Feds to fund 3 Vancouver temporary modular housing projects for the homeless

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The federal government announced plans Monday to develop three projects in Vancouver that will create new affordable housing, helping those who are homeless and expanding the number of shelter spaces available in the city.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government is providing funding to the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency for a temporary modular housing initiative that is aimed at helping those without a home to transition into longer-term housing.

WATCH: Nov. 9, 2018 — Housing crisis leaves many homeless living in vehicles in Metro Vancouver






Once completed, the project is expected to provide more than 600 pre-built units that can be relocated where they are needed across the city.

The funding will also help with the redevelopment of the Union Gospel Mission’s Women and Families Centre in the Downtown Eastside. The centre is expanding to more than 60 units, which will provide shelter for women who are recovering from addiction.

Trudeau made the announcement at the site of the $40-million project that will provide 115 rental-housing units in the city later this year.

“By investing in affordable rental housing, temporary shelters for people who are living on the streets, and support centres for women battling addiction, we’re not just investing in our communities – we’re investing in people,” he said.

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The funding is part of the government’s National Housing Strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion program announced in 2017 that Ottawa has billed as a plan to provide more social housing and affordable rental units.

The New Democrats said in a news release that Trudeau’s government has neglected the housing crisis. One in five Canadians is paying more than 50 per cent of their income on housing and a growing number of people are one paycheque away from being homeless, the party said.

Later Monday, Trudeau joined Liberal candidate Richard T. Lee for a second straight day of campaigning in Burnaby South, the federal riding where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is seeking a seat in a byelection.

WATCH: Trudeau says justice minister to provide recommendations on possibly waiving solicitor-client privilege






The prime minister and Lee mingled with patrons at a restaurant before chatting with commuters and posing for selfies outside the Metrotown SkyTrain station. Trudeau said Lee’s experience as a provincial legislator representing Burnaby made him a strong candidate.

“We know that having someone grounded in the community, who’s served Burnaby for more than 16 years as an elected politician already, is the kind of strong voice we need to represent Burnaby South in Ottawa,” Trudeau said.

Asked how he felt the prime minister visiting the riding could sway the byelection, Singh said he hears on doorsteps that people are disappointed with the Trudeau government’s approach to the housing crisis, pharmacare and the environment.

“On all these issues, this government and Mr. Trudeau have let people down,” Singh said. “I’m confident that what we’re talking about, what we’re proposing, are solutions that will make their lives better.”

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Feds should consider making some criminal pardons automatic: public safety panel – National

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OTTAWA – A panel of MPs wants the federal government to look at making criminal pardons automatic for some offenders who have served their sentences.

The House of Commons public safety committee also suggests lowering the $631 fee for a pardon and simplifying the often complex process for applicants.

Committee members say in a recent report that a criminal record can hinder a person’s ability to get a job, find housing, go to school or travel.

READ MORE: Supreme Court rules mandatory payments for minor offences unconstitutional

Under changes brought in by the former Conservative government, lesser offenders – those with a summary conviction – must wait five years instead of three before they can apply for a suspension.

Offenders who have served a sentence for a more serious crime – an indictable offence – must wait 10 years instead of five.

WATCH: Gov. to move forward with ‘free and rapid pardons’ for simple marijuana possession charges







In addition, the application fee quadrupled to $631 from $150 to ensure full cost recovery.

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Feds, Irving ask trade tribunal to toss challenge to warship contract

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The federal government and Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding are asking a trade tribunal to throw out a challenge to their handling of a high-stakes competition to design the navy’s new $60-billion fleet of warships.

In separate submissions to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, the federal procurement department and Irving say the challenge filed by Alion Science and Technology of Virginia does not meet the requirements for a tribunal hearing.

Alion was one of three companies, along with U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin and Spanish firm Navantia, vying to design the new warships, which are to be built by Irving and serve as the navy’s backbone for most of this century.

While Lockheed was selected as the preferred bidder and is negotiating a final design contract with the government and Irving, Alion alleges the company’s design did not meet the navy’s requirements and should have been disqualified.

Two of those requirements related to the ship’s speed, Alion alleged, while the third related to the number of crew berths. Alion has asked both the trade tribunal and the Federal Court to stop any deal with Lockheed.

But the government and Irving say the contract is exempt from normal trade laws, which the tribunal is charged with enforcing, because of a special « national security exception, » meaning there is « no jurisdiction for the tribunal to conduct an inquiry. »

Another reason the challenge should be quashed, they argue, is that Alion is not a Canadian company, which is a requirement for being able to ask the tribunal to consider a complaint.

Alion’s challenge has been formally filed by its Canadian subsidiary, but the government and Irving say that subsidiary was never actually qualified to be a bidder in the competition — only its American parent.

The responses from the government and Irving are the latest twist in the largest military purchase in Canadian history, which will see 15 new warships built to replace the navy’s 12 aging Halifax-class frigates and three already-retired Iroquois-class destroyers.

The trade tribunal ordered the government last month not to award a final contract to Lockheed until it had investigated Alion’s complaint, but rescinded the order after a senior procurement official warned that the deal was « urgent. »

The procurement department has not explained why the deal is urgent.

Workers look on from the bow of a ship as former prime minister Stephen Harper addresses the crowd at the Halifax Shipyard in Halifax on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Lockheed’s bid was contentious from the moment the design competition was launched in October 2016.

The federal government had originally said it wanted a « mature design » for its new warship fleet, which was widely interpreted as meaning a vessel that has already been built and used by another navy.

But the first Type 26 frigates, upon which Lockheed’s proposal was based, are only now being built by the British government and the design has not yet been tested in full operation.

There were also complaints from industry that the deck was stacked in the Type 26’s favour because of Irving’s connections with British shipbuilder BAE, which originally designed the Type 26 and partnered with Lockheed to offer the ship to Canada.

Irving, which worked with the federal government to pick the top design, also partnered with BAE in 2016 on an ultimately unsuccessful bid to maintain the navy’s new Arctic patrol vessels and supply ships.

That 35-year contract ended up going to another company.

Government confident it did no wrong

Irving and the federal government have repeatedly rejected such complaints, saying they conducted numerous consultations with industry and used a variety of firewalls and safeguards to ensure the choice was completely fair.

But industry insiders had long warned that Lockheed’s selection as the top bidder, combined with numerous changes to the requirements and competition terms after it was launched — including a number of deadline extensions — would spark lawsuits.

Government officials acknowledged last month the threat of legal action, which has become a favourite tactic for companies that lose defence contracts, but expressed confidence that they would be able to defend against such an attack.

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Feds, Toronto united in support for Waterfront Toronto as provincial appointments loom

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If Premier Doug Ford wants a ferris wheel waterfront, his representatives will have to convince federal and city counterparts opposed to any efforts to “blow up” Waterfront Toronto.

As the Ford government prepares to appoint four members to the board of the federal-provincial-city agency, after dumping past appointees, the City of Toronto and federal government are poised to use their combined eight board members as a firewall to protect existing waterfront plans.

“We can’t allow short term thinking to shift the focus from waterfront revitalization to a sell-off,” of priceless land, says Councillor Joe Cressy, a downtown representative just appointed by council, with Mayor John Tory’s blessing, to the 12-member Waterfront Toronto board.

“My understanding is the premier has made it known he’s looking at changing the board in terms of its composition, not to throw in a grenade but rather to see improvements to governance. If that’s all it is, count me in.”

Adam Vaughan, the Liberal MP representing the same shoreline residents as Cressy, says if Ford appointees to the city-provincial-federal board attempt radical changes to plans for downtown waterfront development focused on people, not profit, they’ll have a fight on their hands.

Like Cressy, Vaughan says Ford appears, for the moment at least, content with sweeping out past Liberal appointees and getting his own people around the boardroom table on Bay St. steps from Lake Ontario.

But as a city councillor Vaughan fought his then-colleague Ford’s attempt to tear up decades-in-the-making Port Lands plans, for careful mixed-use development with private sector involvement overseen by government, in favour of a megamall, Ferris wheel and yacht-friendly hotel.

“Hopefully we can find a way to stabilize (the board) and move forward, but the vision holds, the work plan is a good one and the deliverables so far have been brilliant,” Vaughan told the Star.

“From the federal perspective, there is no need for any wholesale changes. We’re thrilled with the work (Waterfront Toronto) is doing — it’s one of the best infrastructure programs in the country.”

Provincial Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton recently fired three board members, including chair Helen Burstyn, after a stinging report by provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk. She accused the agency of inadequately consulting with governments on the Quayside smart-city project, failing to make other projects financially self-sustaining, and more.

The fourth provincial vacancy was made by the earlier resignation of Julie Di Lorenzo, a prominent developer who said efforts to draft a partnership agreement on Quayside with Google sister company Sidewalk Labs are not in the public’s best interests.

In a statement to the Star, McNaughton said the Waterfront Toronto needs “stronger oversight” and the new provincial appointees will be named “in the time ahead.”

“Any discussion at this point about specific actions we may or may not take is speculative. And I won’t speculate,” he said.

“I will say that our actions going forward will be guided by three principles: respect for taxpayer dollars, strong oversight and the protection of people’s privacy.”

Waterfront Toronto was set up in the early 2000s to oversee development of a once-industrial waterfront in danger of becoming a long, solid curtain of condo buildings where Torontonians hoping to visit their lake might be met by a security guard with a dog.

The three levels of government contributed funding to oversee 1,150 hectares along Lake Ontario from Dowling Ave. in the west to Coxwell Ave. in the east, including more than 300 city-owned acres in the Port Lands at the south end of the east downtown core.

The agency has a 12-member board — four from each government, electing a chair from amongst themselves, with the option of a 13th member as chair if all three governments agree on that appointment.

What worries some observers is that, while the governments appear to have equal power, Waterfront Toronto and the rules under which it operates were created in 2002 by provincial legislation that could be amended by a majority Ontario government like the one led by Ford.

The province, which traditionally has a representative as board chair, has “a bit more power over the board operations than the federal and city partners because Waterfront Toronto is a creature of provincial legislation,” Vaughan said.

But “there are extensive and substantial investments by all three governments and multi-year contracts. Making real changes would not be as easy changing the size of city council … The province has the capacity to be catalyst for change, but it doesn’t have final say on the outcome.”

Sevaun Palvetzian, chief executive of CivicAction and a federal Waterfront Toronto appointee, said it’s unusual to have three levels of government at one table but the board functions well.

“We’re all representing appointments from different orders of government but we’re all there, and vote, as individuals with the public interest in mind,” she said. “We have tonnes of work ahead of us, and the three new provincial members will bring fresh perspective and insight and expertise, but this is a ship that I have felt is moving in the right direction with many great folks rowing in the same way.”

Waterfront Toronto has been lauded for projects including Sugar Beach, Corktown Common, Sherbourne Common and undulating “wavedecks” along Queens Quay.

It has been criticized for extra cost and time taken to revitalize Queens Quay, and the safety of the “complete street” for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. The Quayside proposal has generated a lot of controversy, much of it centred on protections for privacy and data generated in the proposed neighbourhood aimed at testing technology to solve urban problems.

Waterfront Toronto has just broken ground on a massive $1.25-billion flood-proofing of the east waterfront, cost-shared by the three governments, that will “renaturalize” the mouth of the Don River, create a new river valley and clean polluted land to unlock it for development.

Terms for Toronto’s three current citizen board appointees expire in March. One of them, developer Steve Diamond, said he had planned to quit at the end of 2018 due to work obligations but Tory convinced him to remain until March to retain stability on the board.

Tory told the Star any new members will reflect the city’s full confidence in Waterfront Toronto’s work and plans for the future.

“I am not one for blowing up the waterfront corporation, to use the expression that is bandied about,” Tory said. “I’m for making sure that as a partnership we continue to invest in projects like the naturalization of the Don and the flood protection, but also then the orderly, sensitive, compatible development of the Port Lands over time.

“If there are ways to improve it based on the auditor general report and other things, so be it. But I’m for building that waterfront corporation, not for tearing it down.”

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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Feds won’t change Criminal Code to outlaw forced sterilization, despite First Nations outcry

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The Liberal government does not plan to change the Criminal Code to explicitly outlaw coerced sterilization — rejecting a resolution passed by First Nations chiefs on Thursday.

Heather Bear, the vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations that includes 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said Thursday that Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould — a former Assembly of First Nations regional chief herself, in British Columbia — must “do the right thing.”


READ MORE:
Survivors of forced, coerced sterilization demand accountability

“The prime minister of Canada has made all these statements on the national stage about truth and reconciliation,” Bear said in an interview. “We know the justice system doesn’t work for us but this is one way we can put an end to this. I’m really surprised.”

Dozens of Indigenous women say they’ve been pressured into sterilization procedures they didn’t want, or had them carried out without being asked when they were seeing doctors for other reasons.

Coerced sterilization must be criminalized to ensure legal accountability, Bear said, adding the issue is connected to the issue of violence against Indigenous women – the subject of a national inquiry underway in Canada.

WATCH: Alberta woman who successfully sued province for wrongful sterilization dies






“Now it is about killing the ones unborn,” Bear said. “It is really a devastating issue that I hope there is more and more awareness (about) each and every day.”

Bear’s comments come after Wilson-Raybould’s office said in a statement to The Canadian Press that it is taking a public-health approach to the issue.

“Our government believes that everyone must receive culturally safe health services no matter where they live,” said the minister’s spokesman David Taylor. “The coerced sterilization of some Indigenous women is a serious violation of human rights and is completely unacceptable.”

But he pointed to existing provisions within the Criminal Code meant to forbid “a range of criminal behaviour” including forced sterilizations.

Alisa Lombard, a lawyer leading a proposed class action of Indigenous women who allege they endured coerced sterilizations in Saskatchewan, said Thursday that changing the Criminal Code is the most concrete thing the government can do about them.

READ MORE: ‘Monstrous’ allegations of forced sterilization of Indigenous women must be examined, NDP say

Lombard’s firm, Maurice Law, has listed the Saskatoon Health Authority, the provincial government, the federal government and a handful of medical professionals as defendants in its statement of claim.

About 100 women have now come forward to report they have been forcibly sterilized, Lombard said – a jump of 40 women since The Canadian Press published a story on the issue in November detailing a push from Ontario Sen. Yvonne Boyer to study the issue nationally.

An existing Criminal Code provision speaks to the involuntary termination of pregnancies. Another provision on aggravated assault applies to anyone “who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.”

A legal void remains, Lombard said.

“We can point to the fact this has been an ongoing occurrence since the 1930s and so the absence of a preventive measure has clearly paved the way for it to continue to happen up until as recently as 2017,” she said.


READ MORE:
National review urged over coerced sterilization of Indigenous women

Saskatchewan appears to be the “epicentre” of the practice, Lombard said, adding her firm has also heard from women from Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

“My hope is that the voices of these women will have made a difference and that the voices of these women will ensure future generations of Indigenous girls do not have to bear the same burden of having the same discussion,” Lombard said.

In late November, a rapporteur with the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva said forced sterilization must be seen as equivalent to torture and asked for Canada to consider specific criminal provisions covering it, regardless of whether it’s done by a public agent or private individual.

Human-rights groups – the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Amnesty International Canada, and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights – are expected to respond to recommendations to be released by the committee on Friday.

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Alberta’s Lubicon Lake First Nation to ink land deal Tuesday with feds, province

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Alberta’s Lubicon Lake First Nation expects to mark the end of a decades-long fight for recognition on Tuesday.

But Chief Billy-Joe Laboucan says the real work will begin after the band signs off on its land claim with the province and the federal government.

He says the $113 million included in the deal will allow the band to get to work rebuilding the community of Little Buffalo.

READ MORE: Treaty signing marks start of real work for Alberta’s Lubicon, says chief

Money in the settlement is already tagged for essentials such as decent housing, a new school and an elders care facility.

Laboucan says the 246 square kilometres included in the claim are in good shape and relatively unaffected by industrial activity.

Laboucan credits former chief Bernard Ominayak for that, saying his advocacy work let companies know the Lubicon had an interest in that land and discouraged them from working there.

READ MORE: Lubicon band settles long-standing land claim for $113M and swath of land

In the late 1800s, British officials missed the Lubicon as they negotiated Treaty 8 with other Indigenous groups. Canada agreed the Lubicon deserved title to their land in 1939, but a deal was never reached.

The issue stagnated until the 1970s when oil and gas companies began carving through local traplines. By then, the Lubicon were so poor that diseases such as tuberculosis were a problem.

In 1988, Ominayak staged a protest at the Calgary Olympics and blockaded roads into the disputed area. The dispute went global as a United Nations committee criticized Canada for its treatment of the Lubicon.

“If that hadn’t been the case, we wouldn’t be here,” said Laboucan. “A lot of credit has to go to previous chief Bernard Ominayak and council, and all the chiefs before him.”

Alberta Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan says signing the deal will feel a little like history.

READ MORE: Prentice welcomes new federal negotiator for stalled Lubicon treaty talks

Feehan says everyone at the negotiating table sat down with the knowledge that the time had come to settle the dispute.

Ominayak has been invited to the ceremony, although it’s not clear if he’ll attend.

Laboucan said the band can finally focus on it’s future, not its hard-luck past.

“Up until this point, we haven’t had our own land base. It’s pretty hard to do what you need to do without a land base.”

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Immigration detainee sues feds for $50 million, alleging he suffered a mental breakdown and was given electric shock treatment

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A former immigration detainee, jailed for almost five years, two of them in solitary, while border officials fought in court to have him deported, is suing Ottawa for failing to heed doctors’ warnings of his mental illness and provide him with proper care.

Prosper Niyonzima, whose family was slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide, became a permanent resident of Canada in 1995 before criminal activity landed him in and out of jail, and resulted in the revocation of his immigrant status.

Prosper Niyonzima came to Canada in 1995 from Burundi at age 13 after his parents were killed in war there. He was adopted by an aunt in Toronto.
Prosper Niyonzima came to Canada in 1995 from Burundi at age 13 after his parents were killed in war there. He was adopted by an aunt in Toronto.  (Carlos Osorio / Toronto Star file photo)

In 2012, he was placed in detention to await deportation.

In a statement of claim filed Friday with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Niyonzima said that period of incarceration, which included more than 760 days in solitary, led him to experience a mental breakdown and rendered him catatonic for more than two years. He claims that when authorities finally transferred him to a secure treatment facility under a court order, he was forced to undergo painful electroconvulsive therapy, which was unsuccessful in addressing his condition.

“The plaintiff suffered pre-existing mental-health issues from childhood trauma following the Rwandan genocide in which his parents and three siblings were massacred. The plaintiff’s mental health issues were known to the defendant,” alleges Niyonzima’s $50-million lawsuit.

“Instead of ensuring enhanced medical treatment was provided, the defendant placed the plaintiff in solitary confinement …. The plaintiff was denied, among other things, proper clothing, proper medical attention, proper food, proper hygiene and given insufficient yard time.

“The plaintiff was given approximately three showers in a full year.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the respondent, the Attorney General of Canada, has 20 days to file an intent to defend.

Niyonzima, 36, an ethnic Tutsi born in Burundi, lost his parents and siblings at age 11 when they were murdered in Rwanda. He fled to Canada in 1995 and was adopted by his aunt who successfully sought asylum here. Both became Canadian permanent residents that same year.

As a young man, Niyonzima was convicted of a series of crimes, including break-and-enter, theft and drug-related offences. After serving jail time, the Canada Border Services Agency ordered his deportation in 2005.

Eventually, he was given a five-year reprieve from deportation out of “humanitarian and compassionate concerns” that he would be returning to a country where he had no relatives and couldn’t even speak the language.

He met a woman and together they had a baby in 2009. However, Niyonzima returned to crime and was convicted of theft. Upon his release from jail in 2010, he sought help and was treated by psychiatrists, who diagnosed him with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the massacre of his family, he says in his lawsuit.

However, Niyonzima was stripped of his permanent resident status due to the new conviction and once again faced deportation from Canada. On Jan., 13, 2012, Canada Border Services Agency detained him for fear he would vanish as he waited for his deportation to Burundi.

While being held, Niyonzima was scheduled for removal on three occasions but all three attempts were stayed by the federal court, which acknowledged he had made progress subsequent to the treatment of “the mental health problems underlying his criminality.”

In July 2013, while incarcerated at Toronto West Detention Centre, Niyonzima’s daughter was adopted out to another family. Around that time, Niyonzima became catatonic and was placed on suicide watch in segregation, according to the lawsuit. A month later, he was transferred to Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay.

The lawsuit claims officials refused to transfer Niyonzima to a facility in Toronto where it would be easier for him to obtain a designated representative and access mental health professionals for assessment and treatment.

“The continued refusals resulted in an inordinate delay in obtaining proper psychiatric treatment resulting in further deterioration of Prosper’s health in solidarity confinement,” says the lawsuit.

In January 2015, Canada Border Services Agency was ordered by the Federal Court to pay for a psychiatric assessment. Niyonzima was diagnosed with catatonia and transferred to the St. Lawrence Valley secure treatment unit in Brockville, where he claims he was given the electroconvulsive treatment.

He was released on Oct. 27, 2016 under the supervision of the Toronto bail program and monitored by a team of physicians and psychiatrists. Since then, he has been issued a three-year temporary resident permit, after which he can apply to restore his permanent residence if he doesn’t have any more run-ins with the law.

Immigration detainees are entitled to a detention review every 30 days before an immigration tribunal to decide if they should be released. Niyonzima’s lawyer, Subodh Bharati said his client underwent close to 60 reviews but was never released.

“At each detention review, adjudicators of the Immigration division accepted the Canada Border Services Agency’s representations (that he was a flight risk) and continually upheld Prosper’s detention, despite the fact that he had obtained three stays of removals from the Federal Court and despite the fact that he was now catatonic and in dire need of medical treatment,” Bharati noted.

“Both the CBSA and adjudicators of the Immigration Division had a duty of care to the plaintiff to conduct their investigations in a competent manner.”

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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Feds appoint mediator in hope of ending Canada Post walkouts

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The federal government named a special mediator Wednesday in hopes of ending rotating walkouts at Canada Post that forced closure of the Crown corporation’s biggest sorting plants for a second day.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu announced the appointment of Morton Mitchnick just hours after the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would keep its members on the picket lines in the Greater Toronto Area.

« Morton Mitchnick is a highly respected senior arbitrator and mediator, and former chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, » Hajdu said in a statement.

« Mr. Mitchnick joins the team of federal mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service who have been working with the two parties. »

Hajdu said she hoped the new mediator would « bring a new perspective to the negotiating table. »

Nearly 9,000 CUPW members walked off the job in the Toronto region early Tuesday as part of rotating walkouts that began Monday to back contract demands.

Delays expected to continue Wednesday

The job action at the giant Gateway parcel facility in Mississauga, Ont., which processes roughly two-thirds of all parcels mailed in Canada, and the South Central mail plant in the Toronto’s east end, forced delays in shipments of tens of thousands of letters and parcels across the country.

Those delays were expected to continue Wednesday, although Canada Post said it would do what it could to deliver mail and parcels outside Toronto.

« Customers across the country should expect to see delays for parcel and mail delivery, » said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton, adding the agency continues to operate across the rest of Canada and is accepting and delivering mail and parcels in all other locations.

The union has said the walkouts will continue until Canada Post sweetens its contract proposals for rural and urban carriers.

The union and postal service have been unable to reach new collective agreements for the two bargaining units in 10 months of negotiations.

On Monday, walkouts shut down postal operations in Victoria, Edmonton, Windsor, Ont., and Halifax, causing few delivery disruptions outside of those cities.

Concerns include workload, health, safety, precarious work

CUPW, which represents 50,000 postal employees, has called on Canada Post to address issues stemming from the explosive growth of parcel deliveries, including health and safety concerns and precarious work.

The agency said Tuesday it has made overtures to the union with the aim of mitigating some of those concerns.

But a big issue for CUPW is the perceived overuse of temporary workers.

The union wants Canada Post to provide greater job security through the creation of more full-time positions, arguing that temporary workers are consistently paid less, are not covered by health, dental and sick or disability insurance plans, have no guaranteed hours and cannot plan their futures.

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‘Tokenism and optics’: Inuit orgs slam feds on Nutrition North consultations

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All five of Canada’s major Inuit organizations have pulled out of the federal government’s Indigenous Working Group on food security, saying the government is not listening to them in its review of the Nutrition North program, CBC News has learned.

The organizations — Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Makivik Corporation, and the Nunatsiavut Government — pulled out of the working group in April.

The reason given was because the group was not a space where Nutrition North Canada officials were willing to listen to recommendations for Inuit-specific changes to the program, according to a letter sent to Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, who at the time was also the minister of Northern Affairs. Dominic LeBlanc has since been handed that portfolio, which contains the Nutrition North file.

Inuit regions believed this was not a productive space.– Natan Obed

The letter, signed by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, says the organizations’ experience with the working group « does not embody the constructive distinctions-based relationship that is necessary between the federal government and Inuit for meaningful program improvements. »

« Inuit regions believed this was not a productive space, » Obed told CBC News.

« We also believe by participating in this structure, we were giving a false impression and also giving [the federal government] speaking points to say Inuit, in some way, approve and support any changes that come to the Nutrition North program. »

The federal government has often boasted about its renewed relationship with Inuit. Even just weeks after Inuit groups pulled out of the working group, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in the House of Commons lauding the importance of distinctions-based approaches when drafting policy affecting Inuit.

But Obed says that same working relationship Inuit have seen on other files — such as tuberculosis and housing — has been the exact opposite on the Nutrition North file. He’s not sure why.

« The fact is we have not participated in this review in any respectful way, and we call on the federal government to reset its process to ensure that Inuit can be central players in the review of the Nutrition North program, » Obed said, adding they want more transparency and accountability when it comes to food subsidies.

‘Tokenism and optics’

Updating and expanding the Nutrition North program was a Liberal election promise in 2015. Since then, the government has expanded the program to include 37 more northern communities.

Last year, it unveiled a new report, based off a yearlong series of 18 community visits across the North to gather feedback on the program.

The Indigenous Working Group was launched in May 2017, encompassing representatives from all Indigenous groups. But there were red flags from the start, according to officials in Inuit organizations.

« From the very get go, we found that it wasn’t a distinctions-based process, » said Shylah Elliott, health policy analyst for Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, who’s worked closely on the Nutrition North review.

« They weren’t really looking for any meaningful consultation on the matters. It was clear that they had an idea of where this was going and whether or not we were in agreement it was going forward. »

N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod and Northern Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc during the minister’s stop in Yellowknife in August 2018. (Submitted by Vincent Hughes/Intergovernmental Affairs, Northern Affairs and Internal Trade)

Even after leaving the group and expressing a desire for a working relationship with a specific approach for Inuit, Elliott said there’s been no response from Nutrition North Canada.

« Nutrition North employees expressed: ‘well, if you guys don’t want to be at the table, it’s going to move forward anyhow,' » Elliott said, adding she’s « lost all hope » to see meaningful change to the program before the next federal election.

« And that was basically what we had felt all along. That it was just tokenism and optics to have this Indigenous working group so they can justify the changes that they want to make, or just show that they are being responsive in some way. »

Nutrition North officials did not respond to the CBC’s request for an interview.

‘Federal government has not taken this issue seriously’

Asked whether it’s a double-edged sword for Inuit on wanting to be consulted but removing themselves from the process that’s been set out, Obed said moving forward in such a structure is dangerous.

« If the federal government creates structures that disrespect Inuit and our rights, then by participating in those structures we are doing a disservice to Inuit, » Obed said.

« We have clearly articulated a solution to this particular problem, and the federal government has not taken this issue seriously. »

Northern Affairs Minister LeBlanc was unavailable for an interview Thursday, but in a statement he said the government works meaningfully with all parties on food security in the North.

« Inuit organizations have an important and unique perspective to offer to Nutrition North Canada, » LeBlanc said.

« The expertise and knowledge provided by Inuit organizations through the 2016 engagement process, and the successive stakeholder and Indigenous working group meetings, have been vital to the development of innovative and thoughtful solutions that will make Nutrition North Canada more relevant for all Northerners. »

LeBlanc will be on CBC Radio’s The House on Saturday morning to address the concerns. The episode airs Saturday, Oct. 20 at 9 a.m.

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Feds brief provinces on election interference threat

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OTTAWA–Canada’s electronic spy agency has briefed election officials on the threat of foreign interference in elections at the provincial and territorial level.

The Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s cyber defence and espionage agency, said Thursday that it has yet to observe “direct” foreign meddling at the provincial level, including in recent elections in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

“There’s always suspicions as we come to an election, but we haven’t seen anything direct that has hit on the provincial level that came from the foreign space,” said Scott Jones, the head of CSE’s new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, in an interview.

“But we’re always looking.”

Jones, who previously led CSE’s IT security division, noted the agency can only monitor foreign threats — any election meddling by Canadians would be outside their jurisdiction. He also added that some forms of interference, such as the use of fake accounts or “bots” to boost messages, are difficult to discern until after the fact.

Last year, the agency concluded that the 2015 general election was targeted by “low-sophistication cyber threat activity” — mostly activists attempting to influence the vote by releasing internal government documents. The activity didn’t amount to much, and certainly was nowhere near the persistent, nation-state-level interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But CSE predicted that the 2019 election will see similar meddling attempts, and suggested some campaigns will be “well-planned and target more than one aspect of the democratic process.”

According to the agency’s previous assessment, Canada’s electoral system is relatively secure from cyber attacks due to its low-tech, pen-and-paper nature. Political parties, which currently have few restrictions on how they handle sensitive personal data, and the media, which can be snookered into amplifying fake or misleading information, are much more attractive targets.

Jones told the Star that CSE will release a new report early next year to outline more specifically the threats the agency believes will be aimed at the electoral system, and what politicians and the public can do to counter them.

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

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