Canada’s main stock index reaches highest level since Oct. 5

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Canada’s main stock index posted a triple-digit gain Friday after oil hit a three-month high to extend the market’s winning streak to six weeks.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 142.26 points to 15,838.24, after hitting a peak during the day of 15,866.60. That’s the highest level since Oct. 5.

The Toronto market is just 4.4 per cent off the all-time high set last July and up 10.6 per cent so far this year.

Allan Small, senior investment adviser at HollisWealth, foresees the positive momentum continuing as long as geopolitical issues, especially the trade dispute between the U.S. and China, remain positive.

« Yes the year-to-date numbers look really strong in such a short period of time, but we’re just getting back to where we were trading at the end of the summer and early fall, » he said in an interview.

« Let’s get back from the highs … and that’s where things start to get a little bit more dicey. You may see the market start to trade sideways for a little bit until we get some sort of clarity on future and I think that’s where we kind of stall out. »

North American markets increased by as much as 1.7 per cent on continuing optimism about a trade deal with China after U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters he might extend the March 2 deadline for the imposition of tariffs, said Small.

We’ve heard some positive things come out of the administration over the past few days and I think it is no doubt that that’s what’s carrying the markets higher.– Allan Small, senior investment adviser at HollisWealth

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 443.86 points at 25,883.25. The S&P 500 index was up 29.87 points at 2,775.60, while the Nasdaq composite was up 45.46 points at 7,472.41.

« We’ve heard some positive things come out of the administration over the past few days and I think it is no doubt that that’s what’s carrying the markets higher, » said Small.

Energy sector gains

In Toronto, the key energy sector gained 3.2 per cent as Frontera Energy Corp. increased eight per cent, followed by Encana Corp., Canadian Natural Resources and Suncor Energy Inc.

The April crude contract was up $1.19 at $55.98 US per barrel, the highest level since mid-November on a weaker U.S. dollar and support from production curtailments by OPEC.

The March natural gas contract was up 5.2 cents at $2.62 per mmBTU.

The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 75.38 cents US, compared with an average of 75.20 cents US on Thursday.

The April gold contract was up $8.20 at $1,322.10 an ounce and the March copper contract was 2.4 cents at $2.80 a pound.

The Toronto market had widespread gains as industrials and financials rose.

The positive streak was also extended for another week on strong corporate earnings from several firms, including TransCanada Corp. and Manulife Financial Corp. In addition to beating analyst estimates, several raised their dividends and share buybacks.

« All the stuff that’s great for investors and adding to this positive feel for the market, » he added.

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Young families scrimp to own homes in Canada’s big cities, report finds

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Young families in Canada’s big cities believe houses and condos will be a good investment over the next five years, and they are sacrificing their privacy, time and small pleasures to buy them, according to a report by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

The study is based on a survey of 1,743 families headed by adults aged 20 to 45. It found that millennials and generation Xers are delaying both retirement savings and paying off credit card and student debt in order to afford homes, with 78 per cent expecting homes to match or outperform other financial investments over the next five years. In Toronto, that number rises to 83 per cent.

A new study found that young families in Canada are delaying both retirement savings and paying off credit card and student debt in order to afford homes.
A new study found that young families in Canada are delaying both retirement savings and paying off credit card and student debt in order to afford homes.  (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

But the biggest barrier to buying, cited by 33 per cent of families, is the expense of day-to-day living — groceries, rent and utilities. That’s a “concerning” trend, said Sotheby’s CEO Brad Henderson.

“Increasingly, it is the essentials in life that are absorbing most of everyone’s income,” Henderson said. “It speaks to trying to find more higher-paying jobs, more knowledge worker jobs that are able to afford, not just the necessities of life, but some of the things that make life even that much more pleasurable, like a home with multiple bedrooms for a growing family.”

The report is the second in a series of three based on a survey of families in which the adults were aged 20 to 45. Market research firm Mustel Group found 57 per cent of those households in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal were couples with at least one child, 35 per cent had no children, and 8 per cent were single-parent families.

Thakar shares an apartment with a cousin to save on rent, has a side job to earn income in his off-time and has refinanced a student loan. It will take him longer to pay off that debt, but he figures home prices are rising so quickly that it’s important to stash his cash now.

“If you’re not earning money, you’re spending money,” said Thakar, who owns a car but takes transit to his job downtown and questions the expense of a vehicle he doesn’t use much.

“I feel like being prudent at this time might set me up down the road.”

But Thakar expects he might need help from his family to afford a home and, even though he likes his privacy, he would consider a house with a rental unit to help carry the cost.

Among survey respondents, 51 per cent said they saved by cutting down on dining out, 45 per cent reduced their travel and vacation expenses, and 20 per cent delayed retirement savings.

Toronto families were most likely to reduce their car ownership (16 per cent), to freelance or pick up extra work (16 per cent) or to delay having children (15 per cent). Thirteen per cent of Toronto respondents moved in with family to save money, compared to only 5 per cent in Calgary and Montreal.

Henderson says the findings put the lie to the idea that millennials and generation X adults are “live-in-the-moment” people.

“We’re finding they’re acting not too dissimilar to the generations that came before them and forgoing the trips and eating out and all of the things that require additional money, in favour of buying a home for their family to live in,” he said.

When it comes to putting money down on a home, the survey found 71 per cent used personal savings and cash for a down payment. Although 52 per cent of the families relied on a gift or inheritance, those funds accounted for less than 30 per cent of their down payments. Thirty-one per cent borrowed from their registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs).

Young adults have always saved and scrimped to buy homes but a greater proportion of income now goes to paying rent, leaving little for savings, said mortgage broker James Laird of CanWise Financial and online mortgage site Ratehub. It’s why so many young adults end up moving back in with parents.

“We’re seeing a decline in the percentage of young people able to purchase homes versus previous generations,” he said. But the desire hasn’t waned.

“Millennials could be the largest voter base in the federal election and this is the issue we all care about,” said Laird, 34.

He thinks longer amortizations — from 25 years to 30 for buyers with down payments of less than 20 per cent — would provide relief. “It’s a beautiful solution because they qualify for about 10 per cent more mortgage but their payment doesn’t change so they’re no more financially strapped,” said Laird.

Those who borrow from their RRSP still have to pay that money back. Laird said Ottawa should create a homebuyers plan that behaves the same — allowing first-time buyers to access $25,000 of their savings — without the requirement to repay the funds.

The Mustel survey was conducted online in August and September. A random sample of 1,743 is considered accurate within 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski

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A look inside Canada’s oldest and smallest legislature on its 200th anniversary

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The wooden boards creak and shift as Peter Theriault walks across them, moving deeper into the steeple-like attic of Nova Scotia’s provincial legislature.

On his left is a sparsely-decorated space with a single solitary wooden chair in the middle. To his right is a long hallway, flanked by small, almost closet-sized rooms. Even further down is a nearly identical empty space.

It’s a mild mid-January day in Halifax and the attic is well-lit, with the harsh yellow glow of the overhead lights being diffused by the natural sunlight filtering through the attic’s semi-circle windows.

“Make sure you don’t step on a ‘Red X,’” Theriault calls, pointing out examples of the spray-painted letter scattered across the floor.

Peter Theriault, coordinator of operations at the Nova Scotia Legislature on January 24, 2019

Alexander Quon/Global News

They’re the only visual clue that the flooring could give away.

A worker found out the hard way a few years ago, when the wood panelling gave away, dropping the man roughly a metre down. Theriault says the worker was lucky that his nether regions didn’t land on a pole.

The boards are suspended a couple metres above the ceiling of the legislature’s ceremonial chambers. In between the ceiling and the attic’s floor is a rat’s nest of cables and wires that activate lights and feed data from the cameras, microphones and transceivers that power Nova Scotia Legislature TV.

WATCH: Nova Scotia launches African Heritage Month






Typically, the attic is off limits to the public and staff members rarely come up here, but Theriault knows the space well. He’s been the coordinator of operations at the legislature for 31 years.

He knows almost every nook and cranny in the building, and if he doesn’t, he can find someone who does.

On the far side of the attic,Theriault removes the wooden cover of a ventilation duct.

Looking down the vent and through the decorative features of the plaster roofing, it’s the space below that draws the eye.

Peering through a vent in the attic of the Nova Scotia legislature allows our camera to see the legislative chamber below.

Alexander Quon/Global News

It’s there, inside the province’s legislative chamber, that Nova Scotian politicians have debated and disagreed, governors-general have been sworn in and Royal Family members have been hosted when they visited Canada.

The province’s legislature has stood the test of time, opening a little less than 49 years before Canada became a nation.

Nova Scotia’s legislative assembly has met every year for the last 200 years in Province House — making it the oldest legislative building in Canada.

READ MORE: Halifax’s buried rail tracks make way for progress

The House on the hill

Located in the heart of downtown Halifax,  the legislature sits halfway up the steep hill that leads from the city’s waterfront to the top of Citadel Hill.

A short, squat three-storey building, its regal exterior stands in contrast to the buildings of reflective glass and burnished steel that now tower over it.

Enclosed by a large iron fence and built in the Palladian architectural style — a system that emphasizes symmetry — the building’s perfect proportions of 43 metres long and 21.5 metres deep make the legislature a remnant of a different time.

Its size makes it the smallest legislature in Canada and its unique architecture and place in Candian history have earned it the distinction being named a National Historic Site.

A photo of Province House from 1890.

Notman Studio/Nova Scotia Archives

But it wasn’t always that way.

The first representative government in Nova Scotia had no permanent home when it first met at the court house at the corner of Argyle and Buckingham Streets in October of 1758.

Their meeting place would move a number of times over the next two decades before they eventually landed on the Cochran’s Building — currently the site of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Multiple motions passed in 1797, 1799 and 1800 called for the creation of a new “Public Building” that would house a “General assembly, Court of Chancery, Supreme Court, and Court of Admiralty, and Public Offices” for the province, but it did nothing to make a legislature a reality.

It wasn’t until 1809, when members of the assembly recognized their then-current home was in a “ruinous and decayed state,” that efforts to make a new home began in earnest.

Finally, in 1811, Governor George Prevost’s Speech from the Throne recognized that Cochran’s Building was no longer suitable for the Legislature.

“The prosperous state of this Province, requires that the different Branches of the Legislature, – the Courts of Justice, and the Public Offices, should be better accommodated than they are at present – I therefore recommend that object to your consideration,” he said.

A motion in the Journals of Nova Scotia that specifies the requirements for constructing the province’s new legislature.

Alexander Quon/Global News

The cornerstone of the building was laid on August 12, 1811.

But due to shortages in skilled labourers, labour disputes and the War of 1812, it would take eight more years and £52,000 before Nova Scotia’s legislature would be ready for the public.

Portions of the building were still unfinished the day that the legislative assembly met for the first time in Province House. But that didn’t stop guests from pouring through the gates to hear the Earl of Dalhousie read his Speech from the Throne on Feb. 11, 1819.

“The circumstance of meeting you for the first time in this place, leads me to congratulate you on now occupying this splendid building,” he said.

“It stands, and will stand, I hope, to the latest posterity, a proud record of the Public spirit as this period of our History.”

READ MORE: A piece of Canadian firefighting history returns to Halifax

Joseph Howe and Responsible Government

It did not take long for Nova Scotia and Province House to leave its mark on the future country of Canada.

As well as serving as Nova Scotia’s legislature, Province House was home to the Nova Scotia Legislative Council — an executive body that was abolished in 1928  — and the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

What now functions as the Legislative Library was once the Supreme Court’s home.

The room has been modified since the Supreme Court moved out of the space in 1860.

Henry F. Busch was the architect of the 1862 transformation which saw racks, cast iron and intricate woodwork being added to the chamber.

But the most regal feature is the mirrored stairs that lead up to the libraries upper balcony.

“I remember a time when the tours that would come through would say that the dual staircases reminded them of Titanic,” Theriault said.

“Now they all say it looks like Harry Potter.”

A 360° photograph of Nova Scotia’s Legislative Library

/Communications Nova Scotia

If you look close enough, a homage or two to the room’s previous purpose can be found.

In the library, there is a simple set of scales hanging above a doorway, a symbol used by Lady Justice to measure the strength of a legal case’s support and opposition.

It’s also here on March 2, 1835, that one of most famous legal cases in Nova Scotian history was fought.

Joseph Howe was the editor of the Novascotian, a weekly newspaper, when he was charged with seditious libel after a letter he wrote accused local magistrates and the police of stealing £30,000 over a 30 year period.

Howe represented himself at the trial, putting forth a lengthy and eloquent defence to the jury for a little more than six hours.

“Your verdict will be the most important in its consequences ever delivered before this tribunal,” he argued.

“Judge me by the principles of English law, and to leave an unshackled press as a legacy to your children.”

It took only 10 minutes of deliberation for him to be acquited.

One of the first books that examined the history of Nova Scotia this book, written by Thomas C. Haliburton and published by Joseph Howe, remains in the Legislative Libraries special collections.

Alexander Quon/Global News

Scholars can and have disputed whether the case really changed anything in the legal world. But to the Nova Scotia Legislature, Howe is a source of pride, while to journalists he’s viewed as one of the fathers of freedom of the press in Canada.

In the first issue of the Novascotian after the trial, Howe wrote that “the press of Nova-Scotia is Free.”

It’s a remark that is echoed at the entrance of the library by a plaque dating to 1961 that bears the following inscription:

“In this room on March 2, 1836, Joseph Howe, publisher of the weekly newspaper The Nova Scotian, defended himself in an action for criminal Libel. His masterly defence, not only won him a triumphant acquittal, but established, forever, the freedom of the press in this country.”

Howe would continue to leave his mark on the province, eventually joining politics and leading a campaign for responsible government — a system of accountability where the government is responsible to the parliament, rather than the monarch.

“[James Boyle] Uniacke was the premier under responsible government, but it was Howe’s fight,” Theriault said.

Implemented in the colony in 1848, Nova Scotia was the first British Colony to be governed by a responsible government.

Howe would later serve as the colony’s third premier and continues to be honoured in its legislative chamber.

Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc delivers the speech from the throne at the legislature in Halifax on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

A history in photographs

Two paintings flank the Speaker’s chair inside the chamber.

An 1875 portrait of Howe rests on the right-hand side, while a canvas portrait of former premier James William Johnston is on the left.

Both were painted by Henry Sandham and decorated with a gold-coloured frame, which makes them stand out from the wooden furniture and chairs covered in green fabric.

A series of more demure photos line the white walls of the chamber.

A 360° photo of the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly.

/Communications Nova Scotia

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip hangs to the left of the entrance, while a painting of John Sparrow David Thompson is a little farther down.

Although he’s not a household name, Theriault says Thompson earned his position in the chamber by being the fifth premier of Nova Scotia and fourth Prime Minister of Canda.

He was one of the three prime ministers to be from Nova Scotia and has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the two Canadian prime ministers to die in office, the first being Sir John A. Macdonald.

Thompson, while at Windsor Castle, died from a massive heart attack after he was sworn in as a member of the Imperial Privy Council.

Portraits of Gladys Porter, the first woman to be elected to the House of Assembly in 1961, and Wayne Adams, the first Black member to be elected in 1993, are featured as well.

A portrait of William Stevens Fielding, premier of Nova Scotia between 1884 and 1896, hangs behinds the government benches of premier Stephen Mcneil and the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.

A portrait of Charles Tupper, who was premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867, led the province into Confederation and was the sixth prime minister of Canda, hangs behind the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party.

The most recent addition to the chamber is a portrait of Darrell Dexter, who served as the first NDP premier in the province’s history from 2009 to 2013.

“Three of the portraits in the room move,” Theriault says.

As new governments take power in Nova Scotia, the images of Fielding, Tupper and now Dexter will shift to hang behind their party’s seats.

READ MORE: Former Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter talks life as a cannabis adviser and state of the NDP

Lost to time

Many things have changed since the Earl of Dalhousie opened the legislature 200 years ago. Rooms within the building have been modified and ceilings have been lowered, but the attic has stayed mostly the same.

“It is probably one of the oldest things in the building. It’s changed but not majorly,”  Theriault says as he gives a tour of the attic, one of the few rooms that remains relatively empty — despite the building’s limited space remaining at a premium.

“We do what we can with what we have.”

The attic of Nova Scotia’s legislature is normally off limits. But it contains some of the best kept secrets in the building.

Alexander Quon/Global News

But even up here, the past has found a way to stick around. The wooden beams that support the roof have marks and names carved into them — a date here, a pair of names there.

The oldest one dates back to 1903.

“Some of the older names we are assuming were trades people that were working in the building,” said Theriault.

“I can’t guarantee that for sure, but it’s kind of neat to think someone who worked in the building way back when they worked here.”

Others are more recent, like a former MLA and a recent page who worked for the assembly.

Leaning in one corner of the roof and covered in dust is a pair of large wooden crowns.

Peter Theriault and his staff believe that these crowns, which were once able to light up, were used during the Royal Tour of Canada in 1939.

Alexander Quon/Global News

Theriault says his staff’s best guess is that the pair of crowns date back to when King George and Queen Elizabeth visited Halifax at the end of their 1939 Royal Tour of Canada.

But they’re not sure, and it’s doubtful that they’ll ever truly know.

That’s the nature of a building that has existed longer than the country it resides in.

Events are forgotten and artifacts become lost as those who knew about them grow old and retire, only for them to be unearthed again at an unexpected moment.

WATCH: A piece of WWI history returns to Cape Breton community after being discovered in a thrift shop






Theriault unearths one of his own while providing the tour of the attic.

As he points out another set of names carved into the wooden walls of the attic, he notices a dark piece of slate hammered into one of the columns.

“I think that’s one of the old roofing tiles,” he said.

A notice from the Office of Board of Works in the Royal Gazette, later provided by Theriault, indicates that he was at least on the right path.

“Taking off old shingles and lead on the roof over the main building… and covering the same with new Welch Dutchess Slates,” the notice, dated to 1854, reads.

A piece of slate tile that Peter Theriault discovered while giving a tour. He believes it may have been one of the old slate tiles that covered the roof.

Alexander Quon/Global News

To show just how unreliable some of the documentation is, even historians aren’t sure who the designer of Province House is.

The most likely candidate appears to be John Merrick, who was a painter and glazier.

The province’s Journals and Statues state that Merrick created the design, while an article from 1826 in the Acadian Magazine attributes it to Richard Scott, a master builder and the supervising architect for the project.

A page within An Album of Drawings of Early Buildings in Nova Scotia by Arthur W. Wallace, shows some of the designs used in Nova Scotia’s Province House.

Alexander Quon/Global News

But the uncertainty gives the building character, and it gives Theriault an interesting story to tell as he educates the pages and the tour guides that pass on the knowledge to the public at large.

It’s the little things that he is happiest to share: the intricate details of the plaster above a fireplace in the ceremonial red chamber, or the handkerchief that was once owned by Queen Victoria displayed in the hallway of Province House.

The little things — the symbols of what have come before — were echoed by Speaker Kevin Murphy, when he offered up these thoughts on the legislature’s 200th anniversary.

Province House is the symbolic home for all Nova Scotians and the centre of our democratic process,” Murphy said.

“The 200th anniversary of Province House allows Nova Scotians to reflect on our shared values and achievements as aprovince, both past and present.”

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

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Bias against funding Canada’s female scientists revealed in study

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A new Canadian analysis in The Lancet validates complaints that the awarding of research grants is biased against female scientists.

The analysis found women are less likely to receive valuable research dollars if their grant applications are reviewed based on who the lead scientist is, rather that what the proposed project is.

The study, titled « Are gender gaps due to evaluations of the applicant or the science?« , analyzed almost 24,000 applications submitted to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) — the federal government agency that awards approximately $1 billion in science grants annually.

The study’s lead author, Holly Witteman, says CIHR created « a natural experiment » when in 2014 it established two new funding streams — the Project Grant Program, which focuses on funding « ideas with the greatest potential, » while the Foundation Grant Program funds « research leaders. »

Men and women performed similarly in Project Grants — 13.5 per cent of male applicants and 12 per cent of female applicants were successful.

But under the Foundation program — 13.9 per cent of male applicants won grants, compared to only 9.2 per cent of women.

The disparity is most striking in the field of public health, where female applicants outnumber male applicants, but men are twice as likely to win Foundation grants — 14.1 per cent vs 6.7 per cent.

Overall, grant applications from men outnumber those by women two to one.

Holly Witteman is a researcher at Laval University’s Faculty of Medicine in Quebec City. (Submitted by Holly Witteman)

The analysis took applicants’ age and field of study into account. 

« This evidence is fairly robust, » said Witteman, a researcher at Laval University’s Faculty of Medicine in Quebec City. 

« When the [grant] reviewers are told to focus on evaluating the scientists … that significantly amplifies success rates for men, » she said.

Grant awarding system broken

Neuroscientist Jennifer Raymond said the Canadian study is another indication that the research funding « system is broken and really needs to be fixed. »

Raymond is a researcher at California’s Stanford University and wrote a commentary which appears in the same edition of The Lancet.

She said female scientists might find the CIHR analysis both discouraging and vindicating.

« A lot of times women internalize and say ‘Oh it’s me, maybe, I’m not good enough, my male colleague is getting all of these awards and attention. I need to try harder,' » she told CBC News.

But Witteman’s research indicates women are being passed over. « And I think this shows that the system is biased, » Raymond said.

Raymond has also assessed grant applications for the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. equivalent of CIHR.

Getting funding can lead to more publications which can make it easier to attract good scientists to your lab, which in turn can help you do more good science and get more funding– Jennifer Raymond

« I sometimes hear comments that I wonder if they would be saying that if the applicant was a male scientist instead of a female scientist. But in any one of those cases, you can never really know what’s motivating the comment. You can really only see the bias in the statistics. »

Funding begets more funding

Gender equality has long eluded the sciences, especially at the leadership level. Raymond said funding bias plays a role in that disparity. 

« Small advantages over time can become big advantages. Getting funding can lead to more publications which can make it easier to attract good scientists to your lab, which in turn can help you do more good science and get more funding. So you know there’s all of these different levels at which these biases play out. »

Raymond said she supports a « blinded » grant application process to protect female researchers from unintended bias. 

It’s an approach increasingly adopted by recruiters and employers. When the Toronto Symphony Orchestra famously began concealing the identities of musicians during auditions in the 1980s, it transformed what was once a nearly all-male orchestra.

For research scientists early in their careers, the cumulative effect of those first grants is often more opportunities down the road.

Bias stalling innovation

Dr. Laura LaChance, a Toronto research psychiatrist and published academic who finished her residency in 2017, points out how important research is in advancing a career.

« Research is a major way that we’re kind of measured against our colleagues in terms of how productive you are and how good of a candidate you are, » said LaChance.

LaChance said career advancement aside, bias against female researchers also results in « stalling innovation in clinical care. »

She said she also worries some frustrated women may simply quit their research efforts in frustration.

Witteman, the study’s author, credits CIHR for both collaborating on her gender research and taking steps to prevent further bias once the disparity in the Foundation grant program was clearly identified. 

In a statement, CIHR said it was committed to eliminating « systemic biases against any individual or group. » The agency has developed an online course called « Unconscious Bias in Peer Review. »

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Halifax woman posthumously calls for fix to Canada’s assisted dying rules

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A Halifax woman who died in November is posthumously calling for an amendment to Canada’s assisted dying laws that would get rid of a requirement for late-stage consent to invoke medical assistance in dying, also known as MAID.

« People like me who have already been assessed and approved are dying earlier than necessary because of this poorly thought-out law, » Audrey Parker said in the video released by Dying with Dignity Canada on Wednesday.

The video was launched Feb. 6, the four-year anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of medical assistance in dying. 

But that ruling came with a stipulation: it only applied to competent adults with enduring, intolerable suffering who could clearly consent to ending their lives.

Parker had terminal cancer and chose to die Nov. 1, 2018.

She said she would have liked to have made it to Christmas, but worried that if she became incompetent along the way, she would lose out on her choice of a « beautiful, peaceful and — best of all — pain free death. »

Her amendment to Canada’s assisted dying law would be to allow people who are approved for MAID to continue with their wishes, even if they lose their mental capacity.

« I can assure you that no one chooses death lightly, we just don’t want to suffer anymore, » Parker said.

Parker’s friend, Kim King, said she and other people who were close to Parker have been working with Dying with Dignity Canada to help move the amendment forward. 

They envision an amendment could be something like an additional form or declaration that would clarify what should happen if someone who wants MAID loses mental capacity or becomes unconscious.

King said Parker started thinking about making a video when she found out her cancer was moving to the lining of her brain. It was then they realized Parker could lose her mental capacity and then lose her ability to invoke MAID.

« It was really, really upsetting. It took something that was so comforting to Audrey, you know, to have that control and it took it away. And therefore made her have to take the courageous step to end her life early, » King said.

King said Parker shot the video three days before she died. She said it was Parker’s final message to lawmakers and Canadians.

« It was really having that final poignant message thanking the lawmakers for the fact we even have MAID but clearly pointing out there is a flaw in this law with the late-stage consent. »

King said watching the video is difficult, especially knowing how much pain Parker was in at the time. She said Parker shines in the video because her message was important.

« When you look at the video, Audrey looked beautiful and I think she was really standing in her own power, » King said.

« She never thought she would be an advocate. This was a very unexpected change at the end of her life and she was really, really passionate about it. »

King said she hopes the video will serve as a tool to get Canadians to sign an e-petition on the Dying with Dignity website to send a message to Canada’s justice minister to change the legislation to have Parker’s amendment passed.

She said the e-petition launched Monday and the goal is to get around 15,000 Canadians to add their names to it.

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Organized labour lines up against Canada’s stance on Venezuela

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Organized labour in Canada is voicing its opposition to the federal government’s decision to embrace Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido over the regime of Nicolas Maduro — which has been accused of human rights abuses and of winning the last election through vote-rigging.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) — Canada’s largest union — the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Canadian Labour Congress have expressed varying degrees of concern over Canada’s move to recognize Guaido as interim president.

They’re sharing that stance with the federal New Democrats, who came out against the federal government’s position late last month. « Canada should not simply follow the U.S.’s foreign policy, particularly given its history of self-interested interference in the region, » said a statement by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh issued Jan. 24.

CUPE defended its position Monday when contacted by CBC News. « The statement speaks for itself, » said a CUPE spokesman.

Canada accused of siding with Trump

CUPE goes on in that statement to accuse the Trudeau government of choosing to side with a self-declared interim leader over President Nicolas Maduro, « who was duly elected by the people of Venezuela. » It also accused Ottawa of siding with U.S. President Donald Trump and American foreign policy.

CUPE said that it « rejects any attempt by the Canadian government to interfere with the democratic processes and sovereignty of the Venezuelan people. Given the history of U.S. involvement in the region, the actions of Guaido have all the signs of a coup d’état.

A masked anti-government protester throws a Molotov cocktail towards Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guardsmen who clashed with the small group of demonstrators when they tried to block a road after the group attended a peaceful demonstration called by self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, to demand the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press)

« We warn Prime Minister Justin Trudeau against playing any role in bringing about regime change in another country. »

At the news conference closing today’s meeting in Ottawa of the Lima Group of nations, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the idea that opposition to Maduro is part of a coup plot organized by western democracies « could not be further from the truth. »

She said that Guaido derives his legitimacy from being the leader of the national assembly in Venezuela. She also emphasized the temporary nature of the Lima Group’s recognition of Guaido as interim president.

Freeland said Guaido’s interim authority is meant to be used solely to order free and fair elections to return Venezuela to democracy.

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), of which CUPE is a member, also issued a statement last week, warning of the dire consequence of « international interference » in Venezuela’s crisis.

But its statement was more measured than that of CUPE, focusing on calling for the government to « promote dialogue to foster a peaceful solution to the Venezuelan crisis. »

CLC President Hassan Yussuff is also the president of the Trade Confederation of the Americas, which includes the labour movement in South America.

He said he finds the international endorsement of Guaido « problematic » but his main concern is the prospect of military intervention — something the U.S., which is not a member of the Lima Group, has mused about.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a gathering with supporters to mark the 20th anniversary of the rise of power of the late Hugo Chavez, the leftist firebrand who installed a socialist government, in Caracas on February 2, 2019. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

« I think Canada has an important role to play, but I think we have to distinguish that very differently than the interest of the United States, » said Yussuff in an interview with CBC News.

The Lima Group’s final statement out of Monday’s meeting in Ottawa emphasized the group’s « support for a process of peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force. »

Protesters crash press conference

About 50 protesters showed up at the Lima Group’s closing news conference to denounce Canada’s moves so far. The protesters had varied backgrounds, but some represented organized labour.

National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Mike Palecek said the protesters wanted to send a message that Canada should not interfere in a foreign democracy.

Palacek, like many of the protesters, said he doesn’t blame Maduro or his predecessor Hugo Chavez for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

« There’s no doubt that there’s problems. A lot of those problems are a result of precisely of the economic sanctions levied against Venezuela and the fact that we’ve seen oil prices crash globally, » he said.

Two of the protesters, masquerading as journalists, interrupted the Lima Group’s closing news conference, shouting, « Hands off Venezuela » while holding a big black sign that read « Stop the plunder. »

« We are recognizing and supporting the right of the people of Venezuela to enjoy democracy, » Freeland said after the protesters were escorted from the room. « The kind of democracy which political protesters in Canada do enjoy and, I am sad to say, political protesters in Venezuela do not. »

Outside the venue, the protesters made speeches about the benefits to Venezuela’s poor of the Bolivarian revolution, led by the late Chavez. No mention was made of the current situation: millions of Venezuelans don’t have enough to eat, there are massive shortages of basic medicines and the country’s inflation rate is slated to rise to 10 million per cent this year.

At least three million people have fled Venezuela since 2015.

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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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Canada’s auditor general Michael Ferguson has died at 60

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Michael Ferguson, Canada’s auditor general, has died, his office confirmed to CBC News on Saturday. He was 60. 

« Mr. Ferguson had been undergoing treatment for cancer since last November, » the Office of the Auditor General of Canada said in a statement. « Unfortunately, the treatment was unsuccessful. He passed away surrounded by his family in Ottawa. »

« Much appreciated by his staff and respected by parliamentarians and government officials alike, Mr. Ferguson will be remembered by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him as a humble, compassionate and thoughtful man, » the statement continued. 

Ferguson had cancelled his media appearances for his 2018 fall reports due to health concerns. 

He was appointed as Auditor General of Canada in November 2011, and his term was set to end in 2021. 

Prior to his federal role, he served in various positions in the New Brunswick provincial government, including a stint as its auditor general. 

Ferguson was not shy about expressing his frustrations. In the summer, he told CBC Radio’s The House he was getting tired of filing annual reports recommending reforms to the way the government does business — only to see those recommendations disappear down the memory hole afterward.

Some of the issues he paid particular attention to were the Phoenix pay system, Indigenous services and sexual misconduct in the military.

« He cared deeply about conducting audits that brought value to the public service, always for the greater good of Canadians, » the Office of the Auditor General of Canada said. Ferguson is survived by his wife and sons.

The auditor general is an officer of Parliament appointed for a 10-year, non-renewable term. He or she is responsible for auditing and providing reports to Parliament on federal government departments and agencies, Crown corporations, and other national organizations.

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Canada’s auditor general Michael Ferguson has died at 60

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Michael Ferguson, Canada’s auditor general, has died, his office confirmed to CBC News on Saturday. He was 60. 

« It is with profound sadness that we must inform you that Mike Ferguson, the Auditor General of Canada, has passed away, » the statement passed on to CBC News reads.

« Over the past seven years, Mike has led our organization with compassion for everyone, and he was convinced of the great value of this office’s work. »

The statement did not provide information on the cause of his death, but a spokesperson in his office later confirmed he died after battling cancer for the past few months.

Ferguson had cancelled his media appearances for his 2018 fall reports due to health concerns. 

He was appointed as Auditor General of Canada in November 2011, and his term was set to end in 2021. 

Prior to his federal role, he served in various positions in the New Brunswick provincial government, including a stint as its auditor general. 

Ferguson was not shy about expressing his frustrations. In the summer, he told CBC Radio’s The House he was getting tired of filing annual reports recommending reforms to the way the government does business — only to see those recommendations disappear down the memory hole afterward.

Some of the issues he paid particular attention to were the Phoenix pay system, Indigenous services and sexual misconduct in the military.

The auditor general is an officer of Parliament appointed for a 10-year, non-renewable term. He or she is responsible for auditing and providing reports to Parliament on federal government departments and agencies, Crown corporations, and other national organizations.

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Exploring the killings that shine light on Canada’s underworld power struggle

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After years of relative calm, police in Hamilton and across Ontario suddenly have their hands full with brazen attacks on people with connections to organized crime.

Cece Luppino’s shooting death this week marks Hamilton’s third killing in two years where the victim has some link to the mob. All of shootings were similar, with the victim gunned down at home.

Police have said a recent surge of violence in the Toronto and Montreal areas seems to be connected to a power struggle, as different organized crime factions vie for position, and old scores are seemingly settled.

Here’s a look at the incidents experts and investigators believe point to upheaval happening right now in Canada’s criminal underworld.

The death of the ‘Teflon Don’

Though not a violent incident, experts say the death of the former head of the Montreal Mafia Vito Rizzuto seems to have opened the door for the violence being seen in Ontario.

The 67-year-old died back in 2013 after being hospitalized for pulmonary problems — just over a year after his release from an American prison.

Vito Rizzuto was the most powerful mob boss in Canada before his death in December 2013. (CBC)

In 2007, Rizzuto pleaded guilty in an American court to racketeering charges in exchange for a 10-year sentence in connection with the 1981 murders of three alleged gang leaders at a New York social club.

Rizzuto’s death paved the way for upheaval in the underworld, says Antonio Nicaso, a Mafia expert who teaches courses on organized crime at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

« There’s a power struggle left from the vacuum from Rizzuto, » he explained.

Angelo Musitano gunned down

The ripples of that power struggle first hit Hamilton in 2017, when notorious mobster Angelo Musitano was repeatedly shot outside his suburban home. The Musitano family was aligned with Rizzuto, which offered protection — until his death.

Musitano was gunned down just before the 20-year anniversary of the famous hit on the fearsome Johnny (Pops) Papalia, to which he was forever linked. At the time of Musitano’s death, friends described him as someone who found God and spent time caring for his young family.

But Musitano had also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and once thrived in gangland life. The way he died pointed to Musitano being undone by his past, despite apparent efforts to forge a new future.

Organized crime expert James Dubro, who has written extensively about the Mafia in Ontario, previously told CBC Musitano’s supposed turn to God « doesn’t mean much for gangsters. »

Angelo Musitano (right) and Pat Musitano leaving Provincial Court for lunch in 1998. (Hamilton Spectator)

« It’s very hard to break away from that, » he said.

« Found religion? Maybe. But it doesn’t erase the past, if he did. »

Musitano and his brother Pat were charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 1997 shooting of Hamilton crime boss Johnny (Pops) Papalia and one of his lieutenants, Carmen Barillaro.

The brothers reached a deal and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Barillaro. In turn, the charges against them in connection with Papalia’s death were dropped.

A Hamilton man is now facing a murder charge in connection with Musitano’s death. Police have also issued Canada-wide warrants for two more suspects who investigators believe may have fled to Mexico.

Mila Barberi’s death

That same man is also facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Toronto woman Mila Barberi.

Investigators announced in early last year that several characteristics linked the shootings of Barberi in March 2017 and Musitano two months later.

Jabril Hassan has been arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Angelo Musitano and Mila Barberi. Michael Cudmore and Daniel Tomasetti are wanted on the same charges, but police believe they’ve fled to Mexico. (Hamilton Police Service)

Barberi, 28, was killed while she sat in a BMW SUV parked outside a business in the middle of the afternoon in an industrial area of Vaughan, Ont. She was picking up her boyfriend, Saverio Serrano, 40, who police say has connections to organized crime and may have been the intended target.

Pat Musitano’s home shot up

Just weeks after Angelo Musitano was killed, his brother received a message of his own, when someone fired bullets into his home.

No one was hurt, but detectives said at the time that they believed the home was specifically targeted.

Bullet holes could be seen in one of the front windows of Pat Musitano’s home. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Al Iavarone killed in ‘targeted attack’

Then, last September, 50-year-old Al Iavarone was shot as his home in Ancaster. Police said it was a « targeted attack, » and revealed Iavarone was associated with people involved in organized crime.

Police say Iavarone’s wife and two adult children were at home at the time of the incident. The shooter drove a silver vehicle onto the street, parked it, got out, then hid in the bushes. 

Al Iavarone worked out of Royal LePage’s Hamilton office for 10 years. (RoyalLePage)

When Iavarone got home, the shooter approached him and fired.

Investigators said at the time that Iavarone was a real estate agent and had no criminal record, but added he was known to police.

Mobster’s son shot dead

Which brings us to Luppino’s death. The son of mobster Rocco Luppino was gunned down at a Hamilton home owned by his father on Wednesday, in what police said appears to be yet another « targeted » killing.

The Luppino family was once a powerhouse in organized crime in the region. Court documents filed by the RCMP show the Luppino family is connected to a web of organized crime stretching from Hamilton to Buffalo, N.Y.

The documents, which were filed as part of the drug trafficking case against Domenico Violi and his brother Giuseppe (Joey) Violi, link the two families together. The RCMP also say the Luppino-Violi family is a faction of the Todaro crime family in Buffalo that is run by Joe Todaro, Jr.

Police say Luppino was 43-years-old. (Facebook)

Both Rocco Luppino and his brother Natale are « made » members of the Buffalo family who operate in Hamilton, police say.

Giacomo Luppino, Cece’s grandfather, was a heavyweight in organized crime circles in Hamilton several decades ago, said Nicaso.

« He was in charge in Hamilton in the ’60s and ’70s, » Nicaso said. « Giacomo was a very powerful boss. »

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