Don’t give opioid-based cough, cold medication to children, Health Canada warns

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Young children and adolescents should not be given cough and cold products containing opioids, such as codeine, after a safety review found early opioid use « may be a factor in problematic substance use later in life, » Health Canada says.

In an advisory issued Monday, the federal agency said « as a precautionary measure, » those under 18 should not use products containing codeine, hydrocodone and normethadone — the three prescription opioids authorized to treat cough symptoms in Canada.

Health Canada said the safety review of cough and cold products « did not find any strong evidence linking cough and cold products that contain opioids with opioid use disorders in children and adolescents, » but found « early use of opioids may be a factor in problematic substance use later in life, » the advisory says.

The agency also found there is « limited evidence » to support the effectiveness of these products in those under 18, noting other products are available to help relieve cough and cold symptoms in children.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its guidelines for such medication last year, saying the « risks … outweigh the benefits » for those under-18.

Health Canada noted the use of prescription cough and cold products with opioids has fallen among children and adolescents over the past five years: youth prescriptions represent only about four per cent of the total dispensed in Canada.

Non-prescription products containing codeine are already labelled to make it clear they should not be used by children.

Health Canada is also asking manufacturers to update their product safety information to reflect the recommendation.

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‘I feel like I’ve been deserted:’ B.C. woman trapped in Haiti says Canada not doing enough to help – BC

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A woman with roots in Kelowna says Ottawa is letting her down as political unrest in Haiti has left her trapped in the Caribbean nation.

“I’m crushed, I feel like I’ve been deserted,” Laura Allan told Global News on Sunday.


READ MORE:
Alberta missionaries among the Canadians heading home from riot-stricken Haiti

Allan is currently stuck in Jacmel on Haiti’s southern coast where she’s been doing aid work with her organization Shelters International Disaster Response.

Other groups of Canadians returned to Calgary and Montreal over the weekend, but Allan says roadblocks and looters have made it too dangerous for her to travel to the airport in Port Au Prince.

She says the Canadian government should be doing more to help her and the 20-odd Canadians she says are still in the Jacmel area.

WATCH: Trio of Maritime medical professionals share their harrowing escape from Haiti






“There is no way for any of us to get through this unless we are air-evacuated or by sea,” Allan said.


READ MORE:
Trio of Maritime medical professionals share their harrowing escape from Haiti

In a statement Sunday, Global Affairs Canada said they are on top of the situation in Haiti and they are making consular services there available to Canadians who need it.

Haiti has been gripped by political violence and unrest as demonstrators call for the resignation of President Jovenal Moise over skyrocketing inflation and a scandal over oil imports.

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‘Significant snowfall’ a possibility for tonight in GTA, Environment Canada warns

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The city may be in for yet another down comforter of snow — Environment Canada put out a special weather statement Sunday warning of the potential for “significant snowfall” later today.

The statement was put out shortly before 2 p.m., explaining that “localized pockets of flurries” could affect areas near the west end of Lake Ontario as northeast winds increase this afternoon.

Torontonians at the intersection of Yonge and College Sts. make their way through a snow storm in Toronto on Feb. 13. The city could receive another gust of snow Sunday night as flurries move in.
Torontonians at the intersection of Yonge and College Sts. make their way through a snow storm in Toronto on Feb. 13. The city could receive another gust of snow Sunday night as flurries move in.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star file photo)

The snowfall is expected to pick up in the evening and continue through to Monday morning before tapering off.

The general expectation is 5-10 centimetres of snow across Toronto, but areas near Oakville, Hamilton and Grimsby could get as much as 15 cm, as well as areas of the city closer to the water.

The greatest amount of snowfall for Toronto on this date, according to historical records, was 11.2 cm in 1941.

The weather agency is warning that travel could be dangerous as the blowing snow increases, particuarly on the Monday morning commute. Fortunately, Monday is the Family Day holiday.

Temperatures are expected to hit a high of -5 C on Monday, with a low of -15 C with the wind chill.

Alexandra Jones is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @AlexandraMaeJ

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Activists says a still-active human rights case in N.L. speaks to the lasting homophobia in Canada

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Just over 14 years ago, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador issued the province’s marriage commissioners an ultimatum: agree to perform same-sex marriages or resign.

At least seven commissioners, many of them mayors, chose to quit, arguing overseeing such marriages would contradict their religious beliefs.

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But one former commissioner, Desiree Dichmont, also filed a human rights complaint, claiming discrimination based on religious creed. The case has been snaking its way through the courts ever since – and even though Dichmont has died, the case remains alive.

READ MORE: Vehicle vandalized with homophobic slur in Upper Tantallon, N.S.

An Alberta-based free speech advocacy group, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, recently won the right to intervene in the appeal proceedings, arguing the public has an interest in the outcome. The latest appeal in the case will be heard next month.

LGBTQ activists who championed the issue of same-sex marriage more than a decade ago say the case’s renewed life speaks to lingering homophobia in Canada that has since moved under the surface.

“I feel like I’m in a time warp,” said Newfoundlander Gemma Hickey, who was president of advocacy group EGALE Canada in 2004 when same-sex marriage was legalized and fought for legalization across Canada.

“I wasn’t surprised back then and I’m not surprised now,” Hickey said in an email from Tokyo.

Should the case set a precedent for future objections based on religious belief, Hickey said the consequences would be dire for LGBTQ people in rural parts of the province.

For example, then-mayor Claude Elliott was Gander’s sole marriage commissioner when he resigned his duties as a marriage commissioner in 2005.

“My concern is for same-sex couples in rural areas who don’t have a choice between marriage commissioners. They shouldn’t have to travel elsewhere to find someone to marry them in a civil ceremony,” Hickey said.

“A wedding is something to celebrate and regardless if someone agrees or disagrees, same-sex marriage has been a reality in the province of N.L. since 2004 and in Canada since 2005.”

WATCH: Canada speaks out against homophobia in Chechnya






Winding its way through the justice system

Dichmont’s complaint arguing discrimination based on religious creed was filed in 2005, and was at first dismissed by the Human Rights Commission for insufficient evidence.

After an appeal, the province’s supreme court ordered a hearing by the commission’s board of inquiry. A ruling finally came down in 2017 in the province’s favour.

Dichmont passed away before the adjudicator released his report, but her estate appealed the decision. A January hearing on the Dichmont estate’s latest appeal was pushed back to March following the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms’ application for intervener status.

The group cited the estate’s notice of appeal, which argues the outcome of the Dichmont appeal raises matters of “broad public and societal concern.”

It argues the human rights adjudicator unfairly placed charter obligations on Dichmont, and that her employer failed to accommodate her individual religious views by making her act as a representative of government first.

It also argues the duty of state neutrality was not applied to her.

Justice Rosalie McGrath of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador said she agreed to grant the Justice Centre intervener status because it has experience acting as an intervener and can make a “useful contribution.”

“The Justice Centre has identified a different perspective it can bring by focusing on the evolution of case law, particularly from the Supreme Court of Canada, on the issue of how the Charter applies to public servants,” McGrath wrote in a Feb. 1 ruling.

McGrath said “the issue of mootness as well as the standing of the estate remain live issues to be argued at the hearing of the matter.” That hearing is scheduled for March 4-5.

A lawyer with the province’s Human Rights Commission said in an interview that the organization’s stance, laid out by adjudicator Robby Ash in his 2017 decision, has not changed.

READ MORE: Gay Edmonton woman from Uganda fears for her life after deportation notice

Ash dismissed Dichmont’s complaint, saying her request for a system that would assign same-sex couples to a non-objecting marriage commissioner would contradict the province’s duty of neutrality in delivering public services.

“To borrow a phrase from the Ontario Court of Appeal …. requiring minorities to reveal their differences for the purposes of accommodating those who oppose what makes them different only serves as a ‘subtle and constant reminder’ of unacceptance and intolerance. A ‘single point entry’ system would do just that,” Ash wrote.

“Each marriage commissioner, vested with the authority of the state, is required to provide the service on behalf of government to all those eligible under law to receive the service.”

A spokesperson for EGALE Canada said the organization is watching the case and considering next steps, including the possibility of legal action.

Gerry Rogers, then a film-maker and activist and now the outgoing leader of the province’s NDP, wrote to the premier in 2005, requesting marriage commissioners declare their willingness to perform same-sex marriages.

Rogers and several others became marriage commissioners in response to the objectors’ resignations.

Rogers, a former acquaintance of Dichmont, said she was bewildered and disappointed by her decision to pursue the case, and by continued efforts from outside groups to push back against a human rights matter that has already been decided upon by Canada’s highest court.

“They’re absolute dinosaurs and they should simply take their case and go home,” said Rogers, who was the province’s first openly gay party leader. “It’s time to move on. This has already been settled in the courts.”

WATCH: Ellen Page slams Pence over LGBTQ rights during Colbert appearance






Hickey said instances like this show how rights awarded to minority groups are not simply given, but are the result of ongoing, hard-won fights for change.

“I try not to let my fear paralyze me. But our rights are never given to us. We have to fight for them.”

The issue of LGBTQ rights hasn’t completely left the public square in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in rural areas.

Last spring, the province and country rallied in support of Springdale, N.L., teenagers after town councillors voted down the Gender-Sexuality Alliance’s bid for a rainbow crosswalk, igniting fierce debate.

“Homophobia and transphobia never went away,” Hickey said.

“In my experience, laws change faster than attitudes.”

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Acid attack survivor who got life-changing surgery in Toronto wants to make Canada her home

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Every day for a year, from the confines of her tiny hospital room in Bangladesh, Popi Rani Das dreamed of Toronto.

A doctor from this faraway city had promised its surgeons could repair the life-threatening wounds in her throat caused by a horrific acid attack that left her unable to drink or eat.

Popi Rani Das has found a new home in the city’s Bangladeshi Hindu community, which has embraced her since she came to Canada to have her esophagus repaired after her husband tricked her into drinking acid.“I am safe here,” Das, now 30, says in her soft-spoken and tentative English. “I am OK here now.”
Popi Rani Das has found a new home in the city’s Bangladeshi Hindu community, which has embraced her since she came to Canada to have her esophagus repaired after her husband tricked her into drinking acid.“I am safe here,” Das, now 30, says in her soft-spoken and tentative English. “I am OK here now.”  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

Das was just 21 when her husband tried to kill her by tricking her into drinking the acid that burned away her entire esophagus and most of her stomach. For the next seven years, she lived in a top-floor room of the Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, keeping herself alive by injecting pureed food into the feeding tube threaded into her small intestine.

Then, a chance meeting in February 2016 with Dr. Toni Zhong, a Toronto plastic surgeon on a medical mission to the country, gave Das hope that she would one day escape her bleak surroundings.

“I remember feeling so much sadness for this woman,” recalls Zhong. “I remember thinking: ‘This must be what it is like to be a forgotten person in a small corner of the world.’ ”

Das did come to Toronto in 2017 and, following a trio of risky surgeries at Toronto General Hospital, can once again eat and drink.

Now, two years since she arrived in Toronto, scared, weak and weighing less than 80 pounds, Das, 30, wants to make Canada her permanent home.

It was here, after all, that surgeons gave her another chance at life by building her a new esophagus using skin harvested from her arm.

She has also found friends and a new kind of family in the city’s Bangladeshi Hindu community, which has rallied around her since the freezing February night she arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

And, most importantly, living in Toronto keeps Das safe from her husband, who she says wanted her dead so he could remarry for a bigger dowry. Police charged him for the attack, her lawyer says, but he was released on bail and Das fears he will try to find her should she return to Dhaka.

“I cannot go back … That is where my life is not safe and where my life could be in danger again.”

Read More:

A Toronto doctor promised to help this acid attack survivor. One year later, she’s leaving Toronto with a new esophagus

Acid attack victim finds hope in Toronto surgeons

Acid attack: From victim to triumph in India

Though she misses her country, especially its constant warmth and her friends at the Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital, Das is learning to love Toronto.

She enjoys her ESL classes, riding city buses and eating Oreo cookies, the everyday things that once seemed so impossible from her Dhaka hospital room.

“I am safe here now,” Das says in her soft-spoken and tentative English. “I am OK here now.”

Popi Rani Das, with her mother, Ajanta Rani Das, who hasn't left her daughter's side since the attack that left her unable to eat or drink.
Popi Rani Das, with her mother, Ajanta Rani Das, who hasn’t left her daughter’s side since the attack that left her unable to eat or drink.  (Toronto Star)

Das filed a refugee protection claim last February and is waiting for her case to be heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Her mother, Ajanta Rani Das, who travelled to Toronto with her daughter in 2017 and who has been by Das’s side since the day she was attacked, has also made a claim. Both women say their lives are at risk in Bangladesh.

Douglas Lehrer, their Toronto-based immigration lawyer, says he has affidavits from Das’s maternal aunt and from a neighbour stating Das’s former husband is “threatening to kill them out of revenge.”

Lehrer says the immigration board, which is currently taking between six and 24 months to hear claims, must believe the women would be in danger in Bangladesh — and that the state would be unable to protect them — to grant them protected person status, thus putting them on the path to Canadian citizenship.

For now, Das is trying to put her immigration status from her mind and focus on her daily life in the city.

These days, she and her mother live in a basement apartment in Scarborough, where they enjoy cooking in their small kitchen, planning trips to the library and going for walks around their Birchmount Park neighbourhood.

Both women adore the big white flowers that bloom on bushes growing near their street and which remind them of their village in Bangladesh.

During her first year in Toronto, Das saw little more than hospital rooms, doctors’ offices and the apartment she shared with her mother near Toronto General. Much of her time was spent recovering from surgery, relearning how to swallow with her new esophagus, and finding strategies to deal with the post-traumatic stress triggered by her husband’s attack.

Popi Rani Das, right, shares some cake with Dr. Toni Zhong at a party thrown for Das following her successful surgery at Toronto General Hospital.
Popi Rani Das, right, shares some cake with Dr. Toni Zhong at a party thrown for Das following her successful surgery at Toronto General Hospital.  (Toronto Star file photo)

Zhong, director of the breast reconstruction program at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN), says few people would have the strength to endure the hardships Das has faced.

That inner courage was one of the reasons Zhong felt compelled to help Das by raising more than $700,000 to start the UHN Helps Fund to bring international patients to Toronto for life-changing surgery. A portion of that money raised paid for Das’s medical care in Toronto, as well as her travel and living expenses.

Zhong also convinced Toronto General to open its operating rooms after-hours for Das, and the surgeons who performed the complex surgeries waived their fees, so as not to impact Canadian patients.

Though Zhong is happy Das is well and safe in Toronto, a part of her is also disheartened that Das will not return to Bangladesh to advocate for survivors of acid violence, something both women had once badly wanted.

She says she didn’t fully understand the risks Das faced until she was again in Dhaka in January of this year for another medical mission. There, she says, she met people who know Das who believe the young woman’s decision to stay in Canada is the right one.

“They told me: ‘There is no doubt that if she came back she would be a target, for her husband or just in general because (after earlier media stories) she has a celebratory status and she spoke out for herself.’ ”

The renowned doctor has many hopes for Das. Some, including a chance to eat and drink, have already been fulfilled. She also believes Das lived through her ordeals to make a lasting impact on the world.

Popi Rani Das stitches to pass the time at the Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2016, where she lived for seven years until coming to Canada for surgery.
Popi Rani Das stitches to pass the time at the Acid Survivors Foundation Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2016, where she lived for seven years until coming to Canada for surgery.  (Toronto Star file photo)

“She shouldn’t have survived that initial attack,” Zhong says, adding that 75 per cent of people who swallow acid will die. “Popi is an incredibly strong person who can make a difference. I don’t know where or how she can do that. But my hope for her is that she will find a way to tell her story and to live a meaningful life with this gift she has been given.”

Arun Datta is among the dozens of people in Toronto’s Bangladeshi Hindu community who have helped Das since she arrived in the city. He says he didn’t hesitate for a moment after Zhong’s 2017 phone call, during which she asked for their community’s support.

Within days of that call, members of the Bangladesh-Canada Hindu Mandir temple in Scarborough were raising funds and finding a place for Das and her mother to stay.

“We all had a desire to help,” says Datta, who came to Canada 30 years ago and works as a paralegal while advocating for the rights of Hindus, a religious minority, in Bangladesh as the president of the Bangladesh Minority Rights Alliance. “We gave money, and we gave time driving her to the hospital, going to get groceries, anything that was needed.”

He and others in the Toronto community say Das’s Hindu faith is yet another thing that will put her at risk in Bangladesh, where religious minorities face oppression and persecution.

“That is the main reason we are all here,” says Datta, gesturing to Das, her mother and some of their friends gathered around a table on a recent winter evening at the Bangladesh-Canada Hindu Mandir. “We all have been victims as well.”

Bijit Roy, the temple’s president, says the Toronto community has been moved by Das’s story.

“It was a rare type of cruelty,” he says. “She is far better here. Here she can have a new and safe life.”

Popi Rani Das on a trip to Toronto's Centre Island with her English class last summer.
Popi Rani Das on a trip to Toronto’s Centre Island with her English class last summer.  (Supplied/Popi Rani Das)

Looking at those gathered at the table, Das says she is grateful to everybody for their help — the Toronto surgeons, her new community and Canada, the country that made her safe.

While Das can read and write English fairly well, she finds it more difficult to maintain a conversation in English. Datta helps, when needed, to translate her conversation with a Star journalist between English and Bengali.

Das says she is not yet sure what her future holds as a potential Canadian.

In between her trips to the library and her ESL classes, Das continues to embroider, a task that helped pass time in her Dhaka hospital room. As long as she takes small, slow bites, Das can eat anything that she likes. She still loves Kit Kat and chocolate ice cream and most kinds of cookies. And she is practicing English by watching TV.

“I don’t like sad movies,” she says in English. “Only funny.”

While she is now used to Canadian winters, Das says she can’t wait for the warm weather and more trips to Centre Island, one of her favourite places in Toronto. This summer, she wants to go up the CN Tower so she can look out over the city that is now her home.

“The people here are good,” she says in Bengali.

And then, in English: “Here, I am safe.”

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Canada will reinforce a ‘rules-based international order,’ Freeland says – National

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Canada will continue to meet with like-minded nations as it aims to bridge divides between countries at a time of simmering international tensions, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said from Germany on Saturday.


READ MORE:
Freeland says she pushed for end to steel, aluminum tariffs in meeting with Nancy Pelosi

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The approach is necessary as Canada strives to reinforce the “rules-based international order,” Freeland said in a conference call with reporters as she wrapped up her time at the Munich Security Conference.

“We also think we need to … bring together specific coalitions around specific issues,” she said, listing the Lima Group – which helped empower Venezuela’s opposition in its fight against President Nicolas Maduro – as an example of Canada doing just that.

The group helped identify the politician Canada and its allies recognize as Venezuela’s real leader, Juan Guaido, as a contender to bring down Maduro’s regime.

WATCH: Freeland says coalition against ISIS is ‘succeeding’ but fight is not over






“There is now a very long list of countries who have recognized Juan Guaido as interim president,” she said. “That is a sign that the international community is coming together around democracy in Venezuela.”

But she added that Canada is not – and should not be – leading the fight against Maduro.

“This is a process led by the people of Venezuela,” she said. “They are the ones who need to win this effort. Our job as the international community is to support them, and that is very much what we’re doing.”


READ MORE:
China slams Freeland’s detention comment, says she ‘can’t help speaking without thinking’ 

She said that beyond seeking out like-minded countries, Canada will continue to name and shame those involved in human rights abuses, listing the country’s involvement in protesting the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as an example of such an approach.

The federal government has appointed former Liberal MP Bob Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar and pledged $300 million over the next three years to combat the crisis there. Last September, Parliament voted unanimously to strip Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of her honorary Canadian citizenship for failing to stop the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people.

Freeland’s public push for a rules-following international order also comes in the midst of an ongoing dispute between Canada and China, following what she called the superpower’s “arbitrary” detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

WATCH: Freeland says Canada, Lima Group calling on Venezuela military to recognize Guaido






Freeland said the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was central to her discussion with Rob Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, and is yet another example of nations rallying together.

“The ICG has been a very important partner in working to build international support,” she said.

Numerous countries – including Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – have spoken against the men’s detention. Earlier this week in Munich, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the American response had not been strong enough.

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Red Deer excited as 2019 Canada Winter Games begin

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The mood around Red Deer is electric as the community gets set for day one of competition at the 2019 Canada Winter Games, according to the event’s lead official.

“We had just an unbelievable opening ceremonies last night to a full house and an excited group of athletes from across the country,” Scott Robinson, the CEO of the Games, said in an interview Saturday on Global News Morning.

“We’re ready to get going.”

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The Games kicked off Saturday morning with a slate of table tennis matches at Westerner Park. The last competition is scheduled to be held on March 2, with the closing ceremonies taking place the next day.

More than 3,600 athletes, coaches and managers will take part in the 17-day event, according to organizers. The young athletes will face off in 19 different sports.


READ MORE:
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Robinson said that the event helps develop youth athletes in Canada because the competition is set up similar to the Olympic Games.

“They stay in an athlete’s village, they’re all competing in their various sports, but they’re also part of a bigger team with the other sports in their province,” Robinson said.

“They really get a taste of what the next level looks like.”

However, athletics aren’t the only part of the event, according to Robinson. He pointed out that there is a major arts and cultural festival going on throughout the Games in downtown Red Deer.

“We’ve actually built a beautiful celebration plaza that was part of our capital projects to create a celebration space in downtown Red Deer,” Robinson said.

“We’ve got some major entertainment acts coming here over the next two weeks to entertain the people from Red Deer and of course from across Canada that are here to celebrate these Games.”

The downtown plaza is one of a number of projects and renovations that was made in preparation for the Games. The event also spurred the construction of the $88-million Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.


READ MORE:
Red Deer College celebrates grand opening of $88M sports, education facility

The last Canada Games were held in Winnipeg, Man., while the 2021 edition of the event will be held in Ontario’s Niagara region.

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

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‘Modern day slavery’: Why human trafficking often flies under the radar in Canada – National

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Forty-three victims of human trafficking were freed this month by police in Ontario.

The victims, mostly men from Mexico aged between 20 and 46, were rescued by officials following a lengthy investigation by Barrie Police and the Ontario Provincial Police.

The workers were allegedly made to live in squalid conditions in Barrie and Wasaga Beach, and were forced to work for a cleaning company.

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READ MORE: 43 victims of labour human trafficking freed following investigation in Barrie, Wasaga Beach

OPP deputy commissioner Rick Barnum spoke about the case at a press conference Monday, describing the situation as modern day slavery.

“The commodity being bought and sold is people. Human trafficking is modern day slavery,” Barnum said.

“Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of persons for the purposes of exploitation, typically in the sex industry, or in this case forced labour. Exploitation is the key element of this offence.”

WATCH: Dozens of Mexican workers freed after labour human trafficking






Barnum explained human-trafficking victims are often from extremely vulnerable populations, including migrant workers and new immigrants.

While human trafficking happens in nearly every country of the world, it often goes unreported.

Labour exploitation in Canada

Yvon Dandurand, a criminologist and professor at the University of the Fraser Valley in B.C., explained human trafficking often doesn’t get enough attention in Canada, and especially not the issue of labour exploitation.

Those being exploited over labour are usually forced to perform tasks outside of their mandate and are underpaid. Many of them work on farms or mines in areas were there is not a lot of police presence, Dandurand explained.

READ MORE: Man and woman arrested in human-trafficking probe across southern Ontario

“The victimization goes on for sometimes years” before it is caught, Dandurand noted.

“Human trafficking in general does not come to the attention of police, because people don’t report it.

“This is the kind of crime that only comes to the surface when the police looks for it proactively,” he said, pointing to the Barrie investigation as an example.

WATCH: ‘I went to bed a slave, woke up a free man,’ Barrie human trafficking victim says






Dandurand added that the majority of reported human trafficking cases in Canada are from Ontario.

“Does that tell us that human trafficking doesn’t happen elsewhere? It tells us that in Ontario, law enforcement has devoted more attention and more resources to the investigation of those cases,” he said.

Human trafficking reports ‘steadily’ increasing

According to Statistics Canada, there were 340 police-reported cases of human trafficking in Canada in 2016, where it was also the most serious violation.

StatCan explained the number has been steadily rising since the agency began collecting data.

READ MORE: Woman tells N.S. court she wanted to die after being lured into prostitution

“Between 2009 and 2016, there were a total of 1,220 police-reported incidents of human trafficking where it was the
most serious violation,” the report, titled, “Trafficking in persons in Canada,” explained.

“The number and rate of human trafficking incidents have steadily increased since 2010.”

In Canada, most cases of human trafficking involve other offences, such as assault or sexual exploitation.

The vast majority of victims in Canada between 2009 and 2016, at 95 per cent, were women. And among women, 70 per cent were younger than 25 years of age.

Nearly three in 10 victims experienced some sort of physical injury. Many also suffer from emotional and psychological trauma, the StatCan report noted.

WATCH: Human trafficking victim hopes her story will save others






Hidden operations

The operations are often so hidden that even the companies who employ these workers claim they didn’t have knowledge of the exploitation.

That seemed to be the case in Barrie, where the company that employed the Mexican workers said it wasn’t aware of their plight.

In a news release Tuesday, Living Water Resorts explained it hired the workers through a housekeeping company and paid them $21 per hour. It said they were “unaware of any alleged abuse.”

“In light of the allegations that have come forward and police reports of the living conditions and treatment of these contract workers, the Resort has cut ties with the third party contractor immediately,” the release read.

WATCH: Durham Region human trafficking awareness program launches






Difficult to prove in court

Beyond that, Dandurand explained human trafficking cases that make into court rarely result in convictions.

According to the Integrated Criminal Court Survey, between 2008 and 2016 there were 84 completed adult criminal court cases in Canada where human trafficking was the most serious offence.

READ MORE: Canada deports 20 members of Hamilton-area human trafficking ring

Sixty per cent of those cases were stayed or withdrawn. One-third resulted in a guilty finding, and the accused was acquitted in five cases.

“It’s a very difficult crime to prove. Sometimes you get the cooperation of victims, but not always,” Dandurand said.

“Victims of human trafficking are not always the most persuasive witnesses. They are traumatized and fear reprisal.”

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

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Why experts say Canada should follow Australia’s lead on China in wake of Huawei crisis

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VANCOUVER—Canada should not be afraid to follow Australia’s lead in standing up to Beijing in policy and practice, say experts who have analyzed foreign relations for decades.

Ottawa has long prioritized economic gain over national security, worrying over the state of its relationship with the global heavyweight rather than voicing and defending its interests, say analysts.

Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne visited Beijing for his first time last month, which analysts say suggests that new, hawkish Australian security policy has been taken in stride by its heavyweight neighbour.
Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne visited Beijing for his first time last month, which analysts say suggests that new, hawkish Australian security policy has been taken in stride by its heavyweight neighbour.  (Andy Wong / The Associated Press)

The Australian experience shows that, over time, Beijing will make room for firmly drawn boundaries. A case in point is the 2018 overhaul of Australian national security and foreign interference laws that added 38 new crimes to the books. They cover, among other things, engaging in covert activity at the behest of a foreign power to influence politics and a ban on foreign political donations.

Then in February 2019, Australia blocked the citizenship application of billionaire Huang Xiangmo, a prominent political donor and former top lobbyist for Beijing, stranding him, possibly for good, outside the country where he had lived with his family for most of a decade.

Observers in both Australia and Canada said these developments constitute a “clear signal” meant to usher in a new, more muscular era for Australian national security in its response to potential threats from foreign actors, including its largest trading partner.

Despite sharp words from Beijing on the new, more hawkish stance, Beijing invited Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne to visit in November 2018, the first time in nearly three years an Australian holding that office had stepped foot on Chinese soil. Likewise, Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne visited China at the end of January 2019, even as reports confirmed that Australian writer Yang Hengjun was being held on suspicion of endangering national security.

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An expert in Asian security and international relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne said this suggests diplomatic relations between Australia and China are being “reset,” despite significant tensions over the new legislation, Huang’s citizenship, and the imprisoned Australian writer.

“To me it proves that if you’re willing to just maintain your continuity of policy, not give in to pressure and don’t feel you have to buckle because of a perceived risk of economic retaliation, China can accommodate that over time in the relationship,” said Euan Graham, executive director of La Trobe Asia, who is charge of the school’s Asia strategy.

Tensions between Western countries and China should be expected, Graham said, and it’s important to accept that reality as part of the narrative so “we don’t just dress things up in terms of ever-closer friendship and partnership, because that has failed to carry the public with it.”

After extensive redrafting, Australia’s new laws passed with bipartisan support in parliament, suggesting heightened vigilance has become a permanent feature of Australia’s stance toward Beijing and other foreign powers.

“Australia’s experience should be an example for us, not just because it is admirably clear-eyed, but because it shows a degree of self-confidence that we should emulate,” David Mulroney, who was Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, wrote in an email.

“China commonly seeks to compel its adversaries to capitulate without a struggle,” said Mulroney, who is now a fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. “We shouldn’t be afraid to stick to our principles because we’ll find that, despite its bluster, China is pragmatic and will seek to protect its own considerable interests in the relationship with Canada.”

Conservative MP Peter Kent said both Canada and China have “learned the hard way,” that the Communist Party of China (CCP) will use the country’s economic might to meet its “imperial objectives” by leaning on both Western countries and developing nations.

Kent, who served as a federal minister and international executive co-chair of the China council under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, pointed to “predatory economic policies” in countries like Panama, where China made several major national investments in order to “leverage” the Panamanian government into cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Kent characterized the move as “loansharking to gain influence” in Beijing’s bid to isolate Taiwan — a self-governing, democratic nation which China considers part of its territory — from international support.

“Increasingly, during our years in government, we learned to be much more cautious about an increasingly aggressive, imperialistic, bullying Chinese government,” he said.

Beijing’s growing economic influence signals a shift in “world order,” he added, which demands a change in Ottawa’s approach to engagement with China.

The issue of foreign influence and interference in the Canadian political sphere is another ongoing, slippery problem that successive governments have grappled with, Kent said.

“I hope the Liberal government is finally realizing that China is not like our democratic partners, that China does not recognize the rule of law or a level playing field or treaties or contracts signed, and it is time to rethink, perhaps, that relationship in the way that Australia has.”

But, he cautioned, with tensions between China and Canada escalating, now may not be the time to attempt redress with new legislation, which could be seen as a direct indictment of Beijing by an already-furious Communist Party.

The Dec. 1 arrest in Vancouver by Canadian authorities of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of star Chinese tech giant Huawei, outraged Chinese officials, who have since lobbed accusations of “backstabbing” and “white supremacy” at the Canadian government. In the following weeks, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, which observers have called “hostage diplomacy.”

China's Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye is one of several Communist Party officials to take aim at Canada over its arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in December. Experts say threats are par for the course in dealings with Beijing, and Australia's example shows boundaries can earn respect from the Chinese state.
China’s Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye is one of several Communist Party officials to take aim at Canada over its arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in December. Experts say threats are par for the course in dealings with Beijing, and Australia’s example shows boundaries can earn respect from the Chinese state.  (The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, a federal review of the potential security risks posed by Huawei equipment in Canada’s forthcoming 5G infrastructure is underway. Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye has warned of “repercussions” should Canada follow the example of New Zealand, the U.S. and Australia in banning the company from such projects.

But allowing national security to be overshadowed by the quest to appease an increasingly belligerent foreign power is what brought Canada to its current diplomatic impasse to begin with, argued Alex Joske, a researcher working with the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

“This is really something that to some extent the West has brought on itself by tolerating misbehaviour and non-compliance to international agreements and public statements and promises from China for many decades now,” said Joske, an expert in CCP influence, overseas Chinese communities and Chinese military technology.

“Because countries have historically taken this quite simple approach to engagement, where engagement itself was seen as a good, that’s just led to a lot of countries downplaying — or not really looking closely enough at — cases where engagement is actually not contributing to their national interest.”

But Paul Evans, director of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, said while he believes some areas of Canadian law need reform to address the challenges that face a modern nation-state, Australia is not the example to follow.

“What I don’t support is the Australian national legislation,” he said, pointing to civil rights groups in the country who argue the new laws could be exploited by Australian officials looking to clamp down on domestic dissent by criminalizing protests or silencing opinions critical of government.

In particular, Evans worries Australia’s legislation risks blurring the line between citizens whose perspectives align with the Chinese government and those actively seeking to undermine the Canadian political process for the benefit of the Communist Party.

“I think (such laws are) unnecessary in Canada, because we have certain antibodies, or antidotes, to Chinese influence activities here that are not perfect, but that generally (work) fairly well.”

He pointed to numerous Chinese-Canadian communities that are finely attuned to identifying local players in organizations that work to realize Communist Party goals globally. They include the United Front, an offshoot of the CCP which works to influence local politics, the Chinese diaspora and foreign elites.

Huang Xiangmo, the Chinese national whose permanent residency was recently revoked in Australia, was chairman of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, which Australian analysts confirmed is “the number one United Front organization within Australia.”

The United Front is likewise active in Canada, according to Charles Burton, an expert on the foreign policies of Western nations toward China.

He said conversations around the limits and potential overreach of a Canadian legislation modelled on the Australian example would be challenging if not arduous.

But, he argued, difficult conversations are necessary given the charged and increasingly perilous nature of global relations, where the balance of economic power is shifting from the U.S. to China.

In the past, Canadian policy has been geared toward securing greater access to the Chinese market to “promote Canadian prosperity and to reduce our dependence on the United States,” said Burton, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad. Meanwhile, the concerns of Canadians over issues such as China’s human rights violations and pugnacious international conduct have been seen as secondary to the pursuit of expanding trade, he added.

The current conflict between countries does suggest that strengthening foreign policy now would not be “politically prudent,” Burton said. But once the Kovrig and Spavor cases are resolved, that would be the time to revise Canada’s plan on how it should engage China.

The Australian Embassy in Beijing. Experts say Australia's relationship with China provides proof a balance can be struck between clear-eyed engagement and clearly articulated, firmly defended national security policy.
The Australian Embassy in Beijing. Experts say Australia’s relationship with China provides proof a balance can be struck between clear-eyed engagement and clearly articulated, firmly defended national security policy.  (The Associated Press)

Australia’s example also provides lessons in terms of how intelligence services can most effectively track, monitor and address foreign interference, said Wesley Wark, a security and intelligence expert who served two terms on the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on National Security from 2005 to 2009.

“One of the real problems for Canada is for the last 17, 18 years, we’ve been obsessively focused with the question of terrorism, at home and globally,” he said in an interview.

“And because of that focus, we’ve paid much less attention, given much fewer resources, to dealing with both foreign intelligence on major state actors and foreign interference in terms of intelligence and espionage activities,” said Wark, who is currently director of the Security and Policy Institute for Professional Development at the University of Ottawa.

Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior manager and senior intelligence officer with CSIS, said competing perspectives on what form new Canadian foreign policy laws should take is exactly the reason legislation is needed.

From a national security perspective, he said the “Achilles heel” of democracy is that governments constantly pursue reelection. Because political winds may shift every several years, policy can be overturned when leaders change.

This is not the case with China.

“The Chinese government is there to stay. This allows them, with the central committee, to plan not only years ahead, but generations ahead … So agents of influence can be planted which will bear fruit only years from now. They have the capability to be patient.”

It’s a competitive advantage that short-sighted Western governments are hard-pressed to address through policy alone, he said.

The value of a law is that it survives regime changes. And while thrashing out new, potentially controversial legislation can take years, it’s a challenge that can — and must — be resolved, said Juneau-Katsuya.

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer

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Environment Canada lifts winter storm warning for Ottawa – Ottawa

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After a windy snowstorm dumped about 20 centimetres of fresh powder on Ottawa overnight Tuesday, Environment Canada has terminated the winter storm warning for the national capital.

But the snow hasn’t let up yet and the national weather agency predicts another five centimetres will fall before tapering off into flurries later Wednesday.

WATCH (Feb. 12, 2019): Southern Ontario pummeled by winter storm





More blowing snow is in Environment Canada’s forecast for the afternoon, with winds gusting up to 60 kilometres per hour.

Wednesday will reach a high of -1 C, with a wind chill near -13, according to the agency. Wednesday night will bring flurries and a low of -11 C, with a wind chill of -10 in the evening and -18 overnight.

While the worst now appears to be over, the heavy snowfall still put a halt to many activities across the city Wednesday morning.

The Ottawa International Airport is reporting that a number of flights are delayed or cancelled because of the weather conditions.

On the roads, Ottawa’s public transit provider warned earlier in the morning that road conditions remain poor and told transit riders to expect detours, delays and trip cancellations for both OC Transpo and ParaTranspo rides.

OC Transpo is posting live transit updates here.

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All schools in Ottawa are closed for the day.

City council’s regular meeting on Wednesday has been cancelled, as has the budget consultation meeting scheduled for the evening.


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All schools closed, public meetings cancelled in Ottawa in anticipation of winter storm

All city libraries and recreation facilities are closed in the morning but will reopen and resume regular programming at 12 p.m.

The municipality has also cancelled green bin, recycling and garbage collection for the day. Wednesday’s pick-up will take place on Thursday and collection for the rest of the week will be delayed by one day.

Clean up underway

On Tuesday afternoon, the City of Ottawa said the top priority for its road crews during the storm would be to keep the Queensway, Transitway, and other major and arterial roads clear.

Crews will plow residential roads “as soon as possible,” the city said but warned those streets won’t be cleared as quickly as the main roads.

If it’s safe to do so, the city is asking residents to sweep the snow away from fire hydrants connected to their properties.

Only call 311 if you have an emergency, the city tweeted early Wednesday morning.

Ottawa police say they’ve responded to five collisions since 5 a.m. Three of the five accidents involved vehicles that “slid into the ditch,” the Ottawa Police Service tweeted.

Police urge pedestrians not to walk in the streets and remain on the sidewalks.

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