the centre of the overdose crisis in British Columbia and it’s also where some of the most accessible harm-reduction services are located.

WATCH: Vancouver to provide opioid pills to prevent overdoses






Last month, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced he would direct staff to look for a site where drug users can get safe opioids to prevent overdoses.

Sarah Blyth, co-founder of the Overdose Prevention Society in Vancouver, said supervised consumption sites and naloxone save lives every day.

On the day of the interview, she said three people had already overdosed at a nearby safe injection site but they survived because they were surrounded by people who understood drug use and overdose prevention.

But Rebecca Jesseman, policy director for the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, said there are some good reasons for variation in available services: dominant drug problems also vary geographically.


READ MORE:
After losing their sons to lethal opioids, these two mothers are fighting back

The opioid crisis is more pronounced in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, she said, while the central provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan are more concerned with fighting a methamphetamine problem.

“Part of the reason for different levels of response is the fact that the problem is different across Canada, so we do need to respond in a way that is specific to the local context,” she said.

Health Canada said in a statement that the federal government allocates funding based on the severity of the opioid crisis and the population size in each province or territory.

Jesseman said mobile units have begun providing support to places without permanent overdose prevention services, she said.

WATCH: Experts urge Canada’s health minister to recall high-strength opioids






But beyond geographic variations, she said services often fail to meet the needs of the individual, especially as they relate to language, gender, age and culture.

“The system often looks at people who need help as being treatment resistant, rather than looking at what is wrong with the system and how we can meet their needs,” Jesseman said.

“We wouldn’t accept this variation in service quality and availability for health conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, so why is it the norm for substance use?”

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Passenger bill of rights may let airlines ‘off the hook’ without an ombudsman: advocate

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A consumer rights advocate is frustrated Canada’s proposed new air passenger bill of rights doesn’t include plans for an independent body that will review passenger complaints.

Highlights of the proposed new regulations were released earlier this week.

« The most polite thing I could say is that we’re disappointed in what is being produced. After all this time — it’s been decades in the making — and really it’s like a bucket of muddy water, » said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers Association of Canada.

« One of the things we would have liked to have seen, in fact I think it’s essential, is some sort of an ombudsman structure so people can put their complaints into an independent arbitrator. There’s not much in there for consumers. »

The U.S. and Europe have had passenger rights regulations in place for years, and Cran jokes that after this bill is put in place Canadians still won’t have them — they’ll have an « airline bill of rights » instead.

Right now, airlines set out their own terms and conditions, and if they break their own rules, a person can complain to the Canadian Transportation Agency, an independent tribunal run by the federal government.

Consumer groups have long complained that the CTA does little to enforce the payment of those tariffs, and that most Canadians don’t understand airlines’ obligations or know how to file a claim.

The new regulations would put more black-and-white rules in place for airlines — for example that passengers must be compensated a set amount in cash for delays, or airlines could face big penalties — but enforcement will still be kicked back to Canadian Transportation Agency staff.

Law ‘should protect passengers’

« I think there are a lot of things in there that probably let them off the hook and they’ll be decided in the favour of the airlines rather than the airline passengers … it’s not a matter of compensating passengers, it’s a matter of making it difficult for the airlines to survive if they don’t conform to what’s supposed to be the law, which again, should protect passengers, » Cran said.

The CTA had a complaints commissioner back in the early 2000s, but the position was eventually eliminated and its highly publicized annual reports faded away.

David Western, the former director of tariff enforcement and complaints with the CTA, said he was essentially the commissioner’s right-hand-man.

Past commissioners made ‘huge difference’

« I think that the [complaints] commissioner made a huge difference in terms of customer service from the airlines, » he said.

Western said that when Canadian Airlines and Air Canada amalgamated in 1999, there were thousands of complaints about the level of customer service from Air Canada, but over the two commissioners’ terms, service improved enormously.

« We were getting satisfaction on about 75 per cent of the complaints that had not been resolved satisfactorily by the airlines. »

The trick, according to Western, was that the commissioner put out an annual written report — and companies really, really didn’t want to be profiled in it.

He said one commissioner, an ex-NHL referee, loved to « blow the whistle » on cases where customers hadn’t been treated fairly.

« I think that there are advantages to having a readily identifiable spokesperson or an ombudsperson who people can recognize and turn to, » he said.

However Ian Jack of the Canadian Automobile Association says Canadians should see how the new bill plays out before worrying about adding another layer of bureaucracy.

Too soon to say

The CAA books about 700,000 trips each year, trips that Jack stresses aren’t for business travellers or frequent flyers, who are often taken care of more quickly when there’s an issue with a flight.

« It’s a brand new regime and I think we have to see how it works until you know before we decide that it’s not working, » Jack said.

« While the regime that’s been proposed by the government is far from perfect … the fact is, this is a solid advance over what we have had, which is a chaotic series of semi-hidden rules that nobody really knew about, where people who flew a lot were treated a lot better than people who didn’t. »

The CTA says there are currently no plans for an ombudsman, and if facilitation and mediation aren’t conclusive, the complaint will then go through an adjudication process.

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With pot legalization will come pardons — but it’s not the same as amnesty, advocate says

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CALGARY—When Keith Fagin was 16 years old, the cops caught him holding a pipe.

Inside was a bit of leftover resin from a few bowls he’d smoked earlier. Had police stopped Fagin any time on or after Oct. 17, 2018, he’d be in the clear. But this was the 1970s, in Calgary, and he was known to police as a cannabis advocate. After they shook him down, Fagin said he was given two choices: pay a $200 fine (nearly $900 in today’s dollars) or spend a month in lockup at Spy Hill Jail.

He couldn’t afford the fine.

“It was a nasty experience,” he said of his sentence. “I got clobbered by a massive muscle-building guy because of my cannabis consumption. He was not a happy guy about that. I was a drug fiend and I deserved to be beaten. It was just horrible.”

Read more:

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Still waiting for your weed? Meet the people who’ve gotten theirs

Applying for a pot pardon could get you flagged and barred at the U.S. border, legal experts warn

On legalization day, the federal government announced it would table legislation by year’s end to allow those with simple cannabis possession convictions under 30 grams to apply for a pardon. It won’t be entirely unprecedented. Earlier this year, Ottawa found itself mulling over the question of how to remove the weight of convictions from a different set of Canadians once considered to be engaging in criminal behaviour — the LGBTQ community.

Consensual homosexual activity was decriminalized in 1969. But for decades, Canadians continued to have criminal convictions for obsolete criminal offences such as buggery, gross indecency, or anal intercourse. In June, Bill C-66, the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act, received royal assent. It offers expungement — not a pardon — for Canadians convicted of several offences related to same-sex sexual activity.

There’s a key difference.

Annamaria Enenajor, a Toronto-based lawyer and director of the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty, likened a pardon to taking someone’s criminal record and locking it in a drawer, and an expungement to shredding it. A pardon means a person’s record won’t show up in government searches, but it still exists and may still cause trouble at the U.S. border — and the federal government can, under certain circumstances, revoke it.

“If you make a policy about amnesty, the objective is to try and allow the most amount of people back in the simplest and cheapest way possible that you can think of,” she said in an interview shortly before legalization day.

The difficulty in both instances is figuring out the circumstances behind each person’s charges. While simple cannabis possession up to 30 grams is now legal thanks to the Cannabis Act, certain products — such as shatter — are still prohibited. And Canadians charged for engaging in same-sex activity are in a similar boat. Charges like buggery and gross indecency upon a male were sometimes used against someone engaging in consensual sex.

“You have difficulty figuring (it) out because the records won’t disclose that,” Enenajor said.

How criminal charges are recorded can vary from province to province, courthouse to courthouse — even police force by police force. The Parole Board of Canada will have its hands full trying to work through the particulars of Canadians with simple possession charges on their records, she said.

“That’s going to be difficult,” Enenajor said. “We’re not the best record-keepers in Canada when it comes to our criminal offences.”

Nonetheless, the possibility of a pardon is still welcomed by Canadians with cannabis convictions. The Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty said it “enthusiastically welcomes” the federal government’s announcement on pardons in a statement released Oct. 17. Even Fagin, despite the trouble his criminal record has caused him throughout his life, said he’s interested.

“I look forward to it, but expungement would be much better,” he said.

But the feeling of criminalization won’t end for some Canadians. Decades of research and court findings have shown that Black and Indigenous Canadians are far more likely to be charged for cannabis possession than white Canadians, even though they use at roughly the same rates.

“It’s incredibly unfair and burdensome and speaks to the operation of systemic racism in our society,” Enenajor said. “And that’s something I think Canada is struggling to deal with.”

Kani Malale, a film tech in Toronto, said he faced his first cannabis possession charge roughly 10 years ago. As he drove to a corner store to buy cigarettes for a friend, the police pulled him over and searched his car. They found nothing. He bought the cigarettes, brought them back to his friend, and then bought a gram of weed.

The same cops pulled him over once he left — and found it.

Malale was charged with simple possession and trafficking (he said he didn’t tell police who he’d bought the weed from). He was given a court summons for Easter Monday. And while he would go on to face more cannabis-related possession charges, that first one stuck.

“From there it was just a snowball effect, right?” he said. “Every time they pull you over, they see that. You’ve had that interaction (with police) and they’ve considered it a criminal interaction.”

He believes part of the reason why police continue to stop and search his car is due to his criminal history, as well as the fact he doesn’t tend to drive cars registered in his name — they have usually been registered to his mom or his sister. But Malale, as well as those decades of research, thinks his continued encounters with cops go deeper than his criminal record.

“In my heart, as a Black person growing up in Canada and my interaction with police, I don’t believe that’s the only reason,” he said.

Discrimination against the LGBTQ community has continued for decades after same-sex activity was decriminalized by the Canadian government. It’s possible Canadians convicted of cannabis-related possession charges may continue to live with the stigma. But Enenajor doesn’t believe they’ll be burdened for quite as long.

“Overwhelmingly, I think you’ll find most Canadians feel this makes sense,” she said. “That there’s no real reason people should have records for this.”

Brennan Doherty is a work and wealth reporter with StarMetro Calgary. Follow him on Twitter: @bren_doherty

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Current child welfare system doesn’t work for Indigenous kids: former B.C. advocate

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British Columbia’s former children’s advocate says the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women needs to hold all governments accountable.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond told the inquiry that its final report will end up collecting dust if recommendations aren’t acted upon.

She says people always endorse recommendations when final reports are released, but enthusiasm usually wanes over time.

Turpel-Lafond says she conducted numerous investigations into the child welfare system in British Columbia and called it a humanitarian crisis.

She told the hearing the current child welfare system is not appropriate for Indigenous children and says it often causes them more harm.

The inquiry is holding hearings in Winnipeg this week focused on child welfare.

Turpel-Lafond, the director of the University of British Columbia Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, said the disproportionate violence affecting Indigenous women and girls is linked with the child welfare system.

From 2001 to 2014, homicide rates for Indigenous women were six times higher than homicides involving non-Indigenous women.

« Families and women, in particular, have been impacted by not only the residential school system but the child welfare system. Families have been so broken and need to be able to be supported to repair, » she told the inquiry Thursday.

« This is one that requires a lot of urgency because there are large bureaucracies that need to change. »

Increased risk of physical, sexual abuse

Indigenous children make up more than half the kids in care but account for about seven per cent of all kids in Canada. In Manitoba, Indigenous children make up nearly 90 per cent of kids in care.

Turpel-Lafond said most First Nations children are apprehended because of poverty. They are placed in a child welfare system where she said they face increased risk of physical or sexual abuse.

« Those circumstances, despite the fact that we’ve become aware of (this) through public reports, they haven’t changed, » she said.

Turpel-Lafond said the recommendations will need to include a process to track, monitor and report on compliance and implementation.

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