‘I felt helpless’: Teachers call for support amid ‘escalating crisis’ of classroom violence

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Last fall, a Grade 2 teacher was with her class when a student planted himself in front of the doorway.

The seven-year-old boy yelled, « No one’s gonna leave the classroom! »

« It was a hostage situation, » the Ontario teacher recalled.

When she called the office, the student began to kick and punch an educational assistant, yelling « in a fit of rage » as 17 other students watched helplessly.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why young children act out against their teachers, said Judith Weiner, a psychology professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

She filed a report and spoke to representatives from her school board and union, but she said nothing happened.

After working as an elementary teacher for over 20 years, she recently took medical leave due to stress.

« I absolutely feel like I failed, » she said. « I’m still beating myself up about the fact that I couldn’t cope. »

The Sunday Edition has agreed not to name the teacher, who fears being identified could affect her employment.

Root of violence complex

Educators say incidents of verbal and physical violence by students targeting staff and fellow classmates are leaving them exhausted — and they’re calling on governments and school boards to provide more support.

Sherri Brown, director of research and professional learning at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), describes the current state as an « escalating crisis. »

Last year, the national organization compiled the results of a survey conducted for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO). The online survey, which polled its 81,000 members, found that 70 per cent of Ontario elementary teachers reported experiencing or witnessing violence during the 2016-17 school year.

Verbal threats, physical assault and incidents involving weapons were among the most frequently reported, according to Brown.

These were the results of an online survey conducted for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario in relation to the 2016-17 school year. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

But it’s difficult to pinpoint why young children act out against their teachers, said Judith Weiner, a psychology professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

Elementary students, in particular, struggle with « emotion regulation » and may be « modeling » behaviour learned at home.

« They hear parents issuing verbal threats at each other, » she said. « That’s a very big part of what the kid has learned of how to deal with issues when someone doesn’t do what you want. »

As for physical violence, Weiner explained, younger children are more likely to display this kind of aggression because of how socialization works.

Children have challenges and complexities, and the system is just starved.– Sherri Brown, Canadian Teachers’ Federation

« Kids just don’t know how to problem-solve in any type of conflict situation, » she said. « As kids get older, they know not to use their fists. They realize that is going to have bigger consequences. »

While CTF’s review of its survey did not identify a root cause, Brown said a child’s socio-economic background, mental health and special needs all possess « escalation potential » for violence.

« Children’s disabilities manifest in behaviours when they don’t have access to proper supports and services, » said Brown.

Larger class sizes have also « exacerbated » the potential for violence, she said.

« It’s not about children somehow being in the wrong. Children have challenges and complexities, and the system is just starved, » Brown said.

Last spring, Ontario’s former Liberal government released the Workplace Violence in School Boards: A Guide to the Law to help schools develop workplace violence policies. At the time, the province also pledged to fund an online reporting tool to simplify the process. The Sunday Edition reached out to Ontario’s ministries of education and labour regarding the status of these measures, but did not receive a response.

Reluctance to report violence

Educators are also reluctant to report incidents of violence by students for « fear of repercussions, » Brown said.

Results from ETFO’s members showed only 22 per cent of teachers said they would report cases of verbal or physical violence, and less than a quarter said steps were taken to prevent future incidents.

« Many feel reporting isn’t going to garner new supports or services, so why would they report it? » Brown said.

The Toronto District School Board declined an interview with The Sunday Edition, but said in an email statement « when incidents happen, the principal investigates and then works with staff, students and/or their families to address the issue.

« As each case is unique, there is no one solution. However, any act of violence can and does result in discipline, which can include suspension, » said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird.

« Depending on the circumstances, additional supports can also be offered to help support the students and/or classroom. »

I am not a trained psychologist. I am not a trained social worker. But I am expected to provide these roles for these students every day.– Kindergarten teacher

But a kindergarten teacher, who The Sunday Edition has also agreed not to name, decried « a shortage of support. »

She said she is « kicked, punched, slapped, hit with objects, thrown chairs at, spat at, sworn at » on a daily basis.

Behavioural consultants at the school have suggested calming corners, dimmed lighting and meditation, she claimed, but did little to calm an angry child.

« The list is really endless of what I’m trying and it’s very sad not to be able to have an answer or a strategy that’s working. »

« I am not a trained psychologist. I am not a trained social worker. But I am expected to provide these roles for these students every day. »

Verbal threats, physical assault and incidents involving weapons were among the most frequently reported incidents of verbal and physical violence, according to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

The teacher recalled an incident when a seven-year-old boy was hitting other students with a shovel in the schoolyard.

When she intervened, he « hit me with a shovel on my right leg, repeatedly, over and over again, while he swore at me, » she said.

The teacher called for help from staff, but in the meantime, stood motionless in the hopes the boy wouldn’t turn his attention back to the students.

She filed the required reports, but nothing happened, she said.

The kindergarten teacher recently took an extended leave, though she’s now back in the classroom.

« I don’t want to be forced out of my profession and my love of my job because of a lack of support. »

David Mastin, ETFO’s Durham local president, says his region is losing teachers within their first five years on the job.

« We have so many of our members off on long-term disability because of the anguish and mental strain that is part of their jobs, » he said.

Teachers, unions leery of training

Some Ontario schools and boards are encouraging educators to take Nonviolent Crisis Intervention training, a de-escalation program, run by the Milwaukee-based Crisis Prevention Institute. The training can range from a one-day classroom seminar to four days to become certified to teach it.

Trainees learn how to calm a child in the midst of a crisis by detecting signs of anxiety and anger, and how to respond to a physical altercation, including how to safely hold a child. 

« I really don’t believe half a day or a day is enough, » said Terri-Lynn Platt, health and safety coordinator with the Elementary Teachers of Toronto. « It can become very violent, very quickly. »

The training stresses that physical intervention should only be used if the child is in « imminent danger, » Platt said. Regardless of that caveat, teachers and unions remain leery of the program.

Platt argued that whoever takes the training ends up becoming the school’s defacto crisis person.

« I will tell teachers it is wise not to have that training. »

Chris Broadbent, a former health and safety manager at the Toronto District School Board who is part of the province’s Working Group on Health and Safety, stressed that in the case of a violent incident, teachers can always « summon immediate assistance, » whether it be from principals, educational assistants or other staff.

« There’s no doubt that there are issues in our province and some of our schools. But to paint the situation that this is happening every day in a majority of our schools in the province is probably not accurate. »

I felt helpless not being able to reach out and wrap my arms around these kids and say, ‘We’re going to have a good day.’– Grade 2 teacher

Broadbent said where the safety of a child is in danger, teachers are required to intervene just as a judicious parent would.

« The Education Act is pretty clear about the expectations of a teacher, » he said.

« I understand … the hesitation … because there have been situations in the province where a teacher is seen to have violated that expectation and is sent home pending an investigation. »

« But, if they have followed [training], then there should be no further consequences. »

Students are ‘the victims’

For the Grade 2 teacher, the last straw came when her vice-principal gave her a package that included a protective jacket, with padding in the chest and shoulders.

« As I opened it up, I’m looking at it, going, what the hell is this? »

Personal protective equipment can include Kevlar jackets, neck, shin and wrist guards, helmets and spit guards.

« Nowhere in my teaching career did I ever expect to have to put one of these on in a classroom, » she said.

She went on medical leave shortly after.

But wants to make it clear that despite the physical and emotional duress she has endured, she worries most about the students — those who act out, and others in the classroom.

« I felt helpless. I felt helpless not being able to reach out and wrap my arms around these kids and say, ‘We’re going to have a good day; we’re going to learn; we’re going to have fun; we’re going to feel safe; it’s going to be OK, » she said.

« They are the victims. »

The Sunday Edition wants to hear your thoughts and experiences about violence in the classroom. Send us a message here.

‘Hard Lessons’ is produced by The Sunday Edition’s Alisa Siegel. Story written by Jonathan Ore and Amara McLaughlin.

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Critics call for ‘robust’ oversight of CBSA following CBC reports on staff misconduct

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Advocacy groups are again calling for « robust, independent and external oversight » of the country’s border service following reporting by CBC News on misconduct at the Canada Border Services Agency.

CBC News recently reported that the agency investigated around 1,200 allegations of staff misconduct between January 2016 and the middle of 2018. Alleged offences recorded in the records released to CBC News include sexual assault, criminal association and harassment.

« We were not surprised, » said Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. « My main reaction was, this just makes [it] even clearer why there needs to be independent oversight for this agency. »

The BCCLA is one of three groups behind a letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale asking when the government will introduce CBSA oversight legislation. The presidents of the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers also signed the letter.

The CBSA’s sweeping powers include the right to search travellers, use firearms and conduct deportations. It’s the only major federal law enforcement agency without external oversight of employee conduct.

The groups’ letter also cited a recent CBC News report that said the agency had lost a USB key containing a refugee claimant’s personal information.

« We have had our own experiences of bringing very serious complaints to the CBSA, and they go nowhere, because there is no independent accountability measure, » said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

The groups call in the letter for an oversight body that can « investigate complaints » and « conduct proactive assessments of CBSA policies and practices. »

Dench said the oversight agency also should be able to hear complaints from third parties, such as non-government organizations.

« Often, we are in a position to say, ‘Look, we’ve seen a pattern of disturbing behaviour, or we have heard from somebody who’s not in a position to complain themselves,' » she said.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Goodale, sent CBC News a statement Thursday that was identical in some respects to a statement the department issued last month.

« CBSA officers processed 95 million travellers in 2017, and only a very small number of these interactions led to a formal complaint, » Bardsley said in an email.

Bardsley said in a statement last month that the government was « working on separate legislation to create an appropriate mechanism to review CBSA officer conduct and conditions, and handle specific complaints. »

But the government’s window to introduce legislation is closing, with a general election due this fall.

« The CBSA … does not have independent review of officer conduct, and that is a gap that definitely needs to be addressed, » Goodale told a Senate committee in 2016.

Following the recent CBC News story, Goodale said the government is preparing legislation that would create « another unit … that looks specifically at the issues of officer conduct or incident investigation.

« We continue to work at it as rapidly as we can. »

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Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens fall to Nashville Predators 3-1 in season’s latest test – Montreal

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The Montreal Canadiens are at a point in the season where they will find out just how good they are — or not.

Four games of the highest quality opposition are on the docket. So far, they have done well with a win over the Winnipeg Jets and an overtime loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Still up are the Nashville Predators on Thursday night and then the biggest test — the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

The Habs seem to be for real. We will know definitively on Sunday.

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READ MORE: Call of the Wilde — Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs go to overtime

Wilde Horses

Victor Mete had a strong game for the Habs in a tough barn to play in. Mete continues to look more comfortable on the left side of Shea Weber.

It should be appreciated how difficult it is to play with Weber simply, because of the match-ups and the minutes. A player like Mete has to be able to compete against the best in all of hockey, and he needs to keep his concentration and energy up for a lot of hockey every night. Tall tasks, but Mete looks more ready to answer the challenge each game.

It’s impressive how often Mete joins the rush looking to pass it off to an open man, or maybe get that first goal as an NHLer. It’s also impressive to watch Mete get back on defence after he pinches with that remarkable speed. It’s the new NHL, and Mete’s game is designed for it.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde — Montreal Canadiens dominate the Winnipeg Jets 5-2

There was a time this season that Carey Price was struggling badly. He had a save percentage of 890 and the Habs had to score four goals a game for Price to win. The Habs weren’t going to score four goals a game all season. They needed their former MVP to look like he once won the award.

So, with that in mind, Habs goalie coach Stephane Waite had an idea. He gathered highlight reels from that MVP season for Price to study. He wanted Price to find not only that form, but also — by viewing when he was the world’s best — that confidence.

Voila, we have the new Carey Price, just like the old Carey Price. He had a 953 save percentage in January. He continues his outstanding goalkeeping in February. Price has upped his number to 915 now this season.

WATCH: The Habs face their toughest challenge of the season yet with upcoming games against three of the top 10 NHL teams






The new fourth line gets a passing grade on opening night.

The experts who said Jesperi Kotkaniemi couldn’t skate were whispering that Nate Thompson also couldn’t skate. He looked fine. Dale Weise didn’t get on the ice a lot, but he brought intensity, too. He also seemed to enjoy himself a lot and had a little chemistry with Nicolas Deslauriers.

It’s a mystery to me why Deslauriers keeps getting chosen over talented players like Matthew Peca and Charles Hudon, but apparently Claude Julien thinks a bench-clearing brawl is going to erupt during a televised timeout. How many fights do the Predators have this season, anyway? Is this always-having-a-tough-guy-in-the-lineup a thing still? Seems it’s not a thing anymore to most hockey people.

The Habs could have used a goal in this one, not a tough guy making sure Price didn’t get run. Maybe Peca could have provided that moment instead of Deslauriers, or maybe Hudon could find a moment when he could use those silky smooth hands to pot one. It’s a better fourth line now than the one that got exposed against the Leafs. That fourth line caused the two trades that followed in the next four days, but it still isn’t what a good fourth line needs to be.

A reminder: when the Habs are truly ready to contend, they’ll have all the forwards that they have now, and they’ll also have Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Jesse Ylonen, and two or three others that have more skill than who they put out there right now every fourth shift. Patience, Everyone. This work in progress is well ahead of the expected timetable. Add to that the fact that the prospects to fill that fourth line or even second line are all having outstanding seasons and spirits are lifted. The future is going to be exciting. For now, though, these are workable improvements.

READ MORE: Canadiens acquire defenceman Folin, forward Weise in trade with Flyers

Tomas Tatar, that throw-in to the Vegas deal that saw Max Pacioretty leave, did it again. Tatar took a smooth pass from Andrew Shaw to score his 18th goal of the season. That was a huge goal for the Habs who could not figure out Rinne before that moment.

Tatar is not slowing down. He’s been as consistent a performer on the Habs that they have this season. By the way, Pacioretty has 16 goals this season.

WATCH: The Habs are back in action






Wilde Goats 

The longer a game goes, the more important that first goal is.

When it’s midway through the game and already promising to be a low-scoring affair, the first goal is almost a must. The Habs and Predators played high event hockey to see who could grab that momentum. Both goalies, Pekka Rinne and Carey Price, were outstanding.

The Habs weathered a first-period storm, and had the momentum in the second, but then Jonathan Drouin tried a cross ice pass in his defensive zone that was intercepted and reversed for a quick Nashville chance. The first shot was saved by Price, but the rebound was pocketed by Ryan Hartman, and the vital first goal was on the board for Nashville. Drouin has played such good hockey offensively this year, but it is simply going to be hard to rely on him in the big moments, if he can’t be better when the game is on the line defensively as well as offensively.

He has improved. He is working at it. You can see his frustration when it doesn’t work out after a blunder. However, it’s not good enough for a team with playoff aspirations. Hockey has two nets, and every player must take care of both of the nets. Drouin is still young. The heat that he takes from the fan base makes it seem as if he they think he is 29 years old and a defenceman. He’s a 23-year-old winger. That’s the last positional player that figures it out on the defensive side of the puck.

It wasn’t like when he was in the QMJHL anyone noticed whether he made a smart defensive play or not. He has never had to get this side of his game together. He is moving in the right direction. He’ll get there. Just not tonight.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde — Montreal Canadiens dominate the Anaheim Ducks

Another giveaway was the most costly moment of the game. It was 2-1 Predators and Jordie Benn had it in the neutral zone. He miscommunicated with his own player. Benn turned the puck over. Two seconds later, it was 3-1. Two goals in 2:24 for the Predators, and that’s the hockey game. It doesn’t take much to lose it against the great teams. A Drouin error, a Benn error, and it’s game over. It was a 3-1 final Nashville.

Wilde Cards

GM Marc Bergevin must be a terrible pain to trade with.

He often seems to have worn down his opposition. The deal for Phillip Danault, for example, wasn’t just Danault who was a prize in his own right, but also a second round draft choice. The deal for Nate Thompson this week is another example.

It wasn’t just a deal for the Los Angeles Kings to get Thompson for a fourth-round draft choice. The Kings had to give up a fifth-round draft choice. That meant they only upped their return by one round. But that’s not all. The Kings didn’t even upgrade by a full round of picks. Bergevin traded away the Flames’ fourth-rounder and they are one of the hottest teams in the league, so their fourth-rounder is late in the round.

He then acquired the Arizona Coyotes fifth-rounder and they are one of the lowest teams in the league, so that is an early pick in that round. So Bergevin didn’t even give up 30 or 45 or even as many as 59 picks overall, if he got schooled. He likely gave up only about 10 positions to get a fourth line centre for a playoff push.

This is basically getting Nate Thompson for free. The fourth line has an NHL centre on it now. Thompson is good at face-offs as well. These things matter when the margins are slim between winning and losing, or in this case, making the playoffs or not.

During this huge four-game test, the Habs now have only three points out of six. They’ll need to beat the best team in hockey, or it is three points out of eight after Saturday night in Tampa. That sounds bad, but to watch the games it is clear that this Habs team is talented and able. They may not be upper echelon yet, but they’re closing in with the prospect pieces arriving that will be improving the team in the next couple of seasons.

In the first three games, they dominated Winnipeg, they skated with Toronto and they had no trouble with Nashville as far as possession time. They are right there competing with the NHL’s best.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Experts call Ontario’s full-day kindergarten ‘visionary.’ The Ford government is eyeing changes

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Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program is in a class by itself.

With a full-time teacher and full-time early childhood educator working together, it provides a unique staffing model and two-year curriculum for the province’s 4- and 5-year-olds.

But now, the Ford government is eyeing potential changes, raising concerns among experts who say the program — while costly, at $1.5 billion a year — is worth the price.

“It would be extremely disruptive to change the model — disruption for education, for children, for families,” said Rachel Langford, a professor in the school of early childhood studies at Ryerson University.

The staffing, which has been in place since full-day kindergarten was rolled out almost a decade ago, has made Ontario “a leader, a visionary in this regard, and that, from our perspective, is very positive,” said Langford, who at one time was a kindergarten teacher.

Other provinces with full-day kindergarten typically use a teacher-only model.

Late last month, Education Minister Lisa Thompson launched consultations, asking unions and trustee associations about the “implications of the present two-educator model” for students, working conditions as well as “value for money” — and whether other options are available — as the government faces a deficit of up to $14.5 billion.

Last month, she and Premier Doug Ford caused an uproar after they wouldn’t commit to keeping full-day kindergarten. They later backtracked, affirming they would continue with what they referred to as “full-day learning.”

The full-day program was introduced by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. The original report on its design had recommended teachers work a half-day, with early childhood educators (ECEs) covering the rest of the school day as well as after-hours care.

However McGuinty — in a move to please the teacher unions — opted for one full-time teacher and one full-time ECE for the school day, adding half a billion dollars annually to the cost.

Since it was implemented, critics have derided it as expensive daycare; economist Don Drummond recommended scrapping it to trim the deficit, and in 2014 former PC leader Tim Hudak proposed a teacher-only model — with smaller class sizes — to save $200 million a year.

When full-day began, there were growing pains: Teachers were used to working alone at the head of the class, and ECEs working in teams in child-care settings. Their differing education credentials and huge salary discrepancy meant some ECEs felt more like assistants than educators. (School-based ECEs can earn well below half of what top-earning teachers do.)

Over time, “the level of integration of the staff team increased,” said University of Toronto professor Janette Pelletier, a researcher of Ontario’s full-day program. “Staff members reported that they benefited professionally from working together and that families benefited from the integrated team approach.”

Team teaching has also been key to the academic, social and emotional success children have had in full-day kindergarten, added Pelletier of the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study.

“The current model works,” she added. “If student success is important, then why talk about changing the model? I can speculate — perhaps student success would be negatively affected if educators no longer had the same combination of professional training and expertise.”

A teacher-only model might mean less focus on the play-based nature of the program; two early childhood educators would need to be trained in kindergarten curriculum, she added.

Pelletier also noted there is a shortage of ECEs in the system.

For teachers and early childhood educators, the strengths they each bring to the classroom are key.

Sarah Fernandes, who teaches one of five full-day kindergarten classes at Scarborough’s St. Maria Goretti Catholic School — each with the maximum 29 students — has worked with early childhood educator Anthonia Ikemeh for the past five years.

“We work well together,” said Ikemeh, adding the two bounce ideas off one another and create inquiry-based projects on topics the kids are interested in.

The two closely document everything their young students do, taking photos and creating a binder of pictures and classwork to detail their progress over the two years they are in the full-day program.

Over the years, they’ve refined and improved their program and projects. They’ve brought in bins of “loose parts” — bottle caps, paper towel rolls, buttons, clothespins, smooth beads — and put them out on shelves for children to touch, play with and use to help with counting and adding. They created a family tree on the wall with photos of students’ families, as well as their own.

Meanwhile, next door, teacher Kayla Larkey and ECE Celeste Riparip take turns instructing students, working with small groups.

Larkey, who worked as an early childhood educator before returning to university to earn her teaching degree, said, “I love it because I feel like we both bring different things to the table.”

Riparip “has a lot of experience with what’s child-appropriate and developmentally appropriate for kids in the class, and she keeps me on page to make sure everything is play-based,” Larkey said.

In turn, Larkey, who has taken professional development in areas such as special education, shares that expertise and knowledge.

“Recently we’ve noticed (students) are really into snow, so we are doing a snow inquiry,” Larkey added. “I might bring in some books from the Toronto Public Library; Celeste might prepare some activities for them.”

Recently, “we brought in some snow and they were watching it melt.” (A student put a snowball in his pocket to share with the class.)

“With both of us being here, we can work with kids one-on-one or in a smaller group,” said Riparip. “Whereas if it’s just a teacher, it’s harder to do that with 20, 25 or 30 kids. It’s a lot for one person to handle.”

Larkey points to the teacher desk in the classroom, saying it’s nice to have but it’s hardly used.

“We never sit.”

The University of Toronto’s Charles Pascal, the architect of Ontario’s full-day program, said after consultations on his report to McGuinty, “we decided to combine the specialized knowledge of kindergarten teachers about the school environment” and also thinking ahead to the transition to Grade 1.

Using ECEs only would require about 8,000 more when there is a shortage within the profession, Pascal added.

“The cost savings would not actually be huge and the major disruption to something that is working would produce chaos for several years that’s not good for kids and parents,” he said.

“It’s taken nine years to begin to smooth out the model — and now, on the back of an envelope, a hasty change that will likely inhibit the social and economic progress being made, is irresponsible.”

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

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Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens dominate the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 – Montreal

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The Montreal Canadiens are playing four straight games that will tell them very clearly where they stand in the NHL’s hierarchy.

The Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs are home games, then the Habs take to the road for the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. All four opponents have a chance to carry the Stanley Cup this year. The Habs will know by this time next Saturday whether they are in the mix of greatness, or if they have some miles to travel still.

First up, the best in the west: the Winnipeg Jets, whom the Canadiens dominated 5-2.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde — Montreal Canadiens dominate the Anaheim Ducks

Wilde Horses 

He has the odd, rather eventful gaffe, but you sure can’t deny Jonathan Drouin is having a remarkable comeback second season for the Habs.

This is the hottest that he has been. Drouin in his last 10 games has four goals and nine assists. He had a good run with Max Domi, but it appears head coach Claude Julien’s decision to separate the two has worked out for both of them, especially Drouin. First period, Drouin came through with a goal to tie it up at one, darting through bodies to receive the pass in the slot from Brendan Gallagher, then fired a one-timer through Connor Hellebuyck.

In the second period he was flying down the wing, then put in the perfect shot into the top corner. Drouin has now played 55 games this season, counting 17 goals and 29 assists for 46 points. He is on pace for a 69-point season, eclipsing his career best of 53 points. It’s remarkable what being in better shape can do to your overall game, and especially the last 20 seconds of your shift. Late first period, Drouin was flying — on the back check, no less.

Can’t say we saw that for a season and a half, but that’s what better lung capacity and heart does for your legs. Everything gets easier.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde — Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers go to overtime

One of the important measurements of a player and a line is how they compete against the best lines in the league. This season, without much fanfare, Phillip Danault has been stellar, taking on the best in the game and passing with highest honours.

Danault lined up with Drouin and Gallagher against the Jets’ top line of Mark Schiefele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. Many players and many lines have been destroyed this season against these three Jets stars, but the Habs were doing the destroying in this one. The line finished with a near-70 Corsi, which is total domination.

Drouin was everywhere; he was flying. Danault was doing what he does positionally to set it all up. He also counted two assists on the Drouin goals and one more assist on the Shea Weber goal. He ended his night with a goal for his 40th point of the season, tying a career high. Gallagher was working his tail off as per usual, counting two assists. Everyone is always curious whether Danault is a third-line centre or a second-line centre, and the truth is he’s a match-up centre. That makes him a terrific playoff centre.

It’s when you see that the Habs can win huge line match-ups like this against the best in hockey that you know that they can surprise this season — that this success is not a mirage. Sure, the Jets best also had their moments, but the Habs were neither intimidated nor outclassed against perhaps the second best team in hockey behind Tampa Bay. This predicts a future with a possible shock or two in it before this season is done. The playoffs are all about match-ups, and the Habs have a centre that matches up with the best in the game and does not get schooled. In fact, he can even dominate them like Schiefele in this one. It’s time to stop sleeping on what the Habs have in Danault.

WATCH: Call of the Wilde — The Habs are back in action






Jesperi Kotkaniemi now has his goal total to 10 on the season, having scored four goals in his last four games. The coaching staff told him that he has a good shot and to use it more, which seems to have been good advice. All night, too, he simply makes the right play. He finds his pass, and he understands the situation when it is time to be safe. He is 18, but he seems 28.

It was another night where Victor Mete was flying. He joined the rush to almost score his first goal as an NHLer, but it just went wide on the partial breakaway. Midway through the second period, he quickly found Gallagher for a sure tap in that was stopped. In the third period, it again looked like he had his first on a five-footer, but it just would not go in for him. Mete uses his speed to pull away from checkers. He would have had a tough time in the brawny NHL, but when you can use your speed now, Mete is one hell of a 100th pick overall in the entry draft. Sure, you can’t tell when he shoots if it was meant to be a pass, but everything else he does well.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde —Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils go to overtime

Overall, a word is due about everyone — the entire team.

The Habs weren’t playing the Ducks in this one. This was the Winnipeg Jets, and if not for their keeper, it was 6-1 after the second period. Drouin could have had four himself. Nicolas Deslauriers had a gaping net, but let the only place that Hellebuyck could possibly make the save be where Deslauriers shot it — on the ice, where the Jets keeper darted out his pad in desperation. The Habs were firing rockets from everywhere and the Jets were overwhelmed. One of the best teams in hockey found the Habs had too much speed for them.

This was a statement game. Not because they beat the Jets, but because they dominated them.  It didn’t need a pleasing scoreline. The Habs had 53 shots. Just the tilt of the ice told you that the Habs could very well be for real, and if you have been underestimating them, maybe it’s time to stop.

WATCH: Call of the Wilde — Going into all-star break






Carey Price was an 890 goalie at one point this season. The Habs were winning games but they needed four goals to do it, and they got those goals to their credit. However, that script was not sustainable. They needed their goalie to come back to the numbers that he is capable of, and he has. With a 953 save percentage in January, Price is looking just as stellar in February. Price was among the worst goalies in hockey to start this season, but now he is back near the top. He likely has too far to go to finish top five in save percentage, but he’s making a run for it. Price has his season-save percentage to 917, good enough for 13th in the league. He needs to get to 924 to get top five. Not likely attainable, but for the Habs, anything resembling this Carey Price and that playoff spot is all but assured. A number of 953, considering a goalie faces on average 30 shots a game, is a goal and a half allowed per game. Give the Habs that number allowed and they’re going to win a lot of hockey games the way they’re skating.

Wilde Goats

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens’ win streak cut short in loss to Philadelphia Flyers

Wilde Cards

Some interesting thoughts coming from Nick Suzuki this week. He is one of the Habs’ top prospects playing for the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League.

Suzuki is trying to create not more, but create faster. “The Canadiens asked me to think faster and run my games with even more speed”. Suzuki said that he would slow down the game last year deliberately to open up options for himself, but the Habs don’t want him to do that. They know that he will not have that kind of time at an NHL level, so they’re trying to get him to think the game in a quicker manner. As a result, Suzuki says he’s not worrying about his offensive numbers this season, but is instead focusing on his development. For those that say the Habs don’t need another centre, Suzuki at the pro level will be a winger. He can play both, but his game translates better to winger.

The Habs could welcome Suzuki to the roster as soon as next season, though if he had a season in Laval, it would not be an issue either. There are spots available on the fourth line next year, but you must win that spot. It won’t be handed to you with Ryan Poehling also likely to be fighting for a place on the roster. It’s exciting to think already what the Habs will look like next year and how they will improve from season to season. Players like Max Domi and Drouin are still getting better. Jesperi Kotkaniemi will definitely be exciting to watch develop as he leaves his teenage years behind. The Habs will lose not a single core player next season. The Canadiens have only Jordie Benn and Antti Niemi as unrestricted free agents next year. The Habs could be right in the mix next year, if they aren’t already. Pretty exciting times considering what only last year looked like.

Joni Ikonen is back from long term injury playing better hockey than last season at a top level. Ikonen played 22 minutes in one contest this week, showing that he has bounced back from his knee injury well. In 52 games last season, Ikonen scored only four times. He has three goals in his last eight games.

In Russia, Alexander Romanov continues to grow in confidence. After not getting a point in his first 32 games in the KHL, Romanov has a goal and two assists in his last five games. He is joining the rush on a regular basis and getting more ice time. His learning curve has been stunning — except to Trevor Timmins, of course, who found this gem. It was only seven months ago that he was drafted when experts thought Timmins had made a massive mistake going right off the board with his pick. After making the KHL as an 18-year-old, Romanov was then the best defenceman at the World Junior Championships. GM Marc Bergevin has indicated that Romanov could play as a third pair blue liner in the NHL easily already.

Expect the Habs to acquire a depth defenseman at the trading deadline. If the club is continuing to push for a playoff spot, as appears likely, Bergevin will need to have more defenders who can play minutes in the playoffs. The club does not have enough depth defensively whatsoever. They may have not been planning for this, but Bergevin often speaks of how many defencemen you need in the playoffs because of injuries, and the Habs are short by one if not even two. The deals will likely be met with disappointment as fans will hope for a first pairing marquee defender, but expect instead two defenders who can play a solid 5-6 role.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Trudeau offers ‘Canada’s continued support’ in call with Venezuela opposition’s Guaido

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office says he has spoken with the man Canada and many of its allies consider the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

Trudeau’s office says he spoke with Juan Guaido about the need for countries to send a clear message about what the PMO calls « the illegitimacy of the Maduro regime. »

A statement from the PMO says the two also discussed the need to respect Venezuela’s constitution and to have free and fair presidential elections.

« The prime minister commended Juan Guaido for his courage and leadership in helping to return democracy to Venezuela and offered Canada’s continued support, » the statement read.

The call comes a day before Canada and its allies in the so-called Lima Group are set to meet in Ottawa.

The gathering of more than a dozen of Canada’s Western Hemisphere allies is meant to find new ways to support the Venezuelan opposition and ease the refugee crisis in neighbouring Brazil and Colombia

The agenda was still being finalized on Friday, in part because of the speed at which the Venezuelan crisis is unfolding.

Watch: Power Panel on Canada and the Venezuela crisis

The Power Panel – Jen Gerson, Martin Patriquin, Paul Wells and John Paul Tasker discuss the ongoing political crisis gripping Venezuela and Canada’s role in attempting to resolve it. 11:17

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Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, supporters call for stop work order on Coastal GasLink pipeline

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Driving along the forest service road outside Houston, B.C. voices come in and out over the radio channels as people co-ordinate with one another at a worksite for the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

About 15 minutes down the road from the worksite is the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre. The camp is located on the edge of the Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) and is currently home to dozens of people, many of whom have come to support the Unist’ot’en in their opposition to the pipeline.

The bridge that crosses the river has been used as a checkpoint by the group for nearly a decade. People at the camp have been controlling who has access to the territory past the bridge in an effort to put Wet’suwet’en law into practice on the land.

Approaching the bridge on Wednesday it’s clear much has changed since the RCMP arrived earlier this month to enforce a court injunction for access. That led to an agreement between the nation’s hereditary chiefs and police to allow pipeline workers through Unist’ot’en.

As it stands, work continues on the TransCanada-owned Coastal GasLink pipeline while Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership are still fighting the project, calling for a stop work order from the province. 

Depending on who you ask, the work taking place along the forest service road past Unist’ot’en is either scheduled pre-construction work on a welcome, $40 billion natural gas project that has all the necessary approvals or it is the unlawful destruction of a landbase, according to Wet’suwet’en law, in an era when governments are publicly committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).  

Police approach the Gidimt’en checkpoint Jan. 7 to enforce an injunction ordering people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink workers from accessing the road and bridge. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In addition to the workers who have been moving through the area regularly, staff and chiefs from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have also been visiting on a regular basis.

A pair of fisheries staff from the office are stopping in at the Unist’ot’en healing centre on their way to check on streams in the area.

But they’re stopped on the bridge because a group of people are standing in the road.

Several members of the RCMP are talking to camp spokesperson Freda Huson. She’s telling them about a truck that drove through and knocked out an electrical box earlier that day and wants to know what the police are going to do about it.

A woman stands next to her with a notebook that is being used to track how many vehicles are coming and going through the area.

Freda Huson (left) at the entrance to the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre with a supporter, speaks to a member of the RCMP Division Liaison Team. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Interactions with the RCMP have become a daily occurrence in the area, with police fielding complaints from both sides. Officers have been coming and going through the territory, sent in from detachments across B.C.

People at Unist’ot’en are growing increasingly frustrated with them and a perceived lack of action on complaints.

List of complaints, allegations

At the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, where several of the nation’s hereditary chiefs work, that frustration has grown into a formal request to the province to issue a stop work order against Coastal GasLink, at least until the litany of complaints and allegations can be properly addressed.

The chiefs have taken issue with several incidents and work activities that have been happening since the enforcement of the injunction at the Gidim’ten checkpoint Jan. 7.

In particular, they’re upset that Coastal GasLink workers razed the buildings at Gidim’ten and about the heavy machinery brought into the area past Unist’ot’en, where workers recently cleared a large treed area the Wet’suwet’en say is a historic trapline site where people were actively trapping.

The buildings that were constructed by the Gidimt’en on the Morice Forest Service Road were razed by Coastal GasLink contractors in late January. The company said the buildings were torn down for safety purposes. The area is now being used by RCMP working in the area. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« Having the RCMP stand idly by when there is personal and private property being destroyed is not anything that the hereditary chiefs would agree to, nor would we expect it, » said Chief Na’Moks, who estimated the area recently cleared is about 20 hectares.

« There’s miscommunication between the RCMP at all levels. »

CBC sent requests to the RCMP to find out how many complaints it’s received and files it’s opened since the enforcement at Gidimt’en but has not received a response.

Remnants of traps that were set in a treed area since cleared by heavy equipment in a pile on the side of the road at the Coastal GasLink worksite. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC )

Coastal GasLink said it stopped work temporarily after the trapline incident, stating in a release « Fully approved and permitted work was shut down temporarily today due to safety concerns arising from a number of individuals entering an active construction site and the continued placement of traps on the construction site.

Work resumed and Coastal GasLink directed any questions about the matter to the RCMP.

On the road

The fisheries staff from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en stop and talk with members of the RCMP Division Liaison Team on their way to the site.

They’ve been there several times recently and have watched as the bulldozers and excavators level an area where the company plans to build a work camp for construction crews.  

« They’re digging a lot, » Gary Michell says to his brother Brian as they pass workers in hardhats and high visibility vests and the heavy machinery on either side of the forest service road.

Pre-construction work on the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is underway along the Morice Forest Service Road near Smithers in northern B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The brothers point out the trapping tents set back from the road, in the snow. This is the area where the trapping equipment was destroyed by the heavy equipment that was clearing the area.

They spot a pile of wooden boxes and traps piled on the side of the road amid tree debris.  

After checking the streams, the brothers drive out where the road ends and point out the signs of another trapper in the area, a pickup truck parked on the side of the road, the trapping sign tacked to a tree and tracks in the snow leading into the bush.

‘Nobody will take responsibility’

Several provincial bodies are involved with fielding the complaints and allegations from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters: conservation officers, the oil and gas commission, the environmental assessment office.

A joint investigation into allegations from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en of non-compliance by Coastal GasLink with its permits is underway and said officials visited the area to conduct a site inspection this week.

« It will take some time subsequently to determine whether any non-compliances are evident and, if so, the appropriate enforcement action, » wrote a spokesperson from the province’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

A man stands at a Coastal GasLink worksite where the company gained access to after receiving an interim injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court in December 2018. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In an email response to CBC about the recent allegations from the hereditary chiefs, a Coastal GasLink spokesperson wrote: « We are committed to undertaking all work in a safe and respectful manner that minimizes any impacts to traditional activities and meets regulatory requirements.

« We will continue to co-operate with the regulators and address any identified deficiencies. We remain open to dialogue with all stakeholder and First Nations.

A previous complaint against Coastal GasLink from the hereditary chiefs took at least a year to resolve. The chiefs say the complaints began in 2013 but the province said the complaint wasn’t received until January 2018.

Site inspections were carried out last summer and found Coastal GasLink was not in compliance with six of the 23 conditions of its Environmental Assessment Certificate specific to pre-construction.

The Environmental Assessment Office issued a warning to the company and an investigation report posted on Jan. 16 said the company is now in compliance at those sites.

Coastal GasLink says it is on track with pre-construction and construction activities. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In a statement on its website, Coastal GasLink said it was its understanding « that certain work required prior to construction, such as geotechnical earthworks or the placement of monitoring wells typically and routinely done in advance of construction, was appropriate.

« The inspection has since clarified that these activities fell under the definition of construction. Coastal GasLink has since satisfied all the conditions and is on track with pre-construction and construction activities. »

Knowing the results of the current investigation could take a while, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en wants elected officials in the B.C. government to step in.

Na’Moks said at this point it looks like the different provincial bodies and politicians are busy « trying to point fingers at each other. »

« So they’re going to play the name game for a little bit here and nobody will take responsibility, » he said.

« That’s why the cease and desist must happen. »

The elected and hereditary divide 

Twenty First Nation band councils along the route have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink. Some have been outspoken in their support for the project. But others, particularly currently elected leaders within the Wet’suwet’en, have been less eager to talk about the situation.

From left: Hereditary Chief Smogelgem, Chief Warner Williams, Chief Madeek, Chief Hagwilneghl and Chief Na’Moks speak to media following a meeting with RCMP members and Coastal GasLink representatives to discuss ways of ending the pipeline impasse on Wet’suwet’en land earlier this month. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

The hereditary chiefs at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have said the band councils have jurisdiction only over reserve lands, and not over the nation’s 22,000 km of traditional territory that was the focus of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case.

The plaintiffs in the Delgamuukw case were the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations. The Supreme Court’s decision confirmed Aboriginal title to land in British Columbia had never been extinguished, laid out the nature and scope for Aboriginal title, and how to prove such a claim in court. 

The court decision did not however go so far as to decide on the nations’ land claims to their territory and instead recommended a new trial.

Victor Jim is someone who knows the Delgamuukw case intimately. He worked as an interpreter on the case for several years. Jim is also a hereditary chief, former teacher and currently the elected chief in the village of Witset.

Sitting in his office on Friday he is visibly drained talking about everything that’s happened in the last couple of months.

« It’s been pretty hard on me, » he said, mentioning that it’s had an impact on his health. He mentions the names of a couple of close friends from whom he hasn’t heard in recent months.

Jim says he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and name calling over his council signing an agreement with Coastal GasLink. But he said it’s not right to frame this pipeline conflict as hereditary chiefs vs. elected band councils.

It’s more about the unfinished business between the Crown, province and Wet’suwet’en post-Delgamuukw.

Signs at the Unist’ot’en camp. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« They need to go back to litigation for jurisdiction and title, and they’ll win it, » he said, in reference to his fellow hereditary chiefs.

« I think if we had ownership and jurisdiction things could have played out a lot differently. You know the governments would realize that they can’t push industry on us if we had title and jurisdiction. »

When it comes to his own band’s agreement with Coastal GasLink, Jim said it came about after they realized the project would go ahead with or without their support.   

« We support [Coastal GasLink], but the way they do business I’m beginning to have my second doubts. You don’t run roughshod over a nation to get what you want as industry, » he said.

He said the band has received some financial benefits from the company already that they plan to put toward language instruction and facilities.

Looking forward, Jim said he hopes someone can take leadership to bring the Wet’suwet’en people together so they can talk about what’s gone on and where things go from here.

Injunction case still before the court

The interim injunction that led to the spotlight on this pipeline and those opposed has yet to go to trial. Coastal GasLink has said the injunction application was a last resort after repeated attempts to gain access to the area past the Unist’ot’en camp.

A group of people hold up signs expressing their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en outside the constituency office of local MLA Doug Donaldson on Thursday. His office was occupied by a group of people for several hours. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The named defendants in the case, Freda Huson and hereditary chief Smogelgem, said they’re expected to file their response in court in late February. They haven’t said what their legal strategy will be but they do have the option to file for a counter injunction against Coastal GasLink.

Meanwhile supporters of the Unist’ot’en, Gidimt’en and the Wet’suwet’en continue to organize rallies and actions across the country. On Thursday two people were arrested for mischief after occupying MLA Doug Donaldson’s constituency office in Smithers for several hours.

Those arrested at Gidimt’en in early January are expected to be in court on Monday.

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MPs call for criminal probe of coerced sterilization cases of Indigenous women

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Two federal MPs are calling for a criminal probe into cases of Indigenous women who say they’re victims of coerced sterilization.

NDP MP Don Davies and Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette called for the criminal probe Thursday after the House of Commons health committee decided to begin a study on the issue.

We are talking about alleged torture and widespread systemic assaults on women — very vulnerable women.– NDP MP Don Davies 

Davies said the federal government needed to either direct the federal prosecutor’s office, known as the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, or the RCMP to probe cases of forced sterilization that have surfaced since the filing of two separate lawsuits.

« We are talking about alleged torture and widespread systemic assaults on women — very vulnerable women, » said Davies, following a hearing on the issue before the House’s health committee.

The committee decided Thursday to launch a study into coerced sterilization which would involve multiple witnesses and lead to a report that would be submitted to Parliament with recommendations.

Davies said he was pleased the committee has finally decided to study the issue, but believes the federal government shouldn’t wait for the committee’s report to trigger a criminal probe into the issue.

« It’s our obligation under international law, and we owe it to the women who have suffered in this country, » Davies said.

Davies said the names of potential victims and perpetrators are already known as a result of existing civil action.

« We know who specifically performed these procedures and how this happened, » he said. « There should be an investigation. »

UN called for criminal probe

The UN Committee Against Torture released a report in December calling on Ottawa to investigate « all allegations of forced or coerced sterilisation » and hold those responsible « accountable. »

The UN report also called on Ottawa to criminalize coerced sterilization, but the federal government has said it wouldn’t amend the Criminal Code to outlaw it, saying existing criminal provisions are enough.

Two separate lawsuits have been filed in Saskatchewan and Alberta seeking class action certification on behalf of women who have claimed to be victims of coerced sterilization.

Maurice Law, an Indigenous-focused law firm with offices in the Prairies and Ontario, filed the first court action in 2017 on behalf of two women. The filing named the Saskatchewan government, the Saskatoon Health Region, medical professionals and the federal government.

Winnipeg Centre Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette supported calls for a criminal probe into coerced sterilization cases. (CBC)

The firm has since received inquiries from more than 100 mostly Indigenous women who say they have suffered from coerced sterilization.

The women are mostly from Saskatchewan. The firm has said it also heard from potential victims in other provinces like Manitoba and Ontario. At least one of the cases stems from 2017 while others range from the 1990s to the early 2000s. 

The historical record shows that coerced and forced sterilization of Indigenous women regularly occurred in Canada throughout the first half of the 1900s.

In Alberta and British Columbia, it was legal to force women deemed to have mental illnesses to undergo forced sterilization up to the 1970s, said Tom Wong, executive director and chief medical officer of public health, during testimony before the committee on Thursday.

Health Canada official says it may not be widespread issue

MP Ouellette said the RCMP needed to look into the contemporary cases.

« That sounds pretty criminal to me. The police force needs to find out what actually occurred, » Ouellette said. « For me, it’s important … that we use the appropriate instruments of the state to make sure that this doesn’t occurred again but we give justice to those who suffered and are still alive today. »

Alisa Lombard of Maurice Law is representing at least 60 women in the lawsuit. Each woman is claiming about $7 million in damages. (Submitted by Alisa Lombard)

Abby Hoffman, assistant deputy minister for Health Canada, said a federal, provincial and territorial task force is being created to study the issue. Hoffman said the first meeting is scheduled for some time in March.

Hoffman told the committee that, at first blush, the data does not seem to show that coerced sterilization is a widespread issue in contemporary Canada, but it may need deeper analysis.

« I can’t say any examination would have suggested from the data that there are anomalies, » Hoffman said. « I am not certain at this point that one would see a pattern in Saskatchewan. »

The Saskatoon Health Region apologized in 2017 for the past coerced sterilization of Indigenous women following an independent report. The report, based on anecdotal evidence, said that Indigenous women felt coerced by doctors, nurses and social workers to undergo sterilization.

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‘I scared them off’: Woman, 83, uses medical alert device to call for help after break-in

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An 83-year-old Oxford, N.S., woman who used the medical alert device she wears around her neck to call for help after men broke into her home says she scared off the home invaders.

Willena Payne was asleep on Dec. 9 when she was woken up by a loud bang around 1:30 a.m. She heard male voices going down into the basement of her home, and then coming upstairs toward her bedroom door.

« And this man was standing in the door into my bedroom and I just looked down and I said, ‘And who are you?’ And he just whirled around and started hollering, ‘Go, go, go, go, go!’ And you could hear footprints running and they disappeared, » Payne told CBC News.

Payne said at first, she wasn’t sure if she was dreaming. She went out to the porch and turned every light on and saw her back door was wide open.

It was then Payne realized someone had broken into her home. She tried calling a relative, but because it was so late, no one picked up.

After home invaders broke into her home late one night in December, it was too dark for Willena Payne to see the phone to call police. She said her medical alert device helped get help to her house fast. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

« And so I thought, I got to call the RCMP. But then I couldn’t see the phone, 911 — I couldn’t see it on the phone … and I thought, oh, my Lifeline and I pressed that button, » Payne said, gesturing to her medical alert device.

« And I was standing right beside the phone when I pressed it. And she called me, the [dispatcher], and she said, ‘Are you all right? Do you need help?’ I said, ‘I’m all right, but somebody just broke into my house.’ And of course by then my voice was getting all shaky and weak. »

RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said police arrived within 10 or 15 minutes and checked the home.

Payne said she wasn’t sure how many people were inside because she wasn’t able to see them, but said there were at least two and their voices were male. 

« I scared them off, scared them to death I think because he just whirled around and started running and all I could hear were these footsteps running and they went out the door, » Payne said.

RCMP find tracks

In the snow outside, police saw tire tracks leaving the woman’s home. Later that day, during patrols in the area, they saw the same tire tracks pulling in and out of several other driveways. There was also a break and enter reported.

« It’s pretty clear what the intent of these individuals was, however this particular lady, I don’t believe the suspects realized that she was home and I don’t think they would have tried to get into her home if they knew she was there, » said Clarke. « At any rate, she’s very lucky.

« I’ve never heard of someone using a medic alert device to contact 911 before, but in this person’s case it was absolutely the best thing for her to do. »

The RCMP are still investigating and Clarke said they hope people will come forward with information.

Payne said her son told her later she was lucky she didn’t get hurt. She said she never even considered that possibility.

« I just hope nobody ever has to go through it and I just hope … the people that are running around breaking into places could please think of the people that are living there. »

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Big city mayors call for emergency federal funding to deal with housing crunch

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The mayors of Canada’s largest cities are ramping up pressure on the Trudeau government to deliver a major cash infusion to cope with a housing shortage they say has been driven in part by refugees.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities ‘Big City Mayors’ caucus was to gather in Ottawa today before meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and delivering its election year wish list for the 2019 federal budget — the last of the Liberal government’s current mandate.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said his city had to absorb roughly $5.7 million in additional housing costs in 2017 related to a spike in asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States. He said he expects the city took a similar hit in 2018.

« What often happens is a government will make a decision at a senior level and the consequences trickle down to us, » Watson said.

« Toronto received $11 million in July to deal with refugee claimants. Our city has received nothing. »

Share the burden, mayors say

The mayors don’t appear to have a specific sum in mind for emergency federal housing money. In late 2017, the Trudeau government rolled out a 10-year, $40-billion national housing strategy meant in part to address a severe shortage of affordable housing units in major cities, but the mayors appear to be looking for more near-term funding.

The RCMP intercepted 19,411 asylum seekers outside official border points in 2018, down from 20,593 in 2017.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he agrees with Watson that the federal government ought to do more to share the burden of settling refugees outside of Toronto.

« [The federal government] makes the decisions about what happens at the border and Toronto is very supportive, for example, of admitting refugees, » he said. « We’ve had a historically compassionate approach in this country which we support. But the federal government, who admits refugees to the country, also has to take a hand in helping to house and settle them. »

Watson also said the federal government’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana use is ramping up the cost of police drug enforcement in his city.

« In our case we’re going to receive about $2 million for all enforcement inspections … and our staff estimate it’s more of a cost of $8 million so we’re going to have to absorb $6 million in costs, » he said.

« It’s almost like, you know, when the federal and provincial governments sneeze, we end up getting a cold. »

But the major ask from Canada’s largest cities is likely to be for federal transit funding. The mayors are looking for $34 billion over 10 years starting in 2028 for public transit services. Under their proposal, $30 billion of that would be distributed to cities based on ridership — $29 billion going to transit systems with a ridership over a certain threshold and the remaining $1 billion to smaller transit systems.

The other $4 billion would go to boosting ridership and to rural transit systems. The mayors also want the funding made permanent.

Political clout

« That allows Toronto to think about its next major subway expansion, it allows Halifax to start thinking about bus rapid transit and allows Edmonton to think about where light rail will go next, » said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson​, chairman of the big city mayors’ caucus.

Iveson said he and his other large city mayors swing considerable political clout in a federal election year.

« These 22 mayors represent more than half the country’s population and two-thirds of its economy. So you know we have an opportunity to influence the course of the country. »

Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne said his government has already invested billions in transit.

« There have been repairs and upgrades of more than 2,000 kilometres of roads and highways, more than 170 kilometres of new highway, and more than 70 new bridges, » he said in an email. « Public transit across the country has seen improvements, including more than 3,000 new buses purchased, 3,700 buses repaired and refurbished, nearly 15,000 bus stops and shelters been upgraded, and more than 200 transit stations built or upgraded. »

Along with Trudeau, the mayors are expected to meet today with Champagne, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc and Bill Blair, the minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.

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